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• resistance; and it soon became evident that this purpose had been long cherished, and that members of the government under the Presidency of Mr. BUCHANAN had officially given it their sanction and aid. On the 29th of October GENERAL Scott sent to the President and John B. Floyd, bis Secretary of War, a letter expressing apprehensions lest the Southern people should seize some of the Federal forts in the Southern States, and advising that they should be immediately garrisoned by way of precaution. The Secretary of War, according to statements subsequently made by one of his eulogists in Virginia, “thwarted, objected, resisted, and forbade" the adoption of those measures, which, according to the same authority, if carried into execution, would have defeated the conspiracy, and rendered impossible the formation of a Southern Confederacy. An official report from the ordnance department, dated January 16, 1861, also shows that during the year 1860, and previous to the Presidential election, 115,000 muskets had been removed from Northern armories and sent to Southern arsenals by a single order of the Secretary of War, issued on the 30th of December, 1859. On the 20th of November the Attorney-General, Hon. John S. BLACK, in reply to inquiries of the President, gave him the official opinion that Congress had no right to carry on war against any State, either to prevent a threatened violation of the Constitution or to enforce an acknowledgment that the Government of the United States is supreme : and it soon became evident that the President adopted this theory as the basis and guide of his Executive action.
South Carolina took the lead in the secession movement. Her legislature assembled on the 4th of November, 1860, and, after casting the electoral vote of the State for John C. BRECKINRIDGE to be President of the United States, passed an act the next day calling a State Convention to meet at Columbia on the 17th of December. On the 10th, F. W. Pickens was
elected Governor, and, in his inaugural, declared the deterinination of the State to secede, on the ground that, “ in the recent election for President and Vice-President, the North had carried the election upon principles that make it no longer safe for us to rely upon the powers of the Federal Government or the guarantees of the Federal Compact. This,” he added, “is the great overt act of the people of the Northern States, who propose to inaugurate a chief magistrate not to preside over the common interests or destinies of all the States alike, but upon issues of malignant hostility and uncompromising war to be waged upon the rights, the interests, and the peace of half of the States of this Union.” The Convention met on the 17th of December, and adjourned the next day to Charleston, on account of the prevalence of small pox at Columbia. On the 20th an ordinance was passed unanimously repealing the ordinance adopted May 23, 1788, whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified, and “ dissolving the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States under the name of the United States of America ;” and on the 24th the Governor issued his proclamation, declaring the State of South Carolina to be a “ separate, sovereign, free, and independent State.”
This was the first act of secession passed by any State. The debates in the State Convention show clearly enough that it was not taken under the impulse of resentment for any sharp and remediless wrong, nor in apprehension that any such wrong would be inflicted ; but in pursuance of a settled and long-cherished purpose. In that debate Mr. Parker said that the movement was no spasmodic effort—it had been gradually culminating for a long series of years." Mr. Inglis endorsed this remark, and added, “ Most of us have had this matter under consideration for the last twenty years.” Mr. L. M. Keitt said, “ I have been engaged in this movement ever since I entered political life.” And Mr. Rhett, who had been
for many years in the public servic., declared that “the secession of South Carolina was not the event of a day. It is not,” said he, "any thing produced by Mr. Lincoln's election, or by the non-execution of the Fugitive Slave Law. It is a matter which has been gathering head for thirty years. The election of Lincoln and Hamlip was the last straw on the back of the camel. But it was not the only one. The back was nearly broken before." So far as South Carolina was concerned there can be no doubt that her action was decided by men who had been plotting disunion for thirty years, not on account of any wrongs her people had sustained at the hands of the Federal Government, but from motives of personal and sectional ambition, and for the purpose of establishing a gora ernment which should be permanently and completely in the interest of slavery.
But the disclosures which have since been made, imperfect comparatively as they are, prove clearly that the whole secession movement was in the hands of a few conspirators, who had their head-quarters at the national Capital, and were themselves closely connected with the Government of the United States. A secret meeting of these men was held at Washington on the night of the 5th of January, 1861, at which the Senators from Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida were present. They decided, by resolutions, that each of the Southern States should secede from the Union as soon as possible; that a Convention of seceding States should be held at Montgomery, Alabama, not later than the 15th of February; and that the Senators and Members of Congress from the Southern States ought to remain in their seats as long as possible, in order to defeat measures that might be proposed at Washington hostile to the secession movement. Davis of Mississippi, Slidell of Louisiana, and Mallory of Florida, were appointed a committee to carry these decisions into effect; and, in pursuance of them, Mississippi passed an ordinance of secession January 9th; Alabama and Florida, January 11; Louisiana, January 26, and Texas, February 5th. All these acts, as well as all which followed, were siinply the execution of the behests of this secret conclave of conspirators who had resolved upon secession. In all the Conventions of the seceding States, delegates were appointed to meet at Montgomery. In not one of them was the question of secession submitted to a vote of the people; although in some of them the Legislatures had expressly forbidden them to pass any ordinance of secession without making its validity depend on its ratification by the popular vote. The Convention met at Montgomery on the 4th of February, and adopted a provisional constitution, to continue in operation for one year. Under this constitution Jefferson Davis was elected President of the new Confederacy, and Alex. H. Stephens, of Georgia, Vice-President. Both were inaugurated on the 18th. In an address delivered on his arrival at Montgomery, Mr. Davis declared that “the time for compromise has now passed, and the South is determined to maintain her position, and make all who oppose her smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel, if coercion is persisted in.” He felt sure of the result; it might be they would " have to encounter inconveniences at the beginning,” but he bad no doubts of the final issue. The first part of his anticipation has been fully realized ; it remains
1 to be seen whether the end will be as peaceful and satisfactory as he predicted.
The policy of the new Confederacy towards the United States was soon officially made known. The government decided to maintain the status quo until the expiration of Mr. BUCHANAN's term, feeling assured that, with his declared belief that it would be unconstitutional to coerce a State, they need apprehend from his administration no active hostility to their designs. They had some hope that, by the 4th of March, their new Confederacy would be so far advanced that the new
Administration might waive its purpose of coercion; and they deemed it wise not to do any thing which should rashly forfeit the favor and support of “ that very large portion of the North whose moral sense was on their side.” Nevertheless, they entered upon prompt and active preparations for war. Contracts were made in various parts of the South for the manufacture of powder, shell, cannon balls, and other munitions of war. Recruiting was set on foot in several of the States. A plan was adopted for the organization of a regular arny of the Confederacy, and on the 6th of March Congress passed an act authorizing a military force of 100,000 men.
Thus was opened a new chapter in the history of America. Thus were taken the first steps towards overthrowing the Government and Constitution of the United States, and establishing a new nation, with a new Constitution, resting upon new principles, and aiming at new results. The Constitution of the United States was ordained “in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” We have the clear and explicit testimony of A. H. Stephens, the Vice-President of the rebel Confederacy, echoing and reaffirming that of the whole civilized world, to the fact, that these high and noble objects—the noblest and the grandest at which human institutions can aim-have been more nearly attained in the practical working of the Government of the United States than anywhere else on the face of the earth. “I look
upon this country, with our institutions,” said Mr. Stephens before the Legislature of Georgia, on the 14th of November, 1860, after the result of the Presidential election was known, as the Eden of the world, the paradise of the universe. It may be that out of it we may become greater and more prosperous, but I am candid and sincere in telling you that I fear if we rashly evince passion, and without