Page images

Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that article establishing the Executive Depart-1 ment, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. А 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 races :"

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. 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.



It is upon

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 sug. gested by some.

He closed without recommending this, or any other practicable method of peace—which, perhaps, for himself he would have consented to-well knowing that quite another policy was predetermined by conspirators older in the work than he, and to whose scheme he had already undoubtedly given his full consent.

The Rebels saw no hope but in war. Any thing short of that would amount only to a brief ebullition, in the States in which insurrection was already dominant. Something was yet needed to "fire the Southern heart." All the initiated knew that the match was soon to be applied to the industriously prepared train. They may have dreamed of the surrender of Sumter or Pickens as a military necessity; but they little understood the purpose of the President, if it was ever thought possible on any other ground. They certainly greatly mistook his intentions, in either event.

It must be remembered that the close of the last Administration found, still in the office of the Adjutant-General of the Army, a man (General Cooper) who now holds a like position in the Confederate service. The Departments and the city were filled with men of like sympathy, whose knowledge of affairs enabled them to communicate immediate information as to every movement inaugurated, and even of the avowed purposes or projects of every high officer of the Government, civil or military. Men deemed entirely trustworthy and faithful, even, were afterward found to have been in complicity with the traitors, and not a few holding military commissions—which could not be revoked without positive grounds--were regarded as doubtful. For a time it was uncertain how far any onewith a few noble exceptions—in responsible places, in Army or Navy, could be relied on for a cordial support of any efficient

, policy, even of defense. The event has shown how well founded, in numerous instances beside that of General Cooper, was this distrust.

Mr. Lincoln fully appreciated his surroundings. Disloyalty was rampant among the citizens of the capital. In the Departments, or just relieved therefrom, were men who watched every move, and were anxious to aid the rebellion. The sisting process has been steadily going on, yet how impossible was an immediate purification, is manifest. Under all the circumstances of his position, the President had no resource but to keep his own counsel. Inexperienced in military affairs, he had the ready advice and faithful service of the illustrious head of the Army, Lieutenant-General Scott. True and loyal as that veteran General was, however, his political sympathies had never gone with the now dominant party, while his Virginian birth and associations led him to shrink from every appearance of attempted coercion. It is no secret that General Scott openly and earnestly advocated the evacuation of Fort Sumter-on military, if not also on political, grounds. It is believed that he carried over nearly every Cabinet Minister to his views. The President, while adjusting his new agencies, and learning the spirit of the men about him, in the Army and in the Navy, as well as awaiting, with attentive eye, the developments of opinion and action, in both sections, allowed the consideration of this question to be continued, from day to day, without indicating his purpose.

The emissaries who waited here on their false diplomatic mission kept duly apprised, through channels easily imaginable after what has since transpired, of the opinions of General Scott and the deliberations thereon. They had constantly communicated with the leaders at home, it being deemed expedient to allow, during all this period, free intercourse by mail and telegraph. The result was a general impression at the South—for which no word of the Chief Executive ever gave any warrant, although he obviously had no occasion to correct any such misconception—that Fort Sumter was to be evacuated, and that no attempt would be made to reinforce Fort Pickens.

The parting missive of these pseudo-diplomats, on the 9th of April, makes the following statement on this point (addressed to Mr. Seward):


The memorandum [of the Secretary of State, before referred to,] is dated March 15, and was not delivered until April 8. Why was it withheld during the intervening twenty-three days ? In the postscript to your memorandum you say it was delayed, as was understood, with their (Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford's) consent." This is true; but it is also true that, on the 15th of March, Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford were assured by a person occu

[ocr errors]

pying a high official position in the Government, and who, as they believed, was speaking by authority, that Fort Sumter would be evacuated within a very few days, and that no measure chunging the existing status, prejudicially to the Confederate States, as respects Fort Pickens, was then contemplated, and these assurances were subsequently, repeated, with the addition that any contemplated change, as respects Pickens, would be notified to

On the 1st of April we were again informed that there might be an attempt to supply Fort Sumter with provisions, but that Governor Pickens should have previous notice of the attempt. There was no suggestion of reinforcements. The undersigned dil not hesitate to believe that these assurances expressed the intentions of the Administration at the time, or, at all events, of prominent members of that Administration. This delay was assented to, for the express purpose of attaining the great end of the mission of the undersigned, to-wit : A pacific solution of existing complications. * * *

* * The intervening twenty-three days were employed in active unofficial efforts, the object of which was to smooth the path to a pacific solution, the distinguished personage alluded to coöperating with the undersigned ; and every step of that effort is recorded in writing, and now in possession of the undersigned and of their Government. * *

It is proper to add that, during these twentythree days, two gentlemen of official distinction, as high as that of the personage hitherto alluded to, aided the undersigned as intermediaries in these unofficial negotiations for peace.


Without stopping to inquire how far the veracity of a document, conceived in such a spirit and designed for immediate effect, North and South, is to be implicitly relied on, it is enough to say that, by its very terms, this paper shows clearly that neither the President, nor any one authorized in any manner to speak for him, ever gave the assurances stated, even in unofficial intercourse. If these conspirators were deceived by " intermediaries,” holding responsible places in the Government, yet so abusing the confidence of their superiors as to communicate their military plans to the emissaries of rebels who had already levied war against the Government, and fired upon its flag, it is manifest that neither Mr. Lincoln nor his Constitutional advisers need regret the deception. The President, however, it is proper distinctly to state, never had the

« PreviousContinue »