« PreviousContinue »
serving their masters.
Now, we, sinful creatures, are serving a master who is worse than a slave-driver; and can any boy tell me who this master is?" "Yes, sir," said one of the lads, with a great deal of emphasis, “it is James Buchanan."
The following letter, from the wife of an officer at Fort Moultrie, tells its own story:
"FORT MOULTRIE, December 11, 1860. "DEAR : I feel too indignant; I can hardly stand the way in which this little garrison is treated by the heads of government. Troops and proper accommodation are positively refused; and yet, the commander has orders to hold and defend the fort. Was ever such sacrifice (an intentional one) known ? The Secretary has sent several officers, at different times, to inspect here, as if that helped; it is a mere sham, to make believe he will do something. In the mean time a crisis is very near; I am to go to Charleston the first of the week. Within a few days, we hear and from so many sources that we cannot doubt it-that the Charlestonians are erecting two batteries, one just opposite us, at a little village, Mount Pleasant, and another on the end of this island; and they dare the commander to interfere, while they are getting ready to fight sixty men! In this weak little fort, I suppose, President Buchanan and Secretary Floyd intend the Southern Confederacy to be cemented with the blood of this brave little garrison. These names should be handed down to the end of time.
"When the last man is shot down, I presume they will think of sending troops. The soldiers here deserve great credit; though they know what an unequal number is coming to massacre them, yet they are in good spirits, and will fight desperately. Our commander says he never saw such a brave little band. I feel desperate myself. Our only hope is in God. My love to all.
"Your affectionate sister."
Inaction now is crime. The old earth reels,
THE entire force of the United States troops, stationed in the Southern States, at this time, was as follows:
At Fort Monroe, Virginia, eight companies of artillery; at Fayetteville Arsenal, North Carolina, one company of artillery; Key West, Florida, one company of artillery; at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, two companies of artillery; at Augusta, Georgia, one company of artillery ; Barrancas Barracks, near Pensacola, Florida, one company of artillery; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one company of artillery; total, about eight hundred men; and about one hundred and twenty United States marines at Norfolk and Pensacola.
December 14th, Lewis Cass, Secretary of State, resigned his seat in the cabinet. The reasons and motives which prompted his resignation are probably not perfectly understood; though it is supposed it was owing to his disapproval of the President's inaction in regard to reenforcing Southern forts, arsenals, navy yards, etc. His resignation caused much feeling and comment. Especially was the President grave, almost to sadness. The withdrawal of his long-tried and cherished friend from his bosom councils added poignancy to his sorrow, which was difficult to overcome. President Buchanan issued a proclamation, calling upon the people of the Union, in view of the distracted and dangerous condition of the
country, to observe the 4th of January, 1861, as a day of
fasting, humiliation and prayer.
A gale came up from the sou'-sou'-west,
But the ship had felt such a storm before,
And thus, though the howling tempest showed
The passengers said, "We'll trust our ship,
The captain stood on the quarter-deck –
The wind on the one side blows me off,
The current sets me shoreward;
I'll just lay-to between them both
And seem to be going forward."
"Breakers ahead!" cried the watch on the bow;
The foresail split in the angry gust;
In the hold the ballast shifted;
And an old tar said, "If Jackson steered
But the captain cried, "Let go your helm!"
"Pipe all hands to the quarter-deck,
And we'll save her by devotion!"
To see the good ship helpless roll
The tattered sails are all aback,
Yards crack, and masts are started;
The wave that washes the captain off
On the 15th, Attorney-General Black was appointed Secretary of State, in place of Lewis Cass, resigned.
On the 18th of December, Senator Crittenden, of Kentucky, introduced into the United States Senate resolutions of compromise, as a settlement of differences between the Slave and Free States. The bill, as introduced, proposed to renew the Missouri compromise line, prohibiting slavery in the territory north of 36 degrees 30 minutes, and protecting it south of that latitude; and for the admission of new States, with or without slavery, as their constitutions should provide; to prohibit the abolition of slavery, by Congress, in the States; to prohibit its abolition in the District of Columbia, so long as it exists. either in Virginia or Maryland; to permit the transportation of slaves, in any of the States, by land or water; to provide for the payment of fugitive slaves, when rescued; to repeal one obnoxious feature of the fugitive slave law -the inequality of the fee to the commissioner; and, also, to ask the repeal of all the personal liberty bills in the Northern States.
These concessions were submitted, in the form of amendments to the Constitution, to a select Senate committee of thirteen. Much time was consumed in considering various propositions to arrest the progress of dissolution, and give peace to the country. Messrs. Crittenden, Douglas and Bigler maintained it with great zeal and ability. Mr. Douglas declared, if that mode of compromise would not answer he was willing to go for any other, consistent with honor or justice; that he was ready to consider any question for the preservation of the country.
The appeals of Mr. Crittenden, in behalf of the Union, are said to have been eloquent and sublime. He, too, was willing to embrace any other effective mode of adjustment. Mr. Bigler, of Pennsylvania, advocated a final settlement of difficulties, by a division line across the
country, so that the question of slavery could be taken out of Congress, and entirely separated from the popular elections at the North, without which we could never have permanent peace. Messrs. Davis, Toombs and Hunter discussed the present unhappy condition of the country, and manifested a willingness to accept any measure of final settlement which would secure their just rights in the Union. Though, at the same time, an under-current of secession feeling was sweeping them steadily on, and blinding them to every concession, or plan of compromise, which could be made by the North, as they had previously said that the South would have "no compromise," that the Union was "virtually dissolved," that the day for the adjustment of difficulties was "passed forever; so, therefore, their action on the committee of thirteen was mere form, without expecting any beneficial results. So, accordingly, when the final vote was taken on the Crittenden proposition, it was defeated.
On the 18th and 19th, Andrew Johnson, United States Senator from Tennessee, spoke on the resolutions, proposing amendments to the Constitution. He denied the right of secession, and called upon the President to enforce the laws, regardless of consequences. Taking up arms to resist the federal laws, he pronounced treason.
December 19th, Governor Hicks, of Maryland, declined to receive the commissioner from Mississippi. He vindicated the course by expressing strong Union sentiments; notwithstanding which the commissioner of Mississippi to Maryland addressed a large meeting in Baltimore, advis ing coöperation, on the part of the people of Maryland, in the secession movement.
December 23d, the excitement, consequent upon the state of affairs in the nation, was entirely absorbed by an astounding report of a robbery of Indian Trust Fund bonds, in the Department of the Interior, committed during Secretary Thompson's visit to North Carolina, as