Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors]

• May 8,

1863.

struggle with its foes, leading politicians of the Peace Faction, evidently in affiliation with the disloyal secret organization known as Knights of the Golden Circle,' were using every means in their power to defeat the patriotic purposes of the loyalists, and to stir up the people of the Free-labor States to a counter-revolution. This had been their course for several months during the dark hours of the Republic, before the dawn at Gettysburg; and the more strenuous appeared the efforts of the Government to suppress the rebellion, the more intense was their zeal in opposing them.

This opposition was specially exhibited when the President acted in accordance with the law of Congress, passed in April, 1862, " for the enrollment of the National forces," and authorizing the Executive to make drafts, at his discretion, from such enrolled citizens for service in the army.” The President refrained from resorting to this extreme measure so long as the public safety would allow. Finally, in consequence of the great discouragements to volunteering produced by the Peace Faction, he issued a proclamation for a Draft to begin in July, and caused the appointment of an enrolling board in every Congressional district. This was made the pretext for inaugurating a counter-revolution in the Free-labor States, which the leaders of the rebellion had been promised, and which their dupes were expecting;and organized resistance to the measure instantly appeared, general and formidable. The politicians of the Peace Faction denounced the law and all acts under it as despotic and unconstitutional, and a hitherto obscure lawyer, named McCunn, who had been elected to the bench in the city of New York by® the Opposition, so formally decided. He was sustained by the decision of three respectable judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania-Lowrie, Woodward, and Thompson-and, with this legal sanction, the politicians opposed the Draft with a high hand.

In the mean time the suspension of the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus and the practice of arbitrary arrests had become a subject for the bitter denunciations of the Peace Faction. They were specially excited to opposition by the arrest and punishment, under military authority, of C. L. Vallandigham, late member of Congress from Ohio, and the most conspicuous leader of the Opposition, in the West. This politician, possessing ability and pluck, was very busy in sowing the seeds of disaffection to the Government in the spring of 1863. On the 13th of April, General Burnside, then in command of a military department which included Ohio, issued a general oriler for the suppression of seditious speech and action, then seriously affecting the public service by discouraging enlistments. It declared that

See page 187, volume I.

? So early as the 20th of August, 1961, General McClellan, then in command of the Army of the Potomac, hal recommended such enrollment and conscription. The Act of April 18, 1962, provided for the enrollment of all able-bodied masculine citizens, including aliens who had declared their intentions to become naturalized, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years; those between twenty and thirty-five to constitute the first class, and all others the second class. The President was authorized to make a draft from these after the 1st of July next succeeding (1962), the person so drafted not to serve in the armies for more than three years. A cominntation of three hundrei dollars might be received in lieu of such service; and the heads of executive departments, National judges, Governors of States, the only son of a widow, or of an aged and infirm father, dependent for his support on the labor of such son; the father of motherless dependent children under twelve years of age, or the only adult brother of such children, being orphans; or the residue of a family, of which two members might be in the service, were esempted. This Act was passed in each house of Congress by a party vote, the Republicans in its favor and the Opposition against it. It received in the Senate 35 yeas to 11 naye, and in the other House 115 yeas to 49 nays.

3 See page 48.

[ocr errors][merged small]

1863.

CLEMENT L. VALLANDIGHAM,

persons who should “commit acts for the benefit of the enemies of our country should be tried as spies and traitors, and, if convicted, should suffer

death." “It must be distinctly understood," said the order," that treason, expressed or implied, will not be tolerated in this department." In defiance of this order (whose specifications of offenses were clear'), Vallandigham continued his seditious speeches, and denounced the order itself.' He was arrested at his own

house in Dayton, Ohio," . May 4

on a charge of having

been guilty of treasonable conduct. He was tried by a court

martial convened at CinApril 22.

cinnati, over which Brig

adier-General R. B. Potter presided; and was convicted, and sentenced to close confinement in a fortress for the

remainder of the war. This sentence was modified by the PresiMay 16.

dent, who directed him to be sent within the military lines of the Confederates, and, in the event of his returning without leave, to suffer the penalty prescribed by the court. Judge Leavitt, of the United States District Court of Ohio, refused an application for a writ of Habeas Corpus in his case, and the convict was passed by General Rosecrans toward the Confederate lines. Vallandigham being of use to the conspirators in Ohio, and none at all in their own dominions, his ungrateful “Southern friends," for whose cause he had labored, treated him with the indifference they would exhibit toward a poor relation. Disappointed and disgusted, he soon left their society, escaped from Wilmington, and sailed to Nassau in a blockaderunner, and finally found his way to Canada, where he enjoyed congenial society among his refugee friends from the “ Confederate States," with whom he was in sympathy. Meanwhile, the Democratic Convention of Ohio had nominated him for Governor.

The arrest of Vallandigham produced intense excitement throughout the country, and its wisdom and lawfulness were questioned by a few of the

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

1 One specification was as follows: "The habit of declaring sympathies for the enemy will not be allowed in this department. Persons committing such offenses will be at once arrested, with a view to being tried as above stated, or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends."

? There appeared real fanaticism among the followers of this man, while he was engaged in this campaign against the Government. While he was riding in a procession at Batavia, in Ohio, some of his abject admirers took the more noble horses from his carriage, and drew the vehicle through the village themselves.-Letter of an eyewitness, a friend of the author.

3 Lieutenant-Colonel Freemantle, of the British army, already mentioned, was then with the Confederate forces in Tennessee, below Murfreesboro'. In his Diary, under date of “ May 28, 1863," he wrote: “When I arrived (at Wartrace), I found that General Hardee was in company with General Polk and Bishop Elliott of Georgia, and also with Mr. Vallandigham. The latter (called the Apostle of Liberty) is a good-looking man, apparently not much over forty, and had been turned out of the North threo days before. Rosecrans bad wished to hand him over to Bragg by flag of truce; but as the latter declined to receive him in that manner, he was, as General Hardee expressed it, dumped dowon' in the neutral ground between the lines, and left there. Ho thus received hospitality from the Confederates in the capacity of a destitute stranger. They do not in any way receive him officially, and it does not suit the policy of either party to be identified with one another. He told the generals that if Grant was severely beaten in Mississippi by Johnston, he did not think the war could be cortinued on its present great scale.”—Three Months in the Southern Statos, page 137.

[merged small][ocr errors]

friends of the Government. When the news of his conviction and sentence was proclaimed throughout the land by the telegraph, Democratic politicians held meetings in several cities to express dissatisfaction with such proceedings. One of these, in the city of Albany, New York (to which the Governor of the State, Horatio Seymour, addressed an impas

May 15, sioned letter'), in a series of resolutions, denounced the proceedings in Vallandigham's case as unlawful—“contrary to the spirit of our laws and the Constitution,” and declared that they regarded “the blow struck at a citizen of Ohio as aimed at the rights of every citizen at the North.” They implored the President to "reverse the action of the military tribunal;" and they sent the chairman of their meeting (Erastus Corning) to Washington City to lay their resolutions before the Executive. This was done. The gravity of the subject required serious consideration, and it was given. Then the President, in a long letter to the officers of the meeting, ably defended the position taken by Congress and himself in the matter of the writ of habeas corpus and the arrest of seditious persons in time of rebellion, by citations of precedents found in our own history, and simple arguments based on the most tangible premises of common sense;' and closed with the assurance that he should continue “to do so much as might seem to be required by the public safety."

1863.

June 18.

1 Mr. Seymour was an able public oilicer and an average statesman, with an irreproachable private character, and wide influence in society. He was one of the most conspicuous and uncompromising members of the Peace Faction; and was in full sympathy with the Conspirators concerning the doctrine of supreme State søvereignty, on which, if true, they justly founded their claim to the right of secession, and the severing of the bond wbich united them to the General Government, which was regarded by them as only " the agent of the States."* On that account his words had great weight with the vast majority of the Opposition party. His letter to the convention was therefore of great importance at that crisis, and was doubtless chiefly instrumental in fostering opposition to the war and to the measures used by the Government for carrying it on, which culminatei, in the City of New York, 1 few months later, in a most fearful and bloody riot, as we shall observe presently. It was a highly inflammable missile, in which the Government was denounced as a despot, secking * to impose punishment, not for an offense against law, but for a disregard of an invalid order, put forth in an utter disregard of principles of civil liberty;" and he told the people plainly that if the proceedings in Vallandigham's case were upheld by the Government and sanctioned by the majority, they were in a state of revolution. By implication, in carefully guarded language, he exhorted the people to resistance. He declared that the Governors and the courts of some of the great Western States had “ shrunk into insignificance before the despotic powers claimed and exercised by military men;" and closel by saying: “The people of this country now wait with the deepest anxiety the decision of the Adininistration upon these acts. Having given it a generous support in the conduct of the war, we now pause to see what kind of Government it is for which we are asked to pour out our blood and treasure. The action of the Administration will determine in the minds of more than one-half of the people of the loyal States whether this war is waged to put down rebellion at the South, or to destroy free institutions at the North." The action of the Administration thenceforth, until the rebellion was crusherl, was according to the rule in Vallandigham's case, and four-fifths “of the people of the loyal States” sustained it, in spite of the efforts of the Peace Faction to the contrary. The great body of the people of those States were sound friends of the Union.

? The question was raised, Who is authorized to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeus corpus, according to the provisions of the 2d clause of section 9, Article I. of the National Constitution? The Opposition declared that only Congress, in regular session, could do so. The President and Congress declared that it was the right of the President to do so, if rebellion or invasion," during the recess of Congress, should show that the public safety required it. On this subject, see abie essays by Horace Linney, of Philadelphia, published at about that time, and replies thereto, both in pamphlet form. The President, in his letter, said: “ By necessary implication, when rebellion or invasion comes, the decision is to be made from time to time; and I think the man whoin, for the time, the people have, under the Constitution, made the Commander-in-Chief of their army and nary, is the man who holds the power and bears the responsibility of making it.” Congress having justified the action of the President, and the people, by every demonstration of a desire to sustain the Government, having sanctioned the acts of Congress, the question of the constitutionality of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and of arbitrary arrests was settled, and all opposition thereto was consequently factious and Seditious.

• An amusing illustration of action in accordance with this idea may be found in " Letters patent" of Jefferson Davis, dated 5th of Jane, 1963, refoking the authority of a British consul at Richmond. He said: “Whereas, George Moore, Esq., Her British Majesty's consul for the port of Richmond and State of Virginia, duly recognized as such by exequatur issued by a former Government (United States) which was, at the time of the issue, the duly authorized agent for that purpose of tảe State of Virginia,” &c.

S6

ORGANIZED RESISTANCE TO THE DRAFT.

1963.

) June 29.

The Democratic Convention that assembled' at Columbus, Ohio, and nom

inated Vallandigham for the chief magistracy of the State,' also • June 11,

denounced the Government, and sent a committee to the Presi

dent to demand a revocation of the sentence of their candidate, “not as a favor, but as a right." They assumed to speak for a “majority

of the people of Ohio.” The President's reply. was brief and

pointed. He defended the action of the Government, and, after telling them plainly that their own attitude in the matter encouraged desertion, resistance to the draft, and the like, and that both friends and enemies of the Union looked upon it in that light 3—that it was a “substantial, and, by consequence, a real strength to the enemy”—he proposed to them to dispel it, if they were friends of their country, by publicly declaring, over their own signatures, that there was a rebellion whose object and tendency was to destroy the Union, and that, in their opinion, our army and navy were constitutional means for suppressing it; that they would not do any thing calculated to diminish the efficiency of those branches of the public service; and that they would do all in their power to provide means for the support of that army and navy, while engaged in efforts to suppress the rebellion; it being understood that the publication of the President's reply to them, with their affirmative indorsement of the propositions, should be, in itself, a revocation of the order in relation to Vallandigham. The Committee refused to “enter into any such agreement,” giving, as a chief reason, that it was an imputation on their own sincerity and fidelity as citizens of the United States." So the discussion, so far as the President was concerned, ended, and at the election for Governor of Ohio, a few months later, the assumption of the Committee, that they represented." a majority of the people" of that State, was rebuked by an overwhelming vote against Vallandigham. The majority of his opponent was over one hundred thousand, including that given by the Ohio soldiers in the field.

It was in the midst of the excitement caused by the arrest of Vallandigham, the harangues of Opposition speakers, and the passionate appeals of some Opposition newspapers to the instincts of the more disorderly classes of society, that the Draft was ordered. Then, as we have observed, the zeal of the Opposition against the measure became formidable and dangerous to the public welfare. Organized resistance to the Draft appeared in various

parts of the country, and distinguished members of the Peace “ July 4.

Faction were heard, on the National anniversary,“ exhorting the 1 See page 84.

? The following are the names of the Committee : M. Burchard, David A. IIouck, George Bliss, T. W. Bartley, W. J. Gordon, John O'Neill, C. A. White, W. A. Fink, Alexander Long, J. W. White, George II. Pendleton, George L. Converse, Hanzo P. Noble, James R. Morris, W. A. IIutchins, Abner L. Backus, J. F. McKenney, P. C. De Blond, Louis Schaefer.

3 In a letter to the London Times, dated August 17, 1863, Mathew F. Maury, formerly Superintendent of the National Observatory at Washington, and one of the most unworthy of traitors to his country, said, in proof that there was no chance for the Union: “ There is already a peace party in the North. All the embar. rassments with which thut party can surround Jr. Lincoln, and all the difficulties that it can throw in the way of the war party in the North, operats directly as so much aid and comfort to the South.” He then pointed to the apathy of the inhabitants of Western Pennsylvania (where the influence of the Peace Faction was powerful) at the time of Lee's invasion : “to the riots in New York, and to the organized resistance to the war in Ohio," in which Vallandigham was the leader, and said: “New York is threatening armed resistance to the Federal Government. Ver York is becoming the champion of State Rights in the Vorth, and to that extent is taking Southern ground.

Vallandigham waits and watches over the border, pledged, if elected Governor of the State of Ohio, to array it against Lincoln and the war, and to go for peace. Never were the chances for the South brighter."

.

SPEECHES OF PIERCE AND SEYMOUR.

87

people to stand firmly in opposition to what they called “the usurpations of the Government." The most conspicuous of these orators were ex-President Franklin Pierce,' and Governor Seymour, of New York, the former speaking to a Democratic gathering at Concord, New Hampshire, and the latter to the citizens of New York City, in the Academy of Music.

Mr. Pierce declared that the cause of the war was “the vicious intermeddling of too many of the citizens of the Northern States with the constitutional rights of the Southern States." He spoke of “military bastiles," into which American citizens were thrust by the arbitrary exercise of power, and of “ the mailed hand of military usurpation in the North, striking down the liberties of the people, and trampling its foot on a desecrated Constitution." He lauded Vallandigham as “the noble martyr of free speech," and spoke in affectionate terms of Virginia, whose sons, by thousands, led by a dishonored scion of a once honored family of that commonwealth, were then desolating Pennsylvania with plunder and the tread of war, and drenching its soil with the blood of twenty thousand Union men in attempts to destroy the Republic. He declared "the war as fruitless," and exhorted his fellowcitizens, if they could not preserve the Union without fighting, to let it go. “You will take care of yourselves,” he exclaimed.

“ With or without arms, with or without leaders, we will, at least, in the effort to defend our rights as a free people, build up a great mausoleum of hearts, to which men who yearn for liberty will, in after years, with bowed heads and reverently, resort, as Christian pilgrims, to the shrines of the Holy Land."? Ilis hearers on that dismal day shouted applause, but the sons of New Englanıl showed their scorn for such disloyal advisers and evinced their own patriot, ism in trooping by thousands to the field of strife, to save their country from ruin at the hands of rebels and demagogues.

Mr. Seymour's speech was similar in tenor, but was more cautiously worded. It was able, and, viewed from his stand-point of political observation, appeared patriotic. He opened with words of bitter irony applied to the struggling Government whose hands the Peace Faction were striving to paralyze, saying: “When I accepted the invitation to speak, with others, at this meeting, we were promised the downfall of Vicksburg, the opening of the Mississippi, the probable capture of the Confederate capital, and the exhaustion of the rebellion. By common consent all parties had fixed upon this day when the results of the campaign should be known, to mark out that line of policy which they felt that our country

• July 4, should pursue. But in the moment of expected victory, there came the midnight cry for help from Pennsylvania, to save its despoiled fields from the invading foe; and, almost within sight of this great commercial metropolis, the ships of your merchants were burned to the water's edge." At the very hour when this ungenerous taunt was uttered, Vicksburg and its dependencies, and vast spoils, with more than thirty thousand Confederate captives, were in the possession of General Grant; and the discomfited

[ocr errors]

2

See notice of Mr. Pierce's letter to Jefferson Davis, note 1, page 215, volume I.

Compare this last sentence with a paragraph on page 232, volume I. of this work, in which Judah P. Benjamin, the first Confederate - Secretary of War," eulogized the friends of the Conspirators, in the Free-labor States. His speech may be found in the Congressional Globe, January, 1861.

* See pages 625 and 630, volume II.

« PreviousContinue »