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President Buchanan's Pusillanimity. South Carolina Secedes. Attempts at Compromise.
ignominy from which centuries of unquestioned loyalty cannot free her was taking the requisite steps toward secession, the then President, James Buchanan, with a pusillanimityto use no stronger term-which modern history certainly has never paralleled, in his annual message, after having urged the unconstitutionality of the proceeding, gave explicit notification that he had no constitutional power to prevent the proposed measures being hastened to successful completion. Neither, though appealed to, at a still earlier day, by the veteran chief of the army, to occupy and hold the United States on the Southern coast, could he find any warrant for protecting and defending the national property.
Surely nothing more could the conspirators have desired. On the 20th of December, 1860, South Carolina claims to secede Government forts and arsenals are seized, and placed under the protection of the flag of the State. Georgia's Governor lays hand on the United States forts on the coast of that State, on the 3d of January, 1861; as did the Executive of Alabama on the following day.
Events of a startling nature follow in rapid succession. On the 9th of January, hostile shots are fired upon a vessel bringing tardy reinforcements to Fort Sumter, and Mississippi assumes to put herself out of the Union. Alabama, Florida, and Georgia are not laggard; nor are Texas and Louisiana found wanting. Cabinet officers from the slave States either resigned, after having aided the fell work to their utmost, or remained only to hasten its consummation. A new constitution, "temporary" in its nature, was declared by delegates from the seven States then in rebellion, and a President and Vice-President appointed.
Meanwhile a convention, composed of delegates from most of the Free States, and from all the border Slave States, was striving, at Washington, to heal existing difficulties by compromise. Of its members some were acting in good faith, others were using it as a breakwater for the States already
Constitutional Amendment Proposed.
Davis defines the Rebel position.
in overt rebellion. A series of resolutions, however, aiming at peace on the basis of a preserved Union was agreed to by a majority, and the body adjourned on the 1st of March.
On the 11th of February, moreover, the National House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution-shortly afterward concurred in by the Senate-providing for an amendment to the Constitution, forever prohibiting any Congressional legislation interfering with slavery in any State. Some there were, too, who were willing to concede almost every thing and surrender the long mooted question of slavery in the territories by the adoption of the so-called Crittenden resolutions, which were killed in cold blood by Southern Senators.
But no concession, short of actual national degradation, would satisfy the recusants. Jefferson Davis, the head of the "Confederacy," on placing himself at the head of the rebellion, at Montgomery, Alabama, February 18th, modestly defined the position of himself and his co-conspirators thus:
"If a just perception of neutral interest shall permit us peaceably to pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will have been fulfilled. But if this be denied us, and the integrity of our territory and jurisdiction be assailed, it will but remain for us with firm resolve to appeal to arms, and invoke the blessing of Providence on a just cause."
This was at once clinched by a recommendation that "a well-instructed, disciplined army, more numerous than would usually be required, on a peace establishment," should be at once organized and put in training for the emergency.
Seeks Divine Assistance.
The Departure-Farewell Remarks-Speech at Toledo-At Indianapolis-At CincinnatiAt Columbus-At Steubenville-At Pittsburgh--At Cleveland-At Buffalo-At Albany -At Poughkeepsie-At New York-At Trenton-At Philadelphia-At "Independence Hall"-Flag-raising-Speech at Harrisburg-Secret Departure for Washington-Com
THUS matters stood the air filled with mutterings of an approaching storm-the most filled with a certain undefinable anxiety-the hearts of many failing them through fear— when, on the morning of the 11th of February, 1861, the President elect with his family, bade adieu to that prairie home which, alas! he was never again to see.
The large throng which had assembled at the railway station on the occasion of his departure, he addressed in words replete with the pathos of every true manly nature :
"MY FRIENDS:-No one, not in my position, can appreciate the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century; here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. A duty devolves upon me which is, perhaps, greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never could have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine aid which sustained him; and in the same Almighty being I place my reliance for support, and' I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance, without which I can not succeed, but with which success is certain. Again, I bid you all an affectionate farewell."
Speech at Toledo.
Speech at Indianapolis.
"Coercion" and "Invasion" Defined.
Along the route, multitudes gathered at the stations to greet him. At Toledo, Ohio, in reply to repeated calls, he appeared on the platform of the car and said:
"I am leaving you on an errand of national importance, attended, as you are aware, with considerable difficulties. Let us believe, as some poet has expressed it, 'Behind the cloud the sun is shining still.' I bid you an affectionate farewell."
At Indianapolis, on the evening of the same day, in reply to an official address of welcome, he gave the first direct public intimation of his views concerning the absorbing topics of the day, in which homely sense and cheerful pleasantry were blended with a skill beyond the power of
"FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE STATE OF INDIANA :-I am here to thank you for this magnificent welcome, and still more for the very generous support given by your State to that political cause, which, I think, is the true and just cause of the whole country, and the whole world. Solomon says, 'there is a time to keep silence;' and when men wrangle by the mouth, with no certainty that they mean the same thing while using the same words, it perhaps were as well if they would keep silence.
"The words 'coercion' and 'invasion' are much used in these days, and often with some temper and hot blood. Let us make sure, if we can, that we do not misunderstand the meaning of those who use them. Let us get the exact definitions of these words, not from dictionaries, but from the men themselves, who certainly deprecate the things they would represent by the use of the words.
"What, then, is coercion? What is invasion? Would the marching of an army into South Carolina, without the consent of her people, and with hostile intent toward them, be invasion? I certainly think it would, and it would be coercion also, if the South Carolinians were forced to
"Coercion" and "Invasion" Defined. The Rights of States.
submit. But if the United States should merely hold and retake its own forts and other property, and collect the duties on foreign importations, or even withhold the mails from places where they were habitually violated, would any or all of these things be invasion or coercion? Do our professed lovers of the Union, who spitefully resolve that they will resist coercion and invasion, understand that such things as these, on the part of the United States, would be coercion or invasion of a State? If so, their idea of means to preserve the object of their great affection would seem to be exceedingly thin and airy. If sick, the little pills of the homeopathist would be much too large for it to swallow. In their view, the Union, as a family relation, would seem to be no regular marriage, but rather a sort of 'free-love' arrangement, to be maintained on passional attraction.
"By the way, in what consists the special sacredness of a State? I speak not of the position assigned to a State in the Union by the Constitution, for that is a bond we all recognize. That position, however, a State cannot carry out of the Union with it. I speak of that assumed primary right of a State to rule all which is less than itself, and to ruin all which is larger than itself. If a State and a County, in a given case, should be equal in number of inhabitants, in what, as a matter of principle, is the State better than the County? Would an exchange of name be an exchange of rights? Upon what principle, upon what rightful principle, may a State, being no more than one-fiftieth part of the nation in soil and population, break up the nation, and then coerce a proportionably large sub-division of itself in the most arbitrary way? What mysterious right to play tyrant is conferred on a district or country with its people, by merely calling it a State? Fellow citizens, I am not asserting any thing. I am merely asking questions for you to consider. And now allow me to bid you farewell."
Proceeding to Cincinnati, he received a most enthusiastic