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uary 8, 1861) to a close personal and political friend, then abroad, Edwin De Leon, Consul at Alexandria:
for habilities are that with the forcesitant over th
We are advancing rapidly to the end of "the Union.” The Cotton States may now be regarded as having decided for secession. South Carolina is in a quasi war, and the probabilities are that events will hasten her and her associates into general conflict with the forces of the Federal Government. The Black Republicans, exultant over their recent success, are not disposed to concede anything; and the stern necessity of resistance is forcing itself upon the judgment of all the slave-holding States. The Virginia Legislature met yesterday, and took promptly and boldly the Southern ground. Mississippi is now in convention. I may leave here in a few days; though it is also possible the State may choose to continue its Senators here for the purpose of defense against hostile legislation. The confidence heretofore felt in Mr. Buchanan has diminished steadily, and is now nearly extinct. His weakness has done as much harm as wickedness would have achieved. Though I can no longer respect or confer with him, and feel injured by his conduct, yet I pity and would extenuate the offenses not prompted by bad design or malignant intent.
All the Cotton States were indeed rapidly falling into line with the State already “in a quasi war," with the recognized probabilities of a “general conflict with the forces of the Federal Government.” Some of these States did not wait for even the formality of a Secession ordinance before beginning to appropriate Federal property — forts, arsenals, arms, munitions of war, public buildings, mints, and money. Mr. Davis's own State passed its ordinance of secession on the day after he had written as above — the day which Governor Pickens celebrated by firing on the Star of the West. He had previously taken possession of all Federal property at Charleston, and of all the Federal defenses of its harbor, save only Fort Sumter. Two days later, Alabama and Florida followed suit; and before the close of the month, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Without resistance, every coast fortification within the limits of the seceding seven States, save the works at Key West, Fort Pickens and Fort Sumter, were wrested from the Government's possession.
The Legislature of Virginia provided for a State convention to act on the question of secession, and resolved (January 19th) that all the other States be invited to send commissioners to meet representatives of like sort from Virginia at Washington on the 4th of February, for “an earnest effort to adjust the present unhappy controversies.” The basis indicated for such settlement was the “Crittenden Compromise.” Another resolution designated Ex-President John Tyler as a “commissioner to the President of the United States,” and Judge John Robertson as a commissioner to South Carolina and “the other States that have seceded or shall secede,” with instructions respectfully to request the President and the authorities of such States “ to abstain,” while the action proposed for the Peace Conference was pending, “ from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of arms between the States and the Government of the United States."
In the Peace Conference thus initiated — which was in session at Washington from the 4th to the 27th of February — there were delegates, including many eminent men, from all the New England States, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and several States further west, as well as from nearly all the Southern States except those engaged, at the same date, in
confederating at Montgomery. This gathering of notables at Washington, however, did not answer the expectations of those — if any there really were — who looked to it for a settlement of “the present unhappy controversies.”
Mr. Buchanan, hardly needing the pacific persuasions of his predecessor, “ Commissioner" Tyler, soon settled down to the policy of leaving matters to take their course until dealt with by the incoming administration. This gratified the Virginia pacificators, and at least satisfied Mr. Seward. On the 12th of January, Seward had delivered a speech in the Senate, moderate and yielding in tone — proposing “to meet exaction with conciliation, and violence with peace;" consenting to an amendment of the Constitution forever prohibiting Congress from any interference with slavery in the States; and favoring a national convention to consider further changes in that instrument. He expressly repudiated the “irrepressible conflict” doctrine as it had been attributed to him, and favored the plan lately proposed by Mr. Charles Francis Adams in the House to organize the remaining Territories without mention of slavery. Before the end of January the Territories of Colorado, Nevada and Dakota were thus organized, and Kansas was admitted into the Union as a free State. For a time the secession frenzy seemed to have reached a limit. Although the Legislature of Virginia had called a State convention, a majority of Union delegates was chosen. In North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and even in the Cotton State of Arkansas, the people voted down secession. In Maryland and Delaware, disunion emissaries met a chilling
reception, and neither State was disturbed by a direct popular vote on the question.
A Congress of representatives of the six States first launched into the fatal current — the Texas ordinance not being yet in operation — was organized at Montgomery, Ala., on the 4th of February, and agreed on a provisional constitution for a Southern confederacy. A provisional government was decreed, with Jefferson Davis as President, and Alexander H. Stephens as Vice President. Some facetious State-rightists styled Davis “ Chief of the Six Nations.” His inauguration took place on the 18th of February.
On the Way to the White House.
On Monday morning, February 11th, the last day of his fifty-second year, Abraham Lincoln began his journey to Washington. The air was chilly and the sky dark with clouds as his neighbors gathered at the railway station to bid him and his family farewell. His few parting words were spoken with visible emotion:
My Friends: One who has never been placed in a like position can not understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel at this parting. For more than twenty-five years I have lived among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your hands. Here the most cherished ties of earth were assumed. Here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried. To you, my friends, I owe all that I have — all that I am. All the strange checkered past seems to crowd upon my mind. To-day I leave you. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him shall be with and aid me I can not prevail; but if the same almighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me I shall not fail; I shall succeed. Let us pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To Him I commend you all. Permit me to ask that with equal sincerity and faith you will all invoke His wisdom and goodness for me.
With these words I must leave you; for how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now wish you an affectionate farewell.
This was his exact language as taken down at the moment and telegraphed through the land. No at
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