no man could fathom.
It involved the possession of the national capital, and the continuance of the government.
would inevitably follow the Virginian
lead; the recently elected president had not yet been inaugurated; taken wholly by surprise, the North
was divided in sentiment; the loyal spirit of the country was not aroused.
It was thus an even question whether, on March 4, the whole machinery of the de facto
government would not be in the hands of the revolutionists.
All depended on Virginia
This is now forgotten; none the less, it is history.
The Virginia election was held on the 4th of February, the news of the secession of Texas
—seventh in the line—having been received on the 2d.
Evidently, the action of Texas
was carefully timed for effect.
Though over forty years ago, I well remember that day—gray, overcast, wintry—which succeeded the Virginia
Then living in Boston
, a young man of twenty-five, I shared—as who did not?—in the common deep depression and intense anxiety.
It was as if a verdict was to be that day announced in a case involving fortune, honor, life even.
Too harassed for work, I remember abandoning my desk in the afternoon to seek relief in physical activity, for the ponds in the vicinity of Boston
were ice-covered, and daily thronged with skaters.
I was soon among the number, gloomily seeking unfrequented spots.
Suddenly I became aware of an unusual movement in the throng nearest the shore, where those fresh from the city arrived.
The skaters seemed crowding to a common point; and a moment later they scattered again, with cheers and gestures of relief.
An arrival fresh from Boston
had brought the first bulletin of yesterday's election.
, speaking against secession, had emitted no uncertain sound.
It was as if a weight had been taken off the mind of everyone.
The tide seemed turned at last.
For myself, I remember my feelings were too deep to find expression in words or sound.
Something stuck in my throat.
I wanted to be by myself.
Nor did we overestimate the importance of the event.
If it did not in the end mean reaction, it did mean time gained; and time then, as the result showed, was vital.
As William H. Seward
, representing the president-elect
, wrote during those days: ‘The people of the District
are looking anxiously for the result of the Virginia
They fear that if Virginia
resolves on secession, Maryland
will follow; and then Washington
will be seized. . . The election tomorrow probably determines whether all the slave States will take the attitude of disunion.