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those of Messrs. Crittenden, Powell, Douglas, Bigler and Rice, would have secured a report for the measure. No other proposition had better success, and before the holidays were over this committee had definitely abandoned its hopeless task. The “Crittenden compromise," however, remained before the Senate as an individual measure of its mover; was in its substance considered and rejected by the House committee of thirtythree, and otherwise maintained an apparent though shadowy existence during the remainder of the session.
The South Carolina Convention passed an “ordinance of secession” on the 20th of December. At Charleston, whither the Convention had removed from the State capital, the populace went wild with delight, lighting up the city and parading with noisy demonstrations. There were rejoicings through all the Cotton country, with congratulations to the bold Carolinians; nor were like expressions wanting nearer the border. Other Gulf States had already taken formal steps toward a like consummation. “Minute men” from Georgia were tendering military service to Governor Pickens, of South Carolina, who was putting on the front of active war. With a grim humor highly appreciated at home, the Charleston press had its “ Foreign ” columns for news from the other States. Special encouragement, too, was given to the secession cause by the open sympathy of a number of Democratic journals and politicians at the North — a kind of help estimated at higher value than a cooler judgment would have justified.
Sensitive capitalists and traders in the large cities began to shake with foreboding; there was clamor for
peace, for compromise; facile politicians, to stimulate reaction, excitedly declaimed to Northern city audiences on the calamities impending over every business interest, to be averted only by conciliating the South. Opponents of Republican opinions were neither tardy nor sparing in their endeavors to turn the state of affairs to partisan account.
Douglas, who had taken the lead in annulling the Missouri line, was now a champion of its restoration through the Crittenden compromise. Senator Pugh, of Ohio, his close political friend, who at Charleston only a few months before had spoken boldly against the demand for the protection of slavery in the Territories, followed his leader in consenting to such protection south of the line of 36° 30', with all the possibilities of future acquisition. On the last day of December, Mr. Pugh — at home for the holidays — addressed a public meeting at Cincinnati in advocacy of this compromise. After expressing the sanguine hopes he had indulged of pacification thereby, he continued:
But I am sorry to say that within the last week before I left Washington all this has changed. I must be permitted to say that the immediate cause of this change was the declaration in the New York Tribune purporting to be made on the authority of the President-elect, that he would not yield a single hair's breadth of the position which, as he understood, his party had taken in the last canvass. ... But it is remarkable that, although Mr. Lincoln has declared it beneath his dignity to give any assurance that would quiet the alarm of the people of the Southern States since his election, he has not thought it beneath his dignity to authorize a declaration to be made which brings to bear on the more moderate men of his party in Congress the whole power and influence of his incoming administration. I think it was an error.
The Senator was not sufficiently candid either in his statement or in his criticism. The demand for a public manifesto from Lincoln, often heard in hostile quarters at this time, was not a reasonable one. While another held the chief executive office, it was not fitting for the elected successor thus to assume any of its duties by anticipation. Nor could there be any “ assurance” that had not already been repeatedly and plainly given in the proper way — the same which had been privately uttered to Mr. Stephens, of Georgia, a few days before this speech of Mr. Pugh. On the 14th of November, Mr. Stephens spoke at Milledgeville, where the Legislature was sitting, using even more than his wonted vigor and eloquence in opposition to secession. His speech was much applauded at the North, where his sincerity was not doubted, and where some had faith that his stability would be heroic. Of Lincoln's election to the Presidency, Stephens was reported as saying:
In my judgment, the election of no man constitutionally chosen to that office is sufficient cause for any State to separate from the Union. ... We went into the election with this people; the result was different from what we wished; but the election has been constitutionally held. Were we to make a point of resistance to the Government, and go out of the Union on that account, the record would be made up hereafter against us. But, it is said, Mr. Lincoln's policy and principles are against the Constitution, and that, if he carries them out, it will be destruction of our rights. Let us not anticipate a threatened evil. ... I do not anticipate that Mr. Lincoln will do anything to jeopardize our safety or security, whatever may be his spirit to do it; for he is bound by the constitutional checks which are thrown around him, which, at this time, render him powerless to do any mischief.
Seeing a newspaper report of this speech, rebuking the attempt to “break up the best government upon earth,” Lincoln wrote his old friend a brief note on the 30th of November, asking an authentic copy of the speech, but making no comment. When Stephens replied he was already overborne, if he had not actually drifted far to sea “ with his State.” On the 22d of December, Lincoln — prefixing to his response, “For your own eye only ”— wrote in turn:
I fully appreciate the present peril the country is in, and the weight of responsibility on me.
Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would directly, or indirectly, interfere with the slaves, or bother them about their slaves ? If they do, I wish to assure you as once a friend, and still, I hope, not any [wise) an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears.
The South would be in no worse danger in this respect than it was in the days of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while we think it is wrong, and ought to be restricted. That, I suppose, is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us.*
ose danescuppose, right, light
e case. Yothink it is wron 'It certainl
Their next communication was in person, four years later, on a steamer in Hampton Roads.
* Published by Mr. Stephens after the war.
Embarrassments of President Buchanan — Major Robert Anderson “Saves the Country” — Fort Sumter
Plans for Pacification — “Confederate States.”
Before the close of the year there were significant events in Charleston harbor.
President Buchanan in his recent message, following the opinion given by Attorney-General Black, to the effect that he was powerless to put down an insurrection involving the people of an entire State, though he might suppress a smaller outbreak, hardly meant, after all, to proclaim such an utter helplessness in the pending disturbances as was generally inferred. Even the very conservative Attorney-General found it necessary to draw the line somewhere, and considerably inside of so extreme a limit, for he had said in the legal opinion already mentioned: “The right of the Government to preserve itself in its whole constitutional vigor, by repelling a direct and positive aggression upon its property or its officers, can not be denied.”
Military works had been erected in Charleston harbor as part of the system of national coast defenses. In one of these, Fort Moultrie, there was a small garrison, numbering less than one hundred men, under the com
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