Page images

izing a provisional government. This body adopted a Consti tution for the Confederate States on the 8th of February. On the 9th of February, Congress proceeded to the election of a President and Vice-President, and unanimously agreed upon Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, for President, and Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, for Vice-President. Mr. Davis was inaugurated Provisional President on the 18th of February, and delivered an address, explaining the revolution as a change of the constituent parts, but not the system, of the government, and referring to the not unreasonable expectation that, with a Constitution differing only from that of their fathers, in so far as it was explanatory of their well-known intent, freed from sectional conflicts, the States from which they had recently parted might seek to unite their fortunes to those of the new Confederacy.

President Buchanan had, in his message to Congress, denounced Secession as revolutionary, but had hesitated at the logical conclusion of the right of "coercion," on the part of the Federal Government, as not warranted by the text of the Constitution. Timid, secretive, cold, and with no other policy than that of selfish expediency, the remnant of his administration was marked by embarrassment, double-dealing, and weak and contemptible querulousness. He had not hesitated, under the pressure of Northern clamor, to refuse to order Major Anderson back to Fort Moultrie, thus violating the pledge that he had given to the South Carolina authorities, that the military status of the United States in Charleston harbor should not be disturbed during his administration. He added to the infamy of this perfidy by a covert attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter, under the specious plea of provisioning a "starving garrison;" and when the Federal steamship, the Star of the West, which was sent on this mission, was, on the 9th of January, driven off Charleston harbor by the South Carolina batteries on Morris Island, he had the hardihood to affect surprise and indignation at the reception given the Federal reinforcements, and to insist that the expedition had been ordered with the concurrence of his Cabinet, including Mr. Thompson, of Mississippi, then Secretary of the Interior, who repelled the slander, denounced the movement as underhanded, and as a breach not only of good faith towards South Carolina,

but of personal confidence between the President and his ad visers, and left the Cabinet in disgust.

On the incoming of the administration of Abraham Lincoln, on the 4th of March, the rival government of the South had perfected its organization; the separation had been widened and envenomed by the ambidexterity and perfidy of President Buchanan; the Southern people, however, still hoped for a peaceful accomplishment of their independence, and deplored war between the two sections, as "a policy detrimental to the civilized world." The revolution in the mean time had rapidly gathered, not only in moral power, but in the means of war and the muniments of defence. Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney had been captured by the South Carolina troops; Fort Pulaski, the defence of the Savannah, had been taken; the arsenal at Mount Vernon, Alabama, with 20,000 stand of arms, had been seized by the Alabama troops; Fort Morgan, in Mobile Bay, had been taken; Forts Jackson, St. Philip, and Pike, near New Orleans, had been captured by the Louisiana troops; the Pensacola Navy-Yard and For's Barrancas and McRae had been taken, and the siege of Fort Pickens commenced; the Baton Rouge Arsenal had been surrendered to the Louisiana troops; the New Orleans Mint and CustomHouse had been taken; the Little Rock Arsenal had been seized by th Arkansas troops; and, on the 16th of February, General Twiggs had transferred the public property in Texas to the State authorities. All of these events had been accomplished without bloodshed. Abolitionism and Fanaticism had not yet lapped blood. But reflecting men saw that the peace was deceitful and temporizing; that the temper of the North was impatient and dark; and that, if all history was not a lie, the first incident of bloodshed would be the prelude to a war of monstrous proportions.


Mr. Lincoln's Journey to Washington.-Ceremonies of the Inauguration.—The inaugural Speech of President Lincoln.-The Spirit of the New Administration.-Its Financial Condition.-Embassy from the Southern Confederacy.-Perfidious Treatment of the Southern Commissioners.-Preparations for War.-The Military Bills of the Confederate Congress.-General Beauregard.-Fortifications of Charleston Harbor.Naval Preparations of the Federal Government.--Attempted Reinforcement of Fort Sumter.-Perfidy of the Federal Government.--Excitement in Charleston.-Reduction of Fort Sumter by the Confederate Forces.-How the News was received in Washington.-Lincoln's Calculation.-His Proclamation of WAR.-The "Reaction" in the North.-Displays of Rancor towards the South.-Northern Democrats.-Replies of Southern Governors to Lincoln's Requisition for Troops,-Spirit of the South.---Secession of Virginia.-Maryland.--The Baltimore Riot.-Patriotic Example of Missouri.-Lincoln's Proclamation blockading the Southern Ports.-General Lee.-The Federals evacuate Harper's Ferry.-Burning of the Navy Yard at Norfolk.-The Second Secessionary Movement.-Spirit of Patriotic Devotion in the South.-Supply of Arms in the South.-The Federal Government and the State of Maryland.-The Prospect.

THE circumstances of the advent of Mr. Lincoln to Washington were not calculated to inspire confidence in his courage or wisdom, or in the results of his administration. His party had busily prophesied, and sought to innoculate the North with the conviction, that his assumption of the Presidential office would be the signal of the restoration of peace; that by some mysterious ingenuity he would resolve the existing political complication, restore the Union, and inaugurate a season of unexampled peace, harmony, and prosperity. These weak and fulsome prophecies had a certain effect. In the midst of anxicty and embarrassment, in which no relief had yet been suggested, the inauguration of a new administration of the government was looked to by many persons in the North, outside the Republican party, with a vague sense of hope, which was animated by reports, quite as uncertain, of the vigor, decision, and individuality of the new President. For months since the announcement of his election, Mr. Lincoln's lips had been closed. He had been studiously silent; expectations were raised by what was thought to be an indication of a mysterious wisdom; and the North impatiently waited for the hour when the oracle's lips were to be opened.

These vague expectations were almost ludicrously disappointed. On leaving his home, in Springfield, Illincis, for

Washington, Mr. Lincoln had at last opened his lips. In the speeches with which he entertained the crowd that at different points of the railroad watched his progress to the capital, he amused the whole country, even in the midst of a great public anxiety, with his ignorance, his vulgarity, his flippant conceit, and his Western phraseology. The North discovered that the new President, instead of having nursed a masterly wisdom in the retirement of his home at Springfield, and approaching the capital with dignity, had nothing better to offer to an agonized country than the ignorant conceits of a low Western politician, and the flimsy jests of a harlequin. His railroad speeches were characterized by a Southern paper as illustrating "the delightful combination of a Western county lawyer with a Yankee bar-keeper." In his harangues to the crowds which intercepted him in his journey, at a time when the country was in revolutionary chaos, when commerce and trade were prostrated, and when starving women and idle men were among the very audiences that listened to him, he declared to them in his peculiar phraseology that "nobody was hurt," that "all would come out right," and that there was "nothing going wrong." Nor was the rhetoric of the new President his only entertainment of the crowds that assembled to honor the progress of his journey to Washington. He amused them by the spectacle of kissing, on a public platform, a lady-admirer, who had sug gested to him the cultivation of his whiskers; he measured heights with every tall man he encountered in one of his public receptions, and declared that he was not to be "overtopped;" and he made public exhibitions of his wife-"the little woman," he called her-whose chubby figure, motherly face, and fondness for finery and colors recommended her to a very limited and very vulgar portion of the society of her sex.

These jests and indecencies of the demagogue who was to take control of what remained of the Government of the United States, belong to history. Whatever their disgrace, it was surpassed, however, by another display of character on the part of the coming statesman. While at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and intending to proceed from there to Baltimore, Mr. Lincoln was alarmed by a report, which was either silly or jocose, that a band of assassins were awaiting him in the latter city. Frightened beyond all considerations of dignity and decency

« PreviousContinue »