Page images

"It's important that you should understand the true condition of political affairs in this state. There is a shrewd, energetic, intellectual body of gentlemen in this state who belong to the So. Carolina school of politics. By force of talent and industry they generally control the Democratic party organization except when boldly and shrewdly opposed. Recent occurrences have placed these gentlemen in full sympathy with the masses of the people in Eastern Va. and in all the central and southern portions of Western Va. Unquestionably they would have carried the recent election if we had not been able to hold out tolerable evidences that there was a hope of obtaining by radical appeals to the Northern people constitutional guaranties of our slave property rights. We had to place our men in the recent contest upon that ground, and concede that secession ought to follow the extinction of the hope of constitutional amendments. I for one assumed that ground not only as expedient for the canvass but as right in itself as did many others. Upon that ground most of those called Union men prevailed. Men like Mr. Botts who took the unconditional Union ground went down generally. The most potent campaign paper in this part of the state was the statement of Messrs. Douglas and Crittenden that an adjustment was to be expected. If these representations are disappointed our men (called Union men in the election returns) will become determined unconditional secessionists. They are men in earnest-devoted to the Union and would mourn over its loss as a private grief. But they are resolute to shiver the bond if their effort to get guaranties fails. It is a noble and gallant body of gentlemen. The people of the Northern states have the political fortunes of these gentlemen as well as the destinies of this Union in their hands. If you meet our efforts in the spirit in which we made them everything is safe. If you stand back and leave us unsupported in this great contest the secession of Va. is as inevitable as fate. I tell you this as no menace but as a fact upon the knowledge of which you ought to direct your actions and that of your friends. Come forward promptly with liberal concessions make the Va. power and influence the potent instrument of saving the Union. So arrange it as to secure the credit in fact at least to the conservative influences of this state and you at once clothe those influences with the power to recall the

[ocr errors]

departing states. You may lose a portion of your own party North. But you place yourself and the new administration at the head of a national conservative party which will domineer over all other party organizations North and South yet many years to come. You above all men have it in your power to bring the really conservative elements North and South into an organization the most useful and the most peaceful yet seen in this country. But to be done at all this must be done promptly. You can make a shield of the peace commission at Washington. Make them lay down a basis of safety to our property owners upon which we can rally all the conservative influences North and South. Let them construct the platform upon which the shrewd partisan and the wise patriot can zealously unite. You can render a vast service to the country and to your own reputation. If at any moment I can be made instrumental in accomplishing this great purpose by going to Washington my friend Hon. John T. Harris of Va. will call me there."-Seward MSS.



"SPOTSWOOD HOUSE, RICHMOND, February 18, 1861.

"It is about as much as I can do to get to and from the convention in consequence of my leg which has again broken out. I am therefore disqualified from taking any active measures in regard to the matter you mention.

"If the Republicans in Congress and in the Peace Conference do not promptly and at once abandon the positions they have taken, there will be no Union party left in Virginia. We are struggling here against every obstacle, and Mr. Lincoln, by his speech in the North, has done us vast harm. If he will not be guided by Mr. Seward but puts himself in the hands of Mr. Chase and the ultra Republicans, nothing can save the cause of the Union in the South. Instead of circulating documents, it will be far better, to take care of your own friends, who are stabbing us every hour. Bingham of Ohio, and his force bill has done us more injury than an invading army. Show this letter to him and other wild men who conceive that their policy

and their principle, if enforced by the government will save us from danger. If they knew how the secessionists chuckled over them, as honest fools, they would awaken from the deep dream, which has sealed up their faculties. Let them see themselves as others see them.

"Many Republicans know me. They know the force of my character and words. If they choose to commit suicide let them blame themselves alone."-Seward MSS.



"WASHINGTON, February 19, 1861.

"Need I therefore repeat to you what I have already reported to you of them [the opinion of people irrespective of parties], that they looked to you for the prompt settlement of existing national troubles and the more so now since they disapprove of Mr. Lincoln's recent railroad speeches. As his Secretary of State, on you will devolve the main responsibility of national affairs. Once in that position you can defy your personal foes, and mould all measures necessary to promote the perman[en]cy of the Union to suit the hopes and expectations of the country. All old party platforms are now either breaking down or [are] being swallowed up in the universal desire of the people to save the republic from dissolution, and a new one, constructed upon Union principles per se will inevitably spring up after the 4th of next March. It is for you to take the lead or not in the movement. If you decide in the affirmative, the extreme men of the North and South will have to be thrown off and made subordinate to the centre, or conservative Union party. I do not hesitate to say, that no public man in this or any other country, has ever been placed in a better position than you are now, either for weal or woe of the human race. It is for you to say what shall be done. You, all know, are competent to decide; no man is more so, and I am sure you will solve and determine the difficulty in the right way, be the sacrifices of by-gone party principles what they may." . . .-Seward MSS.



"Private and confidential.

"SPOTSWOOD HOUSE, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, February 21, 1861. "DEAR SIR,-The messenger you spoke of to my brother James did not come. Write us soon. Let us hear from you. The matter you mentioned about a raid upon the capitol from Va. is a humbug. I have inquired specially. Nothing is thought of [it] in Virginia. This convention is a body of great personal worth and character too high toned to do anything which looks like a disgrace. Don't let anybody excite your friends with such stuff. You gentlemen of the Republican party ought to suppress excitement against us. Force bills can do your people no good, and yet paralyze the Union men here. It is very cruel to crush us. In telegraphing you we (my brother James and myself) will call [use?] the name of our mutual friend M. M. Dent who is entirely reliable and a member. In corresponding you would do well to use some mutual friend's frank such as [illegible] or John T. Harris, Millson or Boteler or any not publicly prominent member of your party. You understand this. Or just stamp your letters. You appreciate the necessity of our not appearing to be in conference with Mr. Lincoln's cabinet. Don't take this in any sense than that of policy."-Seward MSS.



"WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 1861.

“I am, as, I suppose, you [are] aware, a member of the House of Delegates of Va., as well charged with the sentiment of the Legislature and the Convention now sitting in Richmond, and with the general sentiment of my state as, perhaps, any one individual within her limits; and charged with the sentiment, I, an ardent friend of the Union, desire to say to you, another friend of the Union, that the passage now of what is termed

the force bill' will have, in Virginia, a most unhappy effect. We are now conservative. We have demonstrated, by our acts, our ardent desire to preserve the Union of the states, as it came to us from our fathers. The passage of this force bill will take from us the strong foothold that we have. It will cause the disunionists in Virginia, in Congress and out of it, to clap their hands with joy at the passage of this measure. There is a strong states-right vein running through the sentiment of our people, and a most determined opposition to coercion. The success of this measure will be regarded as looking to coercion and will wound the sensibilities of our people.

"For God's sake, and for the country's sake do nothing, and let nothing be done, to weaken the position of the conservatives. the Union men of Virginia. Strengthen us-give us ground to stand on. Above all things prevent the passage of this bill, and all will yet be well. Give 'no aid and comfort' to our enemy.

"I had designed to see you in person, but I am compelled to return to Richmond to-night, and so drop you this hasty line to be used as you see fit."-Seward MSS.



'FRIDAY NIGHT, 12 M. RICHMOND, VA., Feb. 22d. [1861.]

"I shall be back on Saturday. It was out of place for me to leave while anything was to be heard or gained. I have to say that the old Whig element is here strongly in the preponderance. It is divided into two classes. The older and more prominent men, whom it is urged here are seeking office as the result of their patriotic efforts, are in a measure opposed by a younger set of talented and rising individuals who still do not affiliate with the secessionists. It is the latter class who may yet follow the excesses of the extreme Southern movement and aid in the passage of secession resolutions. But the last-named conservatives will be guided much by public events. The passage of a Force bill by Congress would probably drive them into the ranks of the extremists. There is an evident disposition of these conservatives to hear the inaugural of the President elect. If that

« PreviousContinue »