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The visit of Mr. Fox to Major Anderson on the 22d day of March, afforded little relief to the current anxiety, so conflicting were the reports as to the purpose of his mission. The visit of still another supposed agent of the Government to Charleston, three days later, was generally construed unfavorably. Sanguine and nervous people were beginning to despond, or to speak openly of "weakness and vacillation the part of the President. It was only those who did not thoroughly know Mr. Lincoln who could seriously have doubted him for a moment. And yet, the stranger lingering in the capital during those calm yet dubious days which preceded the outburst of a storm, every moment's delay of which was an incalculable gain to the Government, would almost have pronounced the Administration doomed to ignominious failure, to popular repudiation, such as a counter-revolution of loyal men in the North must inevitably follow, at the very outset of its
To omit to record this state of things, vividly impressed as it must be on the mind of every man in Washington, who observed events from the outside, would be to leave out the most striking view in the foreground of the picture. When taken in connection with subsequent events, it would also be as unjust to the fame of President Lincoln, as false to the facts of history.
It was during this period that Mr. Alexander H. Stephens, (who, recreant to the sterling words in which, a few short months earlier, he had denounced this insane attempt to destroy the best Government on earth, for no real grievance whatever, but solely to gratify and revenge the thwarted ambition of defeated politicians, was now enjoying the mimic honors of the "Confederate" Vice Presidency,) delivered a remarkable speech in the city of Savannah, (March 21,) which must also have its permanent place in the annals of the time. The over-crowded audience, the enthusiastie applause, the solemnities of the occasion, and the known, frank, and positive character of the man, all combine to mark this utterance as a genuine reproduction of the thought and purpose of the chief conspirators, and their ready followers, at this hour. Only some of its chief points
can be recalled here, as showing both the estimate placed upon Mr. Lincoln's official action hitherto, and the real animus of the rebellion, when relieved of the disguises which Stephens had already stripped off in his anti-secession speech on the 19th of January, in the Georgia Convention.
After proceeding at some length to point out the "Improve ments" he discerned in the Montgomery Constitution over that which the seven "Confederate States had repudiated, Mr. Stephens said:
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least: The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions--African slavery as it exists among us- -the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the rock upon which the old Union would split. He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas, entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen, at the time of the formation of the old Constitution, were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was WRONG IN PRINCIPLE, SOCIALLY, MORALLY AND POLITICALLY. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away.
Let us pause here, for a moment, to consider this distinct concession-truthful in every word-as to the views of Jefferson " and most of the leading statesmen" of the Constitutional era. How perfectly this agrees with the admission, two months earlier, that under an eminently Southern administration of the Government under the Constitution, for a long period of years, the South had no grievance whatever to complain of! Still more striking is the suggestion which this passage makes of that portion of Mr. Lincoln's celebrated Springfield speech, quoted by the author of the elaborate paper, in imitation of the Declaration of Independence, setting forth the causes of South Carolina's secession, when he says:
Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be intrusted with the administration of the common government, because he has declared that that "Government can not endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
Setting aside the special pleading and inaccurate statement of the South Carolinian, how completely is he answered at every point by the Georgian, who had already, beyond a doubt, carefully perused the former's argument! In a word, Stephens fairly and honorably concedes that the exact position held by Jefferson, and most of his contemporary statesmen, in regard to slavery, is precisely that which Mr. Rhett, even in his less candid effusion, attributes to Mr. Lincoln, and both practically unite in bearing testimony to the following clear enunciation of the grand spirit and purpose of the rebellion, as stated in his Savannah speech by Mr. Stephens, after pronouncing these ideas of Jefferson and his contemporaries to be "fundamentally wrong," as resting "upon the assumption of the equality of
Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas. Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, BASED UPON this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. * * * * * * It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted; and I can not permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world. * * * * This stone which was rejected by the first builders, "is become the chief stone of the corner” in our new edifice.
Mr. Stephens, after discussing the ability of the seven States already banded together to go on in their undertaking without the "Border States," and the hopes and wishes entertained in regard to the latter, goes on to discuss the prospect in regard to hostilities with the National Government, as follows:
As to whether we shall have war with our late confederates, or whether all matters of difference between us shall be amicably settled, I can only say that the prospect for a peaceful adjustment is better, so far as I am informed, than it has been. The prospect of war is, at least, not so threatening as it has been. The idea of coercion, shadowed forth in Mr. Lincoln's inaugural, seems not to be followed up, thus far, so vigorously as was expected. Fort Sumter, it is believed, will soon be evacuated. What course will be pursued toward Fort Pickens, and the other forts on the Gulf, is not so well understood. It is to be greatly desired that all of them should be surrendered. Our object is peace, not only with the North, but with the world. * * * The idea of coercing us, or subjugating us, is utterly preposterous. Whether the intention of evacuating Fort Sumter is to be received as an evidence of a desire for a peaceful solution of our difficulties with the United States, or the result of necessity, I will not undertake to say. I would fain hope the former. Rumors are afloat, however, that it is the result of necessity. All I can say to you, therefore, on that point, is, keep your armor bright, and your powder dry,
That Mr. Stephens well understood the impossibility of peace on the only terms he ventured even to hint, is sufficiently manifest, and his reporter further adds, referring to a later part of his speech:
He alluded to the difficulties and embarrassments which seemed to surround, the question of a peaceful solution of the controversy with the old Government. How can it be done? is perplexing many minds. The President seems to think that he can not recognize our independence, nor can he, with and by the advice of the Senate, do so. The Constitution makes no such provision. A general convention of all the States has been suggested by some.
He closed without recommending this, or any other practicable method of peace-which, perhaps, for himself he would