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After the passage of the Massachusetts Sixth, the mob had control. They burnt the bridges north of Baltimore, so as to cut off the means of access to the city; and then, against the protests of the governor, the troops were forwarded by way of Annapolis.
Four days after Mr. Lincoln's call for troops-on the day of the bloody passage of the Massachusetts Sixth through Baltimore--he issued a proclamation declaring a blockade of the ports of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. This call for troops and the establishment of a blockade were the preliminaries of one of the most remarkable wars that have occurred in the history of the human race-a war which, for the number of men involved, the amount of spaces traversed, of coast line blockaded, of material consumed and results achieved, surpasses all the wars of history.
The South had calculated upon the disloyalty of Maryland. Nay, more, it had calculated on the assistance of a large party at the North. It did not intend to be confined in its warlike operations to its own territory. Northern politicians, and among them ex-President Pierce, had told them it would not be. It expected to take and hold Washington, and to banish the government; and Maryland had an important part to play in the drama. Jefferson Davis had openly declared that the North and not the South should be the field of battle. The rebel Secretary of War said publicly in Montgomery that while no man could tell where the war would end, he would prophesy that the flag which then flaunted the breeze at Montgomery would float over the dome of the old capitol at Washington before the first of May, and that it "might float eventually over Fanueil Hall itself." To make good these predictions, the rebel government organized and sent toward Virginia, a force of 20,000 men, calculating upon the secession of Virginia which had not then joined the confederacy, and which, left to the popular choice, never would have taken that fatal step.
The attitude of the two governments at this period pre
sented a strong contrast-a most instructive contrast to all who are curious to mark the respective degrees of responsibility attaching to them for the war which followed. The confederate forces, or the state forces in the confederate interest, had seized and occupied nearly every fort, arsenal and dock-yard belonging to the United States, upon the southern territory. The rebel government had opened its batteries upon United States vessels, and had bombarded and captured Fort Sumter. It had issued letters of marque to distress our commerce. It was engaged in the attempt to force every border slave state into the support of its schemes. It was pushing its soldiers northward for a war of aggression; and its highest representatives were publicly boasting that their flag would soon float over the capitol at Washington, and that the war should not be carried on upon confederate soil. The attitude of the rebel government was that of direct, bitter, determined, aggressive hostility.
Virginia at this time was holding a state convention which, to the dismay and vexation of the rebel leaders, was controlled by a large majority of Union men. Nothing is more demonstrable than that the choice of Virginia was to remain in the Union. These delegates were chosen as Union men; yet every possible influence was brought to bear upon them to cajole or coerce them into disunion. Threats, misrepresentations, promises of power, social proscription, appeals to personal and sectional interest, everything that treasonable ingenuity could suggest were resorted to to urge the laggard state into the vortex of secession. The fall of Sumter, the inaugural of President Lincoln and the failure of the confederate commissioners to secure a treaty were used in different ways to inflame southern pride, and loosen the love of the loyal members from the old Union. The President's Inaugural had been so misconstrued as to convey the idea that his policy was one of coercion; and the convention sent a committee to Mr. Lincoln, commissioned to ask him to communicate to the convention the policy which the federal executive intended to pursue, in regard to the confederate states, complaining that
great and injurious uncertainty prevailed in the public mind in regard to this policy.
To this request Mr. Lincoln gave a formal answer; and in this answer appears the contrast to which attention has been called. He expressed his regret and mortification that, after having stated his position and policy as plainly as he was able to state it in his inaugural address, there should be any uncertauty on the subject. "As I then and therein said," the reply proceeds, "the power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy and possess property and places belonging to the government, and to collect duties and imposts; but, beyond what is necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against, or among, people anywhere.' Fort Sumter, he declared it his purpose to repossess, with all the other places seized from the government, and to the best of his ability he should repel force by force. In consequence of the attack on Sumter, it was possible that he should cause the withdrawal of the mails from the states which claimed to have seceded. He closed by reiterating the claim of the government upon the military posts and property which had been seized, and by stating that, whatever else he might do for the purpose, he should not "attempt to collect the duties and imposts by any armed invasion of any part of the country," not meaning by that, however, to cut himself off from the liberty to land a force necessary to relieve a fort upon the border of the country.
On one side was rampant treason and a policy of aggressive war; on the other, patient forbearance, and the most considerate care not to take any step not absolutely necessary to the maintenance of the indisputable rights of the government. No man in the United States who pretended to be loyal could find fault with Mr. Lincoln for claiming too much, or being harsh with those "erring sisters" who, it was believed by many, might be gently led back to their allegiance.
On the seventeenth of April, Virginia went out of the Union by a convention vote of eighty-eight to fifty-five; and on the twenty-first of May the confederate capital was trans
Thenceforth Virginia went straight
ferred to Richmond. toward desolation. Its "sacred soil" was from that hour devoted to trenches, fortifications, battle-fields, military roads, camps and graves.
The conciliatory policy of Mr. Lincoln had threatened the ruin of the confederacy, but the confederacy made war, and then appealed to the border states for sympathy and help. Governor Pickens of South Carolina telegraphed the fall of Sumter to the Governor of Virginia, and appealed to Virginia to know what she was going to do. This was the policy-to precipitate war, and then appeal to sectional pride and interest for sectional assistance. The first practical show of sectional feeling on the part of the border states was contained in the angry and insulting responses which they returned to Mr. Lincoln's call for troops. These responses exhibited the sympathies of their Governors, at least. Tennessee, North Carolina and Arkansas followed Virginia out of the Union, and thus the confederate cause made the gain it sought.
At the North and West the response to the President's call for soldiers was rendered with enthusiastic alacrity, the states vieing with each other in the office of raising, fitting out and dispatching troops. Money was offered to the government by millions, and the President found that he had a basis for a policy in the national feeling. After a week of great anxiety, Washington was relieved, and while troops from the North were rushing southward, a still larger number from the South were pushing northward in preparation for the grand struggle.
One of the most encouraging incidents of this opening chapter of the war was a visit of Mr. Douglas to Mr. Lincoln, in which the former gave to the latter the assurance of his sympathy and support in the war for the preservation of the Union. It is to be remembered that Mr. Douglas was an ambitious man, that he was a strong party man, that he had battled for power with all the persistence of a strong and determined nature, and that he was a sadly disappointed man. The person with whom he had had his hardest fights occupied the chair to which he had for many years aspired.
On Sunday, the fourteenth of April, all Washington was alive with excitement under the effect of the news of the fall of Sumter. Secessionists could not conceal their joy, and the loyal were equally sad and indignant. Churches were forsaken, and the opening of the war was the only topic of thought and conversation. Under these circumstances, Hon. George Ashmun of Massachusetts, who was personally on the most friendly terms with Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas, called on the latter in the evening, to obtain from him some public declaration that should help the government in its extremity. He found the Senator surrounded by political friends, who were soon dismissed, and then, for an hour, the two men discussed the relations of Mr. Douglas to the administration. The first impulse of the Senator was against Mr. Ashmun's wishes, who desired him to go to the President at once, and tell him he would sustain him in all the needful measures which the exigency demanded. His reply was: "Mr. Lincoln has dealt hardly with me, in removing some of my friends from office, and I don't know as he wants my advice or aid." Mr. Ashmun remarked that he had probably followed democratic precedents in making removals, but that the present question was above party, and that it was now in the power of Mr. Douglas to render such a service to his country as would not only give him a title to its lasting gratitude, but would show that in the hour of his country's need he could trample all party considerations and resentments under feet. At this juncture, Mrs. Douglas came in, and gave the whole weight of her affectionate influence in the direction in which Mr. Ashmun was endeavoring to lead him. He could not withstand the influence of his friend, his wife, and that better nature to which they appealed. He gave up all his enmity, all his resentment, cast every unworthy sentiment and selfish feeling behind him, and cordially declared his willingness to go to Mr. Lincoln, and offer him his earnest and hearty support.
It was nearly dark when the two gentlemen started for the President's house. Mr. Lincoln was alone; and on learning