Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

Lincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) online

. (page 11 of 42)
Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 42)
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MARCH 4, 1861.


ABRAHAM LINCOLN was elected to be President of the
United States on the sixth day of November, 1860. The
preliminary canvass had not been marked by any very
extraordinary features. Party lines were a good deal
broken up, and four presidential candidates were in
the field ; but this departure from the ordinary course of
party contests had occurred more than once in the pre
vious political history of the country. Mr. Lincoln was
put in nomination by the Republican party, and repre
sented in his life and opinions the precise aim and object
for which that party had been formed. He was a native
of a slaveholding State ; and while he had been opposed
to slavery, he had regarded it as a local institution, the
creature of local laws, with which the National Govern
ment of the United States had nothing whatever to do.
But, in common with all observant public men, he had
watched with distrust and apprehension the advance of
slavery, as an element of political power, towards ascend
ency in the Government of the nation, and had cordially
co-operated with those who thought it absolutely neces
sary for the future well-being of the country that this
advance should be checked. He had, therefore, op
posed very strenuously the extension of slavery into the
Territories, and had asserted the right and the duty of
Congress to exclude it by positive legislation there


The Chicago Convention, which nominated Mr. Lin
coln, adopted, a platform of wliicli this was the cardinal
feature ; but it also took good care to repel tlie imputa
tion of its political opponents, and to remove the appre
hensions of the South, that the party proposed to interfere
with slavery in the States whose laws gave it support
and protection. It expressly disavowed all authority
and all wish for such interference, arid declared its pur
pose to protect the Southern States in the free enjoyment
of all their constitutional rights. The Democratic Con
vention, originally assembled at Charleston, was disposed
to make Mr. Douglas its candidate in opposition to Mr.
Lincoln ; "but this purpose was thwarted by leading pol
iticians of the slaveholding States, who procured the
nomination of Mr. Breckinridge, with full knowledge of
the fact that this would divide the Democratic party, and
in all probability secure the election of Mr. Lincoln. Mr.
Breckinridge represented the pro-slavery element of the
Democratic party, and asserted the duty of the National
Government, by a positive exercise of its legislative and
executive power, to protect slavery in the Territories
against any legislation either of Congress or of the people
of the Territories themselves, which should seek to impair
in any degree the right, alleged to be recognized in the
Constitution, of property in slaves. Mr. Douglas sup
ported the theory that the people of the Territories,
.acting tnrough their territorial legislature, had the same
right to decide this question for themselves as they had
to decide any other ; and he represented this principle in
opposition to Mr. Lincoln on the one hand, and Mr.
Breckinridge on the other, in the presidential canvass.
John Bell, of Tennessee, was also made a candidate by
the action mainly of men who were dissatisfied with all
the existing political parties, and who were alarmed at
the probable results of a presidential election which
promised to be substantially sectional in its character.
They pat forth, therefore, no opinions upon the leading
points in controversy ; and went into the canvass with
- the Constitution, the Union, and the enforcement of the


laws" as their platform, one upon which they could
easily have rallied all the people of all sections of the
country, 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 indi
cated 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 purpo^ e of acquiescing in the result only in
the event of its g ving them the victory. The election
took place on the 6th of November. Mr. Lincoln re
ceived the electoral votes of all the Free States except
New Jersey, which was divided, giving him four votes
and Mr. Douglas three Mr. Breckinridge received the
electoral votes of all the Slave States except Kentucky,
Tennessee, and Virginia, which voted for Bell, and Mis
souri, which voted for Douglas, as did three electors from
New Jersey also. Of the popular vote, Lincoln received
1,857,610; Douglas, 1,365,976 ; Breckinridge, 847,953 ;
and Bell, 590,631. In the Electoral College, Lincoln
received 180 votes, Douglas 12, Breckinridge 72, and
Bell 39.

As soon as the result of the election was known,
various movements in the Southern States indicated their
purpose of 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 Secretary of War, a letter expressing
apprehensions lest ttie Southern people should seize some


of the Federal forts in the Southern States, and advi&ing
that they should be immediately garrisoned by way of
precaution. The Secretary of War, according to state
ments 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, one hundred arid fifteen thou
sand 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 Presi
dent 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. Pfckens was elected Governor, and, in his inaugu
ral, declared the determination 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, u is the great
overt act of the people of the Northern States, who pro
pose to inaugurate a chief magistrate not to preside over


the common interests or destinies of all States alike, but
npon 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 Conven
tion 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,
1 788, whereby the Constitution of the United States was
ratified, and " dissolving the Union now subsisting be
tween South Carolina and other States under the name of
the United States of America ;" and on the 24th the Gov
ernor 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 indorsed 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 polit
ical life." And Mr. Rhett, who had been for many years
in the public service, 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 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 Caro
lina 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 government which should be
permanently and completely in the interest of slavery.

But the disclosures which have since been made, imper
fect 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 loth 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 seces
sion movement. Davis of Mississippi, Slidell of Louis
iana, and Mallory of Florida, were appointed a com
mittee to carry these decisions into eifect ; and, in pursuance
of them, Mississippi passed an ordinance of secession
January 9th ; Alabama and Florida, January llth ; Louis
iana, January 26th, and Texas, February 6th. All these
acts, as well as all which followed, were simply the execu
tion 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 Febru
ary, and adopted a provisional constitution, to continue
in operation for one year. Under this constitution Jeffer


son 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 incon
veniences at the beginning," but he had no doubts of the
final issue. The first part of his anticipation has been
fully realized ; the end has hardly proved to be as peace
ful 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 de
clared 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
thaft, 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 u 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 army of the Confederacy, and on the 6th of
March Congress passed an act authorizing a military force
of one hundred thousand men.

Thus was opened a new chapter in the history of Amer
ica. Thus were taken the first steps towards overthrow
ing 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 pyriect Union, establish justice, in
sure 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 reaffirm
ing that of the whole civilized world to the fact, tha
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 insti
tutions," 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 sufficient cause
shall take that step, that instead of becoming greater, 01
more peaceful, prosperous, and happy instead of becom
ing gods we will become demons, and at no distant day
commence cutting each others throats." Mr. Stephens
on that occasion went on, in a strain of high patriotism
and common 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.
4 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 Presi
dency of the United States ? My countrymen, I tell you
candidly, frankly, and earnestly, that I do not think that
they ought. In my judgment the election of no man, con
stitutionally chosen to that high 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 resistance to the gov
ernment, to withdraw from it because a man has been


constitutionally elected, puts us in the wrong. * * We
went into 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 resist
ance to the Government, and go out of the Union on this
account, the record would be made up hereafter against

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
government 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 statement of the character
and objects of the new government which has ever beea
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-
on, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as tne * 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 enslave
ment 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 Providence, 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 insti
tution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly used
against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the com
mon sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally
wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This
was ac error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a governrnea*
^ \


built upon it was wrong when the storm came and the wind blew, it

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its
foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that tlie
negro is not equal to the white man ; that slavery, subordination to the
superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new govern
ment, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physi
cal, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the pro
cess of its development, like all other truths in the various department*
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 clung to many as late aa
twenty years ago. Those at the North who still cling to these errors
with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanat
icism springs from an aberration of the mind; 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 entitled to equal privileges and rights with the
white man. If their premises 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 imposing effect, that we of the South would be com
pelled, 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 mechanics ; that the principle would ultimately prevail ; that
we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a
principle 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 institutions would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was
as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was
in physics or 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

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

We liave thus traced the course of events in the South
ern States during the tb"^7** ^ronths that succeeded the


election of President Lincoln. Let us now see what took
place in Washington 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 agitation in the North against slavery had
created disaffection among the slaves, and created appre
hensions of servile insurrection. The President 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 Constitution 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 Caro
lina 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
expressing their "strong convictions" that no such at
tempt would be made previous to the action of the State
Convention, "provided 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 Treas
ury, and on the 14th General Cass resigned as Secretary

Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 42)