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Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

History of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondHistory of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life → online text (page 4 of 46)
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canvass with " the Constitution, the Union, and the enforce
ment of the laws" as their platform, one upon which they could
easily have rallied all the people of all sections of the coun
try, but for the fact which they seemed to overlook, that
the widest possible differences of opinion prevailed among
the people as to its meaning.

All sections of the country took part in the election. The
Southern States were quite as active and quite as zealous as
the Northern in carrying on the canvass. Public meetings
were held, the newspaper press South as well as North discussed
the issues involved with energy and vigor, and every thing on
the surface indicated the usual termination of the contest, the
triumph of one party and the peaceful acquiescence of all
others. The result, however, showed that this was a mistake.
The active and controlling politicians of the Southern States
had gone into the canvass with the distinct and well-formed
purpose of acquiescing in the result only in the event of its
giving them the victory. The election took place on the 6th
of November. Mr. LINCOLN received the electoral votes of all
the free States except New Jersey, which was divided, giving
him four votes and Mr. DOUGLAS three. Mr. BRECKINRIDGE re
ceived the electoral votes of all the Slave States except Ken
tucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, which voted for BELL,
and Missouri, which voted for DOUGLAS, as did three electors
from New Jersey also. Of the popular vote LINCOLN re
ceived 1,857,610; DOUGLAS 1,365,976; BRECKINRIDGE 847,-
953, and BELL 590,631. In the Electoral College LINCOLN
received 180 votes, DOUGLAS 12, BRECKINUIDGE 72, and
Bell 39.

As soon as the result of the election was known, various
movements in the Southern States indicated their purpose of



56

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, his Secre
tary of War, a letter expressing apprehensions lest the South
ern people should seize some of the Federal forts in the South
ern States, and advising that they should be immediately gar
risoned by way of precaution. The Secretary of War, ac
cording 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 Secre
tary 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 Con
stitution or to enforce an acknowledgment that the Govern
ment 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. BRECK-
INRIDGE to be President of the United States, passed an act
*t>he next day calling a State Convention to meet at Columbia
on the 17th of December. On the 10th, F. W. Pickens was



SECESSION OF SOUTH CAROLINA. 57

elected Governor, and, in his inaugural, declared the deter
mination 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 Charles
ton, 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 Constitu
tion 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 grad
ually culminating for a long series of years." Mr. Inglis en
dorsed 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
3*



58 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION".

for many years in the public service, declared that " the seces
sion 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 Hamlin 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 ac
count 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 gov
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 seces
sion movement was in the hands of a few conspirators, who
had their head-quarters at the national Capital, and were them
selves closely connected with the Government of the United
States. A secret meeting of these men was held at Washing
ton 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 Louis
iana, and Mallory of Florida, were appointed a committee to car
ry these decisions into effect ; and, in pursuance of them, Missis-



FORMATION OF THE REBEL CONFEDERACY. 59

sippi 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 simply 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 Conven
tion 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 had no doubts of the final issue. The
first part of his anticipation has been fully realized ; it remains
k> 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 be
lief 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



60 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

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. Con
tracts were made in various parts of the South for the manu
facture 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 army
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 estab
lishing 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 pos
terity." We have the clear and explicit testimony of A. II.
Stephens, the Vice-President of the rebel Confederacy, echo
ing 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 Govern
ment 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, I860, 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



THE OBJECTS OF SECESSION. 61

sufficient cause shall take that step, that instead of becoming
greater, or more peaceful, prosperous, and happy instead of
becoming gods we will become demons, and at no distant day
commence cutting each other s throats." Mr. Stephens on
that occasion went on, in a strain of high patriotism and com
mon sense, to speak of the proposed secession of the State of
Georgia, in language which will forever stand as a judicial
condemnation of the action of the rebel States. " The first
question that presents itself," said Mr. Stephens, " is, shall the
people of the South secede from the Union in consequence of
the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency of the United
States? My countrymen, I tell you candidly, frankly, and
earnestly that I do not think that they ought. In my judg
ment the election of no man, constitutionally chosen to that
hisrh office, is sufficient cause for any State to separate from
the Union. It ought to stand by and aid still in maintaining
the Constitution of the country. To make a point of resist
ance to the Government, to withdraw from it because a man
has been constitutionally elected, puts us in the wrong. * *
We went intc the election with this people. The result
was different from what we wished ; but the election
has been constitutionally held. Were we to make a point
of resistance to the Government, and go out of the Union
on this account, the record would be made up hereafter
against us."

After the new Confederacy had been organized, and Mr.
Stephens had been elected its Vice-President, he made an
elaborate speech to the citizens of Savannah, in which he
endeavored to vindicate this attempt to establish a new gov
ernment in place of the government of the United States, and
to set forth the new principles upon which it was to rest, and
which were to justify the movement in the eyes of the world
and of impartial posterity. That exposition is too important
to be omitted here. It is the most authoritative and explicit



62 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

statement of the character and objects of the new government
which has ever been made. Mr. Stephens said :

" The new constitution has put at rest forever all agitating questions
relating to our peculiar institutions African slavery as it exists among
us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was
the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jeffer
son, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the rock upon which the old
Union would split. He was right. What was conjecture with him, is
now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great
truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The
prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen
at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the en
slavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature ; that it
was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an
evil they knew not well how to deal with ; but the general opinion of
the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Provi
dence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea,
though not incorporated in the Constitution, was the prevailing idea at
the time. The Constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee
to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be
justly used against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because
of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fun
damentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of
races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of
a government built upon it was wrong when the storm came and the
wind blew, it fell. 1

" Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas ;
its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth that
the negro is not equal to the white man ; that slavery, subordination to
the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new
Government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this
great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been
slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the va
rious departments of science. It is even so amongst us. Many who
hear me, perhaps, can recollect well that this truth was not generally
admitted even within their day. The errors of the past generation still
cluug to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North who
still cling to these errors with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denom
inate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind ;



SECESSION MOVEMENTS IN WASHINGTON. 63

from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the
most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming
correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises ; so with the
anti-slavery fanatics ; their conclusions are right if their premises are.
They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is en
titled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their prem
ises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just ; but their
premises being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of
having heard a gentleman from one of the Northern States, of great
power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with im
posing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to
yield upon this subject of slavery ; that it was as impossible to war
successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or me
chanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in
maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a princi
ple a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of man.
The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds we should
succeed, and that he and his associates in their crusade against our in
stitutions would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as
impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as well as
in physics and mechanics, I admitted, but told him that it was he and
those acting with him who were warring against a principle. They
were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made un
equal.

"In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side, complete
throughout the length and breadth of the Confederate States. It is up
on this, as I have stated, our social fab ric is firmly planted ; and I can
not permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of
this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world."

We have thus traced the course of events in the Southern
States during the three mouths that succeeded the election of
President Lincoln. Let us now see what took place in Wash
ington during the same time. Congress met on the 3d of
December and the Message of President Buchanan was at once
sent in. That document ascribed the discontent of the Southern
States to the alleged fact that the violent ao-itation in the North

r? O

tfo-ainst slavery had created disaffection among the slaves, and
created apprehensions of servile insurrection. The President



64 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

vindicated the hostile action of the South, assuming that it was
prompted by these apprehensions ; but went on to show that
there was no right on the part of any State to secede from the
Union, while at the same time he contended that the General
Government had no right to make war on any State for the
purpose of preventing it from seceding, and closed this portion
of his Message by recommending an amendment of the Consti
tution which should explicitly recognize the right of property
in slaves, and provide for the protection of that right in all the
territories of the United States. The belief that the people of
South Carolina would make an attempt to seize one or more
of the forts in the harbor of Charleston, created considerable
uneasiness at Washington ; and on the 9th of December the
Representatives from that State wrote to the President ex
pressing their " strong convictions 1 that no such attempt would
be made previous to the action of the State Convention, "pro
vided that no re-enforcements should be sent into those forts,
and their relative military status shall remain as at present."
On the 10th of December Howell Cobb resigned his office as
Secretary of the Treasury, and on the 14th Gen. Cass resigned
as Secretary of State. The latter resigned because the Presi
dent refused to re-enforce the forts in the harbor of Charleston.
On the 20th the State of So\ith Carolina passed the ordinance
of secession, and on the 26th Major Anderson transferred his
garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. On the 29th
John B. Floyd resigned his office as Secretary of War, alleging
that the action of Major Anderson was in violation of pledges
given by the Government that the military status of the forts
at Charleston should remain unchanged, and that the Presi
dent had declined to allow him to issue an order, for which he
had applied on the 27th, to withdraw the garrison from the
harbor of Charleston. On the 29th of December, Messrs.
Barn well, Adams, and Orr arrived at Washington, as Commis
sioners from the State of South Carolina, and at once opened a



DEBATES IN CONGEESS. 65

correspondence with President Buchanan, asking for the deliv
ery of the forts and other government property at Charleston
to the authorities of South Carolina. The President replied
on the 30th, reviewing the whole question stating that in re
moving from Fort Moultrie Major Anderson acted solely on
his own responsibility, and that his first impulse on hearing of
it was to order him to return, but that the occupation of the
fort by South Carolina and the seizure of the arsenal at Charles
ton had rendered this impossible. The Commissioners replied
on the 1st of January, 1861, insisting that the President had
pledged himself to maintain the status of affairs in Charleston
harbor previous to the removal of Major Anderson from Fort
Moultrie, and calling on him to redeem this pledge. This
communication the President returned.

On the 8th of January the President sent a Message to Con
gress, calling their attention to the condition of public affairs,
declaring that while he had no right to make aggressive war
upon any State, it was his right and his duty to " use military
force defensively against those who resist the Federal officers
in the execution of their legal functions, and against those who
assail the property of the Federal Government;" but throw
ing the whole responsibility of meeting the extraordinary emer
gencies of the occasion upon Congress. On the same day Jacob
Thompson, of Mississippi, resigned his office as Secretary of the
Interior, because the Star of the West had been sent on the 5th,
by order of the Government, with supplies for Fort Sumter, in
violation, as he alleged, of the decision of the Cabinet. On
the 10th, P. F. Thomas, of Maryland, who had replaced
Howell Cobb as Secretary of the Treasury, resigned, and was
succeeded by Gen. John A. Dix, of New York.

-The debates and the action of Congress throughout the ses
sion related mainly to the questions at issue between the two
sections. The discussion opened on the 3d of December as
soon as the President s Message had been read. The Southern



66 PEESIDEXT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

Senators generally treated the election of the previous Novem
ber as having been a virtual decision against the equality and
rights of the slaveholding States. The Republican members
disavowed this construction, and proclaimed their willingness to
adopt any just and proper measures which would quiet the
apprehensions of the South, while they insisted that the author
ity of the Constitution should be maintained, and the constitu
tional election of a President should be respected. At the
opening of the session Mr. Powell, of Kentucky, in the Senate
moved the reference of that portion of the President s Message
which related to the sectional difficulties of the country, to a
select committee of thirteen. This resolution being adopted,
Mr. Crittenden immediately afterwards introduced a series of
joint resolutions, embodying what came to be kno\vn after
wards as the Crittenden Compromise proposing to submit to
the action of the people of the several States the following
amendments to the Constitution :

1. Prohibiting slavery in all the territory of the United States north



Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondHistory of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life → online text (page 4 of 46)