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to enter upon the work of administering the Government. It pledged itself to economy, to the Union, to the rights of the States, and to unending hostility to every form of human servitude.
The aggregate popular vote exceeded four million six hundred and eighty thousand, and of the total one million eight hundred and sixtysix thousand votes were given for Mr. Lincoln, and of the three hundred and three electoral votes, he received one hundred and eighty. The Democratic party was divided. Mr. Breckinridge, the candidate of the South, received eight hundred and forty-seven thousand votes and seventy-two votes in the Electoral College, while Mr. Douglas received only twelve electoral votes, although his popular vote reached a million three hundred and seventy-five thousand. John Bell received thirty-nine electoral votes on a popular vote of less than six hundred thousand. The popular vote for Mr. Lincoln was nearly a half-million less than a majority; but his predecessor, Mr. Buchanan, was also a minority President.
Eleven States voted for Mr. Breckinridge, and of these, all, except Delaware and Maryland, became members of the Confederacy. The States of Virginia and Tennessee, that had voted for Mr. Bell, supplied the places in the Confederacy made vacant by the absence of Maryland and Delaware. The result showed that the Democratic party, as represented by Mr. Breckinridge, was in fact a secession party as well. The division of the Democratic party decided the election in favor of Mr. Lincoln.
Had that party supported Mr. Douglas in good faith, his election would have been secured, probably; but the South would have been left without excuse, if it had persisted in the scheme of secession. Therefore it came to pass that the Democratic party was disorganized by its own leaders, as a step preliminary to the election of Mr. Lincoln and the secession of the States of the South.
The election of Mr. Lincoln was made the pretext for disunion, but the leaders must have known that he would be powerless to do any act or thing contrary to their Constitutional rights while the members of Congress from the South retained their seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. They had, however, only a choice of ways. It was not possible to hold seats in the Congress of the United States and at the same time to organize a hostile government. If Jefferson Davis was to become the President of the Confederacy, it was necessary for him to surrender his seat in the Senate of the
United States. A like necessity attended the leading men by whom he was supported.
It was also the necessity of their situation that the new government should be organized during the administration of Mr. Buchanan. It is not necessary to assume any private understanding between the President and the leaders of secession. His message of December, 1860, contained declarations which justified Mr. Davis and his associates in assuming that Mr. Buchanan would not interfere with the organization of the new government. Of Mr. Lincoln, and of the administration that he might form, nothing could then be known.
Mr. Buchanan denied the right of secession as a Constitutional right, but he also denied to the Government of the United States all power under the Constitution to prevent secession by force. As a consequence the Union could exist only by the concurring and continuing consent of each and every State. Hence it was competent in fact, if not in law, for a majority of the voters in the smallest State, as Delaware, for example, to declare the Union at an end. Thus it came to pass that the Constitutional opinions of the President harmonized with the purposes of the secessionists. They took the responsibility of seceding from the Union, and the President took the responsibility of announcing that the general Government had no power under the Constitution to interfere with their undertaking.
Denying the right of the National Government to preserve its existence by force, the opinions of the President upon the abstract Constitutional question of the right of secession were of no practical value whatever.
Upon the admission of Mr. Buchanan, the Union ceased to exist on the 17th day of December, 1860, when the State of South Carolina adopted the ordinance of secession. It followed from Mr. Buchanan's position that the war, and all the incidents and consequences of the war, were unconstitutional.
The weakness of his position was shown by the impotence of the conclusions to which he was driven. Having surrendered all right of jurisdiction over the territory and people of South Carolina, he yet attempted to assert a right of property in the custom-houses and forts that had been constructed by the United States, although he could not visit those custom-houses and forts except as an act of war. Upon his theory of the Government, Mr. Buchanan was President from the 17th of December, 1860, to the 4th of March, 1861, of a part only of the country that had elected him to office.
Thus, by the aggressive acts of one wing of the Democratic party, and the non-action of the representatives of the whole party, the Union ceased to exist. One wing of the party said the Union had no right to exist. The other wing of the party said the Union had no Constitutional right to maintain its existence by force. Standing in the presence of the facts that existed the 22d day of February, 1861, and with a knowledge of the opinions entertained by Mr. Buchanan, the conclusion is outside of the realm of controversy that if he had had two years more of official life, the Confederacy would have been established firmly and recognized by the leading nations of the world. The Union was dismembered and surrendered by the Democratic party.
The Union was re-established by the Republican party.
THE INAUGURATION OF MR. LINCOLN, AND THE POLITICAL AND MILITARY QUESTIONS THEN FORCED UPON THE COUNTRY.
R. BUCHANAN'S denial of the constitutional right of seces
an abstraction in presence of his declara
tion that the national government had not a constitutional right to preserve its existence by force. The position of Mr. Buchanan was more favorable to the South than any other that he could have chosen. The only peril of the South was war on the part of the national gov
Under the administration of Mr. Buchanan there could be no war. His assertion of the right of property in the custom-houses, forts, and arsenals, implied the use of force for their recovery and possession, but jurisdiction over the remaining territory of a State was still to be exercised by the State. With that jurisdiction conceded, of what use to the national government would have been the possession of custom-houses, arsenals, and forts? In a short period of time they would have been surrendered to the State authorities.
The effect of his position was to unite the South by relieving the timid and conservative elements of all fear of war. He thus made it possible for the advocates of immediate secession to say that the only thing needed was the courage to act, as the act would be accepted as an accomplished fact.
If Mr. Buchanan had asserted the right of secession, his influence with the democratic party of the North would have been greatly diminished if not destroyed utterly; but his qualified position was sustained apparently by all of the democratic voters in the Free States who had not supported Mr. Douglas. Mr. Buchanan's policy consolidated the South and divided the North.
Mr. Lincoln asserted his own position in his inaugural address, and thus indirectly he controverted the position occupied by Mr. Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan denied the right of secession and admitted the fact; Mr. Lincoln denied the right and the fact as well.
A portion of the inaugural address is devoted to a critical analysis of the government, to which Mr. Lincoln added these significant sentences: "It follows from these views, that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances. I, therefore, consider that in view of the constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken, and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States."
This declaration did not stop with the assertion of the right of property in custom-houses, forts, and arsenals; it announced a purpose to collect the revenues, to keep open the courts, to maintain the post-offices within the limits, and to carry the mails and transport troops and munitions of war over the territory of every State of the Union. It was an assertion of jurisdiction, with an assertion of all the powers incident to jurisdiction. Resistance on the part of any State to the exercise of that jurisdiction would be insurrection or revolution. Mr. Lincoln put the responsibility upon the disaffected States. He well knew, however, that they must either abandon the scheme of secession, or resist the jurisdiction of the United States. Indeed, South Carolina and other States had already asserted exclusive jurisdiction by seizing custom-houses and forts, and substituting State flags for the flag of the United States.
Under the lead of Mr. Buchanan it was impossible to re-establish the Union, as it had been impossible for him to preserve it. On the other hand, Mr. Lincoln did not admit that in a legal view the Union had been destroyed, and he announced his purpose to preserve it. He did not admit the right of secession, and he claimed that the so-called ordinances of secession were null and void.
Under a Democratic administration, and by the consent of its head, the Union was destroyed in fact if not in law. Under a Republican administration the Union was re-established in fact, as it existed in contemplation of law.
The months between the election in November and the inaugura