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THE CRITTENDEN PROPOSITIONS OF COMPROMISE.
line were entitled to admission as States to the Union, they should be so admitted. with slavery or without it, as their respective inhabitants might themselves at that period determine. They also provided that Congress should possess no right to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; they denied the same right in the national dock yards and arsenals; they maintained the right of the transit of slaves through the free States; and they proposed, that States in which fugitive slaves had been rescued from the possession of their masters, when in pursuit of them, should pay the value of them to their alleged owners. But the patriotic efforts of Mr. Crittenden, on this occasion, were useless; the extreme views held by both the Northern and the southern Senators upon the questions involved in his compromise, rendered an accommodation utterly impossible.
The great State of South Carolina having withdrawn from the Union, the next thing to be done was, to remove all the monuments of Federal power, and take possession of all the Federal property, which existed within her limits. It was beneath her dignity to permit those to remain before her eyes as mementos of her former degradation, as an humble member of the repudiated and rejected General Government. Accordingly, the assembled convention proceeded to select commissioners to proceed to Washington as their representatives, and make a formal demand for these various objects of dispute.
Immediately on their arrival at the seat of government, the commissioners announced their presence to Mr. Buchanan. In a communication to that functionary, Messrs. Barnwell, Adams, and Orr, respectfully, yet firmly set forth that they had been delegated by the State of South Carolina to inform the Federal Government of their withdrawal from the Union; to negotiate in her name upon all such questions as necessarily arose in consequence of that act; and that they were prepared to enter upon these negotiations in a friendly spirit, with the desire to inaugurate their new relations so as to promote the mutual advantage of both parties. They added, however, that "the events of the last twenty-four hours render such an assurance impossible. We came here the representatives of an authority which could, at any time within the past sixty days, have taken possession of the forts in Charleston harbor, but which, upon pledges given in a manner that we cannot doubt, determined to trust to your honor rather than to its own power. Since our arrival here, an officer of the United States, acting as we are assured not only without, but against your orders, has dismantled one fort and occupied another— thus altering to a most important extent the condition of affairs under which we came. Until these circumstances are explained in a manner which relieves us of all doubt as to the spirit in which these negotiations shall be conducted, we are forced to suspend all discussion as to any arrangement by which our mutual interests may be amicably adjusted. And, in conclusion we would urge upon you the immediate withdrawal
of the troops from the harbor of Charleston. Under present circumstances they are a standing menace which renders negotiation impossible, and, as our recent experience shows, threaten speedily to bring to a bloody issue questions which ought to be settled with temperance and judgment." To this address Mr. Buchanan replied evasively; and his answer elicited a lengthy and haughty rejoinder from the commissioners. Meanwhile, the subject and the destination of the forts in Charleston harbor assumed an increasing importance. At that period Fort Moultrie was commanded by Major Anderson, under whose orders there had been placed a small garrison.
On the 26th of December that officer transferred his command from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, a new and greatly stronger work. This act was one indicating intrepidity, sagacity and skill. Major Anderson thereby gained an important advantage over the secessionists; and he received the deserved applause of the nation in return. Immediately afterward the troops of South Carolina took possession of Fort Moultrie, and thus held the first armed position against the Federal Government. That position was of little service to them, however, inasmuch as Major Anderson, before withdrawing from it, had spiked the cannon, had burned the gun-carriages, and had left the works in a mutilated and useless condition. Secretary Floyd was greatly incensed at the conduct of Major Anderson. Being secretly in the service of the secessionists, he now began more openly to advocate their interests in the Federal Cabinet. Finding that the voice of public opinion was beginning to condemn him with general and harmonious censure, he read the following paper to the President in the presence of the Cabinet, and afterward resigned his office: "It is evident now, from the action of the commander of Fort Moultrie, that the solemn pledges of the Government have been violated by Major Anderson. In my judgment but one remedy is now left us by which to vindicate our honor and prevent civil war. It is in vain now to hope for confidence on the part of the people of South Carolina in any further pledges as to the action of the military. One remedy is left, and that is to withdraw the garrison from the harbor of Charleston. I hope the President will allow me to make that order at once. This order, in my judgment, can alone prevent bloodshed and civil war."
The commissioners who were sent from South Carolina to the Federal Government, conducted themselves at Washington with such a degree of arrogance as effectually to defeat the purpose of conciliation between the rival Republics, if any such purpose had been entertained. Their last communication, addressed to Mr. Buchanan, was a singular effusion of combined impudence and imprudence. They assumed the dictatorial tone of masters, and assured the President that he had, in effect, compromised his honor by not immediately withdrawing the Federal troops from the forts in the harbor of Charleston. They reminded him, also, in language.