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The spirit of Davis thus announced, in the beginning of the war, was the spirit of the slaveholder, and characterized the leaders of the slaveholders rebellion.
The well-meaning and ignorant masses of the people in the seceding States, were deceived. Upon the heads of their leaders and teachers is the guilt, and upon the institution which produced such men, be the infamy.
The Vice President, Alexander H. Stephens, was a very different character. Intellectually an abler, and morally, a far better man, he had vigorously opposed secession, and never heartily approved it.
Meanwhile, the conspirators having tied up the hands of the Executive by obtaining a promise from him not to reinforce the feeble garrisons in the Southern forts, and having adroitly secured the written opinion of his Attorney General endorsed by the official declaration of the President, that he had no power to coerce a State, adopted the most efficient means to carry out their purposes. The President was constantly watched by the conspirators and their agents, that he might not be induced to change his mind. A portion of his cabinet and some of his political friends chafed under the course he had adopted. General Cass, as has been stated, resigned the position of Secretary of State, because he refused to reinforce Fort Moultrie, held by the gallant and faithful Major Anderson, who had been assigned by Scott, to command that important position.
On the 10th of December, Howell Cobb resigned his posisition of Secretary of the Treasury, because, as he alleged, “his duty to Georgia required it." He was succeeded first by Philip F. Thomas, a devoted Unionist, from Maryland, and afterwards by General Dix, of New York.
On the 26th of January, John B. Floyd resigned the posttion of Secretary of War, because Buchanan would not withdraw the few troops, there were left in the National forts of South Carolina. He was succeeded by the true and loyal Joseph Holt,' of Kentucky.
On the 17th of December, Attorney General Black resigned the position of Attorney General, and was succeeded by Edwin M. Stanton. Stanton, Dix, and Holt, were unflinching Union
men, and did what they could to prevent the surrender of the Government to the conspirators. They most efficiently aided General Scott in securing the peaceful inauguration of President Lincoln.
The strange spectacle was presented, that while the conspirators were boldly, and with little disguisc, hatching their schemes of breaking up the Government, in the Senate and in the House, at the War and Navy Departinents, and in the very cabinet of the Executive, no attempt was made to interfere with, much less arrest the known, open and avowed traitors. All that the feeble man in the Executive Chair did, was to appoint a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer; and declare, that though secession was wrong, he had no power to prevent it. The conspirators labored industriously to make the revolution an accomplished fact before the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln. They were active in plundering the Government, securing the forts, ordinance, arms and all material of war, and arming themselves, so that if Lincoln should be inaugurated, he would have no immediate means of coercion.
The absence of any grievance or excuse for the rebellion, will be apparent from two or three facts.
The slaveholders and their friends, had at that time, a working majority in both Houses of Congress; and they had controlled both Congress and the Executive, and dictated the policy of the Government for more than forty years. This truth is very strikingly presented by Alexander H. Stephens, the ablest among the conspirators, in a speech made on the 14th of November, 1860, when opposing secession before the Legislature of Georgia. He said :
Mr. Lincoln can do nothing unless he is backed by the power of Congress. The House of Representatives is largely in majority against him. In the Senate he is powerless. There will be a majority of four against him....
“Many of us," sald he, “have sworn to support the Constitution. Can we, for the mere election of a man to the Presidency, and that ton, in accordance with the forms of the Constitution, make a point of resistance without becoming the breakers of that same instrumental
The same man afterwards, frankly and distinctly announced that slavery, the security of slavery, was the object of the revolution, and that that institution should be the “corner &tone" of the Confederate Government. ·
While these various movements were going on, Lincoln remained at his home in Springfield, Illinois, a deeply anxious, yet hopeful spectator. The greatest solicitude was manifested North and South, to learn his views, and ascertain his policy. In November, he visited Chicago, and expressed to his friends, the deepest concern in regard to the movements of South Carolina, and other States, threatening revolution. The impression he made upon all who approached him was, that he was direct, truthful, and sincere, with a heart full of good nature and kindness, yielding to his friends in all matters, except those which involved principle, but pon such questions, inflexibly firm. He expressed strong hopes, that notwithstanding the intense excitement, he might be able to quiet the storm, and restore tranquility without war. To an inquiry made to one of his intimate friends, as to what kind of a man is Lincoln ? the reply was, “ He has the firmness, without the temper of Jackson.”
No one will ever forget the dark and threatening aspect of affairs which lowered upon the country during the winter of 1860–61. What a horrid nightmare were the long days of that winter, in which patriots could see conspirators plotting, traitors plundering the treasury, dispersing the soldiers of the Republic, and sending its armed ships abroad, and already stripping the arsenals; the dark and awful tornado coming, and the rebels preparing to scuttle the ship of State, after having plundered her of money and arms, and these very conspirators her chief officers, and the people passengers, with no power to interfere! How anxiously the people watched and waited, how earnestly they prayed for the 4th of March, none will ever forget. All eyes were turned to Lincoln as to the only man who could save his country from the clutches of the conspirators.
That was a strange spectacle - an hour of awful suspense, the 15th of February, 1861, when the electoral votes were counted in joint session of both houses of Congress. Breckinridge, the Vice President, presided. Fears were entertained that by some fraud or violence, the
would be interrupted or not performed. But the schemes of the conspirators were not yet ripe for violence. In pursuance of
the Constitution and the forms of established law, both bouses of Congress met at 12 M., in the gorgeous hall of the House of Representatives. In such joint session, the Vice President and Speaker, sit side by side, the Vice President presiding. The Chaplain of the House, as well as the crowds of people who had thronged to the Capitol, seemed impressed with the peculiarly solemn character of the proceedings. He invoked God's blessing and protection upon the President elect, prayed for his safe arrival at the Capital, and that he might be peaceably inaugurated ; (thus exhibiting the anxiety of the public mind upon the subject.)
The two most conspicuous personages present, were the Vice President, Breckinridge, and Douglas; both unsuccessful candidates for the Presidency. Breckinridge received seventy-two electoral votes, and Douglas only twelve, although he was second to Lincoln only, in the popular vote.
On the 11th of February, Mr. Lincoln left his home at Springfield for Washington.
His journey to the Capital was all the way through crowds of anxious, religious, and patriotic men, everywhere invoking upon him, the blessing, the guidance, and protection of Almighty God.
How deeply he himself felt, and how oppressively he realized the weighty responsibilities resting upon him, appears from the beautiful and touching speech he made to his immediate friends and neighbors from the platform of the railcar, when about to start, and bidding good-by to that home to which he was destined never again to return alive. There is not a more touching and sublime speech in our language than this. Said he:
MY FRIENDS: No one, not in my position, can realize the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quar. ter of a century. Here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington He never would have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine blessing which sustained him; and on the same Almighty Being I place my rell. anoe for support. And I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance, without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is portain. Again, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.
The deep, religious feeling which pervades this speech, marked him to the close of his life. All through his troubles he earnestly solicited the prayers of the people, and they were his. From the time of his departure from Springfield, until he was borne back from the Capital which he had saved, - hallowed forever in the hearts of a people whom he had delivered, and Deified by a race which he had emancipated, he was the object of earnest prayer at the family altar, and in the house of public worship, from Maine and Minnesota to the Ohio and the mountains of Tennessee; from the great lakes to the ocean bounds of the Republic, Eyery loyal heart asked God's blessing upon “Honest Old Abe."
As he went forth upon his mission to fill his grand destiny, and to his final martyrdom, every where the hearts of the people went out to meet him. Their feelings found expression in the mottoes inscribed upon the banners under which he was to pass : “We will pray for you.” “God bless you !" “God aid you!” “God help you to save the Republic.” On one of the draped banners, which followed him to his grave in Springfield, was a motto which truthfully expressed the sentiment of the whole American People :
He left us, borne up by our prayers;
He passed through the great States of Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, on his way to the Capital.
From the date of the election, to the time when Mr. Lincolo left Springfield for Washington, there had appeared, through the press, and by other channels, vulgar threats and menaces that he should never reach the Capital alive. Little attention was paid to them; yet some of Mr. Lincoln's personal friends in Illinois, without his knowledge, employed detective, and sent him to Washington and Baltimore to investigate. This detectivo ascertained the existence of a plot to assassinate the President elect, as he passed through Baltimore. The first intelligence Mr. Lincoln had of this was at Philadelphia. After the ceremonies of the day, he was called to the room of Mr. Judd, a devoted friend, who had