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J. Clements appeared and took their seats at the second session, in the House. Among the more prominent Senators of New England, who had already secured a National reputation, were Fessenden and Morrill of Maine, Hale and Clark of New Hampshire, Sumner and Wilson of Massachusetts, Collamer and Foote of Vermont, and Anthony of Rhode Island. New York was represented by Preston King and Ira Harris.
Mr. IIale, from New Hampshire, had been the leader of the old Liberty party. “Solitary and alone" in the United States Senate, by his wit and humor, his readiness and ability, he had maintained his position against the whole Senatorial delegation of the Slave States, and their numerous allies from the Free States. From Vermont, the dignified, urbane, and somewhat formal, Solomon Foote ; his colleague was Jacob Collamer, a gentleman of the old school who had been a member of Cabinets, and was one of the wisest jurists and Statesnien of our Country. Preston King had been the friend and confidant of Silas Wright and Thomas H. Benton, and a leader at the Buffalo Convention; genial, true and devoted to the principles of democracy as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. From Pennsylvania, was David Wilmot, who, while a member of the House, introduced the “Wilmot Proviso,” which connects forever his name, with the Anti-Slavery contest.
From Ohio, John Sherman, a brother of General Sherman, and late a distinguished Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the Cor:mittee on Finance; and Benjamin Wade, staunch, rude, earnest and truc.
From Illinois, Lyman Trumbull and 0. H. Browning, both distinguished law.yers, and competitors at the bar with Douglas and Lincoln. From Iowa, Senators Grimes and
rlan; from Wisconsin, Doolittle and Howe; from Michigan, Bingham and Chandler; from Indiana, Jesse D. Bright and Henry S. Lane; the latter of whom had presided over the Philadelphia Convention of 1856.
But many vacant chairs in these council chambers, impressed the spectator with the magnitude of the impending struggle. The old Chiefs of slavery were absent; some at
Richmond, others in arms against their country. The chair of their leader, Davis; that of the blustering Toombs; the accomplished, cautious Hunter; the polished Benjamin ; the haughty, pretentious Mason; the crafty, unscrupulous Slidell, and their compeers, were all vacant. The seat of the “Little Giant” of Illinois, the ambitious but true patriot, Douglas, was vacant-not, thank God, from treason, but by death. Lifelong opponents gazed sadly upon his unoccupied seat.
Well bad it been for the fame of Breckenridge if his chair had been made vacant by early death. But still conspicuous among the Senators of this Congress, was the late Vice President, now the Senator from Kentucky. As the representative of one of the historic families of that State, no young man of the Nation, until 1860, had prouder prospects.
Entering into the conspiracy to divide the Union, he first permitted, as a preliminary step, his name to be used at Charleston, for the Presidency, to divide the Democratic party. He came to the United States Senate in July 1861, with no loyalty to the Union. He had on the 25th of April preceding, denounced the call of the President for troops, and advised, that in the event of the failure to arrest what he called coercion, Kentucky should unite with the South. He entered the Senate with the avowed determination to arrest, if possible, the efforts of the Administration to protect and maintain the Government by force. He had now few friends or sympathizers in Washington, and was regarded with distrust by his loyal associates. Dark and gloomy, he could be daily seen, without companions, wending his way to the Senate Chamber, where his voice and his votes were constantly exerted to thwart the measures introduced for maintaining the authority of the Constitution. He soon came to be looked upon as a spy as well as a traitor. It was obvious that his heart was with his old associates at Richmond.
As soon as the special session closed, he threw off all disguise, entered the Secession Camp, and joined his fortunes with the insurgents.
President Lincoln, in his message to this Congress, calmly reviews the situation. He calls attention to the fact, that at his inauguration, the functions of the Federal Government
had been suspended in the States of Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Florida. All the National property, in these States had been appropriated by the insurgents. They had seized all the forts, ar
, senals, &c., except those on the Florida coast, and Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, and these were then in a state of siege by the rebel forces. Thc National arms had been seized and were in the hands of hostile armies. Large numbers of officers of the United States Army, and Navy, had resigned and taken up arms against their Government. He review. ed the facts in relation to Fort Sumter, and showed that by the attack upon it, the insurgents began the conflict of arms, thus forcing upon the country immcdiate dissolution or war. No choice was left but to call into action the war powers of the Government, and to resist the force employed for its destruction, by force for its prescrvation. The call for troops was made, and the response was most gratifying. Yet no slave State except Delaware, had given a regiment through State organization. He then reviewed the action of Virginia, includir:g thc seizure of the National armory at Harper's Ferry and the Navy-yard at Gosport, near Norfolk.
« The people of Virginia had permitted the insurrection to make its nest within her borders, and left the Government no choice but to deal with it, where it found it.” He then reviews the action of the Government, the calls for troops, the blockade of the ports in the rebellious States, and the suspension of the writ of habeus corpus. He asked Congress to confer upoll
him the power to make the conflict short and decisive. He asked to have placed at his disposal, 400,000 men, and 400 millions of money. Alluding to the desire of the people to furnish the men and money necessary to maintain the Union, he said, “ the people will save their Goverument, if the Government itself will do its part only indifferently well."
He calls attention to the fact, that ours is a Governinent of the people, and they appreciate it; that while large numbers of the officers of the army and navy had proved “ false to the hand which had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor is known to have deserted his flag.”
It is worthy of note, that the Presideut in this, his first
message, as in so many of his speeches and State papers,
calls attention to the great fundamental principle of our Government, the equality of all. He quotes the clause in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal,” and contrasted it with the aristocratic features of the Government, sought to be created on its ruins. Those who knew Mr. Lincoln best, knew that he looked, confidently, to the ultimate extinction of slavery. It is clear, that in accordance with his cautious character, he hoped to destroy it by gradual emanci. pation. From the beginning, he watched and gladly used every means which his prudent and scrupulous mind recognized as. right and proper, to hasten its ultimate overthrow.
Congress responded promptly to the call of the President, and voted 500,000 men, and 500 millions of dollars to suppress the insurrection.
At this memorable session, Congress commenced a series of measures, which, in connection with the action of President Lincolu and the victories of the Union arms, resulted in the downfall of African slavery.
On the 4th of December, 1861, a resolution introduced by Senator Trumbull, unanimously passed the Senate, " That John C. Breckenridge, the traitor, be, and he hereby is, expelled.” Some of the debates of this session, were of exceed. ing interest. Among the most dramatic was a debate between Breckenridge, of Kentucky, and Colonel Baker, of Oregon. Breckenridge received from the fiery and eloquent Senator, a terrible rebuke for his treachery.
Baker, in a speech made on the 1st day of August, in reply to the treasonable utterances of Breckenridge, said:
“What would the Senator from Kentucky, have? These speeches of his, sown broadcast over the land, what clear distinct meaning have they? Are they not intended for disorganization in our very midst? Are they not intended to destroy our zeal? Are they not intended to animate our enemies? Sir, are they not words of brilliant polished treason, even in the very Capital of the Republic ?” [Here there were such manifestations of applause in the galleries, as were with difficulty suppressed.]
Mr. Baker resumed, and turning directly to Mr. Breckenridge, enquired:
“ What would have been thought, if, in another Capital, in another Republic, in a yet more martial age, a Senator as grave, not more eloquent or dignified than the Senator from Kentucky, yet with the Roman purple flowing over his shoulders, bad risen in his place, surrounded by all the illustrations of Roman glory, and declared that the cause of advancing Hannibal was just, and that Carthage ought to be dealt with in terms of peace? What would have been thought if, after the battle of Canna, a Senator there had risen in his place, and denounced every levy of the Roman people, every expenditure of its treasure, and every appeal to the old recollections and the old glories ?”'
There was a silence so profound throughout the Senate and galleries, that a pinfall could have been heard, while every eye was fixed upon Breckenridge. Fessenden exclaimed, in doep low tones, “ he would have been hurled from the Tarpean Rock!”
Sir, a Senator, himself learned far more than myself, in such lore, Mr. Fessenden) tells me, in a voice that I am glad is audible, that · he would have been hurled from the Tarpean Rock. It is a grand kommentary upon the American Constitution, that we permit these words of the Senator from Kentucky, to be uttered. I ask the Senator to recollect, too, what, save to send aid and comfort to the
do these predictions amount to? Every word thus uttered, falls as a 'note of inspiration upon every Confederate ear. Every so'ınd thus uttered, is a word, (and falling from his lips, a mighty word) of kindling and triumph to a foe that determines to advance."
This was that Baker, brilliant alike as an orator and a soldier, who, on the prairies of Illinois, had contested the palm of eloquence and popular favor with Lincoln and Douglas; he, who had gone to California, and pronounced the memorable funeral oration over the murdered Broderick, assassinated because, as he said, “ he was opposed to the extension of slavery and a corrupt administration." Going thence to Oregon, he came to Washington as its Senator. After a short and brilliant career in the Senate, he fell, pierced with nine bullets at Ball's Bluff, one of the early martyrs of the war, because, as he said, “ a United States Senator must not retreat."