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Preface.

The following historical narrative of the events preceding the late rebellion was prepared soon after its outbreak, substantially in the present form. It may be asked, Why, then, was it not published at an earlier period? The answer is, that the publication was delayed to avoid the possible imputation, unjust as this would have been, that any portion of it was intended to embarrass M. Lincoln's administration in the vigorous prosecution of pending hostilities. The author deemed it far better to suffer,temporary injustice than to expose himself to such a charge. He never doubted the successful event of the war, even during its most gloomy periods. Having drawn his first breath soon after the adoption of the Federal Constitution and the Union which it established, and having been an eye-witness of the blessed effects of these, in securing liberty and prosperity at home, and in presenting an example to the oppressed of other lands, he felt an abiding conviction that the American people would never suffer the Great Charter of their rights to be destroyed. To the Constitution, as interpreted by its framers, he has ever been devoted, believing that the specific [-003] powers which it confers on the Federal Government, notwithstanding the experience of the last dreary years, are sufficient for almost every possible emergency, whether in peace or in war. He, therefore, claims the merit — if merit it be simply to do one's duty — that whilst in the exercise of Executive functions, he never violated any of its provisions.

It may be observed that no extensive and formidable rebellion of an intelligent people against an established Government has ever arisen without a long train of previous and subsidiary causes. A principal object of the author, therefore, is to present to the reader a historical sketch of the antecedents ending in the late rebellion. In performing this task, the eye naturally fixes itself, as the starting point, upon the existence of domestic slavery in the South, recognized and protected as this was by the Constitution of the United States. We shall not inquire whether its patriotic and enlightened framers acted with wise foresight in yielding their sanction to — an institution which is in itself a great social evil, though they considered this was necessary to avoid the still greater calamity of dissolving the Convention without the formation of our Federal Union.

The narrative will prove that the original and conspiring causes of all our future troubles are to be found in the long, active, and persistent hostility of the Northern Abolitionists, both in and out of Congress, against Southern slavery, until the final triumph of their cause in the election of President Lncoln; and on the other hand, the corresponding antagonism and violence with which the advocates of slavery resisted these efforts, and vindicated its preservation and extension up till the period of secession. So excited were the parties, that had they [-004] intended to furnish material to inflame the passions of tie one against the other, they could not have more effectually succeeded than they did by their mutual criminations and recriminations. The struggle continued without intermission for more than the quarter of a century, except within the brief interval between the passage of the Compromise measures of 1850 and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854, during which the hostile feelings of the parties were greatly allayed, and hopes were entertained that the strife might finally subside. These peaceful prospects, it will appear, were soon blasted by the repeal of this Compromise, and the struggle was then renewed with more bitterness than ever until the final catastrophe. Many grievous errors were committed by both parties from the beginning, but the most fatal of them all was the secession of the cotton States.

The authorities cited in the work will show that Mr. Buchanan never failed, upon all suitable occasions, to warn his countrymen of the approaching danger, and to advise them of the proper means to avert it. Both before and after he became President be was an earnest advocate of compromise between the parties to save the Union, but Congress disregarded his recommendations. Even after he had, in his messages, exposed the dangerous condition of public affairs, and when it had become morally certain that all his efforts to avoid the civil war would be frustrated by agencies far beyond his control, they persistently refused to pass any measures enabling him or his successor to execute the laws against armed resistance, or to defend the country against approaching rebellion.

The book concludes by a notice of the successful domestic [-005] and foreign policy of the administration. In the portion of it concerning our relations with the Mexican Republic, a history of the origin and nature of “the Monroe doctrine” is appropriately included:

It has been the author's intention, in the following pages, to, verify every statement of fact by a documentary or other authentic reference, and thus save the reader, as far as may be possible, from reliance on individual memory. From the use of private correspondence he has resolutely abstained.

Wheatland, September 1865.

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