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transit or sojourn of the owner therein." This proposition contem-
plated the introduction of slavery into the Free States, but notwith-
standing this it received the votes of two Northern Senators in the
committee Bigler, of Pennsylvania, and Rice, of Minnesota. These
two were the only Northern Democrats in the Committee of Thir-
teen, with the exception of Mr. Douglas, who did not vote on the Davis
proposition. Had the South accepted the Crittenden Compromise,
there would have been a demand later for a Union all slave, and, as is
shown by the vote on the Davis proposition, the demand would have
had the support of a part of the Northern Democracy.

In the House of Representatives the most important of the recom-
mendations of the Committee of Thirty-three received affirmative
action. The propositions to admit New Mexico as a Slave State and
to amend the Fugitive Slave Law were adopted, and even a constitu-
tional amendment declaring that "no amendment shall be made to
the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power
to abolish, or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institu-
tions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the
law of said State," was adopted by a vote of 133 to 65. This was to
have been the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. If adopted,
this amendment would have been only less far-reaching than that of
the Crittenden Compromise. Among the Republicans in the 30th Con-
gress, who would have consented to the intrenchment of slavery in
the organic law, were Mr. Sherman, of Ohio; Mr. Colfax, of Indiana;
Charles Francis Adams, of Massachusetts; Mr. Howard, of Michigan;
Mr. Windom, of Minnesota, and Messrs. Moorhead and McPherson,
of Pennsylvania. Among those who refused to yield to the fears of
the weaker brethren were Thaddeus Stevens and Galusha A. Grow,
of Pennsylvania; Roscoe Conkling and Reuben E. Fenton, of New
York; Marston and Tappan, of New Hampshire; Anson Burlingame,
of Massachusetts, and the two Washburns, one of Massachusetts and
the other of Wisconsin. When the proposition reached the Senate
eight Republican Senators voted for it Anthony, of Rhode Island;
Baker, of Oregon; Dixon and Foster, of Connecticut; Grimes and Har-
lan, of Iowa; Morrill, of Maine, and Ten Eyck, of New Jersey. Only
twelve out of the twenty-five Republican Senators voted in the nega-
tive. Seward, Fessenden, and Collamer did not vote. Although it
received the sanction of both Houses of Congress, this amendment
came to nothing, being lost sight of in the burning questions of the
Civil War. No better proof of the utter demoralization of the Repub-
lican party, that followed the Republican triumph of I860, can be
found than the willingness of nearly every Republican Senator and


Representative in the 36th Congress to admit New Mexico as a Slave
State, and to organize the Territories of Colorado, Dakota, and Nev-
ada without prohibiting slavery. The hour of conciliation only failed
to become one of surrender because the South was bent upon seces-
sion, and declined to accept the sacrifice. Strange as it may sound,
the North and the Republican party owed to the recklessness of dis-
union an escape from the humiliation of consenting to make the
United States a Slave Empire, with slavers on the ocean, and wars
of conquest for the acquisition of slave territory.

There were some episodes of the winter of 1860-61 in Washington
that seem very ludicrous now, but were regarded with great serious-
ness then. One of these episodes was the appearance at the capital
of an " embassy " from the sovereign and independent State of South
Carolina to negotiate a treaty of peaceful surrender of the armed
fortresses and other property of the United States within the limits
of the new sovereignty. This " embassy " came to Washington with
as funny a Secretary of Legation as ever danced and flirted in the
court circles of Europe. He was a very young person, and not at all
imposing. He wore patent leather shoes, and light-colored trousers
in very large plaids. This singular young person appeared officially
before the Committee of Thirty-three of the House. When Repre-
sentative Dawes, of Massachusetts, asked him what brought him to
Washington he repeated the question with surprise, and added, " You
cannot be ignorant that the new sovereign State of South Carolina
has sent an embassy to negotiate a treaty of friendship and alliance
with its neighbors of the United States, with w r hich it is desirous of
living on terms of fellowship; and I have the honor of being secretary
of that legation." The " embassy " took a fine house in K street, the
rent of which is still owing, where the} 7 unfurled the flag of their lega-
tion, and prepared to present their credentials to President Buchanan.
The usefulness of the " embassy " was impaired, however, by an event
for which neither the commissioners nor the administration were
prepared. Major Robert Anderson, who was in command of the forti-
fications in Charleston harbor, suddenly, on the night of the 26th of
December, transferred his little force from Fort Moultrie, where it
was at the mercy of the " Sovereign State of South Carolina," to Fort
Sumter, where he had some hope of making a successful defense in
case of attack. Anderson's stroke emboldened the Commissioners to
demand the immediate withdrawal of the troops from the harbor of
Charleston, under a threat of suspending negotiations which were
not yet begun. Thereupon the President, who had consented to re-
ceive the agents of a conspiracy, was impelled, after prolonged hesita-
tion, to dismiss the emissaries of an insurrection, and to make an un-


successful effort to succor the beleaguered garrison. It was the im-
pudence of the demand, backed by the preparations of South Carolina
for war with the United States, that induced Judge Black to stop the
temporizing folly of Buchanan, and to reverse the feeble policy of the

One of the episodes of that remarkable winter in Washington was
the famous Peace Convention, from which so much was expected, but
which achieved so little. It was appointed upon the invitation of the
General Assembly of Virginia, and comprised 133 Commissioners, in-
cluding many from the border States. It met on the 4th of Febru-
ary, when only one month of the 36th Congress remained. A commit-
tee consisting of one Commissioner from each State was appointed
to consider the conflicting propositions offered in Convention, and " to
report what they may deem right, necessary, and proper to restore
harmony and preserve the Union." This committee was instructed to
report on or before the 8th, but the report was not made until the
15th. The propositions reported by the majority of the Committee
were substantially the same as the Crittenden Compromise. Minority
reports were made by Mr. Baldwin, of Connecticut, and Mr. Seddon,
of Virginia. Mr. Baldwin's proposition was for a Convention for a
proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States, to be
submitted to the Legislatures of the several States, or to conventions
therein, for ratification. One of Mr. Seddon's propositions was the
distinct recognition of the right of secession, and a final vote was not
reached on the first section of the proposed amendment until the 26th
of February. This section, on which all the others depended, was
negatived by a vote of 8 States to 11. Immediately after the section
had been negatived, a motion to reconsider the vote prevailed, and
the Convention adjourned until the next morning. On the 27th the
section was adopted by a vote of 9 to 8 States. The States voting in
the negative were Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont,
Connecticut, Illinois, Virginia, and North Carolina. Missouri withheld
her vote, and New York was unable to vote because of the absence of
one of the Commissioners from that State. The remaining sections
were carried by small majorities. The amendment adopted by the Con-
vention was communicated to the Senate and House of Representa-
tives by Mr. Tyler, the President, but it failed in the Senate by a vote of
28 to 7, while in the House the Speaker was refused leave to present
it. As six States had already seceded, and took no part in the Con-
vention, this last effort for peace was foredoomed to failure from the

It has been held by Democratic writers since the war that the Re-
publican party was responsible for the failure of the compromise


measures of 1860-61. One Democratic historian asserts that " no man
can point to one law passed by Congress to prevent secession, or to
avoid war. Those Republicans who did not go with Greeley and
Chief Justice Chase in letting the South l go in peace/ expected and
wished for war, as a means of fulfilling their promises to the Aboli-
tionists." S. S. Cox, in his " Three Decades of Federal Legislation,"
written long after the war, declared that those who sought to coun-
teract the schemes of secession were themselves checkmated by ex-
treme men of the Republican party, who, he assumes, were for the
destruction of slavery at the peril of war and disunion. The people,
Mr. Cox declared, favored the compromise. We should be compelled
to regard these assertions as true, if the panic that existed all over
the North and the petitions signed by thousands of Northern citizens
and showered upon Congress, were accepted as proofs of the attitude
of the Free States. If the principles contained in the Crittenden
Compromise had triumphed, and been accepted by the seceding States,
the surrender would have involved the disorganization of the Repub-
lican party. Its continued existence would have been considered a
continual menace to slavery, and every Presidential election in which
it participated would have been conducted with menaces of secession
in case of Republican success. When South Carolina seceded all com-
promise was futile, unless the Republican party consented to go out
of business at once and forever. This was what was expected and
demanded by the Democratic champions of slavery in the North.
" When the struggle was at its height in Georgia between Robert
Toombs, for secession, and Alexander H. Stephens, against it," said
William Bigler, of Pennsylvania, as late as 1863, " had those men in
the Committee of Thirteen, who are now so blameless in their own
estimation, given us their votes, or even three of them, Stephens
would have defeated Toombs, and secession would have been pros-
trated. I heard Mr. Toombs say to Mr. Douglas that the result in
Georgia was staked on the action of the Committee of Thirteen. If
it accepted the Crittenden propositions, Stephens would defeat him;
if not, he would carry the State out by 40,000 majority. The three
votes from the Republican side would have carried it at any time;
but union and peace in the balance against the Chicago platform
were sure to be found wanting." This man, who had voted with Jef-
ferson Davis in the Committee of Thirteen to introduce slavery into
the Free States, thought it criminal in Republican Senators that they
should wish to preserve the principles of their party and the fruits of
its victory.

While Democratic writers accuse the Republican leaders of 1860-61
of making no efforts to avert secession, later Republicans are more apt


to charge them with cherishing a conciliatory spirit that was both
shameful and cowardly. The Democratic accusations are forgotten
sophistries that if recalled now are contemptuously dismissed. These
sophistries seemed irrefragable in the winter of 1860-61 to many per-
sons who became sound Republicans afterward. In this era it is not
easy to realize the love for the Union that was felt during the epoch
when it was assailed. No sacrifice was considered too great for its
preservation. At the same time the hatred of slavery was not very
deep or very bitter even in the Republican States. Thousands of men
in every Free State had voted for Lincoln and Hamlin, who were only
Kepublicans when the sun shone and the skies were blue and fair.
These fair-weather Kepublicans were appalled when they saw the
storm that was the result of their victory. They were willing to
sacrifice their principles and their party for their country and its in-
stitutions, and they believed they were patriots in doing it. Men
who had accepted the Whig platform of 1852, and voted for Pillmore
and Donelson or Buchanan and Breckinridge in 1856, were willing
to repent in sackcloth and ashes for having supported Lincoln and
Hamlin in 1860. Few of the old Whigs became Abolitionists until
after slavery was abolished. Many of the men who helped to nomi-
nate Lincoln in 1860 opposed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.
The disintegration of the Republican party began with the news of
Republican success. The reaction in the North was so great that it
amounted to self-abasement. The sentiments that were applauded
in the campaign were now received with jeers instead of cheers. A
mob was threatened in Philadelphia to prevent George William Cur-
tis from delivering a lecture before the People's Literary Union, and
a Republican Mayor lacked the courage to protect the lecturer.
Among the intending rioters, no doubt, were some of the men who, a
few months before, had serenaded Benjamin Harris Brewster, after-
ward Attorney-General in President Arthur's Cabinet, in recognition
of his services as a lawyer in sending a fugitive slave back to slavery.
" The institution of domestic servitude is a great public necessity,"
Mr. Brewster said in his speech " politically right, socially right,
and morally right." When such were the opinions of a man who
afterward became one of the high priests of the party, it is not sur-
prising that the mob that rejoiced in the return of a runaway was
loud in demanding surrender to slavery. Everywhere Union meetings
were held, in which the South was implored to come back, with
declarations that every peaceable remedy should be exhausted, party
platforms set aside, and individual records cast to the winds. With
such a state of feeling and such abasement in the North, interspersed
with Northern proclamations of the wrongs of the South and the right
of secession, it is no wonder that Republicans in Congress gave way,



only to be treated with contempt by the seceding States and derision
by the departing statesmen. While good men abased themselves,
men of the kind who had serenaded Brewster and were threatening
Curtis rejoiced in their shame; and while timid men took counsel of
their fears, bad men were bold in proclaiming their hate. This was
the condition to which thirty years of compromises and concessions
had brought the country.

As the time approached for counting the electoral vote and declar-
ing the result, intense excitement prevailed in Washington, and many
persons believed that a conspiracy existed to prevent the count. In
view of these fears great precautions were taken to guard against any
possible danger. General Scott obtained permission from the Secre-
tary of War to bring a number of companies of regulars from Fortress

Monroe to the capital, which, with the
seven hundred regular troops then in
Washington, the police, and militia, he
deemed sufficient for all contingencies.
The regulars were placed under the com-
mand of Colonel Harvey Brown. The
bridges of the Potomac were carefully
guarded by the militia, the regular
troops were stationed at convenient
points in the city, and a confidential ar-
rangement of signals was communicated,
to the officers. The certificates of the
electoral vote from each State were kept
in two boxes in the sole custody of the
Vice-President, in whose loyalty little
confidence was felt. On the day of the
count, Vice-President Breckinridge, with

a messenger carrying the two boxes, and followed by the Senate, two
by two, was to proceed from the Senate Chamber, through the Ro-
tunda, to the House of Representatives. It w r ould have been easy for
desperadoes, mingling with the crowd that filled the space between the
chambers, to fall upon the messenger and violently seize the boxes, or
to precipitate themselves from the galleries of the House, and break
up the proceedings. As a safeguard against these dangers, policemen
from Philadelphia, New York, and other cities, in citizens' dress, were
stationed along the passageways and in the galleries. Happily no con-
spiracy existed, and the count and declaration of Mr. Lincoln's elec-
tion proceeded without interruption. A large and brilliant throng
filled the galleries of the House to witness the ceremony. The Vice-
President, although his heart was with the secessionists, performed



his duty with great dignity and propriety. The sealed returns of the
electoral votes, cast in the colleges of the several States on the 5th of
December, were formally opened and registered. Then the teller
officially declared the result, and the Vice-President announced that
Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, having received a majority of the whole
number of electoral votes, is elected President of the United States
for four years, commencing the 4th of March, 1861. During these
proceedings the excitement and anxiety were intense; but the crisis
was safely passed, and it only remained to complete the formalities
that would clothe the President-elect with the insignia of the great
office to which he had been called. Tn the mean time, Mr. Lincoln
made his memorable journey from his home in Springfield to the capi-
tal. While he was on his way it was learned that a conspiracy existed
to assassinate the President-elect in Baltimore on his way to Wash-
ington. There is now r no reason to doubt that it was defeated by pre-
cautions that brought Mr. Lincoln to the capital on the morning be-
fore the day appointed for his arrival. The consequence of the secret
journey from Harrisburg to Washington was a sudden and painful
revulsion of feeling toward the President-elect. He was " frightened
at his own shadow "; he had " sneaked into Washington "; " the man
afraid to come through Baltimore was not fit to be President," were
the phrases with which his indignant critics indulged themselves.
A hostile newspaper even fabricated a story that he had come dis-
guised in a Scotch cap and cloak. To counteract the effect of these
violent outcries, Mr. Seward took the President-elect in charge and
introduced him to the Senate. To Mr. Haskin, an anti-Lecompton
Democrat, was committed the duty of introducing him to the House
of Representatives. Thus the 36th Congress went out of existence,
and Mr. Lincoln awaited the morning of his inauguration.



Lincoln's Personality Unfavorable Impressions Formation of the
Cabinet Inauguration The Cabinet Received with Disfavor
Seward and Lincoln Chase and Lincoln Distrust of the Presi-
dent The Thirty-seventh Congress The War Governors Im-
pending Changes in Republican Leadership.

HE personal appearance of no President of the United States
ever projected itself into the problems of his administra-
tion with the grim distinctness that Abraham Lincoln's tall
form, gaunt figure, and seamed face became a part of his
public life. Even to expectant politicians and charitably disposed
party friends the man was not only a disappointment, but a forebod-
ing of national calamity. Most of these observers afterward put their
early impressions on record with a freedom that was all the greater
because they had misjudged the man because of his looks. When
the President-elect opened the door of his Springfield house to one
political pilgrim, the politician, who was himself a man of imposing-
appearance, felt his heart sink within him when he saw in the figure
before him " the man chosen by a great nation to become its ruler in
the gravest period of its history." Tall, gaunt, ungainly, ill-clad,
with a homeliness of manner that was unique in itself, as the politi-
cal wayfarer described him, he seemed far from the heroic figure
that he is in history. One member of Congress, who had uncon-
sciously idealized the qualities of mind and heart that all the world
now recognizes in the hero and martyr, has left a record of his emo-
tions when he saw Abraham Lincoln enter the House of Representa-
tives, on the morning after the secret journey. " Never did god come
tumbling down more suddenly and completely than did mine,' 7 he
afterward wrote, " as the unkempt, ill-formed, loose-jointed, and dis-
proportioned figure of Mr. Lincoln appeared at the door." In the
" reptile " press he was caricatured with extraordinary bitterness,
both with pen and pencil. The caricatures of the Northern press, in-
cluding the " Journal of Civilization," during the war period exceeded
in virulence even the attacks of Freneau and of the Aurora upon
Washington. The libel of the Scotch cap and cloak was reproduced
with infinite variety and shameless malevolence. But neither the
aspersions of Northern champions of the South, nor the panic of the
timid Republicans who took counsel of their fears, were so dangerous



in that trying hour as the haughty depreciation of the hereditary
Whigs. This class included nearly all the men eminent for their
learning, their social position and their wealth. Edward Everett,
distinguished for his scholarship and his eloquence, had accepted the
subordinate place on the ticket with John Bell in 1860 in order to de-
feat Lincoln, and he now stood for conciliation and surrender. He
could not realize that in the near future he would stand on the same
platform with Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, where his sonorous
periods would die on his own lips, while the President's few phrases
w T ould become immortal. Robert C. Winthrop held proudly aloof, or
indulged himself in contemptuous depreciation of the man of the
people. Charles Francis Adams turned tinker of the Constitution,
and by the amendment that he proposed, and both advocated and
opposed in his indecision and weakness, forever associated the Adams
name with a futile surrender to slavery.
He never rose to a full appreciation of
the sagacity and wisdom of Abraham
Lincoln. William H. Seward sat serene-
ly in his seat in the Senate, uttering trite
prophecies of the calm that would come
after the storm, and waiting for the time
when, to use the words of Mr. Adams
after his death, he would dismiss " the
noblest dreams of an ambition he had the
clearest right to indulge, in exchange
for a more solid power to direct affairs
for the benefit of the nation in the name
of another." From that other all the
world seemed willing to turn away in

depreciation, if not in downright disgust, and the country regarded
the incoming President and his administration with hopeless despair.
It was fortunate for the Union that the quiet figure in the modest
home in Illinois was neither the mountebank that enemies describe
him as being, nor the plastic clay the man who expected to rule in his
name hoped to find him. For Abraham Lincoln the winter of 1860-61
was peculiarly trying. The time was out of joint. Events that w T ould
make or mar the new administration at the outset were beyond the
control of the President-elect, and shaped themselves without regard
to his opinions or interests. He could only watch and wait, and form
his Cabinet and prepare his Inaugural Address almost unaided in
those dark days of doubt and conflict. The formation of the Cabinet
was no easy task, although Mr. Lincoln formulated it in his own mind
as soon as his head touched his pillow on the night after his election.



As Mr. Lincoln originally marshaled the names of his contemplated
Cabinet, they comprised Seward, Chase, Bates, Dayton, Welles, Judd,
and Blair. Reward, Bates, and Dayton were of Whig antecedents,
and Chase, Judd, Welles, and Blair of Democratic affiliations, before
they became Republicans. There was no objection to the selection of
Mr. Seward for Secretary of State, but Seward's friends strenuously
objected to the appointment of either Chase as Secretary of the
Treasury or Bates as Attorney-General, because they had been Demo-
crats. They considered a Seward Cabinet essential to the success of
the administration, and through the manipulations of Thurlow Weed
it was believed they would have their way. It was even intimated
that Mr. Seward might decline if Chase and Bates were appointed.

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 61)