Page images
PDF
EPUB

172

[SECT. VIII.

cesses of private life. "Pins are now so rare that we pick them up with avidity in the streets." Enthusiasm had died out. Blank despair was settling on multitudes to whom pride had been a temporary support. The la dies were no longer seen sewing uniforms in the churches as in the first days of secession, and boasting that they had postponed all engagements until their lovers had fought with the Yankees. But, faithful to the end, as they will always be, they were watching by their wounded in the hospitals, or decorating with flowers the graves of their dead.

EFFECTS ON DOMESTIC LIFE.

CHAPTER XLII.

THE EXTRA SESSION OF THE NATIONAL CONGRESS.

The Republican party had a majority in Congress, and was sustained by the mass of the Democratic party in all measures needful for the support of the government.

President Lincoln, in his message, gave an exposition of the state of affairs, and of

the causes which had led to the existing crisis.

Congress in its acts exceeded his recommendations, pledging itself to bring into operation the whole power of the nation for the suppression of the rebellion.

THE Thirty-seventh Congress met on the 4th of July, 1861, in extra session, in accordance with the President's proclamation of the 15th of

The extra session.

April.

The Republican party had a majority in both houses. In the Senate it had thirty-one votes out of forty-eight; in the House of Representatives, one hundred and six out of one hundred and seventyeight.

compared with the

Of the House of Representatives, a large number of the members were new men who had never been preceding session. in Congress before. Though the Republican party had in this three representatives less than in the last session, it had, through the non-representation of the seceding states, the above-mentioned majority.

The last Senate had consisted of sixty-six members; in this there were but forty-eight. In the former case the Democratic party had a majority over the Republican in the proportion of three to two. This gave to the South a control of the Senate, and through it a control of the government.

Party composition of the houses,

174

[SECT. VIII.

The control thus maintained by the slave power is indicated by the distribution of the chairmanships of the standing committees. The important ones were held by the South. Thus Mississippi had that of Military Affairs; Florida, Naval Affairs and the Post-office; Delaware, the Justiciary; Virginia, Foreign Relations, and also Finance; Alabama, Commerce; Arkansas, Public Lands; Louisiana, Public Land Claims. Of twenty-two such committees, the slave power controlled sixteen. These chairmanships were in the hands of persons soon to be found in open opposition to the government. To the North had been assigned the more insignificant, such as Printing, Patents, Public Buildings.

As in the House, so in the Senate, the non-representation of the seceding states threw the power into the hands of the Republicans, and, in addition, many senators, as well as many representatives who had heretofore acted with the Democratic party, joined cordially in support of the administration as soon as they plainly perceived that the life of the nation was in peril.

Effect of the withdrawal of Southern members.

THE EXTRA SESSION.

The sentiments animating a very large portion of the Democratic party were well expressed by Mr. Douglas, who had been its candidate for the presidency in opposition to Lincoln. They occur in a letter to the chairman of the Democratic Committee of his state, written but a short time before his death:

Support of the government by the Democratic party.

"I am neither the supporter of the partisan policy, nor the apologist of the errors of this administration. My previous relations to it remain unchanged. But I trust the time will never come when I shall not be willing to make any needful sacrifice of personal feeling and party policy for the honor and integrity of my country. I know of no mode by which a

Views expressed by
Mr. Douglas.

CHAP. XLIII.]

175

loyal citizen may so well demonstrate his devotion to his country as by sustaining the flag, the Constitution, and the Union against all assailants, at home and abroad." "The hope (of a compromise) was cherished by Union men North and South, and was never abandoned until actual war was levied at Charleston, and the authoritative announcement made by the revolutionary government at Montgomery that the secession flag should be planted on the walls of the Capitol at Washington, and a proclamation issued inviting the pirates of the world to prey upon the commerce of the United States." "There was then but one path of duty left open to patriotic men. It was not a party question, nor a question involving partisan policy. It was a question of government or no government-country or no country; and hence it became the duty of every friend of constitutional liberty to rally to the support of our common country, its government and flag, as the only means of checking the progress of revolution, and of preserving the union of the states."

MR. DOUGLAS'S LETTER.

On the day after the organization of Congress, the President transmitted to it his message.

The President's

He stated that, since the beginning of his term, the func tions of the government, with the exception message, of those of the Post-office Department, had been suspended in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida; that forts, arsenals, dockyards, and other property had been seized, strengthened, and armed, and were held in open hostility to the govern ment; that a disproportionate quantity of national muskets and rifles had in some manner found of the insurgents, its way to those states, and was about to be used against the government; that accumulations of revenue had in like manner been taken; that the navy had been scattered to distant seas; that officers both of the army and navy had resigned in great numbers, and

specifying the acts

176

ABSTRACT OF LINCOLN'S MESSAGE.

[SECT. VIII.

many of them were in arms against the government; that ordinances of secession had been passed by each of the states designated, and an illegal organization established which, in the character of a confederation, was seeking the intervention of foreign powers.

That, recognizing it to be his imperative duty to arrest this attempt at the destruction of the Union, he had at first resorted to peaceful meas

ures, seeking only to hold the public property, collect the revenue, and continue, at the government expense, the mails to the very people who were resisting; that he had notified the Governor of South Carolina of an attempt about to be made to provision Fort Sumter, and had also informed him that, unless this were resisted, there would be no effort to send re-enforcements. Thereupon the fort was bombarded and captured, without even awaiting the arrival of the provisioning expedition.

and particularly the capture of Fort Sumter.

From this it might be seen that the assault on Fort Sumter was in no sense a matter of self-de

That they had made

ment.

war on the govern- fense on the part of the assailants, it being impossible that the garrison could commit any aggression upon them; that their object was to drive out the visible authority of the Union; that there were no guns in the fort save those sent to that harbor many years before for the protection of the assailants themselves. In doing this they had forced upon the country the distinct issue-" immediate dissolution of the Union or blood."

This issue presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control the adminis tration according to law, may, upon pretenses made arbitrarily or not at all, break up the government. It forces us to ask, "Is there in all republics an inherent and fatal weakness?" "Must a government, of necessity, be too

« PreviousContinue »