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PROGRESS OF THE CONSPIRACY - FROM THE ELECTION OF LINCOLN
TO HIS ARRIVAL AT WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 1861.
THE CONSPIRACY EXTENDING - ADMINISTRATION OF BUCHANAN
GENERAL Scott --GENERAL Cass- ACTION OF CONGRESS IN WINTER OF 1860–61— COMMITTEE OF THIRTY-THREE PEACE CONVENTION REPORT OF ADAMS— SECRET MEETINGS OF CONSPIRATORS AT THE CAPITOL-SEVEN STATES SECEDE, AND ORGANIZE A PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT JEFFERSON DAVIS -REBELLION WITHOUT EXCUSE-SLAVERY, THE CORNER-STONE OF THE CONFEDERACY COUNTING ELECTORAL VOTES BY CONGRESS LINCOLN LEAVES SPRINGFIELD FOR WASHINGTON-His JOURNEY - ASSASSINATION PLOTHIS ARRIVAL.
THILE the organization and proportions of this widely
extended conspiracy were boldly and defiantly exhibited, and daily becoming more and more formidable, the at. tention of the whole country was fixed upon President Buchanan. Would he, like Jackson in 1832, declare “by the Eternal, the Union shall be preserved !” Would he prepare to meet force by force ? Would he send the veteran Scott to South Carolina, and elsewhere, to protect National property, execute the laws, and maintain national suprema
Scott had pointed out the danger, and urged and implored that vigorous means might be taken to maintain the national authority.
Buchanan, either traitorously, or through weakness, which, in its results, was equivalent to treason, took no steps to maintain the Union, but was wax, or clay, in the hands of Messrs. Davis, Howell Cobb, Thompson, Floyd, and their associates. He even went so far as to promise the Confederates that no reënforcements should be sent to the garrisonis in Southern forts. With this assurance, the leaders of the conspiracy went forward in their guilty preparations with impunity. It is probable that, with a loyal, energetic President like Jackson, with the aid of Scott, the conspiracy might have been crushed in its inception.
There was, in the border States, a clear majority for the Union, and, in the gulf States, a considerable portion of the people were opposed to secession; but, receiving no aid, no encouragement, and no protection from the executive or his subordinates; seeing the cabinet, and nearly all Federal office-holders in the slave States actively promoting disunion, un checked and unrebuked, and the secessionists everywhere open, bold and defiant, the Union men yielded to the threats and terror of the active, energetic, unscrupulous conspirators, and made little resistance to the current of popular excitement which was sweeping on towards civil war.
The candid world will ever hold the administration of Buchanan responsible for this neglect to crush the rebellion in its beginning
Floyd, having finished the work of treason as Secretary of War, fled South, to meet the applause of the conspirators for his perfidy, and to exchange the portfolio of War Secretary of the Republic, for a commission in the rebel army.
Isaac Toucey, of Connecticut, more infamous, if possible, than even Floyd, did the same for the navy that Floyd did for the army. He scattered the vessels of war beyond seas, and placed the naval force out of the reach of the government.
It appears, from an official report made to Congress, that it was in the power of the Secretary of the Navy to have stationed a naval force, adequate to the protection of all the rights and property of the government, at exposed points; but instead of doing so, the Secretary sent the vessels of war abroad, without justification or excuse. A committee of Congress also found him guilty of accepting resignations of officers of the navy who were in arms against their flag, and of others who sought thus to dispose of their conmissions under the United States, to accept service from its enemy.* * See report of Secretary of Navy, July, 1861 and report of Naval Committee.
Thus the right arm of the government was despoiled of its weapons — the army and navy. The treasury was plundered, and the national credit shaken, for the benefit, and in aid of the purposes of treason.
But for the resolute energy of General Scott, the purpose of the conspirators to prevent the inauguration of Lincoln, and to obtain possession of the capitol and its archives, would have succeeded.
As early as October, 1860, General Scott warned President Buchanan of the danger that the conspirators would seize Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, guarding the entrance to the Mississippi, (which Admiral Farragut, subsequently, so gallantly retook), and which were then without garrison; Forts McRea and Pickens, in Pensacola Harbor, with an inefficient garrison; Fort Pulaski, Georgia, without a garrison; Forts Moultrie and Sumpter, Charleston, the latter without a garrison, and the former with only eighty men; Fortress Monroe without a sufficient garrison. He also recommended that all should be so garrisoned, as to render an attempt to take them by surprise, hopeless. He closed his timely and patriotic letter with the declaration that, “ with the army faithful to its allegiance, and the navy probably equally so; and with a Federal Executive, for the next twelve months, of firmness and moderation, there is good reason to hope that the danger from secession may be made to pass away, without one conflict of arms, one execution, or one arrest for treason.” The honest old hero could not conceive that treason had entered the very highest departments of government, and that the heads of the army and navy were, at that moment, from their official desks, conspiring for the overthrow of the government. The officers of the army and navy had been, many of them, seduced from their allegiance, and were ready to desert their flag.
On the 14th of December, General Cass, a patriot, resigned the office of Secretary of State, because the President refused to reën force the forts in the harbor of Charleston. Scott urged the Secretary of War to warn the garrisons against surprise. His warnings and importunities to garrison the forts were again repeated; but traitors in the Cabinet, and dotage and weakness, approaching imbecility, or treason, in
the Executive, prevented any attention being paid to his earnest and repeated applications. Time verified, and more than realized, his predictions. That which he so confidently expected to find, and the absence of which he could scarcely conceive, fidelity to the flag in the army and navy, was, to a lamentable extent, wanting. The treachery in the Cabinet extended largely among officers born at the South, both in the army and navy.
All the fortresses and forts named, were seized by the rebels, except Fortress Monroe.
The rebellion was not the result of impulse, but, as has been previously stated, a deliberately planned movement. In October, 1856, a meeting of the governors of slave States was held at Raleigh, North Carolina, convened at the instance of Governor Wise, who afterwards proclaimed, that if Fremont had been elected, he would have marched to Washington, at the head of 20,000 men, and prevented his inauguration.
Mr. Keitt, merober of Congress from South Carolina, said, in the convention of his State, which adopted the ordinance of secession: “I have been engaged in this movement ever since I entered political life.”
Mr. Rhett said: “The secession of South Carolina is not the event of a day. It is not anything produced by Mr. Lincoln's election, or the non-enforcement of the fugitive slave law. It is a matter that has been gathering head for thirty years.”
The Provisional Governor of South Carolina, Mr. Perry, appointed by President Johnson, said, in a public speech, in July, 1865:
We were, at the time of secession, the most prosperous, free and happy people on the face of the earth. The sun had never shone on a nation or empire whose future wis more bright and glorious. But the public mind had, unfortunately, been prepared, in the southern States for thirty years past for an effort at disunion. The people had been induced to believe that disunion would be a great blessing, and that it might come without war and bloodshed! The leading politicians at the South were anxiously waiting for some plausible pretext for seceding from the Union.
The so-called "rights of the South” were in no possible danger from Mr. Lincoln, even had he been disposed to interfere with them. There was, at that time, a majority of twenty-seven in the House of Representatives, politically opposed to him. There was a majority, in the Senate, of six against him. A majority of the Supreme Court were opposed to the principles of the Republican party. Lincoln was, therefore, in a minority in both houses of Congress, and on the bench of the Supreme Court; and a large majority of the people had supported others for the presidency. He was powerless to injure the slave States.
Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence of the existence of a wide-spread, long planned conspiracy to dissolve the Union, evidence which could be accumulated to almost any extent, the people of the North were slow to believe that those who threatened, were really in earnest; equally slow to believe the leaders were unappeasable, and, being themselves unwilling to resort to force, they were ready to yield almost everything to secure harmony. The conspirators, and those who were made to sympathize with alleged Southern wrongs, were misled and encouraged by the idea, too generally expressed by Northern democratic politicians, and the democratic press, that the South was right, and really suffered real wrongs; and that the South had a right to secede, and should be met by conciliation, concession and compromise.
Mr. Johnson, a prominent politician of central New York, said, at a State convention held at Albany, on the 31st of January, 1861: “The will of a large portion of the citizens of this State is against any armed coercion to restore the Union by civil war. If Congress and our States cannot win back our southern brethren, let us, at least, part as friends."
Leading democrats proclaimed: Union by compromise, or peaceable separation.
Some of the conspirators were led to believe, from the expressions of the press and politicians, that either there would be no attempt at coercion, or, if there should le, the Democrats would be found on the side of the seceding States.
At the opening of the second session of the Thirty-sixth Congress, President Buchanan said, in substance, that while no State had a right to secede, the Federal Government could not coerce a sovereign State. He told the conspirators they had no right to secede, but if they did, he could not prevent it. This was all they wanted. They were bold, unscrupulous, determined men, with well defined purposes. Buchanan urged that the Union was not to be preserved by force, but by compromise. In other words we had no government. The Union was an association, to exist as long as the States found it agreeable. The Government, according to Buchanan, was mere moral suasion — without authority. Had he