« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. XXXV.] DIX, THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
For once, the financial embarrassments of the nation proved to be its salvation. The condition of the Treasury was deplorable. The government could do nothing without the aid of the capitalists of New York. Again the influence of the attorney general came to the public succor. Instructed partly by their own patriotism, and partly by his clear information of the existing imminent danger, a deputation of those capitalists hastened to Washington, and gave the President distinctly to understand that the Treasury Department must be placed in charge of one in whom they had confidence, and that they should not be satisfied unless John A. Dix, of their state, was selected. Hereupon Buchanan gave him the appointment.
A French writer (Laugel) says, "Stanton, Holt, and Dix saved Washington to the Union." Holt secure Wash And so, in truth, it was. The obligations of the republic to those three ministers, and especially to the first, can never be repaid. Had the Virginians succeeded in their intention and seized the city, nothing could have prevented the Mexicanization of the nation.
Dix appointed Sec
retary of the Treas
ernor of Maryland.
But the resolute action of these three determined men was signally aided by the course of the aided by the Gov- Governor of Maryland. It was the plan of the conspirators to use in their movements the Legislatures of the Border States. Hicks, the Governor of Maryland, desiring to steer a middle course, refused to call an extra session of his Legislature, though vehemently urged to that step. While he was dreaming that the great conflict might be composed through the mediation of a foreign embassador, and when he did call his Legislature together, declaring to them that "the safety of Maryland lay in maintaining a neutral position," events were rapidly marching on. Maryland, as a state,
could not be brought to act; Virginia would not act without her. During this condition of indecision and impediment, the three energetic cabinet ministers found means to make the capital of the nation secure.
The salvation of the metropolis lay in the celerity with which troops could be brought into
Holt's on the
projected seizure of it. Holt, the Secretary of War, in reply to a resolution of inquiry passed by the House of Representatives, made to the President a report (February 18th, 1861) as to the circumstances under which this had been done. "I shall make no comment," he says, "upon the origin of the revolution which for the last three months has been in progress in several of the Southern States. That revolution has been distinguished by a boldness and completeness of success rarely equaled in the history of civil commotions. Its history is a his tory of surprises and treacheries. The forts of the United States have been captured and garrisoned, and hostile flags unfurled upon their ramparts. The arsenals have been seized, and the vast amount of public arms they contained appropriated to the use of the success of the Con- captors, while more than half a million of dollars found in the Mint at New Orleans have been unscrupulously applied to replenish the coffers of Louisiana. Officers in command of revenue cutters of the United States have been prevailed on to violate their trusts and surrender the property in their charge, and, instead of being branded for their crimes, they, and the vessels they betrayed, have been cordially received into the service of the seceded states. These movements were attended by yet more discouraging indications of immorality. It was generally believed that this revolution was guided and urged on by men occupying the highest positions in the public service, and who, with the responsi bilities of an oath to support the Constitution still rest
He relates the early
CHAP. XXXV.] PROJECTED SEIZURE OF WASHINGTON.
ing upon their consciences, did not hesitate secretly to plan, and openly to labor for the dismemberment of the republic whose honors they enjoyed, and upon whose treasury they were living. The unchecked prevalence of the revolution, and the intoxication which its triumphs inspired, naturally suggested wilder and yet more desperate enterprises than the conquest of ungarrisoned forts, or the plunder of an unguarded mint. At what time the armed occupation of Washington City became a part of the revolutionary programme is not certainly known. More than six weeks ago the impression had already exten sively prevailed that a conspiracy for the accomplishment of this guilty purpose was in process of formation, if not fully matured. The earnest endeavors made by men known to be devoted to the revolution to hurry Virginia and Maryland out of the Union were regarded as preparatory steps for the subjugation of Washington. This plan was in entire harmony with the aim and spirit of those seeking the subversion of the government, since no more fatal blow at its existence could be struck than the permanent and hostile possession of its seat of power. It was in harmony, too, with the avowed designs of the revolutionists, which looked to the formation of a confederacy of all the Slave States, and necessarily to the conquest of the capital within their limits. It seemed not very indistinctly prefigured in a proclamation made upon the floor of the Senate, without qualification, if not exultingly, that the Union was already dissolved-a proclamation which, however intended, was certainly calcu lated to invite, on the part of men of desperate fortunes or of revolutionary states, a raid upon the capital. In view of the violence and turbulent disorders already exhibited at the South, the public mind could not reject such a scheme as at all improbable. That a belief in its
Their intention of capturing Washington,
PROJECTED SEIZURE OF WASHINGTON.
existence was entertained by multitudes there can be no doubt, and that belief I fully shared. My conviction rested not only on the facts already alluded to, but upon information, some of which was of a most conclusive character. Superadded to these proofs were the oft-repeated declarations of men in high political positions here, and who were known to have intimate affiliations with the revolution, if, indeed, they did not hold its reins in their hands, to the effect that Mr. Lincoln would not and should not be inaugurated in Washington. Such declarations from such men could not be treated as empty bluster. They were the solemn utterances of those who well understood the import of their words, and who, in the exultation of the temporary victories gained over their country's flag in the South, felt assured that events would soon give them the power to verify their predictions. Simultaneously with these prophetic warnings, a Southern journal of large circulation and influence, and which is published near the City of Washington, advocated its seizure as a possible political necessity.
"The nature and power of the testimony thus accumu lated may be best estimated by the effect produced upon the popular mind. Members of Congress too, men of calm and comprehensive views, and of undoubted fidelity to their country, frankly expressed their solicitude to the President and to this Department, and formally insisted that the defenses of the capital should be strengthened.
and of preventing the inauguration of Lincoln.
The President is urged to bring troops to the metropolis,
"Impressed by these circumstances and considerations, I earnestly besought you to allow the concentration in this city of a sufficient military force. To those who desire the destruction of the republic, the presence of these troops is necessarily offensive; but those who sincerely love our institutions can not fail to rejoice that by this
CHAP. XXXV.] ATTEMPTS TO HAVE THE TROOPS REMOVED. 51
which is according timely precaution they have possibly escaped the deep dishonor which they must have suffered, had the capital; like the forts and arsenals of the South, fallen into the hands of the revolutionists, who have found this great government weak only because, in the exhaustless beneficence of its spirit, it has refused to strike even in its own defense, lest it should wound the aggressor."
But this bringing of troops to the city was not accomplished without opposition. A resolution was offered in the House of Representatives "that the quartering of troops of the regular army in the District of Columbia and around the Capitol, when not necessary for their protection from a hostile enemy, and during the Congress attempt to session of Congress, is impolitic and offensive, and, if permitted, may be destructive of civil liberty; and, in the opinion of this House, the reg ular troops now in this city ought forthwith to be removed therefrom."
The secessionists in
That resolution was offered by a member from North Carolina; but Jefferson Davis, who was soon to become the representative of the secession movement, would not only have extended the principle of national disarmament thus proposed to be applied to Washington to all the seceding states-he would even have armed the arming of their them to the prejudice of the government. In the Senate (January 2d, 1861) he had of fered the following joint resolution:
and to for
"Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives, That upon the application of a state, either through a Convention or the Legislature thereof, asking that the federal forces of the army and navy may be withdrawn from its limits, the President of the United States shall order the withdrawal of the federal garrisons, and take the needful security for the safety of the public property which may remain in said state. And be it further resolved, That whenever a State Convention duly and lawfully assembled shall enact that the