George Oberkirsh Seilhamer.

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charge of the duty we owe to our constituents and our country, unite
in the following declarations:

1. That the history of the nation, during the last four years, has
fully established the propriety and necessity of the organization and
perpetuation of the Republican party, and that the causes which
called it into existence are permanent in their nature, and now, more
than ever before, demand its peaceful and constitutional triumph.

2. That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the
Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitu-
tion " that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights,
governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed " is essential to the preservation of
our institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the
States, and the union of the States, must and shall be preserved.

3. That to the union of the States this nation owes its unprece-
dented increase in population, its surprising development of material
resources, its rapid augmentation of wealth, its happiness at home,
and its honor abroad; and we hold in abhorrence all schemes for dis-
union, come from whatever source they may; and we congratulate the
country that no Republican member of Congress has uttered or coun-
tenanced the threats of disunion so often made by Democratic mem-
bers, without rebuke and with applause from their political associ-
ates; and we denounce those threats of disunion, in case of a popular
overthrow of their ascendency, as denying the vital principles of a
free government, and as an avowal of contemplated treason, which
it is the imperative duty of an indignant people sternly to rebuke and
forever silence.

4. That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and
especially the right of each State to order and control its own domes-
tic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essen-
tial to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance
of our political fabric depends; and we denounce the lawless inva-
sion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter
under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

5. That the present Democratic administration has far exceeded
our worst apprehensions, in its measureless subserviency to the ex-
actions of a sectional interest, as especially evinced in its desperate
exertions to force the infamous Lecompton Constitution upon the
protesting people of Kansas; in construing the personal relation be-
tween master and servant to involve an unqualified property in per-
son; in its attempted enforcement, everywhere, on land and sea,


through the intervention of Congress and of the Federal courts, of
the extreme pretensions of a purely local interest; and in its general
and unvarying abuse of the power intrusted to it by a confiding

6. That the people justly view with alarm the reckless extrava-
gance which pervades every department of the Federal Government;
that a return to rigid economy and accountability is indispensable to
arrest the sympathetic plunder of the public treasury by favored par-
tisans; while the recent startling developments of frauds and corrup-
tions at the Federal metropolis show that an entire change of ad-
ministration is imperatively demanded.

7. That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force,
carries slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States,
is a dangerous political heresy, at variance with the explicit provi-
sions of that instrument itself, with contemporaneous exposition, and
with legislative and judicial precedent; is revolutionary in its tend-
ency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country.

8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United
States is that of freedom; that as our Republican fathers, when they
had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that no
person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due
process of law, it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such
legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution
against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Con-
gress, of a Territorial Legislature, or of any individual, to give legal
existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States.

9. That we brand the recent reopening of the American slave
trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of
judicial power, as a crime against humanity, and a burning shame to
our country and age; and we call upon Congress to take prompt and
efficient measures for the total and final suppression of that execrable

10. That in the recent vetoes, by their Federal Governors, of the
acts of the Legislatures of Kansas and Nebraska, prohibiting slavery
in those Territories, we find a practical illustration of the boasted
Democratic principle of non-intervention and popular sovereignty,
embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and a demonstration of the
deception and fraud involved therein.

11. That Kansas should of right be immediately admitted as a
State under the Constitution recently formed and adopted by her
people and accepted by the House of Representatives.

12. That, while providing revenue for the support of the general
government by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an


adjustment of these imposts as to encourage the development of the
industrial interests of the whole country; and we commend that
policy of national exchanges which secures to the workingmen liberal
wages, to agriculture remunerating prices, to mechanics and manu-
facturers an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise,
and to the nation commercial prosperity and independence.

13. That we protest against any sale or alienation to others of
the public lands held by actual settlers, and against any view of the
free-homestead policy which regards the settlers as paupers or sup-
pliants for public bounty; and w r e demand the passage by Congress
of the complete and satisfactory homestead measure which has al-
ready passed the House.

14. That the Republican party is opposed to any change in our
naturalization laws, or any State legislation by which the rights of
citizenship hitherto accorded to immigrants from foreign lands shall
be abridged or impaired; and in favor of giving a full and efficient
protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or
naturalized, both at home and abroad.

15. That appropriations by Congress for river and harbor im-
provements of a national character, required for the accommodation
and security of our existing commerce, are authorized by the Consti-
tution, and justified by the obligations of government to protect the
lives and property of its citizens.

16. That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively de-
manded by the interests of the whole country ; that the Federal Gov-
ernment ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construc-
tion; and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily overland mail should
be promptly established.

17. Finally, having thus set forth our distinctive principles and
views, we invite the co-operation of all citizens, however differing on
other questions, who substantially agree with us in their affirmance
and support.


Springfield, 111., May 23, 1860.

President of the Republican National Convention.
SIR: I accept the nomination tendered me by the Convention over
which you presided, and of which I am formally apprised in the
letter of yourself and others, acting as a Committee of the Conven-
tion, for that purpose.

The declaration of principles and sentiments which accompanies


your letter meets my approval; and it shall be my care not to violate
or disregard it in any part.

Imploring the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due re-
gard to the views and feelings of all who were represented in the
Convention; to the rights of all the States and Territories and people
of the nation; to the inviolability of the Constitution, and the per-
petual union, harmony, and prosperity of all. I am now happy to
co-operate for the practical success of the principles declared by the

Your obliged friend and fellow-citizen,




The Conspiracy in the Cabinet Buchanan's Last Annual Message-
Judge Black Reconstruction of the Cabinet Disintegration
of the Thirty-sixth Congress Efforts at Compromise in Congress
Concessions of the North An " Embassy " from South Caro-
lina The Peace Convention Responsibility of the Republican
Party Demoralization of Northern Sentiment Fears of Con-
spiracies The Electoral Count Lincoln's Unexpected Appear-
ance in Washington.

HE secession conspiracy that followed immediately after
Lincoln's election was essentially a part of the Breckin-
ridge campaign. The cabal centered, if it did not originate,
in President Buchanan's Cabinet. The Cabinet conspira-
tors were Howell Cobb, of Georgia, Secretary of the Treasury; John
B. Floyd, of Virginia, Secretary of War; and Jacob Thompson, of
Mississippi, Secretary of the Interior. Intimately associated with
them was William H. Trescott, of South Carolina, Assistant Secretary
of State. Trescott acted as a sort of go-between for the conspirators
in the South and the conspirators in the Cabinet. Five days before
the Presidential election he wrote to Robert Barnwell Rhett, with
the authorization of the Secretary of the Treasury, " that upon the
election of Lincoln Georgia ought to secede from the Union, and that
she will do so. ... But he desires me to impress upon you his
conviction that any attempt to precipitate the actual issue upon this
administration will be most mischievous calculated to produce dif-
ferences of opinion and destroy unanimity." Secretary Floyd was
even then negotiating with agents of some of the Southern States for
a sale of muskets belonging to the United States. Mr. Buchanan was
not in ignorance of the attitude of the three conspirators in his Cab-
inet, with the possible exception of Floyd. Secretary Cobb told him
three days after the election that he thought " disunion inevitable,
and under present circumstances most desirable." Secretary Thomp-
son objected to the President's proposed message, when it was shown
to the Cabinet on the 10th of November, because, as Floyd recorded
his objection, he " misses entirely the temper of the Southern people;
and attacks the true State-rights doctrine on the subject of secession."


Secretary Floyd expressed himself decidedly opposed to any rash
movement. " I did so," he said, " because I think that Lincoln's ad-
ministration will fail, and be regarded as impotent for good or evil
within four months after his inauguration." As he was then selling
muskets, altered from flint to percussion by the Ordnance Depart-
ment, to the Southern States, his prudence must be regarded as rather
sinister. An essential part of the conspiracy at this time was tne
blind adhesion of Isaac Toucey, of Connecticut, Secretary of the
Navy, who told the President only three days after Lincoln's election
that " retaliatory State measures would prove most availing in bring-
ing Northern fanatics to their senses." Secretary Toucey w r as useful
to the South in placing the United States Navy beyond reach of the
incoming administration, in anticipation of secession. It is scarcely
surprising, with revolution thus organized in his Cabinet with his
knowledge, that the President finally announced to Congress the
remarkable paradox that while a State has no right to secede, the
Union has no right to coerce a seceding State.

President Buchanan's last annual message to Congress was an ex-
traordinary document a message of which the London Times said
truly a month later, that " it was a greater blow to the American
people than all the rants of the Georgian Governor or the ordinances
of the Charleston Convention. The President has dissipated the idea
that the States which elected him constitute one people." In this ex-
traordinary message Mr. Buchanan informed Congress that " the long-
continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with
the question of slavery in the Southern States has at last produced
its natural effect." His conception of this effect existed only in his
own imagination. " The feeling of peace at home," he said, " has
given place to apprehension of servile insurrections, and many a
matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may
befall herself and her children before morning." Mr. Buchanan was
not entirely convinced that the election of Mr. Lincoln justified seces-
sion. " The election of any one of our fellow r -citizens to the office of
President," he declared, with an unctuous complacency that was un-
affected, " does not of itself afford just cause for dissolving the
Union." Then he added a qualification that was even more unctuous
and extraordinary. " This is more especially true," he continued, " if
his election has been effected by a mere plurality, and not a majority,
of the people, and has resulted from transient and temporary causes,
which may probably never occur again." He then discussed the al-
leged grievances of the South, and conceded the " wrongs " of the
Slave States. " The Southern States, standing on the basis of the
Constitution," he argued, after urging the repeal of so-called " per-



sonal liberty laws " in some of the States, " have a right to demand
this act of justice from the States of the North. Should it be refused,
then the Constitution to which all the States are parties, will have
been willfully violated by one portion of them in a provision essential
to the domestic security and happiness of the remainder. In that
event, the injured States, after having used all peaceful and consti-
tutional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary
resistance to the government of the Union." After this admission
his argument against the assumption by any State of an inherent
right to secede at its own will and pleasure was alike fatal to his
own administration and to the Union. It was all the extremists of
the South desired. The President had practically conceded the duty,
if not the right of secession, and the conspirators in his own Cabinet
and in Congress proceeded to use the weap-
on he had placed in their hands.

It was at first believed that these de-
structive doctrines had the approbation of
Mr. Buchanan's entire Cabinet, but it was
not long until General Cass, the venerable
Secretary of State, and Jeremiah S. Black,
the learned and able Attorney-General,
realized the false position in which the
President had placed them. When it be-
came known that Mr. Buchanan would not
insist upon the collection of the national
revenue in South Carolina, or upon
strengthening the United States forts in
Charleston harbor, Cass determined to
separate from the administration. He
resigned on the 12th of December, only nine

days after the fatal message was sent to Congress. Thereupon Black
was called upon to succeed him in the Department of State. Judge
Black was a remarkable character. His literary and legal acquire-
ments were prodigious. As a lawyer he was at the head of the
American bar; as a jurist he had never had a superior on the Ameri-
can bench. He was a man of broad views, profound convictions, and
ineradicable prejudices. He made distinctions in the line of conduct
that he marked out for himself and the practice of others. His own
conscience would not have permitted him to hold a man in bondage,
but he saw no reason for rebuking the holding of slaves by those
whose consciences approved of it. He regarded the South with affec-
tion, and for New England he had a detestation that was racial
rather than personal. " The New Englander individually I greatly



affect," he often said, " but in the mass I judge them to be stark mad."
The Southern fire-eaters he regarded as the victims of Northern
Abolitionists, and while he deprecated disunion in the South, he
looked upon the doctrines of the Republican party as inconsistent
with loyalty to the Union. Some of the w r orst features of Mr. Bu-
chanan's message were due to his suggestion, and had he continued
as Attorney-General until the close of the administration it is not
likely he would have revised the conclusions on which these features
were based. For Buchanan he had an attachment that begun with
his youth, and had grown with his growth. Buchanan's fame was
as dear to him as his own. But he was not subservient, and when he
was confronted by conditions that his judgment and his conscience
rejected, he had the courage to oppose them. Judge Black succeeded
Cass as Secretary of State on the 17th of December the day when
the Disunion Convention assembled at Charleston. Three days later
the Ordinance of Secession was passed, and Black was only in his
fourth day in the State Department when Governor Pickens pro-
claimed South Carolina a separate, free, sovereign, and independent
State. From that moment there was a new power in the White House.
The demand for the surrender of the forts of the United States to
South Carolina was refused. The disunion conspirators in the Cab-
inet found their positions untenable, and resigned in quick succes-
sion. Floyd was the first to go, and he was succeeded by Joseph
Holt, of Mississippi, as Secretary of War. Thompson followed Floyd,
but not immediately. Cobb had gone to Georgia before the resigna-
tion of Cass to stimulate secession, and Philip Francis Thomas, of
Maryland, succeeded him. A complete reorganization of the Cabinet
became necessary. Edwin M. Stanton succeeded Black as Attorney-
General, and Horatio King, of Maine,, became the successor of Holt
as Postmaster-General. Refusing to accede to the new policy, Thomas
resigned, and was succeeded by John A. Dix. Thus two months after
the election of Lincoln the Cabinet was reconstituted as it ought to
have been reconstituted on the 7th of November.

The disintegration of the 36th Congress began with the withdrawal
of the South Carolina delegation from the House of Representatives
on the 24th of December. The withdrawal of the other States fol-
lowed in the order of their secession. In the House the leavetaking
was in the main without defiance, and, except in a few cases, without
any show of bravado. The retiring Senators from the seceding
States were more outspoken, the Senate affording a better field than
the House for valedictories of justification and recrimination. Among
the most inflammatory of these speeches were those of Clement C.
Clay, Jr., of Alabama; Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi; Alfred Iverson,


of Georgia, and John Slidell, of Louisiana. In the mean time numer-
ous propositions of compromise were before Congress, all of which
humiliated the North without appeasing the South. In the Senate a
Committee of Thirteen, comprising seven Democrats, five Republicans,
and the venerable John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, who belonged to

1/7 tJ

neither party, was appointed to devise measures of conciliation,
through which a dissolution of the Union might be averted. In the
House a similar Committee of Thirty-three, with Thomas Corwin, of
Ohio, as chairman, w r as intrusted with a like task. The Senate Com-
mittee of Thirteen came to no agreement, but the House Committee
of Thirty-three made a report that embodied nearly every objection-
able suggestion submitted to it.

The recommendations embraced everything the South had ever
asked, and more. The Free States were
to repeal all their " personal liberty
laws "; New Mexico, which included the
present Territory of Arizona, was to be
admitted as a Slave State; it was pro-
posed still further to amend the Fugi
tive Slave Law so as to provide for the
trial of an alleged runaw r ay in the State
from which it was claimed he had es-
caped, and his surrender without trial in
the State in which he was found; and
the Constitution of the United States
was to be amended so as to render it-
impossible to abolish slavery in any
State without the consent of every State JOHN ,i. CRITTENDEN.

in the Union. But even these conces-
sions, sweeping as they were, were not considered a sufficient price for
a preserved Union, and a minority of the Committee of Thirty-three,
consisting of five Southern members, made a report in which they
proposed six amendments which, if adopted, would have placed
slavery under the guardianship and protection of the National Gov-
ernment. These six propositions were: (1) That in all the territory
south of the old Missouri line, then held or to be afterward acquired,
slavery of the African race was to be recognized as existing, not to be
interfered with by Congress, but to be protected by all the depart-
ments of the Territorial Government during its existence; (2) that Con-
gress should have no power to interfere with slavery even in those
places under its exclusive jurisdiction in the Slave States; (3) that Con-
gress should never interfere with slavery in the District of Columbia
without the consent of Maryland and Virginia and the inhabitants of


the District, nor without just compensation for the slaves, and even
denying to Congress the right to prohibit officers of the General Gov-
ernment and members from bringing their slaves to the District, hold-
ing them there, and taking them away again; (4) that Congress
should not interfere with the transportation of slaves from one State
to another, or to any territory south of the Missouri line, whether
that transportation be by land, by navigable river, or by sea; (5) that
it should be the duty of Congress to provide for the payment from the
National Treasury for any fugitive slave whose arrest was prevented
by violence or intimidation, or who, after arrest, w r as rescued by force;
and (6) that " no future amendment to the Constitution shall ever be
passed that shall affect any provision of the five amendments just re-
cited; that the provision in the original Constitution which guaran-
tees the count of three-fifths of the slaves in the basis of representa-
tion shall never be changed by any amendment; that no amendment
shall ever be made which alters or impairs the original provision for
the recovery of fugitives from service; that no amendment shall ever
be made that shall permit Congress to interfere in any way with
slavery in the States where it may be permitted." These extraordi-
nary propositions were substantially identical with the vaunted Crit-
tenden Compromise, the failure of which is still a matter for regret
with Democratic historians.

The Crittenden Compromise was the most nefarious measure ever
proposed in the history of Congress. The intrenchment of slavery in
the Constitution and the subordination of the Free States to the con-
stitutional rights of the slavehunters were not its worst features. It
looked to the acquisition of Cuba, of Mexico, and of South America
as slave territory. It was the greatest temptation ever offered to
the slave power for the indefinite expansion of slavery within the
Union. Even Jefferson Davis was dazzled by the splendid prospect
it held out for Southern aggrandizement. He lingered in the Senate
even after Mississippi had seceded, and it was only after the failure
of the Crittenden propositions that he withdrew. Toombs, too, is
quoted as one of the Southern Senators who would have given it a
reluctant assent. " Mr. Toombs, will this compromise, as a remedy
for all wrongs and apprehensions, be acceptable to you?" Mr. Crit-
tenden asked him while they sat together in the Senate Committee
of Thirteen. " Not by a good deal," he answered ; " but my State will
accept it, and I will follow my State." But neither Davis nor Toombs
would have accepted the Crittenden Compromise as a finality. In
the Committee of Thirteen Mr. Davis submitted a proposition for a
constitutional amendment providing for a recognition of property
in slaves in any State in the Union, and not subject to be diverted or


impaired by the local law of any State " either in escape thereto, or of

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 61)