to pass them; thirdly, that the seizure will be an act of war; and, finally, that the great alarm pervading the country, and the revolutionary action of the secession party in this State and of the States actually seceded, find no just warrant in the facts of the case.
All this stir about the removal of the guns from Bellona arsenal, it seems to me, is wholly uncalled for. It scarcely rises to the dignity of a “tempest in a teapot.”
What are the facts?
In 1857, the Government
, through Secretary Floyd
, contracted with Dr. Archer
for sundry cannon, to be delivered in Richmond
The very date of the contract exonerates the Government
from all sinister purpose in reference to the guns.
The guns having been made, the contractor wanted his money, and applied for payment.
To his application it was replied, that on fall compliance with his contract, by the delivery of the guns in Richmond
, the money would be paid; and the head of the Ordnance Department accordingly advised Dr. Archer
to deliver the guns to Colquitt
& Co., in Richmond
, to be by them re-shipped to Fortress Monroe
, the chief depository in Virginia
for national arms and munitions of war. So the first movement of the guns had its origin in a simple act of indebtedness of the Government
to a citizen of Virginia
, in need of, and demanding his money.
In such a movement no hostile intention can be detected.
It was but the doing of an ordinary act in the ordinary routine of the business of a bureau of the War Office; and it was done on the responsibility of the head of the bureau, without any consultation with, or any regular military order from, the head of the War Department--which at once negatives the idea of any inconsistency between the statement of the officer of the Ordnance Department and that of the Secretary of War
, and fully relieves the latter functionary of the charges of duplicity and falsehood so vehemently pressed by the gentleman from Madison
) and others, who seem resolved to find in this insignificant affair something monstrous and unendurable.
The following letters — which I will read to the House
— explain clearly the whole transaction, and will remove all ground for panic.
First, a letter from Col. Craig
of the Ordnance Bureau, to Dr. Archer
, of date the 22d of March, which is as follows:--“You will please forward to Richmond the cannon at your foundry which has been inspected by the United States, with as little delay as possible; and as soon as they are shipped from that place, the amount due on the inspection will be paid
Secondly, a letter from Captain Kingsbury
, of the Ordnance Department, dated March 28th, and addressed to my friend Mr. A. M. Barbour
, a member of the convention, which is in these words:--“Col. Craig wishes me to say that Dr. Archer will be directed to-day not to remove the guns at present.
The movement has been commenced, in order that the citizens of Virginia might receive their dues from the United States; and as the contract was completed, it seemed a fitting time to send forward the guns
The Secretary of War
, as stated by him in letters to myself, and another member of the House
, (Col. McCue
,) made no order in the premises
, but whatever was done, was the independent action of the Ordnance Bureau, in its ordinary course of business, and that action was nothing more nor less than the taking of proper steps, by the proper bureau, to liquidate a debt due by the Government
to a citizen — a transaction of daily occurrence in the business operations of the various bureaus in the several chief departments of the Government
Gentlemen evidently confound the action of Col. Craig
and that of the Secretary of War
, supposing that the Ordnance Division
does no official act without an express order from the Secretary
, and this confusion of ideas has doubtless led to the harsh aspersions which have been applied in this debate to the latter.
Thus far, then, the facts offer no ground for the supposition that the Government
designed to employ the guns against Virginia
, or for menace, or for any improper use. And it is conclusive against any unfriendly or warlike intent, that the Ordnance Department, on being apprised that the removal of the guns had provoked excitement, forthwith notified Dr. Archer
not to move them at all. What cause, then, is there for the panic that sounds its busy din in this hall, and in the streets of this city?
or for the passage of these harsh and illegal resolutions?
Besides, Gen. Scott
has said that there is no need for the guns at Fortress Monroe
, there being a large number of supernumerary guns already there.
The simple truth is, that the guns were to be sent to Fortress Monroe
because it is the only convenient depot to receive them.
It is not only the most natural and proper place to send them to, but the only one in the State
within convenient reach.
The panic, therefore, which has arisen from these simple circumstances is totally groundless, and is, I must say, unworthy the chivalry of Virginia
It can have no effect but to scare timid women and children, and does not become grown up and bearded men; and if this legislature, under provocation so slight, and circumstances so trivial, shall adopt these resolves, they will provoke the contempt of the brave and chivalrous throughout the land.
And, after all, is not all this outcry about these guns one in a series of devices designed to precipitate Virginia
Sir, I verily believe it; for I have too much respect for Virginia
to suppose that they can be frightened by the moving of a few guns from Bellona Arsenal to Fortress Monroe
No; it is nothing more nor less than the driving of a peg to hang excitement and panic on — an ingenious scheme of frenzied disunionists to effect, by the exasperation of the public mind, already strung to a high pitch, the darling object of their mad desires: the secession