Page images

Resignation of Mr.




strained to resign, December 10th. Unable | Mr. Buchanan listened to his evil advisers, to extricate the Treasury from its threat- and resolved to respect the promise he had ened bankrupt condition, he could not, in unwisely made to South Carolina through consistency, retain "the keys;" and the con- Mr. Trescott, not to give Anderson men venient pretext offering of enough to save the forts in Charleston from a "difference with the Pres- seizure-for this was the effect of a non-reindent's views," he seized it, forcement. resigned, and almost immediately returned to Georgia to assume a leader's place in the secession drama. He left behind him a reputation untainted by a want of integrity; but an empty treasury attested his want of ability, and a complicity with the leaders in revolution against the Government gave evidence that, of two masters, he served one with his hand, the other with his heart.

Mr. Toucey, Secretary of the Navy, assumed the duties of the Treasury Department until, a few days later, Mr. Thomas, of Maryland, Commissioner of Patents, accepted the vacant chair.

Major Anderson's

Little was publicly known of the actual condition of the forts in Charleston harbor. It was certain that Major Anderson, in command at Fort Moultrie, was working his men to their utmost strength, in placing that fortress in a position for defence; and it was, also, reported at Charleston that workmen were very busy in Fort Sumter mounting guns; but, the true strength of these fortresses, and Anderson's ability for resistance to an assault, were matters with which the public could gain very little reliable information. The fact, however, that Anderson had but two companies of artillery under his command, was sufficiently well understood to cause serious apprehensions for his safety as early as Dec. 10th. On the 13th the question of his reinforcement was discussed with considerable feeling in the Cabinet. Messrs. Cass and Toucey took the position that the reinforcement ought instantly to be made at all hazards—that, giving offence to South Caroling was the last consideration which should prevail to deter the President from doing his duty in placing the forts out of danger; but, the other members of the Cabinet insisted that such an act would "complicate" the question of settlement, and be "construed into the offensive design to coerce the State"-therefore it must not be done, and it was not done.

General Cass' Resignation.

Anderson asked for no additional forceleaving all to those who knew his needs and the extremity to which he must be reduced if he sought, in good earnest, to hold the fortress of Moultrie. He was ordered to the Charleston defences Nov. 18th, at the earnest wish of Gen. Scott, who reposed great reliance on the Major's discretion and loyalty. The selection proved, in every respect, satisfactory, for his indomitable will made a host out of his little band. By day and night the men worked in the fort, Moultrie, to render it defensible from the land side. All was done that industry and good engineering could effect, and the old fort, by Dec. 15th, assumed a more formidable look than it ever had worn. Two hundred men could have defended it against ten thousand. Mr. Cass resigned his seat in the Cabinet on the 14th. After the decision made in the meeting on the evening of the 13th, he could not remain in the counsels of the President. Too good a patriot to connive at treason, and too honest an officer to disregard his oath of fealty to the Constitution, he could not remain in an administration which refused to resort to "coercion," so far as to protect thirty millions of Government property from seizure. His resignation caused profound regret throughout the entire portion of the still loyal community, but gave a corresponding pleasure to the disunionists, since it indicated a line of policy in the Executive which would allow their schemes to develop without obstacle or danger. Attorney-General J. S. Black assumed the vacated chair. Unlike the Ex-Secretary of the Treasury, who hastened from Washington after his resignation, General Cass remained at the capitol to lend his influence to carry the country through its peril. The good ship of state was indeed in danger of "beaching," but faithful hands and stout hearts might yet save her. General Cass gave his wise

counsels for conciliation, but did not, we believe, at any moment, concede the right of any State to withdraw at will from the Confederacy.

General Scott's Prophetic Views.

As the position and views of General Scott, at that time, have since elicited much comment, we may here reproduce his letter to Mr. Buchanan prior to the day of election. It is evidence not more of his devotion to the country than of his wisdom and discretion:

"Views suggested by the imminent danger (Oct. 29, 1860) of a disruption of the Union by the secession of one or more of the Southern States.

"To save time the right of secession may be conceded, and instantly balanced by the correlative right, on the part of the Federal Government, against an interior State or States, to re-establish by force, if necessary, its former continuity of Territory. [Paley's Moral and Political Philosophy, last chapter.]

"But break this glorious Union by whatever line or lines that political madness may contrive, and there would be no hope of re-uniting the fragments except by the laceration and despotism of the sword. To effect such result the intestine wars of our Mexican neighbors would, in comparison with ours, sink into mere child's play.


A smaller evil would be to allow the fragments of the great Republic to form themselves into new Confederacies, probably four.

"All the lines of demarcation between the new Unions cannot be accurately drawn in advance, but many of them approximately may. Thus, looking to natural boundaries and commercial affinities, some of the following frontiers, after many waverings and conflicts, might perhaps become acknowledged and fixed:

"1. The Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic. 2. From Maryland, along the crest of the Alleghany (perhaps the Blue Ridge) range of mountains, to some point in the coast of Florida. 3. The line from say the head of the Potomac to the west or northwest, which it will be most difficult to settle. 4. The crest of the Rocky Mountains.

"The Southeast Confederacy would, in all human probability, in less than five years after the rupture, find itself bounded by the first and second lines indicated above, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, with its capital at say Columbia, South Carolina. The country between the second, third, and fourth of those lines would, beyond a doubt, in about the same time, constitute another Confederacy, with its capital at probably Alton or Quincy, Illinois. The boundaries of the Pacific Union are the most definite

[ocr errors]


General Scott's Prophetic Views.

of all, and the remaining States would constitute Northeast Confederacy, with its capital at Albany. "It, at the first thought, will be considered strange that seven Slaveholding States and parts of Virginia and Florida should be placed (above) in a new Confederacy with Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, &c. ; but when the overwhelming weight of the great Northwest is taken in connection with the laws of trade, contiguity of territory, and the comparative indifference to free soil doctrines on the part of Western Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, it is evident that but little if any coercion, beyond moral force, would be needed to embrace them; and I have omitted the temptation of the unwasted public lands which would fall entire to this Confederacy-an appanage (well husbanded) sufficient for many generations. As to Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi, they would not stand out a month. Louisiana would coalesce without much solicitation, and Alabama, with West Florida, would be conquered the first winter from the absolute need of Pensacola for a naval depot.

"If I might presume to address the South, and particularly dear Virginia-being 'native here and to the manor born'-I would affectionately ask, will not your slaves be less secure, and their labor less profitable under the new order of things than under the old? Could you employ profitably two hundred slaves in all Nebraska, or five hundred in all New Mexico? The right, then, to take them thither would be a barren right. And is it not wise to Rather bear the ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of ?? "The Declaration of Independence proclaims and consecrates the same maxim: Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.' And Paley, too, lays down as a fundamental maxim of statesmanship, 'never to pursue national honor as distinct from national interest;' but adds: This rule acknowledges that it is often necessary to assert the honor of a nation for the sake of its interests.'

"The excitement that threatens secession is caused by the near prospect of a Republican's election to the Presidency. From a sense of propriety as a soldier, I have taken no part in the pending canvass, and, as always heretofore, mean to stay away from the polls. My sympathies, however, are with the Bell and Everett ticket. With Mr. Lincoln I have had no communication whatever, direct or indirect, and have no recollection of ever having seen his person; but cannot believe any unconstitutional violence, or breach of law, is to be apprehended from his administration of the Federal Government.

From a knowledge of our Southern population

General Scott's Prophetic Views.


it is my solemn conviction that there is some danger of an early act of rashness preliminary to secession, viz., the seizure of some or all of the following posts: Forts Jackson and St. Philip in the Mississippi, below New Orleans, both without garrisons; Fort Morgan, below Mobile, without a garrison; Forts Pickens and McRea, Pensacola harbor, with an insufficient garrison for one; Fort Pulaski, below Savannah, without a garrison; Forts Moultrie and Sumter, Charleston harbor, the former with an insufficient garrison, and the latter without any; and Fort Monroe, Hampton Roads, without a sufficient garrison. In my opinion all these works should be immediately so garrisoned as to make any attempt to take any one of them, by surprise or coup de main, ridiculous.


General Scott's Prophetic Views.

"It is his opinion that instructions should be given, at once, to the commanders of the Barrancas, Forts Moultrie and Monroe, to be on their guard against surprises and coups de main. As to regular approaches nothing can be said or done, at this time, without volunteers.

"There is one (regular) company at Boston, one here, (at the Narrows,) one at Pittsburg, one at Augusta, Ga., and one at Baton Rouge-in all five companies only, within reach, to garrison or reinforce the forts mentioned in the 'Views.'

"General Scott is all solicitude for the safety of the Union. He is, however, not without hope that all dangers and difficulties will pass away without leaving a scar or painful recollection behind.

"The Secretary's most obedient servant, "October 30th, 1860. W. S."

"With the army faithful to its allegiance, and the navy probably equally so, and with a Federal Exe- These opinions of the veteran commander cutive, for the next twelve months, of firmness and should have commanded earnest and solemn moderation, which the country has a right to expect consideration. They were expressed prior to ---moderation being an element of power not less than the election, when the reinforcements proposfirmness—there is good reason to hope that the dan-ed could have been made without exciting

ger of secession may be made to pass away without une conflict of arms, one execution, or one arrest for treason.


particular remark. An adoption of his wise suggestion would have averted entirely the war of words which followed, in and out of In the mean time it is suggested that exports should remain as free as at present; all duties, how the Cabinet, on the question of reinforceever, on imports, collected, (outside of the cities,* ment; and there are those who will persist in as such receipts would be needed for the national the opinion, that the early and strong occudebt, invalid pensions, &c., and only articles contra-pation of all the forts named would have band of war be refused admittance. But even this held the entire scheme of rebellion in abeyrefusal would be unnecessary, as the foregoing views eschew the idea of invading a seceded State. "WINFIELD SCOTT. "New York, October 29th, 1860."

[blocks in formation]

"It will be seen that the 'Views' only apply to a case of secession that makes a gap in the present Union. The falling off say of Texas, or of all the Atlantic States, from the Potomac south, was not within the scope of General S.'s provisional remedies.


It is certain that General Scott earnestly hoped for authority to order troops to Major Anderson; but the Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, had made a non-reinforcement the price of his remaing in the Cabinet, and the President was weak enough to favor a policy which, ere long, hurried him into the very dangers he had sought so earnestly to avoid. The President, on Dec. 14th, proclaimed Jan. 4th as a day to be set apart for humiliation, fasting, and prayer. His proclamation thus set forth the calamities of the hour:

A day of Fasting and

"The union of the States is at the present moment threatened with alarming and immediate dangerpanic and distress of a fearful character prevail * In forts or on board ships of war. The great throughout the land-our laboring population are aim and object of this plan is to gain time say without employmont, and consequently deprived of eight or ten months-to await expected measures the means of earning their bread indeed, hope of conciliation on the part of the North, and the sub- seems to have deserted the minds of men. All sidence of angry feelings in the opposite quarter. classes are in a state of confusion and dismay, and

the wisest counsels of our best and purest men are wholly disregarded.

"In this, the hour of our calamity and peril, to whom shall we resort for relief but to the God of our Fathers? His omnipotent arm only can save us from the awful effects of our own crimes and follies -our own ingratitude and guilt towards our Heavenly Father.

"Let us, then, with deep contrition and penitent sorrow, unite in humbling ourselves before the Most High, in confessing our individual and national sins, and in acknowledging the justice of our punishment. Let us implore him to remove from our hearts that faise pride of opinion which would impel us to persevere in wrong for the sake of consistency, rather than yield a just submission to the unforeseen exigencies by which we are now surrounded. Let us, with deep reverence, beseech Him to restore the friendship and good will which prevailed in former days among the people of the several States, and, above all, to save us from the horrors of civil war and blood guiltiness.' Let our fervent prayers ascend to His throne that He would not desert us in this hour of extreme peril, but remember us, as He

did our fathers in the darkest days of the Revolution, and preserve our Constitution and our Union-the work of their hands-for ages yet to come. An Omnipotent Providence may overrule existing evils for permanent good. He can make the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He can restrain. Let me invoke every individual, in whatever sphere of life he may be placed, to feel a personal responsibility to God and his country for keeping this day holy, and for contributing all in his power to remove our actual and impending difficulties.

The Crisis Committee.

The Crisis Committee of Thirty-three met for conference and organization during the early part of the week, December 10-13th. On the latter day propositions were started by a resolution from Mr. Rusk, of Arkansas, to the effect that the South required guarantees in the form of amendments to the Constitution. He stated that unless they were granted a dissolution of the Confederacy was inevitable. Mr. Rusk declared himself to be a Unionist, but stated that a paper was prepared, and being signed by Southern members, representing that no concessions were to be expected from the North. In his opinion, the effect of that document, when published, would be to excite the Southern mind more deeply, and overwhelm those that were for sustaining the Union.

Mr. Dunn, of Indiana, then offered the following resolution, which Mr. Rust accepted as a substitute for his:


Resolved, That in the opinion of this Committee, the existing discontent among the Southern people, and the growing hostility among them to the Federal Government, are greatly to be regretted, and that, whether such discontent and hostility are without just cause or not, any reasonable and constitutional remedies, and additional and more specific and effectual guarantees of their peculiar rights and interests as recognized by the Constitution, necessarily to preserve the peace of the country and the perpetuation of the Union, should be promptly and cheerfully granted."

This proposition led to a long discussion, in which most members of the Committee participated. Several Republicans desired to know what sort of guaranties were desired, because a general declaration like this might raise expectations which could not be fulfilled. If the States proposing to secede were arrested by the belief that such legislation as they demanded was to be obtained, yet finally be disappointed, it was easy to foresee that present discords would be aggravated. It was contended, on the other side, that an initial point for negotiation between the two sections ought to be obtained, and after that was done the form of guaranties or legislation might be better considered.

These were the general features of the debate, in which nearly all participated for five hours. Finally, Mr. Morrill of Vermont proposed as an amendment or substitute for Mr. Dunn's, the following resolution:

[ocr errors]

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this Committee, the existing discontents among the Southern people, and the growing hostility among them to the Federal Government, are greatly to be regretted, and that any reasonable, proper and constitutional remedies, necessary to preserve the peace of the country and the perpetuation of the Union, should be promptly and cheerfully granted."

A formal division was called, and the vote stood 9 to 22. The original resolution was then adopted by 22 to 9, as follows:

"YEAS. Messrs. Corwin, Stratton, Campbell, Howard, Dunn, Kellogg, Windom, Curtis, Burch, Stout, Whiteley, Davis, (Md.,) Millson, Winslow, Houston, Love, Taylor, Rust, Hamilton, Phelps, Bristow, Neilson-22.

[blocks in formation]

"NAYS.-Messrs. Morse, Tappan, Adams, Robinson, Ferry, Morrill, Humphrey, Washburne-8. ABSENT.-Messrs. Hawkins and Boyce.

[ocr errors]


NOT VOTING.-Mr. Davis, (Miss.)"

Mr. Corwin, it was understood, had matured a series of resolves, which had the approval of a majority of the Republicans. They were as follows:

[ocr errors]

First. Pledging the faith of Congress against any attempt to abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia.


"Fourth. In favor of any amendments rendering the Fugitive-Slave act effective and satisfactory to the South.

"Fifth. Against any discrimination by Congress of Slave States asking admission.

"Sixth. Protecting persons and property in the Territories till they have 30,000 inhabitants, when non-intervention by Congress shall be the law."

These early conciliatory steps gave the friends of Compromise hope that a settlement would be arrived at; but the continued hos

Second. Against interfering with the inter-slave-tility of the extremists from the Gulf States, indicated clearly that compromises were not

trade between the States.

[ocr errors]

Third. Against the abolition of Slavery in the wanted, and probably would not be acceptdock-yards and arsenals in the Slave States. ed, no matter what their nature.



SEVERAL attempts were made to obtain a | States of the Union that may be disposed to meet us conference of Slave States, but without effect. on this basis for a full conference. The present good The proposition submitted by Governor Hous- to be accomplished would be to arrest the secession ton, as we have stated, received no considera- movement until the question as to whether the tion. Gov. Magoffin, of Ken- Union can be preserved upon fair and honorable tucky, on the 9th of December, dispatched the following circular of proposition to the Governors of the Slave States:

Circular of Governor


DEPARTMENT, FRANKFORT, Dec. 9, 1860. "Entertaining the opinion that some movement should be instituted at the earliest possible moment to arrest the progress of events which seem to be rapidly hurrying the Government of the Union to dismemberment, as an initiatory step, I have, with great diffidence, concluded to submit to the Governors of the Slave States a series of propositions, and to ask their counsel and co-operation in bringing about a settlement upon them as a basis. Should the propositions be approved, they can be submitted to the assembling Legislatures and Conventions of the Slave States, and a Convention of all of said States, or of those only approving, be called to pass upon them, and ask a General Convention of all the

terms can be fully tested. If there be a basis for the adjustment of our difficulties within the Union, nothing should be left undone in order to its development. To this end, it seems to me there should be a conference of the States in some form, and it appears to me the form above suggested would be most effective. I, therefore, as the Governor of a State having as deep a stake in the perpetuity of the Union, and at the same time as much solicitude for the maintenance of the institution of Slavery as any other, would respectfully beg leave to submit for your consideration the following outline of propositions:

"First. Repeal, by an amendment of the Constitution of the United States, all laws in the Free States in any degree nullifying or obstructing the execution of the Fugitive Slave law.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »