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guarantees for slavery. It had become a settled custom of the slaveholders, whenever they wished to carry a point, to threaten to dissolve the Union. They had demanded Louisiana, and it had been purchased for them; Florida, and it was obtained; Texas, and it was annexed; a more stringent and humiliating fugitive slave law, and it was passed; the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and it was repealed; the Dred Scott decision, and it was decided that a negro had "no rights." Thus, they had become arrogant, because their demands, backed by threats, had been so long yielded to. Many believed that by adding new concessions, the slave power might be pacified. But, when liberal concessions were voted down by the conspirators themselves, it became evident that they had deliberately resolved to force an issue, and go out of the Union. Charles Francis Adams, from the House Committee of thirty-three, reported, "that no form of adjustment will be satisfactory to the recusant States, which does not incorporate into the Constitution of the United States, an obligation to protect and extend slavery. On this condition, and on this alone, will they consent to withdraw their opposition to the recognition of the Constitutional election of the Chief Magistrate. Viewing the matter in this light, it seems unadvisable to attempt to proceed a step further in the way of offering unacceptable propositions." It was clear the conspirators had resolved on revolution.
While these movements of the traitors were going on in the cotton States, and State after State was passing ordinances of secession, the conspirations at Washington, held their secret meetings, and leading Senators and members, acting in concert with traitors in the Cabinet, so managed as to thwart all the movements of General Scott, and to paralize the action of such few faithful officers as sought to preserve the Union.
There was a meeting held at the Capital on the night of January 5th, at which Jefferson Davis, Senators Toombs, Iverson, Slidell, Benjamin, Wigfall, and other leading conspirators were present. They resolved in secret conclave to precipitate secession and disunion as soon as possible, and at the same time, that Senators and members of the House
should remain in their seats at the Capitol, as long as possible, to watch and control the action of the Executive, and thwart, and defeat any hostile measure proposed.
In accordance with concerted plans, some of the Senators and members, as the States they represented passed ordinances of secession, retired from the Senate and House of Representatives. Some went forth breathing war and vengeance, others expressing deep feeling and regret. Nearly all were careful to draw their pay, stationery, and documents, and their mileage home, from the treasury of the Government, they went home avowedly to overthrow.
There were two honorable exceptions among the represen tatives from the Gulf States, Mr. Bouligny, representative from New Orleans, and Andrew J. Hamilton, from Texas. They remained true to the Union.
On the evening of the 3d of March, 1861, when the Thirtysixth Congress was about to expire, Hamilton, when bidding farewell to his associates said, "I am going home to Texas, and I shall stand by the old flag, as long as there is a shred of it left as big as my hand."
Nobly, bravely, has he redeemed that pledge. He stood by the flag through all the perils of the war, and as Provincial Governor of Texas, he has aided in the restoration of that Union to which he was ever steadfast and true.
The absence of declaratory laws by Congress, had been much relied upon by Mr. Buchanan's Attorney General, Mr. Black, in his labored argument to show that the Executive had no power to coerce States.
In accordance with the programme of the conspirators, South Carolina, had adopted the ordinance of secession, on the 17th of November, 1860; Mississippi, January 9th, 1861; Georgia, January 19th; Florida, January 10th; Alabama, January 11th; Louisiana, January 25th, and Texas, February 1st.*
These seven seceding States, appointed delegates to meet in convention, at Montgomery, Alabama. They met on the 4th of February, and organized a Provisional Government,
* McPherson's History, p. 2 and 3.
similar in many respects, to the Constitution of the United States; under which Jefferson Davis was made President, and Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President.
The President of the Confederate States, was a man of culture and large experience in public affairs. Born in Kentucky, educated at West Point, at the expense of the Government he sought to overthrow, he entered public life as the follower of Calhoun. He was of an imperious temper, and of a most intense personal ambition. He favored the repudiation by the State of Mississippi, of the bonds issued by that State, and thus brought deep disgrace upon the American character. He was called to the position of Secretary of War by President Pierce, and in that position he deliberately conducted the affairs of the War Department with a view to strengthen the slave States, preparatory to a separation, and for war, if necessary, to secure separation. As the head of the insurgents at Montgomery, he was guilty of opening the bloody tragedy of civil war, by ordering the fire upon Fort Sumpter. The character of the man may be inferred from the language he used in a speech on his way from Mississippi to Montgomery, to assume the Presidency. "We will carry the war," said he, "where it is easy to advance, where food for the sword and torch await our armies in the densely populated cities." Such was the war this man inaugurated and carried on until his ignominious capture. How different this from the forbearing, dignified, christian spirit of magnanimity which ever characterized the language of the Chief Magistrate of the Union during the war.
Davis used the language of the incendiary and conspirator, while Lincoln was ever the dignified and scrupulous Chief Magistrate. With him, it was always, "with malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right," that he discharged his duty.
The atrocities of the war, the treatment of prisoners, the the massacre of Negro soldiers, and the catalogue of barbarities down to the fiend-like assassination of Lincoln, were but the exhibition of the same spirit, which, on the very threshhold indicated the torch, and the densely populated Northern cities as its food.
The spirit of Davis thus announced, in the beginning of the war, was the spirit of the slaveholder, and characterized the leaders of the slaveholders rebellion.
The well-meaning and ignorant masses of the people in the seceding States, were deceived. Upon the heads of their leaders and teachers is the guilt, and upon the institution which produced such men, be the infamy.
The Vice President, Alexander H. Stephens, was a very different character. Intellectually an abler, and morally, a far better man, he had vigorously opposed secession, and never heartily approved it.
Meanwhile, the conspirators having tied up the hands of the Executive by obtaining a promise from him not to reinforce the feeble garrisons in the Southern forts, and having adroitly secured the written opinion of his Attorney General endorsed by the official declaration of the President, that he had no power to coerce a State, adopted the most efficient means to carry out their purposes. The President was constantly watched by the conspirators and their agents, that he might not be induced to change his mind. A portion of his cabinet and some of his political friends chafed under the course he had adopted. General Cass, as has been stated, resigned the position of Secretary of State, because he refused to reinforce Fort Moultrie, held by the gallant and faithful Major Anderson, who had been assigned by Scott, to command that important position.
On the 10th of December, Howell Cobb resigned his posisition of Secretary of the Treasury, because, as he alleged, "his duty to Georgia required it." He was succeeded first by Philip F. Thomas, a devoted Unionist, from Maryland, and afterwards by General Dix, of New York.
On the 26th of January, John B. Floyd resigned the position of Secretary of War, because Buchanan would not withdraw the few troops, there were left in the National forts of South Carolina. He was succeeded by the true and loyal Joseph Holt, of Kentucky.
On the 17th of December, Attorney General Black resigned the position of Attorney General, and was succeeded by Edwin M. Stanton. Stanton, Dix, and Holt, were unflinching Union
men, and did what they could to prevent the surrender of the Government to the conspirators. They most efficiently aided General Scott in securing the peaceful inauguration of President Lincoln.
The strange spectacle was presented, that while the conspirators were boldly, and with little disguise, hatching their schemes of breaking up the Government, in the Senate and in the House, at the War and Navy Departments, and in the very cabinet of the Executive, no attempt was made to interfere with, much less arrest the known, open and avowed traitors. All that the feeble man in the Executive Chair did, was to appoint a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer; and declare, that though secession was wrong, he had no power to prevent it. The conspirators labored industriously to make the revolution an accomplished fact before the inaugu ration of Mr. Lincoln. They were active in plundering the Government, securing the forts, ordinance, arms and all ma terial of war, and arming themselves, so that if Lincoln should be inaugurated, he would have no immediate means of coercion.
The absence of any grievance or excuse for the rebellion, will be apparent from two or three facts.
The slaveholders and their friends, had at that time, a working majority in both Houses of Congress; and they had controlled both Congress and the Executive, and dictated the policy of the Government for more than forty years. This truth is very strikingly presented by Alexander H. Stephens, the ablest among the conspirators, in a speech made on the 14th of November, 1860, when opposing secession before the Legislature of Georgia. He said:
Mr. Lincoln can do nothing unless he is backed by the power of Congress. The House of Representatives is largely in majority against him. In the Senate he is powerless. There will be a majority of four against him. ***
"Many of us," said he, "have sworn to support the Constitution. Can we, for the mere election of a man to the Presidency, and that too, in accordance with the forms of the Constitution, make a point of resistance without becoming the breakers of that same instrument?"
The same man afterwards, frankly and distinctly announced that slavery, the security of slavery, was the object of the revolution, and that that institution should be the "corner stone" of the Confederate Government.