Chapter 9: proceedings in Congress.--departure of conspirators.
- Line between loyalists and disloyalists distinctly drawn
-- conspirators in Congress, 216.
-- the conspiracy revealed by a “Southern man,” 217.
-- the people alarmed
-- Unsatisfactory Message from President Buchanan, 218.
-- position of the President
-- General Wool's warning
-- firmness of the Union men in Congress, 219.
-- Jefferson Davis's proposition to amend the Constitution, 220.
-- useless labors of the two great committees
-- Senator Clark's proposition
-- conspirators determined on disunion, 221.
-- action of the Senate Committee of thirteen
-- of the House Committee of thirty — three, 222.
-- Debates on Crittenden's propositions
-- Toombs declares himself a rebel, 224.
-- Hunter's propositions, 225.
-- Seward's position defined
-- Union speeches, 226-227.
-- final action on the Crittenden Compromise
-- withdrawal of disloyal Senators, 228.
-- seizure of arms in New York, 230.
-- Slidell's last speech in the Senate, 231.
-- Senator Benjamin's last speech in Congress, 232.
-- disloyal Representatives leaving Congress
-- conciliatory action of the Union members, 233.
-- C. F. Adams's resolution, 234.
Whilst the country at large, solemnly impressed by the thick gathering portents of a fearful storm, was violently agitated, and all eyes and hearts were turned anxiously toward the National Congress and the Executive
of the Government
for assurances of safety, the halls of that Congress presented some strange spectacles for the patriot, the philosopher, and the historian.
The line of demarkation between the patriots and the conspirators in that body had been early and distinctly drawn by the latter, as we have observed, with amazing boldness; and while the former, sincerely wishing to be just, were ardently seeking for some honorable way for conciliating the malcontents, the traitors were implacable and defiant.
At all times they plainly revealed their determination not to agree to any terms for conciliation, even if such terms should offer more than they demanded; and they looked upon the yielding spirit of the true men in Congress as an exhibition of that subserviency, born often of an intense love for the Union
, which had forever been making concessions to the Slave interest, to the mortal hurt of the nation.
There was perfect unity of action between the conspirators in Congress and the conspirators and politicians working in the Slave-labor States.
They wrought harmoniously; those at the seat of Government directing important movements, and those who controlled political affairs in the several States executing them with energy, secrecy, and success, for the corrupt State Legislatures were auxiliaries in the business of the enslavement of the people by the Oligarchy.
This evident harmony of action we have observed while considering the secession movements in the seven Cotton-growing States.
The public suspected it after the rebellious acts of the South Carolina
politicians, late in December;
and early in January it was authoritatively proclaimed, in an anonymous communication published in the National Intelligencer
at the seat of Government, and signed Eaton
It was written by a “distinguished citizen of the South
, who formerly represented his State in the popular branch of Congress,” and was then temporarily sojourning in Washington
He charged that a caucus was held on the preceding Saturday night
in that city, by the Senators
from seven of the Cotton-producing States (naming them2
at that time, resolved, in effect, to assume to themselves the political power of the South
, and to control all political and military operations for the time; that they telegraphed directions to complete the seizure of forts, arsenals, custom houses, and other public property, as already recorded in. preceding pages, and advised conventions then in session, or soon to assemble, to pass ordinances for immediate secession.
They agreed that it would be proper for the representatives of the “seceded States” to remain in Congress, in order to prevent the adoption of measures by the National Government
for its own security.
“They also,” said this writer, “advised, ordered, or directed the assembling of a convention of delegates from the seceding States, at Montgomery
, on the 15th of February.
This can, of course, only be done by the rovolutionary conventions usurping the powers of the people, and sending delegates over whom they will lose all control in the establishment of a provisional government, which is the plan of the dictators.”
They resolved, he said, to use every means in their power to force the Legislatures of Tennessee
, and Maryland
, into the adoption of revolutionary measures.
They had already possessed themselves of all the avenues of information in the South
--the telegraph, the press, and the wide control of the postmasters; and they relied upon a general defection of all the Southern-born members of the Army and Navy.
“The spectacle here presented,” he said, “is startling to contemplate.
, intrusted with the representative sovereignty of States, and sworn to support the Constitution of the United States
, while yet acting as the privy counselors of the President
, and anxiously looked to by their constituents to effect some practical plan of adjustment, deliberately conceive a conspiracy for the overthrow of the Government
through the military organizations, the dangerous secret order of the Knights of the Golden Circle
, Commaittees of Safety, Southern Leagues, and other agencies at their command.
They have instituted as thorough a military and civil despotism as ever cursed a maddened country.”
These charges were sustained by an electrograph, which appeared in the Charleston Mercury
on the 7th,
dated at Washington City
on the 6th. “--The Senators
,” it said, “
from those of the Southern States
which have called conventions of the people, met in caucus last night, and adopted the following resolutions:--
, That we recommend to our respective States immediate secession.
, That we recommend the holding of a General Convention of the said States, to be holden in the city of Montgomery, Alabama
, at some period not later than the 15th day of February, 1861.
These resolutions, and others which the correspondent did not feel at liberty to divulge, were telegraphed to the conventions of Alabama
, and Florida
He said there was much discussion concerning the propriety of the members of Congress from seceding States retaining their seats, in order to embarrass legislation, and added, “It is believed that the opinion that they should remain, prevailed.”
The truth of these statements
was confirmed by the letter written by Senator Yulee
(already referred to3
), on the 14th of January, in which he inclosed a copy of the resolutions passed at that meeting, in one of which they resolved to ask for instructions, whether the delegations from “seceding States” were to remain in Congress until the 4th of March, “for the purpose of defeating hostile legislation.”
The other, and last, resolved “That a committee be, and are hereby, appointed, consisting of Messrs. Davis
, and Mallory
, to carry out the objects of the meeting.”
It was also stated, in a dispatch from Washington
to the Baltimore
press, dated the day after “Eaton
's” revelations appeared, that “the leaders of the Southern
movement are consulting as to the best mode of consolidating their interests in a confederacy under a provisional government.
The plan is to make Senator Hunter
, of Virginia
, Provisional President
, and Jefferson Davis Commander-in-chief of the Army of Defense. Mr. Hunter
possesses, in a more eminent degree, the philosophical character of Jefferson
than any other statesman now living.”
These revelations; the defiant attitude of the traitors in Congress, in speech and action; the revolutionary movements at Charleston
; the startling picture of the perilous condition of the country, given in a Special Message of the President
on the 8th,
and the roar of the tornado of secession, then sweeping fearfully over the Gulf
States, produced the most intense and painful excitement in the public mind.
That Message of the 8th, under the circumstances, seemed like a cry of despair or a plea for mercy from the President
, who seemed painfully conscious, after the departure of the South Carolina
Commissioners and the disruption of his Cabinet, that faith in the promises of the conspirators, which had lured him all along into a fatal conciliatory policy, could no longer be entertained or acted upon without imminent peril to the nation and his own reputation.
He perceived that the golden moment, when vigorous action on his part might have crushed the serpent of secession, had passed, and that the reptile had become a fearful dragon; and now he earnestly entreated Congress to appease the voracious appetite of the monster, and still the turbulence that alarmed the Executive
, by concessions equivalent to the Crittenden Compromise
He assured that body that he considered secession a crime, and that he should attempt to collect the public revenue everywhere, so far as practicable under existing laws; at the same time he declared that his executive powers were exhausted, or were wholly inadequate to meet existing difficulties.
To Congress alone, he said, “belongs the power to declare war, or to authorize the power to employ military force, in all cases contemplated by the Constitution
,” and on it “alone rests the responsibility.”
And yet he did not ask that body to delegate powers to him for the purpose of protecting the life of the nation.
“It cannot be denied,” he said, “that we are in the midst of a great revolution ;” but instead of imploring Congress, and his political friends in it, with the spirit of a vigilant and determined patriot, to give him the means to stay its progress, he contented himself with offering insufficient reasons why he had not already done so, by re-enforcing and provisioning the garrison in Fort Sumter
before it was too late, and also by urging Congress to submit to the demands of the revolutionists.
In this the President
He well knew that the political constitution of the two Houses at that time was such, that no Force-bill could be passed.
Besides, Attorney-General Black
had expressed his doubts whether Congress had the ability “to find constitutional powers to furnish the President
with authority to use military force” 4
in the execution of the laws; and in view of the position which he had assumed in his Annual Message on the subject of “coercion” and “subjugation of a State,” 5
he would feel in conscience bound to veto any Force-bill looking to such action.
He did not ask Congress for any more power, nor did he give a word of encouragement to the loyal people that he would heed the warning voice of the veteran General Wool
, and others, who implored the Government
not to yield Fort Sumter
to the insurgents, and thereby cause the kindling of a civil war. “So long as the United States
keep possession of that fort,” said Wool
, “the independence of South Carolina
will only be in name, and not in fact.”
Then, with prophetic words, whose predictions were fulfilled a few weeks later, he said:--“If, however, it should be surrendered to South Carolina
, the smothered indignation of the Free States
would be roused beyond control.
It would not be in the power of any one to restrain it. In twenty days two hundred thousand men would be in readiness to take vengeance on all who would betray the Union into the hands of its enemies
. Be assured that I do not exaggerate the feelings of the people.”
The soldier, with a statesman's sagacity, correctly interpreted the will of that people.
As the plot thickened, and the designs of the conspirators became more manifest, the loyal men in Congress were more firmly rooted in a determination to withstand the further aggressions of the Slave interest and the malice of the public enemies.
This determination was specially apparent when the Crittenden Compromise
, and other measures looking toward conciliation, were considered in the Senate and House of Representatives.
Appalled by visions of civil war, distracted by discordant oracles and counselors, and anxious to have reconciliation, and union, and peace at almost any sacrifice, the people, no doubt, would have acquiesced in Mr. Crittenden
But their true representatives, better instructed by experience and observation concerning the perfidy of the traitors before them, who might accept those measures as a concession, but not as a settlement, and would be ready to make a more insolent demand another year, could not be induced to wrong posterity by a desertion of the high and holy principles of the Declaration of Independence
for the sake of temporary ease.
They could not consent to have the National Constitution
so amended, that it should be forever subservient to the truculent Slave interest and its desolating influence.
They plainly saw that such would be the effect of the most vital of the amendments of it proposed by Mr. Crittenden
They did not doubt his
patriotism, yet they deemed it wise and prudent to act upon the suggestions of the first President
of the Republic
, when, warning his countrymen against attempts to destroy the Union
, he said :--“One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution
, alterations which impair the energy of the system, and
thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.”
--“I most cheerfully accord to the Senator
purity of motive and patriotic intentions and purposes,” said Henry.
, one of the most active and vigilant men in the Senate.
“While I believe every pulsation of his heart throbs for the unity and perpetuity of this Republic; while I cherish for him sentiments of sincere respect and regard, I am constrained to say here, and now, that his policy has been most fatal to the repose of the country, if not to the integrity of the Union
and the authority of the Government
Whether his task be self-imposed, or whether it be imposed upon him by others, he has stood forth, day by day, not to sustain the Constitution
, the Union
, and the enforcement of the laws; not to rebuke seditious words and treasonable acts; but to demand the incorporating into the organic law of the nation of irrepealable, degrading, and humiliating concessions to the dark spirit of slavery.”
It was plainly perceived that Jefferson Davis
, one of the most cold, crafty, malignant, and thoroughly unscrupulous of the conspirators, had embodied the spirit of Crittenden
's most vital propositions in a more compact and perspicuous form, in a resolution offered in the Senate on the 24th of December,
saying, “That it shag be declared, by amendment of the Constitution
, that property in slaves, recognized as such by the local law of any of the States of the Union
, shall stand on the same footing, in all constitutional and Federal relations, as any other species of property so recognized; and, like other property, shall not be subject to be divested or impaired by the local law of any other State, either in escape thereto or by the transit or sojourn of the owner therein.
And in no case whatever shall such property be subject to be divested or impaired by any legislative act of the United States
, or any of the territories thereof.”
In other words, the Constitution
was to be made to recognize property in man, and slavery as a national institution.
Speaking for the Oligarchy, Senator Wigfall
, in a speech on the Crittenden Compromise
, exclaimed:--“We say that man has a right to property in man. We say that our slaves are our property
. We say that it is the duty of every government to protect its property everywhere .... If you wish to settle this matter, declare that slaves are
property, and, like all other property, entitled to be protected in every quarter of the globe, on land and on sea. Say that to us, and then the difficulty is settled.”
Because the majority of the people of the United States
would not consent to abase their Constitution, and make it subservient to the cause of injustice and inhumanity, the Oligarchy rebelled and kindled a horrible civil war!
We have observed that a Committee of Thirteen was chosen by the Senate, and another of Thirty-three by the House of Representatives, to receive, consider, and report upon plans for pacification.11
These committees labored sedulously, but at every step they were met by evidence that the conspirators would not be satisfied with any thing that might be offered.
These men were holding their seats in Congress, and committing perjury every hour, for no other purpose than to further their plans for the destruction of the Republic
; and when they could be no longer useful there, they
cast off all disguise, insolently flaunted the banner of treason in the faces of true men, and fled to the fields of open and defiant revolt, there to work the infernal engines of rebellion with fearful power.
Yet all the while, earnest, loyal men patiently labored, in committees and out of them, in the halls of Congress and out of them, to produce reconciliation, preserve the Union
, and secure the stability and prosperity of the Republic
No less than seventeen Representatives offered amendments to the Constitution
, all making concessions to the Slave interest; and petitions and letters came in from all parts of the Free-labor States, praying Congress to adopt the Crittenden Compromise
as the great pacificator.
Finally, it became so evident that the labors of the committees were only wasted, that Daniel Clark
, of New Hampshire
, offered in the Senate
two resolutions as an amendment to Mr. Crittenden
The first declared that the provisions of the Constitution
were ample for the preservation of the Union
and the protection of all the material interests of the country; that it needed to be obeyed rather than amended; and that an extrication from the present dangers was to be looked for in strenuous efforts to preserve the peace, protect the public property, and enforce the laws, rather than in new guaranties for particular interests, compromises for particular difficulties, or concessions to unreasonable demands.
The second declared that “all attempts to dissolve the Union
, or overthrow or abandon the National Constitution
, with the hope or expectation of constructing a new one, were dangerous, illusory, and destructive; that, in the opinion of the Senate of the United States, no such reconstruction is practicable, and therefore to the maintenance of the existing Union and Constitution should be directed all the energies of the Government
and the efforts of all good citizens.”
This amendment, so thoroughly wise and patriotic, and so eminently necessary at that critical moment in averting the most appalling national danger, was adopted by a vote of twenty-five against twenty-three.13
The leading conspirators in the Senate, who might have defeated the amendment and carried the Crittenden Compromise
, did not vote.
This reticence was preconcerted.
They had resolved not to accept any terms of adjustment.
They were bent on disunion, and acted consistently.14
In the Senate Committee of Thirteen, which was composed of five Republicans and eight opposed to them, Mr. Crittenden
's proposition to restore the line of the Missouri Compromise
(36° 30′) was, after full discussion, voted down.
The majority of the Committee
were favorable to the remainder of his propositions, but, under the rule made by the Committee
.at the beginning, that no resolution should be considered adopted unless it received a majority both of the Republicans and anti-Republicans, they were not passed.
Finally, Mr. Seward
proposed that no amendment should be made to the Constitution
which would authorize or give to Congress any
power to abolish or interfere, in any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to service or labor by the laws of such State.
Only Jefferson Davis
and Robert Toombs
voted against it. He then proposed that the Fugitive Slave Law
of 1850 should be so amended as to secure to the alleged fugitive a trial by jury.
Stephen A. Douglas
amended it so as to have the alleged fugitive sent for trial to the State
from which he had escaped.
This was voted down, the Republicans and Mr. Crittenden
alone voting for it. Mr. Seward
further proposed that Congress should pass an efficient law for the punishment of persons engaged in the armed invasion of any State from another State, and all persons in complicity with them.
This, too, was rejected; and so was every thing short of full compliance with the demands of the Slave interest.
In the House Committee of Thirty-three were seen like failures to please the Oligarchy, notwithstanding great concessions were offered.
These concessions were embodied in an elaborate report submitted by Mr. Corwin
of the Committee
It condemned legislative interference with the Fugitive Slave Law
. It recommended the repeal of Personal Liberty Acts, in so far as they conflicted with that law. It recognized Slavery as existing in fifteen States of the Union
, and denied the existence of any power, outside of a State, competent to interfere with it. It urged the propriety of a faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law
. It recognized no conflicting elements in the National Constitution
and laws that might afford sufficient cause for a dissolution of the Union
, and enjoined upon Congress the duty of measuring out exact justice to all the States.
It declared it to be essential for the peace of the country for the several States faithfully to observe their constitutional obligations to each other; and that it was the duty of the National Government
to maintain its authority and protect its property everywhere.
It proposed that each State should be requested to revise its statutes, or to so amend the same, that citizens of other States therein might enjoy protection against popular violence, or illegal summary punishment for implied crimes without trial in due form of law; also, that the States should be requested to provide by law against the setting in motion, within their respective borders, any lawless invasion of another State.
The President was requested to send a copy of this report to the Governors
of the States, asking them to lay it before their respective Legislatures.
In addition to this report, Mr. Corwin
submitted a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution
, whereby any further amendment, giving Congress power over Slavery in the States, was forbidden.
By a portion of the Committee
the report was considered too yielding, and two minority reports were submitted.
One by Messrs. Washburne
declared that, in view of the rebellion then in progress, no concessions should be made; and then they submitted, as a distinct proposition, Senator Clark
's substitute for Crittenden
Another, by Messrs. Burch
, proposed a convention of the States to amend the Constitution
A proposition was also made to substitute the Crittenden Compromise
, of Arkansas
, offered in the Senate a proposition, substantially the same as Crittenden
's, as “the ultimatum of the South
;” and Henry Winter Davis
, of Maryland
, proposed a resolution to
request the several States to revise their statutes, to ascertain whether any of them were in conflict with the Fugitive Slave Act
, and, if so, to repeal them forthwith.
The consideration of reports and propositions concerning pacification occupied a large portion of the session, and nearly every debater in both Houses of Congress was engaged in the discussion.
It was fairly opened in the Senate on the 7th of January,
when Mr. Crittenden
called up a resolution which he had offered on the 2d, to provide by law for submitting his proposed amendments to the Constitution
to a vote of the people.
He saw no chance for any agreement on the subject in Congress, and he perceived no other course for him to pursue than to make an appeal to the people.
He earnestly desired to save the Union
and prevent civil war. He felt that the danger to which the Republic
was exposed was imminent, and he pleaded earnestly for the people to take care of the Constitution
and the Union
, saying:--“The Constitution will take care of you; the Union
will be sure to protect and preserve you.”
He proposed, he said, to take the Slavery question from Congress forever.
He did not think he was asking any one to make concessions, but only to grant equal rights.
He was opposed to secession, as a violation of the law and the Constitution
“If a State wishes to secede,” he said, “let them proclaim revolution boldly, and not attempt to hide themselves under little subtleties of law, and claim the right
A constitutional right to break the Constitution
was a new doctrine.”
followed Senator Crittenden
His speech was characteristic of the man-coarse, treasonable, and defiant.
“The Abolitionists,” he said, “have for long years been sowing dragons' teeth, and they have finally got a crop of armed men. The Union, Sir, is dissolved.
That is a fixed fact lying in the way of this discussion; and men may as well hear it. One of your confederates [South Carolina
] has already wisely, bravely, boldly, met the public danger and confronted it. She is only ahead and beyond any of her sisters because of her greater facility of action.
The great majority of those sister States, under like circumstances, consider her cause as their cause.”
He then declared that “the patriotic men of the country,” having appealed to the Constitution
, to justice, and to fraternity in vain, were “prepared for the arbitrament of the sword.
Now, Sir,” he said, “you may see the glitter of the bayonet and hear the tramp of armed men from your Capital to the Rio Grande
then proceeded, with great insolence of speech and manner, to define his own position and demands.
“They are what you,” he said, “who talk of constitutional right, call treason.
I believe that is the term.
I believe for all the acts which the Republican party call treason and rebellion, there stands before them as good a traitor and as good a rebel as ever descended from revolutionary loins.
What does this rebel demand?”
The right, he said, of going into all the Territories
with slaves, as property, and that property to be protected there by the National Government
“Shall I not do it?”
“You say No. You and the Senate say No; the House
says No; and throughout the length and breadth of your whole conspiracy against the Constitution
, there is one shout of No!
It is the price of my allegiance.
Withhold it, and you can't get my obedience.
the philosophy of the armed men that have sprung up in this country, and I had rather see the population of my own, my native land beneath the sod, than that they should support for one hour such a Government.”
further demanded that offenders against Slave codes in one State, fleeing into another, should be delivered up for punishment; that the Fugitive Slave Law
should be rigidly enforced, and that no State should pass Personal Liberty Acts.
He denounced the National Constitution
as having been made by the fathers for the purpose of getting “at the pockets of the people.”
With a wicked perversion of history, he declared that a “large portion of the best men of the Revolution voted against it,” and that it was “carried in some of the States by treachery.”
He sneered at the venerable Senator
(who had fought for his country when this traitor was yet an infant, and had entered Congress as a member when this conspirator was a schoolboy), because of his attachment to that Constitution, and his denial of the constitutional right of a State to secede.
“Perhaps he will find out after a while,” said Toombs
, “that it is a fact accomplished.
You have got it in the South
pretty much in both ways.
has given it to you regularly, according to the approved plan.
You are getting it just below there [in Georgia
], I believe, irregularly, outside of law, without regular action.
You can take it either way. You will find armed men to defend both.... We are willing to defend our rights with the halter around our necks, and to meet these Black Republicans, their myrmidons and allies, whenever they choose to come on.”
The career of this Senator
during the war that ensued was a biting commentary upon these high words before there was any personal danger to the speaker, and illustrated the truth of Spenser
's lines in the Fairy Queen
For highest looks have not the highest mind,
Nor haughty words most full of highest thought;
But are like bladders blown up with the wind,
That being pricked evanish out of sight.
concluded his harangue by a summing up of charges not unfavorable to the Government
against which he was rebelling, but against the political party that had outvoted his own party at the late election, and was about to assume the conduct of that Government.
“Am I a freeman?”
“Is my State a free State, to lie down and submit, because political fossils [referring to the venerable Crittenden
] raise the cry of ‘ the glorious Union?’
Too long, already, have we listened to this delusive song.
We are freemen.
We have rights; I have stated them.
We have wrongs; I have recounted them.
I have demonstrated that the party now coming into power has declared us outlaws, and has determined to exclude four thousand millions of our property [slaves] from the common Territories
He then said:--“They have refused to protect us from invasion and insurrection by the Federal
power, and,” he added truly, “the Constitution
denies to us in the Union
the right either to raise fleets or armies for our own defense.
All these charges I have proven by the record.”
He then said, with gross perversion of the truth, that they had appealed in vain for the exercise of their constitutional rights.
Restore them and there would be peace.
“Refuse them,” he said, “and what then?
then ask you, ‘Let us depart in peace.’
Refuse that, and you present us war. We accept it; and, inscribing upon our banners the glorious words, ‘Liberty and Equality,’ we will trust to the blood of the brave and the God of battles for security and tranquillity.”
With these words ringing in the ears of Senators
, and these declarations of premeditated treason hurled in the face of the President
, this conspirator left the Senate Chamber
and the National Capital
and hastened to Georgia
, to cheat the people of their rights and precipitate them into the seething caldron of civil war.
The Georgia Senator was followed, a few days later,
by two of the ablest members of that House
, namely, Hunter
, and Seward
of New York.
Their speeches were marked by great dignity of manner and language, but irreconcilable opposition of sentiment.
's foreshadowed the aims and determination of the conspirators, while Seward
's as clearly foreshadowed the aims and determination of the loyal people of the country and of the incoming Administration, of which he was to be the Prime Minister
was one of the most polished, subtle, and dangerous of the conspirators.
, his logic was always masterly, and powerfully persuasive.
He led the judgments of men with great ease.
For years, as the champion of State Supremacy — the intimate friend and disciple of Calhoun
— he had been laboring to sap the life of the National Government
He now boldly proposed radical changes in the Constitution
and the Government
, and advocated the right and duty of secession.
that “the South
” must obtain by such changes guaranties of power
, so as not to be governed by the majorities of “the North
His whole speech favored the widening of the line of separation between the Free-labor and Slave-labor States.
and consequently practical disunion.16
was regarded as the oracle of the Republican party, now about to assume the administration of National affairs, and his words were listened to with eager attention.
It was felt that he was to pronounce for
peace or war. He spoke guardedly, and yet not enigmatically.
He skillfully analyzed the treasonable movements of the Oligarchy, exposed the falsehood of their pretenses, the real springs of their ambition and their crime, and pleaded with powerful argumentation for affiliation and union.
He declared his adherence to the Union
in its integrity and with all its parts,. with his friends, with his party, with his State, with his country, or without either, as they might determine; in every event, whether of peace or war, with every consequence of honor or of dishonor, of life or of death.
He concluded by saying :--“I shall cheerfully lend to the Government
my best support in whatever prudent, yet energetic efforts it shall make to preserve the public peace, and to maintain and preserve the Union
, advising only that it practice, as far as possible, the utmost moderation, forbearance, and conciliation.”
The speeches of Toombs
, and Seward
were key-notes to all that.
succeeded on the great topic of the hour.
There were others of eminent ability, and worthy of careful preservation in the annals of the great Civil War
, as exponents of the conflicting views entertained concerning the Government
, its character, and its power.17
Several of these were from representatives of Slave-labor States, and were extremely loyal.
Foremost among them was that of Andrew Johnson
, Senator from Tennessee
, now President
of the Republic
— a man who had come up from among the common people, planted himself firmly on the foundation of human rights and popular prerogatives, and performed valorous service against the pretensions and claims of the imperious Oligarchy.
“I will not give up this Government,” he said, “that is now called an experiment, which some are prepared to abandon for a constitutional monarchy.
No! I intend to stand by it, and I entreat every man throughout the nation who is a patriot, and who has seen
and is compelled to admit the success of this great experiment, to come forward, not in heat, not in fanaticism, not in haste, not in precipitancy, but in deliberation, in full view of all that is before us, in the spirit of brotherly love and fraternal affection, and rally round the altar of our common country, and lay the Constitution
upon it as our last libation, and swear by our God, by all that is sacred and holy, that the Constitution
shall be saved and the Union
From this lofty attitude of patriotism he never stooped a line during the fierce struggle that ensued.
, of Oregon
, who attested his devotion to his country by giving his life in its defense on the battle-field a few months later,
made a most eloquent appeal for the preservation of the Union
He and others had been powerfully moved by the treasonable speech of Toombs
He drew a graphic picture of the terrible effects that might be expected from secession-nationality destroyed, and on its ruins several weak republics established, without power to carry on any of the magnificent schemes in hand for the development of the resources of the continent.
He spoke of the continual incentives to war between the separated States, and the contempt into which all would fall in the estimation of the world.
“With standing armies consuming the substance of our people on the land,” he said, “and our Navy and our postal steamers withdrawn from the ocean, who will protect, or respect, or who will even know by name our petty confederacies?
The American man-of-war is a noble spectacle.
I have seen it enter an ancient port in the Mediterranean.
All the world wondered at it and talked about it. Salvos of artillery, from forts and shipping in the harbor, saluted its flag.
Princes and princesses and merchants paid it homage, and all the people blessed it, as a harbinger of hope for their own ultimate freedom.
I imagine now the same noble vessel again entering the same haven.
The flag of thirty-three stars and thirteen stripes has been hauled down, and in its place a signal is run up which flaunts the device of a lone star or a palmetto-tree.
Men ask, ‘Who is the stranger that thus steals into our waters?’
The answer, contemptuously given, is, ‘She comes from one of the obscure republics of North America
-let her pass on.’
The plan of this work does not contemplate the recording of Congressional debates in detail; so we will proceed to notice, in few words, the result of the great discussion on pacification.
It was continued from time to
time until the last days of the session, when many of the conspirators had left Congress and gone home.
On the 2d of March, two days before the close of the session, Mason
called up the Crittenden resolutions in the Senate, when Clarke
was reconsidered and rejected, for the purpose of obtaining a direct vote on the original proposition.
After a long debate, continuing until late in the “small hours” of Sunday morning,
the Crittenden Compromise
was finally rejected by a vote of twenty against nineteen.19
It might have been carried had the conspirators retained their seats.
The question was then taken in the Senate on a resolution of the House of Representatives, to amend the Constitution
so as to prohibit forever any amendment of that instrument interfering with slavery in any State.
This resolution was adopted.
In the atmosphere of to-day, made clear by the tempest of war, we perceive that this result was most auspicious.
We may now see clearly the peril to which the nation would have been subjected had that Compromise, or kindred propositions for perpetuating and nationalizing slavery, been adopted.
Had the Constitution
been amended in accordance with the propositions of the patriotic but short-sighted Crittenden
, the Republic
would have been bound in the fetters of one of the most relentless and degrading despotisms that ever disgraced the annals of mankind.
On the 12th of January, the conspirators commenced withdrawing from Congress.
On that day the Representatives
of the State of Mississippi
sent in a communication to the Speaker
, saying they had been informed of the secession of their State, and that, while they regretted the occasion for that action, they approved the measure.
Two days afterward, Albert G. Brown
, one of the, Senators
, withdrew from active participation in the business of the Senate.
His colleague, Jefferson Davis
, did not take his leave, on account of sickness, until the 21st, when he made a parting speech.
He declared his devotion to the doctrine of State Supremacy to be so zealous, that if he believed his State had no just cause for leaving the Union
, he should feel bound by its action to follow its destiny.
He thought it had just cause for withdrawing, and declared that he had counseled the people (in other words, the politicians
) of that State to do as they had done.
He drew a distinction between nullification and secession, and asserted, in the face of history and common sense, that Calhoun
advocated nullification in order to save the Union
With the most transparent sophistry he then argued in favor of the right of secession, and against the prevailing idea, that when the preamble of the Declaration of Independence
asserts that “all
men are created equal,” it means all without distinction of race or country.
Then, with a wicked perversion of the plainest teachings of history, he said:--“When you deny to us the right to withdraw from a
government which threatens to be destructive of our rights, we but tread in the path of our fathers when we proclaim our independence, and take the hazard.”
In direct conflict with truth, and with the most shameless hypocrisy, which his subsequent conduct revealed, he declared that the step was taken by himself and his State not for any selfish purpose, but “from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we have inherited, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit unshorn to our children.”
He concluded with an expression of a hope that peaceful relations between the two sections might be maintained, and declared that he left the Senate without any animosity toward a single member personally.
“I carry with me,” he said, “no hostile remembrance.
Whatever offense I have given which has not been redressed, or for which satisfaction has not been demanded, I have, Senators
, at this hour of our parting, to offer you my apology for any pain which, in the heat of discussion, I have inflicted. . . . Having made this announcement, which the occasion seemed to me to require, it only remains for me to bid you a final adieu.”
then left the Senate Chamber
, and immediately entered more openly upon his treasonable work, in which he had been engaged for many years.
On the same day when Davis
left the Senate, the representatives of Alabama
in that House
, the Florida Senators
, spoke in temperate language; but Clement C. Clay, Jr.
, of Alabama
, one of the most malignant foes of the Republic
, and who was a secret plotter in Canada
, during the war, of high crimes against the people of the United States
, signalized his withdrawal by a harangue marked by the intensest venom., He commenced his speech by the utterance.
of what he knew to be untrue, by saying:--“I rise to announce, for my colleague and myself, that the people of Alabama
have adopted an Ordinance of Separation, and that they are all
in favor of withdrawing from the Union
I wish it to be understood
that this is the act of the people
He then uttered a tirade of abuse against the people of the Free-labor States, and closed by saying: “As a true and loyal citizen of Alabama
, approving of her action, acknowledging entire allegiance, and feeling that I am absolved by her act from all my obligations to support the Constitution of the United States
, I withdraw from this body, intending to return to the bosom of my mother, and share her fate and maintain her fortunes.”
His white-haired colleague, Fitzpatrick
, indorsed his sentiments, and both withdrew.
A week later, Senator Iverson
, of Georgia
, having received a copy of the Ordinance of Secession from the Convention
of the politicians of his State, formally withdrew, when he took the occasion to say, in contemplation of war :--“You may possibly overrun
us, desolate our fields, burn our dwellings, lay our cities in ruins, murder our people, and reduce us to beggary, but you cannot subdue or subjugate us to your Government or your will.
Your conquest, if you gain one, will cost you a hundred thousand lives, and more than a hundred million dollars. Nay, more, it will take a standing army of a hundred thousand men and millions of money, annually, to keep us in subjection.
You may whip us, but we will not stay whipped.
We will rise again and again to vindicate our right to liberty, and to throw off your oppressive and cursed yoke, and never cease the mortal strife until our whole white race is extinguished, and our fair land given over to desolation.
You may have ships of war, and we may have none.
You may blockade our ports and lock up our commerce.
We can live, if need be, without commerce.
But when you shut out our cotton from the looms of Europe
, we shall see whether other nations will not have something to say and something to do on that subject.
Cotton is King
! and it will find means to raise your blockade and disperse your ships.”
prudently kept himself away from all personal danger during the war that ensued; and in less than a year he saw his overrated monarch dethroned, and heard the cry of the great distress of his own people.
His truculent colleague, Toombs
, had already, as we have seen, gone home to work the machinery by which the people of Georgia
were unwillingly placed in an attitude of rebellion.
had also been bringing one of his Northern admirers in subserviency to his feet, in this wise:--Early
in January, it became known to the Superintendent
of the Metropolitan Police of New York, who were not under the control of the Mayor
, that large quantities of arms, purchased of Northern manufacturers and merchants, were going southward.
It was resolved to rut a stop to traffic that would evidently prove injurious to the Government
, and late in the month
nearly forty boxes of arms, consigned to parties in Georgia
, and placed on board the steamer Monticello
, bound for Savannah
, were seized by the New York police.
The fact was immediately telegraphed to Governor Brown
, at Milledgeville
was there, and took the matter into his own hands.
as follows to the Mayor
of New York:--“Is it true that arms, intended for, and consigned to the State of Georgia
, have been seized by public authorities in New York?
Your answer is important to us and New York.
Answer at once.”
This insolent demand of a private citizen-one who had lately boasted, in his place in the National Senate
, that he was a rebel and a traitor (and who, no one doubted, wanted these very arms for treasonable purposes), was obsequiously complied with.
) expressed his regret, but disclaimed for the city of New York
any “responsibility for the outrage,” as he called it. “As Mayor
,” he said, “I have no authority over the police.
If I had the power, I should summarily punish the authors of this illegal and unjustifiable seizure of private property.”
determined to retaliate.
The Governor, who seems to have been a plastic servant of this conspirator, had asked the Legislature for power to retaliate, should there be an occasion, but his request had not been granted.
advised him to act without law, and he did so. By his order, ships
of several Northern owners were seized at Savannah
and held as hostages.
This act produced great excitement throughout the country.
The more cautious leaders of the insurgents advised the release of the vessels.
In the mean time a larger portion of the arms seized at New York had been given up, and the little tempest of passion was soon allayed.
Investigations caused by this transaction revealed the fact that the insurgents were largely armed, through the cupidity of Northern merchants and manufacturers, who had made very extensive sales to the agents of the conspirators during the months of December, 1860, and January, February, and March, 1861.
On the 4th of February, John Slidell21
and Judah P. Benjamin
, of Louisiana
, withdrew from the National Senate
they were so dishonoring.
made a speech which was marked by a cool insolence of manner, an insulting exhibition of contempt for the people of the Free-labor States, and a consciousness of power to do all that, in smooth rhetoric, he threatened.
He spoke as if there would be a peaceable separation, and sketched a line of policy which the new “Confederacy” would pursue.
But, he said, in the event of an attempt of the Government
to enforce its laws in so-called seceded States, “you will find us ready to meet you with the outstretched hand of fellowship or in the mailed panoply of war, as you may will it. Elect between these alternatives.”
He then sneeringly referred to the utter failure which the Government
would experience in any attempt to assert its
authority over the “seceders.”
“You may,” he said, “under color of enforcing your laws or collecting your revenue, blockade our ports.
This will be war, and we shall meet it with different but equally efficient weapons.
We will not permit the introduction or consumption of any of your manufactures.
Every sea will swarm with our volunteer militia of the ocean, with the striped bunting floating over their heads, for we do not mean to give up that flag without a bloody struggle — it is ours as much as yours22
; and although for a time more stars may shine on your banner, our children, if not we, will rally under a constellation more numerous and more resplendent than yours.
You may smile at this as an impotent boast, at least for the present, if not for the future; but,” he said, with well-pointed irony, “if we need ships and men for privateering, we shall be amply supplied from the same sources as now, almost exclusively, furnish the means for carrying on with unexampled vigor the African Slavetrade-New York
and New England
Your mercantile marine,” he added, “must either sail under foreign flags or rot at your wharves.”
With the blind spirit of false prophecy which had taken possession of the
pointed to the inevitable hostility, as he conceived, of the European
naval powers, when commerce and the supply of cotton should be interfered with by “mere paper blockades,” and asked: “What will you be when, not only emasculated by the withdrawal of fifteen States, but warred upon by them with active and inveterate hostility?”
This significant question was answered four years afterward, when the naval powers of Europe
had been so offended without committing acts of resentment, and the threatened civil war had raged inveterately, by the fact that the Republic
was stronger, wealthier, and more thoroughly respected by foreign powers than ever.
The crowning infamy of this farewell speech of Slidell
was the utterance of the libel upon the people
, in his declaration that the secession movement was theirs, and not of political leaders!
in a temperate and argumentative speech on the right of secession.
He bade the Senators
from the Slave-labor States farewell, with the expectation of a speedy reunion; and he eulogized those Representatives from the Free-labor States who sympathized with himself and fellow-traitors in their rebellious movements, predicting that they would be honored above all others.
“When in after days the story of the present shall be written,” he said, “and when your children shall hear repeated the familiar tale, it will be with glowing cheek and kindling eye; their very souls will stand a-tiptoe as their sires are named, and they will glory in their lineage from men of spirit as generous, and of patriotism as high-hearted, as
ever illustrated or adorned the American Senate.”
This peroration was quite different in language and in its reception from that of his speech delivered on the same spot a month before,
when, with insinuations which only his own malignant nature could conceive, concerning the intentions of the supporters of the Government
, and with the usual bravado of his class, he said :--“The fortunes of war may be adverse to our arms; you may carry desolation into our peaceful land; and with torch and fire you may set our cities in flames;23
you may even emulate the atrocities of those who, in the war of the Revolution, hounded on the bloodthirsty savage to attacks upon the defenseless frontier; you may, under the protection of your advancing armies, give shelter to the furious fanatics who desire, and profess to desire, nothing more than to add all the horrors of a servile insurrection to the calamities of civil war; you may do all this — and more too, if more there be — but you never can subjugate us; you never can convert the free sons of the soil into vassals,
paying tribute to your power; and you never, never can degrade them to the level of an inferior and servile race — never, never
The galleries of the Senate Chamber
were crowded with Benjamin
's sympathizers, who then filled the public offices and society at large in Washington
They greeted the closing sentences of this speech with the wildest shouts and other vehement demonstrations, which Breckinridge
, the presiding officer, did not restrain.
The tumult was so disgraceful that even Senator Mason
, of Virginia
, was ashamed of it, and he proposed, by a motion, to clear the galleries.
The House of Representatives were spared the infliction of farewell speeches overflowing with treasonable sentiments.
The members from the “seceding States,” with a single exception, sent up to the Speaker
brief notices of their withdrawal.
These were laid silently upon the table when read, and were no further noticed.
Almost imperceptibly those traitors disappeared from the Legislative Hall
The exception referred to was Miles Taylor
, of Louisiana
, who took the occasion to warn the men of the Free-labor States of the peril of offending the cotton interest.
He assured them that France
would break any blockade that might be instituted, and that all the Border Slave-labor States would join those farther South in making war upon the National Government
, if any attempt was made to “coerce a State,” as the enforcement of law was falsely termed.
His remarks became so offensive to loyal ears, that Representative Spinner
, from the interior of New York, interrupted him, saying, “I think it is high time to put a stop to this countenancing treason in the halls of legislation.”
He made it a point of order whether it was competent for a member of Congress, sworn to support the Constitution
and laws, to openly advocate treason against the Republic
, and justify the seizure of forts and arsenals belonging to it by armed insurgents.
The Speaker allowed Taylor
to proceed; and he finished his harangue by a formal withdrawal from his seat in the House
Thus ended the open utterances of treason in the Halls of Congress.
The National Legislature was purged of its more disloyal elements, and thenceforth, during the remaining month of the session, its legitimate business was attended to. There were turbulent and disloyal spirits left in that body, but they were less demonstrative, and were shorn of their power to do serious mischief.
The Union men were now in the majority in the Lower House
, and they controlled the Senate.
Before the session closed, acts were passed for the organization of three new Territories, namely, Colorado
, and Dakotah.
Not a word was said about Slavery in those Territories.
The subject was left for decision to the people, when they should make a State Constitution.
This silence was expressive of the honest determination of the party just rising into power, not to meddle with Slavery by means of the National Government
, but leave it, as it always had been left, a subject for municipal law alone.
In this behavior “the South
” might have seen, if they had not been blinded by passion and misled by false teachers, an exhibition of justice full of promise for the future.
They had been repeatedly assured of this during the progress of the session.
So early as
the 27th of December, Charles Francis Adams
, a distinguished citizen of Massachusetts
, whose people were the chief offenders of the Oligarchy, offered in the House Committee of Thirty-three a resolution, “That it is expedient to propose an amendment to the Constitution
, to the effect that no future amendments of it in regard to Slavery shall be made unless proposed by a Slave State, and ratified by all the States.”
It was passed with only three dissenting voices in the Committee
It offered a broad and sufficient basis for a perfect reconciliation of feeling concerning the Slavery question, and would have been accepted as such, had not that Slavery question been the mere pretext of the conspirators, who had resolved that no terms of pacification should be agreed upon.
They were bent on revolution, and utterly discarded the counsels of Honor, Justice, and even Prudence.
The legend on their shield in political warfare was “Rule or ruin.”
Tail-piece — gauntlet and sword.|