Page images
PDF
EPUB

majority for the consideration of Congress, from which the Senators and Representatives of the Cotton States had long since retired. In the Senate there was some apparent relenting at last in favor of the Crittenden Compromise, though on coming to a vote it was lost (yeas, 19; nays, 20). The Corwin amendment (reported by the House Committee of thirty-three) — to prevent any future amendment giving Congress power to abolish slavery in the States — was agreed to by the required two-thirds vote in both Houses. Such was the sum and the end of Congressional attempts at conciliation.

CHAPTER XXI.

1861.

Inauguration - Cabinet and Diplomatic Appointments.

No unpropitious signs were visible on the morning of the 4th of March. A few regular soldiers and some volunteer military companies were seasonably forming to take part in the customary procession. Magruder's battery took its appointed station on Capitol Hill, out of sight of the main crowd beginning to gather. There were, too, armed sentinels on house-tops at several points along Pennsylvania Avenue before the procession began to move. From first to last, neither martial guard nor armed police seemed to be of use beyond their share in a pacific parade. The coming man, seated in open carriage with his predecessor, was greeted by many thousands of voices as he moved along the broad avenue and ascended to the capitol. Entering on the Senate side, he advanced from within to the rude stand from which he was to speak, on the eastern portico.

Near by in the surrounding assembly of notables stood Senator Douglas. On the pedestal of a column, slight Senator Wigfall, stick in hand, wriggled uneasily; while here and there other Southern representatives were less conspicuously looking on — Secessionists who still lingered unmolested and at present unmolesting. General Scott was away, anxiously superintending his military arrangements. Whether his right-hand man, Adjutant-General Samuel Cooper, and his foremost and favored subordinate of the line, Colonel Robert E. Lee, were nearer listeners and observers of the proceedings on the portico, or accompanied their chief, can not be distinctly recorded. Captain John B. Magruder was altogether missing, not having yet returned from an absence abroad on leave, so that his important artillery company had not at this moment the benefit of his personal control. Commander Buchanan, in whose charge was the Washington navy-yard, with all its great interests, was probably within eye-shot of restless Wigfall. Justice Campbell, of Alabama, was present with the other Judges of the Supreme Court. Chief-Justice Taney, now far advanced beyond the usual limit of human life and looking debilitated and withered, had expressed in a positive manner his determination to administer to Abraham Lincoln the oath which he had administered to every President since Andrew Jackson.

The grounds in front were covered with myriads of people, compact and quietly disposed; and many shadetrees, now leafless, were darkened with clinging spectators. When Lincoln rose to speak he was introduced by his friend, Senator Edward D. Baker, and had such greeting as only a great sympathetic throng of men can give. The table on which he laid his manuscript before him was small and had no available place for his hat, which Senator Douglas politely took and held in hand. The atmosphere was clear, cool, but not unpleasantly chilly; there was sometimes sunshine and sometimes shadow, as with earnest but deliberate and well modulated voice, the President-elect proceeded. There was a fresh wind abroad, and presently he placed his gold-headed cane across the futtering pages, keeping them in place as one after another was turned over. But he spoke without hesitation, from memory.

The inaugural had but one general theme. Some points of it are detachable as indicating the purposes and policy which the new President had in mind at the beginning; while as a whole it is one of his most impressive papers. “Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States,” he said, “that, by the accession of a Republican administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that 'I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so; and I have no inclination to do so.'” He cited also a resolution of the convention which nominated him, as “clear and emphatic ” on this matter, and continued:

I now reiterate these sentiments; and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace and security of no section are to be in anywise endangered by the now incoming administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given, to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause, as cheerfully to one section as to another.

A comprehensive pledge, when closely considered. · At greater length he spoke of the rendition of fugitive slaves, in terms that would seem to be sufficient to satisfy reasonable men of the South, yet not more explicit that he had repeatedly used on the stump in Illinois. He further said in this connection: “I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations, and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules.” He then took up the matter of Disunion, arguing in his most forcible manner against the right of a State to secede — concluding on this point:

I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken, and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union shall be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it, so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative matter direct the contrary.

I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself. In doing this there need be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it is forced upon the national authority.

The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects there will be no · invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. ... The course here indicated will be followed, unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper; and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised according to circumstances actually existing, and with a view and a hope of a

« PreviousContinue »