Matilda Gresham.

Life of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 online

. (page 14 of 39)
Online LibraryMatilda GreshamLife of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 → online text (page 14 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

affirm it to be, the requisites of an inexorable logic must lead them
to emancipation. If it is right to preclude or abolish slavery in
a territory, why should it be allowed to remain in the States?
According to the Supreme Court of the United States, it is no
more imconstitutional in the territories than in the States.

Then this complaint was made of the Personal Liberty
laws and the Abolitionists:

We affirm that these ends which the government has insti-
tuted have been defeated and the government itself has been
made destructive by them by the action of the non-slaveholding
States. Those States have assiuned the right of deciding upon
the propriety of om- domestic institutions, and have denied the
rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recog-
nized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the
institution of slavery; they have permitted the open establish-
ment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to dis-
turb the peace and purloin the property of the citizens of other
States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our
slaves to leave their homes; and those who remained have been
incited by emissaries, books, and pictures to servile instirrection.

Possibly if Lincoln had not made his "House Divided
against Itself," speech, South Carolina would have found
some other pretext to line him up with the Abolitionists.

In a large measure a dead letter, except to arouse the
pro-slavery people, the Personal Liberty Laws should have
been repealed in every State. In his farewell address, Jan-
uary 20, 1861, in many respects admirable in tone, Jeffer-
son Davis adverted to the Personal Liberty Laws of Massa-
chusetts as a reason for following Mississippi. As a means
of helping to hold the Border States Mr. Lincoln enforced


the Fugitive Slave Law the first few months of his adminis-
tration more effectively than his predecessor, James Bucha-
nan, had done.i

But, in the meantime, the action of South Carolina
in actually seceding, so far as a State could do so, and
her address to the Slave States, infused new hope and life
into the Kentucky Secessionists. December 27 Governor
Magoffin issued a call for the Kentucky legislature to meet
in special session January 17, 1861.

What would be George D. Prentice's final position?
This was the subject of the gravest concern to the Union
leaders without as well as within Kentucky. Of Lin-
coln's election Prentice had said in his paper: "We have
prayed fervently against the event and now we most sin-
cerely deplore it." Mr. Prentice,- as we have shown, had
overshadowed all other forces in casting the electoral vote
of Kentucky for Bell and Everett, although John C. Breck-
enridge, the pro-slavery candidate, was a native of Ken-
tucky and then a senator-elect from that State. The Bell
and Everett vote was 66,016; the Breckenridge vote
52,836; Douglas 25,644, and Lincoln 1,366. But all this
time Prentice's heart was with South Carolina, and in ad-
vancing the Bell and Everett ticket he had gone beyond
even the South Carolinians in advocating the claims of the
slaveholder. He was not a mere scribbler but "was equally
forcible with knife and pistol as with pen." Had he then
run up the Confederate flag, as he afterwards prepared to
do, many of Kentucky's young men who subsequently
enlisted in the Union Army would have gone into the Con-
federacy, and most likely Kentucky herself would have
"gone out." Prentice's son was one of the first to take up
arms for the Confederacy. But Prentice's partners were
Union men. And most fortunate was it that he was in-
duced to take a waiting or neutral position.

On his way to Indianapolis to attend the legislature,
Walter Q. Gresham went to see Mr. Prentice, as he himself

1 See page 139.


said, to assure Prentice that Indiana would, under the con-
trol of the Republicans, faithfully obey all her constitu-
tional obligations to her Kentucky sister. On the yth of
January, 1861, my husband wrote me from Indianapolis:
"I was with Mr. Prentice a few hours yesterday evening
at Louisville. He talks all right; says he believes Mr.
Lincoln is an honest, good man, wise and conservative."

In an editorial in the Louisville Journal the next morn-
ing, Mr. Prentice said: "South Carolina, without consid-
eration, has jumped out of the Union; let Kentucky con-
sider well where she would land before she jiimps. . . .
South Carolina is in a different position than Kentucky.
She has no neighbors, as Kentucky has, unfriendly to her
domestic institutions, who would be free from all moral
and legal obligations to return her runaway slaves after
she, Kentuclcy, went out of the Union."'

When the Kentucky legislature met on the 17 th of
January, instead of calling a convention as the Governor
desired, it adopted neutrality as the policy of the State,
and adjourned within thirty days with an appeal "to the
southern brother to stay the hand of secession," but it
protested against the general government using force to
coerce the seceding States.

Equivocal as these resolutions were, they left Kentucky
in the Union.

1 See page 114.












WHEN the Indiana legislature assembled on the loth
of January, Horace Heffron, the Democratic member
from Harrison and Washington counties, who was the
Democratic caucus candidate for speaker, attempted, as
the House organized, to have it adopt a resolution that
no man should be elected speaker, or to any other office
under the legislature, who was not in favor of amending
the Constitution of the United States on the line of the
Crittenden Resolutions.

The great work of that legislature was to place Indiana
right on the question of secession, and so to amend or
revise the military law of the State as to enable it properly
to support the National government. A large number of
the members of both the House and Senate introduced
resolutions on "the State and the Union." As a sample
of what they were, I offer the following, which Walter Q.
Gresham introduced the second day of the session, the



day before Henry S. Lane was inaugurated Governor of
Indiana and Oliver P. Morton Lieutenant-Governor. In a
few days Mr. Lane was elected to the United States Sen-
ate and Mr. Morton became Governor. A copy of the
resolutions, together with the speech in their support, was
sent to George D. Prentice. Both Lane and Morton re-
garded Prentice's attitude as of the greatest importance and
were much interested in the conference Walter Q. Gresham
had had with him only six days before. The resolutions

Resolved: That the people of this State still retain their
affection for the Union inherited from the generation of men
who achieved our liberties in the great struggle for independence,
and secured them in that sacred instriunent, the Constitution,
in which justice is established, domestic tranquillity is insured,
and the common defense and general welfare are provided for;
and they regard its perpetuation as the only safe guaranty for the
continuance of the wonderful prosperity and happiness which have
led us to our present high position amongst the great powers of
the earth ; and they deny the right of any member of this confed-
eracy to repudiate the Constitution made by all the people of the
States, by seceding from the Union, and thereby disturbing the
harmony and periling the happiness of the whole.

2. That while we will not deny to any State a right guaran-
teed by the Constitution, we insist that the authority of the
general government shall be maintained and the Constitutional
laws of Congress impartially enforced in all the States and Terri-
tories; and that the armed resistance to the execution thereof, on the
part of the citizens of any State, is treason.

3. That the people of Indiana are opposed to any interfer-
ence by the Government of people of our State with the domestic
institutions of another; that they ever have and always will main-
tain the same respect for the rights of other States which they
zealously exact for their own ; that they will scrupulously discharge
all their constitutional obligations toward sister States, and they
demand a like observance of the same from the other States of the


4. That if any State of this Union has enactments on its
statute books in conflict with the provisions of the Federal Con-
stitution, or any of the laws of Congress passed in pursuance
thereof, it is the duty of such State to repeal the same.

5. That it is the duty of the Federal government, and of the
several States, to secure to the citizens of each State all the privi-
leges and immunities of the citizens of the several States as guar-
anteed in the Constitution, and a failure to discharge this obli-
gation will destroy that harmony and paternal feeHng which He
at the foundation of our free institutions.

6. That the conduct of these patriotic men, who in the
midst of the tide of disunion which is sweeping over a portion of
our once happy country, still retain their affection for the Union
and are bravely battling for the preservation of the authority
of the general government, excites our earnest sympathies and
challenges oiu: admiration.

7. That in view of the fact that a portion of the citizens of
some of the States of the Union are in open, armed rebellion
against the power and authority and threaten the overthrow of
the general government, we hereby pledge, whenever necessary
and demanded, in strict subordination to the civil authority, for
the maintenance of the Constitution and laws of the general
government, the entire power and resources of the State of

These resolutions, with all others, went to the Com-
mittee on Federal Relations. They emerged as a report
which omitted the word "treason." Men who claimed that
the Personal Liberty Laws were right were afraid to use
the word "treason." Walter Q. Gresham had used that
word south of the river; he could use it north of the river.
These resolutions as finally adopted pledged all the power
of the State of Indiana to preserve the only government on
earth wherein the rights of man constituted the foundation
of its laws and the measure of its civil authority, and they
deprecated any purpose to interfere with the right of each
State to regulate its own domestic affairs.


The minority report proposed the Crittenden Resolu-
tions instead, as a basis for settling the difference between
the North and South. It also deprecated the use of force
to coerce the Secessionists back into the Union.

While these reports were pending under debate, on the
19th of January the legislature of Virginia, by telegraph,
issued an invitation to all the States to send delegates to a
conference to meet in the city of Washington on February 4,
1 86 1, to discuss the proposed amendments to the Con-
stitution that might settle the differences which then exist-
ed on the slavery question. It suggested the Crittenden
Resolutions as a basis of settlement, with Crittenden's first
proposition so changed as to provide that slavery should be
recognized not only in the present but in all future acquired
territory south of the line 36° 30'. The discussion of the
resolutions — they were discussed throughout the country
and in every State legislature that met that winter — largely
contributed to postpone the actual conflict until after Mr.
Lincoln's inauguration. In 1858 Davis had told the Mis-
sissippians that if it came to a finish fight, the South could
not win.

The Crittenden Resolutions were to be the Thirteenth
Amendment to the Constitution, and, if adopted, never to
be changed. They proposed : To renew the Missouri Com-
promise line 36° 30'; prohibit slavery north and permit it
south of that line; admit new States with or without slavery,
as their constitutions might provide; prohibit Congress
from aboHshing slavery in the States, and in the District
of Columbia so long as it existed in Virginia or Maryland;
permit free transmission of slaves by land or water in any
State; make the State and the county or municipality
responsible to the owner of the fugitive slaves rescued after
arrest, with the right to the State or municipaHty to re-
cover from the rescuing parties; repeal the inequality of
commissioners' fees in the Fugitive Slave Act; and ask
the repeal of the Personal Liberty Laws of the Northern


States, passed in derogation of the Fugitive Slave Act.

In the course of the debate in the Indiana legislature,
Horace Heffron and G. O. Moody got into a controversy
that led to Heflfron sending Moody a challenge. Their sec-
onds settled their differences, greatly to their satisfaction,
it was said, after they reached the field of honor. But
strange as it may seem, and as it was thought at the time,
seconds as well as principals were indicted by the Kenton
County Grand Jury for coming into Kentucky to fight a
duel. And thus it was that Walter Q. Gresham never met
Abraham Lincoln. For while Mr. Lincoln, on his way to
Washington to be inaugurated, was in Indianapolis stopping
at the Bates House, where my husband lived, the latter was
in the Kentucky courts representing the "traitor," Horace
Heffron. He not only got Heffron off but all the others.

As the result of the debate, the minority or Heffron
report was rejected and the majority report adopted. The
proposition of John H. Stotsenburgh of Floyd County to
have a special election as to whether Indiana would accept
the Crittenden Amendment as a basis of compromise was
voted down, and then Indiana, most of the Democrats
concurring, responded to the invitation of Virginia by
authorizing Governor Morton to appoint five delegates to
the Peace Conference.

Governor Morton appointed as one of the delegates
Thomas C. Slaughter, my husband's former partner and
his best friend. Mr. Gresham told Mr. Slaughter that it
was agreed at Indianapolis that the delegates from Indiana
to the Peace Conference should oppose the first provision
of the Crittenden Resolution; that is, the one recognizing
slavery south of the line 36° 30' as a basis for adjustment;
instead they should offer popular sovereignty south of that
line, and any pledge the pro-slavery people desired that
the anti-slavery people would live up to the Constitution
as the fathers had written it. "For one," my husband
said, "and I know the sentiment of the young men, we will


never consent to a Thirteenth or any other amendment to
the Constitution, giving the slaveholder a stronger claim
than he has now. Rather than that, we will fight. The
fathers expected slavery to be abolished long before this.
You are enough of a diplomat to avoid saying what will
irritate." The record of that Peace Conference shows how
Mr. Slaughter performed his duty.

The Peace Conference met February 4 and was in ses-
sion until the 28th. It was composed of many eminent
men. Ex-President Tyler of Virginia was one of its mem-
bers and was made its presiding officer. James Guthrie
was one of the Kentucky delegates.

In lieu of Mr. Crittenden's proposition, that all the ter-
ritory south of the line 36° 30' should be recognized as slave
territory, the Conference adopted popular sovereignty for
that territory, but with conditions which the pro-slavery
men said simply gave them the right to have a lawsuit
after they took their slaves into the territory south of the
36° 30' line. Still a majority of the pro-slavery men accept-
ed or "swallowed" the report, and Kentucky, led by James
Guthrie, favored peace on any terms. Senator Crittenden,
who was patriotic to the core, said he would favor it or
any other proposition that could be agreed on for the pur-
pose of saving the Union.

At this time there might have been an adjustment but
for the Abolitionists.

The "Grape Vine" from Montgomery was bringing the
news that Jefferson Davis did not want the issue to go to
war. At this time he could not sleep at night, so his wife
tells us. His farewell address in the Senate of the United
States, tinctured with sadness, did not preclude his return,
and in his inaugural address to the Provisional Congress of
the Confederate States of America, he deprecated war, and
held out the hand of reconciliation. As before mentioned,
when the test came, Jefferson Davis would not, or at least
did not, order Beauregard to fire the shot at the flag at


Sumter that precluded the possibility of a peaceable settle-
ment. The overtures of the president of the Provisional
Congress of the Confederate States of America were an-
swered by Mr. Seward and Mr. Lincoln by the proposition
to amend the Constitution of the United States so as to pro-
vide that slavery should never be disturbed in the States
where it existed except by unanimous consent. Before
this the announcement had gone forth that Seward would
be Secretary of State.

Then it was, on February 17, 1861, that Wendell Phillips
spoke :

Seward will swear to obey the Constitution of the United
States, but wUl not keep his oath.

Bankrupt South Carolina, with 100,000 more slaves than
whites within her borders, throws down her gatmtlet at the feet
of 25,000,000 people in defense of an idea which she thinks is
right. I would that New England had one State among her six
so brave.

Union or no Union, Constitution or no Constitution, freedom
for every man between the oceans and from the frozen pole to
the hot gulf. You may as well attempt to dam up the Niagara
with bullrushes as try to bind our anti-slavery piorpose with a
congressional compromise. The South knows it.

But let the world distinctly understand why the slaveholding
States leave the Union — to save slavery! and why we rejoice at
their departtire — because we know their declaration of independ-
ence is the jubilee of the slave.

Thirty years devoted to earnest use of moral means show how
sincere is our wish that this question should have a peaceful
solution. If your idols — yoiu- Websters, Clays, Calhouns, Sew-
ards, Adamses — had done their duty, so it would have been.
Not ours the guilt of this storm, or of the future, however bloody.
But I hesitate not to say that I prefer an insurrection which frees
the slaves in ten years to slavery for a century. A slave I pity.
A rebellious slave I respect.

Inciting the slaves to insurrection was a scheme from
which I have shown my husband revolted in horror.


At this time Mr. Gresham told Senator-elect Lane and
Governor Morton that he would not fight in a servile or
domestic war. ' ' Rather than that, ' ' he wrote me from Indi-
anapolis at that time, "the sooner the North and South
have a peaceable separation the better." In this he was
supported by many of the younger element. This ultima-
tum of the younger men, among whom Walter Q. Gresham
was the leader, was the only basis Oliver P. Morton ever
had for making the charge, as he afterwards did, that
Mr. Gresham was disloyal. If a consideration for the
whites whose misfortune it was to be linked with the bonds-
men was disloyalty, then Walter Q. Gresham was always
disloyal. And never was Mr. Gresham loyal to the Re-
publican organization on the proposition — quoting Mr.
Lincoln's own words — "To make slavery express and
irrevocable." To save the Union he would not make that
concession, but he would give his life's blood for it.

Then it was that the line-up became sectional. In the
last days of February and the first days of March, 1861,
the Republicans organized the territories of Colorado,
Dakota, and Nebraska, in each instance — as has already
been noted — copying the Kansas-Nebraska Act verbatim;
certainly not, as Mr. Blaine says, to placate the Seces-

The most important measure before the Indiana legis-
lature was the Gresham Military Bill. On the organization
of the House, Mr. Gresham had been made chairman of
the Military Committee and had been given by Governor
Lane a commission as colonel on the Governor's staff. Un-
der the existing law the military officers of the State were
elected by the men. It was manifest the officers should be
appointed by the Governor. This view Walter Q. Gresham
early adopted and adhered to, although he had incurred the
enmity of Governor Morton and had given up his com-
mission as colonel on the Governor's staff. The opposition
to the Gresham Military Bill was based on its centralizing


effect. It was finally passed through the House on one of
the last days of the session. After the vote had been taken,
Representative John H. Stotsenburgh proposed to amend
the title by substituting these words: "An Act Making
Provision for the Complete Rout of the RepubHcan Party
at the Next and All Succeeding Popular Elections." He
was ruled out of order. But the bill failed to become a
law, as it did not pass the Senate.

In 1861, J. F. D. Lanier, one of the country's ablest
financiers, and his partner, R. H. Winslow, under the firm
name, Winslow, Lanier & Company of New York, were
reorganizing the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, & Chicago Rail-
road Company. Mr. Lanier had settled at Madison, Ind-
iana, at an early day, and before going into business in
New York had been the president of the Madison Branch
of the Indiana State Bank. At Mr. Lanier's instance, and
also to please his friend, Samuel Patterson of Jeffersonville,
a large owner in the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis
Railroad, Walter Q. Gresham helped pass the legislation
providing for the reorganization of the insolvent railroad
corporations of the State. These acts were drawn in New
York by Samuel J. Tilden, and the construction they sub-
sequently received at the hands of the United States Supreme
Court will be interesting.

In the debate on the bill to abolish the State printer,
Walter Q. Gresham said: "When the gentleman from
La Porte comes in here and endorses the sentiment, that
'to the victor belongs the spoils,' he endorses a doctrine
that I cannot endorse."

At the election of the trustees who were clothed with
the management and government of the benevolent insti-
tutions of the State — they then were elected by the
members of the two houses in joint session — Mr. Gresham
voted against his party; that is, he voted to retain the
existing board, although it was Democratic in politics. A
difference of temperament, together with these acts, started


a breach with Governor Morton that had become wide by
the time the session ended.

Limited as the regular session of the Indiana legislature
was to sixty days, my husband was home by the middle
of March, although he had remained in Indianapolis a few
days after the legislature adjourned, to look after some
cases in the State Supreme Court and in the Federal courts,
and also to consider an advantageous proposition to form a
partnership for the practice of law in Indianapolis which
had been offered him by David Macy. But for the events
that followed, the law partnership would have been formed
and we would have removed to Indianapolis. He told me
that his relations with Governor Morton, which had been
cordial and friendly at the beginning, had become strained
and bitter, and that as a result he had given up his com-
mission as a colonel on the Governor's staff. This was
most agreeable news to me, for if there was to be war, I
felt he would not be in it. But when Sumter was fired on,
my fears came back. I knew what it meant. Wendell
Phillips was the first man to mount a dry goods box in the
streets of Boston and declare that the Union he had for
years labored to dissolve must be preserved.

Mr. Lincoln early got in touch with the Kentucky Union
leaders. And the tenderness and coddling he showered on
them all during the Spring and the dog days of 1861 is in
strong contrast to the part he took in 1858, in "goading the

Online LibraryMatilda GreshamLife of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 → online text (page 14 of 39)