« PreviousContinue »
the same platform, in regard to special Southern interests, as Jefferson, and most of the founders of the Government, a civil war, designed to establish a new Government on the chief corner-stone of slavery, and to revolutionize the opinions of the civilized world in regard to that system. Whatever could be done to avert this final step, was patiently, kindly, sincerely done by Abraham Lincoln. All truthful history will record this of him, through all ages, to his lasting praise. No rough passion, no fretful impatience, no revengeful impulse, ever ruffled his spirit during all these days of suspense. But the gauntlet was at length thrown down, and no alternative was left but to meet force with force.
The Loyal Uprising.-The Border Slave States.-Summary of Events. Battle of Bull Run.
THE first effect of the fall of Fort Sumter was to silence, for the time, all opposition to the President in the Free States. One sentiment was uppermost in the minds of all loyal peoplethat of indignation at the authors of the war, now inaugurated at Charleston, mingled with the purpose of vindicating the National Flag, and of restoring the legitimate authority of the Government in all the States. Wherever a contrary feeling existed, the strong manifestations of popular enthusiasm for the Government caused such treachery to be carefully disguised. For once, the people of the Free States were a unit in action. The demand for vigorous preparation to protect the National Capital, and to suppress the insurrection, was universal. Simultaneously with this development of loyalty, Mr. Lincoln prepared his proclamation of April 15th, calling on the States for their several proportions of an army of seventyfive thousand men. He also, in the same paper, called an extra session of Congress, to commence on the 4th day of July following.
A like unanimity had been hoped by the conspirators in every Slave State. It was, perhaps, chiefly in order to produce this effect, that the responsibility of beginning the war was assumed by the Rebel leaders. As yet the seven States which had originally entered into the Confederacy at Montgomery had received no accessions from the eight remaining States, supposed to have a common interest with them, from a common peculiarity of institutions. On the very next day after that combination was entered into (February 9), the people of Tennessee had voted against secession, by a large majority. On the
1st day of March a similar vote had been taken in Missouri. On the 4th day of April, a secession ordinance had been rejected in the State Convention of Virginia, by a vote of 45 yeas and 89 nays. In Maryland, the firmness and earnest loyalty of Gov. Hicks had defeated all the schemes for assembling a convention in that State to consider the question of secession. Delaware had manifested a decided Union spirit, and the canvass on this question in Arkansas had thus far developed a strong disinclination to embark in the disunion scheme of Davis and his fellow-conspirators. In North Carolina and Kentucky, all the efforts to seduce the people into rebellion appeared to have been of little avail. Thus, with two tiers of Slave States extending from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, two west of the Mississippi, and the two north-east of Virginia, a majority of all, having many interests diverse from those of the Cotton States, now nominally confederated in the crimes of their leaders, the rebellion was manifestly doomed from the outset, if peace and the opportunity for calm deliberation were allowed.
The rebels undoubtedly wished to avoid the lasting odium of bringing on a desolating and destructive civil war. They saw clearly, however, whither the quiet and pacific policy of the Administration was tending. Not another State would join the Secession movement, if that policy were permitted to continue. From the 1st day of February to the fall of Sumtertwo months and a half-not a State had joined the movement, and two, on the immediate border of the Cotton States, had deliberately rejected the proposition, although the State Governments of both were in the hands of active Secessionists. The fatal blow-a necessity to the mad project in hand-was accordingly struck. The immediate object was to gain over the remaining Slave States, and naturally, as second only to the preparation for war, the course to be pursued by those States became an object of chief interest.
The necessity of at once gaining over Virginia to the Secession side, in order to the prosecution of their plans, was now manifest to the leading conspirators at Montgomery and Richmond. The Convention of that State, as already seen, had
hitherto proved intractable. In electing that body, the people had decided for the Union by a very large majority. What show or pretense of right, even on Secession principles, had these representatives to repudiate alike the clearly expressed wishes of their constituents and their own personal pledges? In the hope of gaining some plausible pretext for such an act of double perfidy, to be used in connection with threats rapidly growing into a reign of terror, a committee of three was appointed by the Convention, just at the time of the impending attack on Fort Sumter, to wait on the President, avowedly to ascertain his intended policy toward the rebellious States. Mr. Lincoln granted this committee an interview on the 13th of April, and gave them the subjoined response:
To Hon. Messrs. PRESTON, STUART and RANDOLPH-Gentlemen: As a committee of the Virginia Convention, now in session, you present me a preamble and resolution in these words:
"WHEREAS, In the opinion of this Convention, the uncertainty which prevails in the public mind as to the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue toward the seceded States, is extremely injurious to the industrial and commercial interests of the country, tends to keep up an excitement which is unfavorable to the adjustment of the pending difficulties, and threatens a disturbance of the public peace; therefore,
'Resolved, That a committee of three delegates be appointed to wait on the President of the United States, present to him this preamble, and respectfully ask him to communicate to this Convention the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate States."
In answer I have to say, that having, at the beginning of my official term, expressed my intended policy as plainly as I was able, it is with deep regret and mortification I now learn there is great and injurious uncertainty in the public mind as to what that policy is, and what course I intend to pursue. Not having as yet seen occasion to change, it is now my purpose to pursue the course marked out in the inaugural address. I commend a careful consideration of the whole document as the best expression I can give to my purposes. As I then and therein said, I now repeat, "The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess property and places belong ing to the Government, and to collect the duties and imports; but beyond what is necessary for these objects there will be no
invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." By the words "property and places belonging to the Government," I chiefly allude to the military posts and property which were in possession of the Government when it came into my hands. But if, as now appears to be true, in pursuit of a purpose to drive the United States authorities from these places, an unprovoked assault has been made upon Fort Sumter, I shall hold myself at liberty to repossess it, if I can, like places which had been seized before the Government was devolved upon me; and in any event I shall, to the best of my ability, repel force by force. In case it proves true that Fort Sumter has been assaulted, as is reported, I shall, perhaps, cause the United States mails to be withdrawn from all the States which claim to have seceded, believing that the commencement of actual war against the Government justifies and possibly demands it. I scarcely need to say that I consider the military posts and property situated within the States which claim to have seceded, as yet belonging to the Government of the United States as much as they did before the supposed secession. Whatever else I may do for the purpose, I shall not attempt to collect the duties and imposts by any armed invasion of any part of the country; not meaning by this, how
ever, that I may not land a force deemed necessary to relieve a
fort upon the border of the country. From the fact that I have quoted a part of the inaugural address, it must not be inferred that I repudiate any other part, the whole of which I reaffirm, except so far as what I now say of the mails may be regarded as a modification.
The Governors of Virginia and Kentucky, thoroughly in fellowship with the South Carolina policy from the outset, promptly sent back defiant messages in response to the President's call for troops. "Kentucky will furnish no troops," said Governor Magoffin, "for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States." "The militia of Virginia," wrote Letcher to Secretary Cameron, "will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view." Similar was the reply of Governor Harris, of Tennessee. Governor Ellis, of North Carolina, with greater moderation in his language, plainly intimated his purpose not to respond to the President's call. On the 17th, the Virginia Convention, yielding at length to the artifices and intimidations of the busy conspirators, in whose service an ignorant mob was