Page images

meagre force at the disposal of the Secretary a dictation of terms to the revolutionists— rendered it impossible to take any action. The feeling of the Department was communicated, unofficially, to the Governor. Under date of January 12th he wrote to the President that the seizures had not been made as reported, but that, on the 8th of January, the forts of Wilmington alone had been seized, but, by his military orders, were restored. He said:

The North Carolina

their retention might force a settlement of the Union question when all compromise should fail; while, if the blood of loyal citizens was shed in their defence, they would become the signal-lights to concentrate the patriotism of the people and States. Whatever may have been Mr. Buchanan's wishes in the matter, it is evident that his cabinet and General Scott regarded the question in "My information satisfies me the light we have represented, and those pathat this popular outbreak was triotic men lent all their energies to the occaused by a report, very gene-cupation and retention of all the points

rally credited, but which, for the sake of humanity, I hope is not true, that it was the purpose of the Administration to coerce the Southern States, and


A dispatch from New Orleans, dated Jan

that troops were on their way to garrison the South-uary 15th, said:-"Consul Pickens went to ern ports, and to begin the work of subjugation. This impression is not yet erased from the public mind, which is deeply agitated at the bare contemplation of so great an indignity and wrong; and I would most earnestly appeal to your Excellency to strengthen my hands in my efforts to preserve the public order here, by placing it in my power to give public assurance that no measures of force are contemplated towards us."

Vera Cruz this morning, bearing important dispatches from Washington to the Commander of the Gulf Squadron. It is rumored they were for a concentration of the fleets at the mouths of the Mississippi and the Harbor of Pensacola." The great activity in the Portsmouth and Brooklyn Navy-yards was also a marked feature in the events of the month, which went to prove that the Federal

This communication Mr. Buchanan turned Government had truly become aroused to

over to Mr. Holt for answer. He wrote:

"In reply to your inquiry, whether it is the purpose of the President to garrison the forts of North Carolina during his administration, I am directed to say that they, in common with the other forts, arsenals, and other property of the United States, are in the charge of the President, and that if assailed, no matter from what quarter or under what pretext, it is his duty to protect them by all the means which the law has placed at his disposal. It is not his purpose to garrison the forts to which you refer at present, because he considers them entirely safe, as heretofore, under the shelter of that law-abiding sentiment for which the people of North Carolina have ever been distinguished. Should they, however, be attacked or menaced with danger of being

seized or taken from the possession of the United States, he could not escape from his constitutional obligation to defend and preserve them. The very satisfactory and patriotic assurance given by your Excellency justifies him, however, in entertaining the confident expectation that no such contingency

will arise."

If Sumter and Pickens could be placed beyond the hazards of capture, and the Navyyard at Norfolk could be rendered secure from seizure, it would give the incoming administration the points d'appui necessary for

the imminence of its danger. Every vessel of war, capable of service, was, apparently, to be called into requisition for any service which the policy of resistance to aggression might require.

South Carolina's "Agent."

Col. Hayne, the Agent" of Governor Pickens, to bear to Washington the ultimatum of South Carolina, had an interview with Mr. Buchanan on Tuesday, January 15th. His demands were understood to be made by authority of Governor Pickens, as Commander-in-Chief of the South Carolina forces; he was neither empowered by the Legislature nor by the Convention. His terms proposed the entire withdrawal of Major Anderson and the Federal garrison from Charleston Harbor, guaranteeing that South Carolina would then honorably treat for the forts and a just settlement of all questions at issue. The President refused to recognize Colonel Hayne as an agent; and that no misconception might arise, he turned the messenger over to the War Department, ordering him to put his demands in writing. As significant of the purposes of the Administra




tion, Lieutenant Hall, of Fort Sumter, Major The extra session of the Legislature conAnderson's bearer of dispatches, left Wash-vened by Governor Letcher, January 7th, ington with sealed orders, on Wednesday, continued in exciting and active session durJanuary 16th, for the Major to be prepared ing the entire month. Its primary indicato retain his post to the last, in event of tions were, as we have said, decidedly inimiany attempt to force him from his position. cal to the cause of the Union, [see page 164]; The corvette Brooklyn and the Harriet Lane but the powerful influences brought to bear were understood to be ready to lend him by members of Congress, by Messrs. Botts, their assistance at any moment, while vessels Sherwood, Clemens, Amos Kendall, and other from the Gulf Squadron would soon be in to determined Unionists, for a while stemmed cooperate in Sumter's defense, if an assault the tide of Secession sentiment, so far as to should be made. This determined front keep it in abeyance until propositions of setrather intimidated the "agent," and we find tlement could be acted upon. This peace him not only hesitating in his further formal policy little suited the plans and designs of proceedings, but, it is said, the most urgent Jas. M. Mason, Jno. B. Floyd, Henry A. Wise messages were sent from the secession leaders and their coadjutors, who had fully arranged in Washington to Governor Pickens, remon- to "precipitate" the State according to the strating against any attempt to dispossess prearranged secession programme; but it Anderson. Colonel Hayne, therefore, re- seemed to stay the revolution at least for the served his communication to the War De- moment. A plan came up in the House of partment to a later day. Governor Pickens, Delegates, understood to have originated in probably to give force to his "agent's" de- Washington and to have been forwarded by mands, sent in a message to the Legislature Roger A. Pryor. It embraced the following of South Carolina, (January 15th,) advising propositions in resolutions:-the raising of two more military companies and one more regiment, to serve three years. He proposed the permanent garrison of the extensive fortifications in South Carolina, "This may be expensive, but, considering that we shall soon have a Southern Confederacy, it will be necessary to protect the seacoast, and afterward transfer the troops to the Southern Government. The fanatical excitement of Northern people shows us that if we expect to preserve peace, we must prepare for war." That message only rendered the War Department more determined to prepare for the seemingly inevitable emergency of a collision.


"First: There must be some

Pryor's Plan of

definite and conclusive settle-
ment of the Slavery question,
between the two sections of the country, or separa-

tion will be inevitable.

"Second: Proposing the Crittenden compromise, as amended by Mr. Douglas, as the basis of a fair and honorable adjustment, and as the least that Virginia feels she can take as a settlement.

"Third: The appointment of a Commissioner to each State in the Union to represent the action of Virginia, and to invite a response to this measure of conciliation.

"Fourth: A strong appeal to the Federal Government to stay its hand and avert all acts which may lead to a collision pending the mediation of Virginia.

"Fifth: An appeal to the Seceding States to preserve the existing status, and also to abstain from all acts which may precipitate a collision."

The position of Virginia The Position of began to absorb public attention to a great degree during the middle of January. Her location as a "Border State"-her proximity to the Federal capital-her importance as a political power rendered her course of vital importance to the cause of the Union. She, seemingly, held it in her keeping; if she cast her influence into the scale of the revolutionists the Southern Confederacy would become a government de facto until strength of arms should On the 16th, the House of Delegates' Comdecide between the contestants for supremacy.mittee on Federal Relations reported, on Mr.

Similar movements were contemplated in the Legislatures of the remaining Border States. Out of this plan eventually sprung the "Peace Convention" which assembled in Washington, February 4th, composed of specially appointed Commissioners from all the States in the Union, excepting from those States already in revolution.

Smith's resolutions, that it is inexpedient for the Federal Government, under existing circumstances, to make any additional military force, inasmuch as it would be liable to misconstruction, and tend to credit uneasiness in the public mind; and requesting the Governor to obtain immediate information for the purposes of the General Government with respect to strengthening the military force in the arsenals, &c., in Virginia. No action was taken on the report of the Committee. It embraced, as its basis of compromise, the plan above referred to, which was understood to have the approval of Messrs. Crittenden, Douglas, Breckenridge, Wm. C. Rives, and other eminent Conservative leaders, while it was, of course, opposed by the Secessionists. The plan was, however, to be referred to the Peace Congress, or Conference, which the Report recommended to be called to meet at Washington, February 4th. On the 17th this Report was acted upon, so far as the calling of the Congress, with the proviso that the Commissioners, which Virginia might send, should at all times, be under control of the General Assembly, or of the State Convention, if it should be in session.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Reply to New York.

The first resolution declares that the Legisla ture of New York' tenders to the President of the United States' whatever aid, in men and money, he may require, to enable him to enforce the laws and uphold the authority of the Federal Government.' This I understand to be a declaration of their readi of that State in the effort to coerce the Slaveholding ness and willingness to sacrifice the men and money States into submission to Federal authority. The Governor and Legislature of New York ought to know that the sword has never reconciled differences of opinion. Military coercion can never perpetuate the existence of this Union. When the affections of the people are withdrawn from the Government, an attempt at coercion can have no other effect than to exasperate the people threatened to be coerced. Blood shed in civil strife can only enrich the soil that must speedily produce a harvest of woe.'

"I cannot suppose, from what has occurred, that the President of the United States would be inclined to adopt a policy which he must see and know could not fail to result in bloodshed. I am satisfied that prudence and patriotism would induce him to reject all counsels and measures which would be calcu

"Nothing that has occurred in the progress of this controversy has been worse timed and less excusable. If the Governor and Legislature of New York desire to preserve the Union, a tender of men and

In the State Senate, January 17th, the Committee on Federal Relations reported resolutions that, in the opinion of the General As-lated to bring about so great a calamity. I have no sembly, the propositions embraced in the idea, therefore, that he will accept the tender which Crittenden resolutions constitute such a basis has been so inopportunely and ostentatiously paraof adjustment as would be accepted by the ded before the country. people of this Commonwealth; that Commissioners be appointed to the General Government, also to South Carolina and other Seceding States, with instructions respectfully to request the President and the authorities of such States to agree to abstain, pending the proceedings contemplated by the action of this General Assembly, from all acts calculated to produce a collision of arms between the States and the General Government. It was made the order for the succeeding day. Considerable opposition was manifested, and

a substitute offered.

The Governor also communicated the New York State Legislature resolutions, copies of which had, by special vote, been sent to the Governors of all the States. His views of the resolutions were expressed in the following message::

money, under the promptings of passion, prejudice and excitement, will not produce the result. At a time like this, when the horizon is overcast with clouds, when darkness and gloom are gathering close around us, and when we behold nothing but danger on all sides, some little wisdom, discretion and prudence is expected from the representatives of the people. They ought, at least, to refrain from adding fuel to the flame that burns with utmost intensity now. It would have been far better that these resolutions had never been adopted.

"In 1798 and 1799 the action of Virginia was marked by calmness, dignity, and an earnest desire to preserve the Union, without prejudice to the rights of the States. No feeling of resentment toward the other States was manifested by those great in that day of peril and trial. No effort was



made to produce estrangement between the different sections of the country, or to inflame popular prejudices. Their example is worthy of imitation when

events are hurrying us on so rapidly into civil


"Nothing but a sense of duty has induced me to transmit this preamble and resolutions to the two Houses of General Assembly. The threat which is conveyed in them can inspire no terror with Freemen. "JOHN LETCHER."

The message and accompanying resolutions were read, when, on motion of Mr. Anderson, it was unanimously

[ocr errors]

Resolved, That the Governor of Virginia return the resolutions of the Legislature of New York to the Executive of that State, with the request that no such resolutions be again sent to this General Assembly."


concurred in the Senate amendments of the report of the Committee on Federal Relations, as above given; when the following resolution was adopted:

"Resolved, That the interests of Virginia are those of her Southern sisters, and no reconstruction of the Union can be permanent which will not secure to each section self-protecting power against any invasion of the Federal Union upon the reserved rights of either."

Address of the

The people of the State were approached by their delegation in Congress. Acting under the "central power" of Mason, Toombs, Hunter and Davis, ten members signed and sent out an "Address to the Virginia people," giving a review of the proceedings and the probable action of ConThe House of Delegates passed a bill, gress in regard to the preJanuary 18th, appropriating one million sent state of affairs. They dollars for the defense of the State. In the said: "It is vain to hope for any measures of Senate, Jan, 19th, the consideration of the reconciliation or adjustment from Congress, port on Federal resolutions, contemplating which the people can accept. Also, that a National Convention, was resumed. The they are satisfied that the Republican party second resolution in the report was amended designs, by a civil war alone, to coerce by appointing John Tyler, William C. Rives, the Southern States, under the pretext of John W. Brockenbrough, George W. Sum-enforcement of the laws,' unless it shall bemer and James A. Seddon, Commissioners to Washington, on the 4th of February, to procure a delay of Federal action,

The Peace Congress

looking toward coercion.

The fifth resolution was amended by modifying Mr. Crittenden's proposition, so as to give additional protection and security to slave property.

The sixth resolution was amended by appointing John Tyler a Commissioner to wait on the President of the United States, and Judge John Robertson a Commissioner to South Carolina and the other Seceding States, to request them to abstain from hostile acts during the pendency of proceedings. The report was then passed by yeas 40,

nays 5.

The following was then introduced, and passed unanimously:


come speedily apparent that the Seceding States are so numerous, determined and united, as to make such an attempt hopeless. The address concluded by expressing the solemn conviction, that prompt and decided action by the people of Virginia in Convention will afford the surest means, under the providence of God, of averting the impending civil war, and of preserving a hope of reconstructing a Union already dissolved." This was devised to create a new fever for hasty action in the Legislature. The tendency of things towards the "peace" policy alarmed the conspirators at headquarters; they, hence, sought to restore the immediate secession sentiment to its destined ascendancy ere the Peace Congress could proceed to arrange a scheme of adjustment. The Address was one of several plots emanating from Washington to drive the people into the revolution.

Resolved, That if all efforts to reconcile the differ-That this was the sole purpose of the Adences between the two sections of the country shall prove abortive, then every consideration of honor and interest demands that Virginia shall unite her destinies with her sister Slaveholding States."

The House of Delegates, January 19th,

dress was soon evident in other extraordinary exertions made by the Secessionists to recover their lost ground. A leading member of the Legislature, on the Conservative side, wrote as follows, under date of January 23d:

"Recent developments have encouraged me to | Virginia. If she secedes, and no speedy combelieve that the action of Virginia will be decidedly promise is made by Congress similar to Mr. conservative. There was a violent and unnatural Crittenden's proposition, I have positive excitement here, produced by the systematic efforts knowledge that the people of Maryland are of disunion politicians. The sober second thought preparing, independent of the Governor, to has begun to operate, and a more wholesome condi- elect and convene a Sovereign Convention, tion of feeling prevails. I think a large majority of which will certainly withdraw the State from the Convention will be opposed to immediate secesthe Union before Mr. Lincoln's inauguration.” sion. Delaware showed herself to be loyal. Her Legislature approved the Crittenden resolves, January 17th. ing among other resolves, though not acted on affirmatively, still reflected the tone of feeling which was uppermost with the people :

"The position of the conservatives in our General Assembly has been a trying one. At the earlier period of the session we were overwhelmed by the destructives. But we rallied our forces, and, after a resolute fight, we have beaten them, and so shaped the action of the Legislature as to render it decidedly conservative. Virginia now occupies the position of mediator, holding back the belligerents and tendering the olive branch of peace."

Maryland still firm.

Maryland continued steadfast to the Union under the firm guidance of Governor Hicks. On the 20th it was stated, in a dispatch from Baltimore, that the great mass of the people approved the course pursued by the Governor in refusing to call the Legislature. Another statement was published to the effect that "Union meetings held in almost every county approve his course, and pronounce against disunion. The association of Minute Men of Baltimore have taken a noble stand in support of Governor Hicks and the Union. This organization, formed about a month before the Presidential election, numbers about thirty-two hundred active members in the city, and is affiliated with kindred organizations in every county in the State. They are divided into companies of sixty-four men each. To their efforts is due the brilliant success of the recent Union | meeting in Baltimore. Upon the very day when the forty United States marines were sent to take possession of Fort McHenry, it was intended by the Minute Men to occupy and hold it, until relieved by the Federal troops, and thus to keep the property safe from the possibility of seizure by the rapidly organizing Secession association called the "Southern Volunteers." A dispatch from another source, dated the 21st, expressed less sanguine views of the Union strength in the State. It said:"Georgia's secession has struck a melancholy blow to the hopes of Maryland. We are now at the mercy of

Delaware loyal.

The follow

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

North Carolina Hesi. tating.

In North Carolina much opposition was manifested to the secession of the State. One party was unmistakably Union at all events; another favored compromise, which, if not conceded, should be cause for secession; another was for cooperation with Virginia. The number of unconditional separa tionists was comparatively small, but powerful enough, with the outside pressure of South Carolina, to keep the State moving quietly but surely toward the point of open action. The Legislature of the State was in session during January. January 16th, anti-coercion resolutions passed to a second reading. They were opposed to coercion even to pledging the whole power of the State to resist any attempt of the General Government to use arms against a seceding State. The Convention bill was also under consideration.

The Arkansas Legislature, January 16th,

« PreviousContinue »