Highly interesting Revelations — the last interview about the "Union"--Lincoln Tells two Anecdotes — he Wonders if Bell or Douglas would have Stood what he Stood?
The detailed interview herewith subjoined, as given by ex-Gov. Morehead
in his recent Liverpool
speech, will be found highly interesting and instructive.
It should be read by every one:
commenced the conversation, after receiving us very kindly, by stating that he was accidentally elected President
of the United States
; that he never aspired to a position of that kind; that it had never entered into his head; but that from the fact of his having made a race for the Senate of the United States with Judge Douglas
, in the State of Illinois
, his name became prominent, and he was accidentally selected and elected afterwards as President
of the United States
; that running that race in a local election his speeches had been published; and that any one might examine his speeches and they would see that he had said nothing against the interests of the South
He defied them to point out any one sentence in all the various addresses that he had made in that canvass that could be tortured into enmity against the South
, except, he remarked, one expression, namely, that ‘"a house divided against itself must fall; they must either be all slave or all free States,"’ and he said that he explained afterwards that that was an abstract opinion, and never intended to be made the basis of his political action.
He remarked at the sometime that the clause in the Constitution of the United States
requiring fugitive slaves to be delivered up was a constitutional provision; was a part of the organic law of the land, and that he would execute it with more fidelity than any Southern man that they could possibly find, and that he could not imagine what was the cause of the deep and apparently settled enmity that existed towards him throughout the entire South
, looking at me at the time as if to invite an answer from me. I replied that he was very much mistaken if he supposed that the deep pervading feeling throughout the South
originated in any personal enmity towards himself; that I did not suppose that there was any feeling of that kind on the part of an individual in the South
; that he was the representative of a great party — of a very sectional party — elected on a platform which they considered would, if carried out, be destructive of their dearest and best rights; and that it was on that account, and that alone — the attempt to throw a common Government, the Government
for all the States, in antagonism to the interests of a portion of the very State whose Government it was, which was the cause of the deep and settled feeling which existed throughout the entire South
We appealed to him then to give the guarantees which were demanded by the Southern
men in that Peace Conference, representing to him that it was in his power; that he was at that time a power in the State
; that he held in the hollow of his hand the destiny of thirty millions of people; that if he said that the guarantee should be made, and would make it, there would be no difficulty in carrying out any programme that might be adopted.
He said that he was willing to give a constitutional guarantee that slavery should not be molested in any way, directly or indirectly, in the States; that he was willing to go further, and give a guarantee that it should not be molested in the District of Columbia; that he would go still further, and say that it should not be disturbed in the decks, arsenals forts, and other places within the slaveholding States; but as for slavery in the Territories
, that his whole life was dedicated in opposition to its extension there; that he was elected by a party which had made that a portion of its platform, and he should consider that he was betraying that party if he ever agreed, under any state of the case, to allow slavery to be extended in the Territories
We pointed out to him that there was not an acre of territory belonging to the United States
where the foot of a slave could ever tread; that there were natural laws which would forbid slavery going into a mountainous region, and the solder regions of the North
; and that it was utterly impossible that slavery could ever extend there; and we denied that a common Government had power to make the prohibition, and asked him why, if he was a really true, sincere, Union man, have an empty prohibition when the laws of nature were a stronger prohibition than any that could be passed by act of Congress?
(Hear, hear.) That he waived, by saying that he was committed on this subject.
Then it was that i replied to him: ‘"Mr. President
, you say you were accidentally selected and elected by a party.
You were the candidate of the party, but when you were elected, sir, I thought — I have been taught to believe — that you were the President
of the Union
--I opposed you, sir."’ I said to him: ‘"With all the zeal and energy of which I was master, I endeavored to prevent your election — not because I had any personal feelings of enmity towards you, but because I believed that it would lead to the very result we now witness.
I opposed you, sir; but your are my President
— you have been elected according to the forms of the Constitution
and you are the President
of the people of the United States
, and I think that some little deference is due to the opinions of those who constitute the majority, according to the vote that has been polled, of 1,100,000 men in the United States
He at once rather briskly said: ‘"If he was a minority President
he was not the first, and that, at all events, he had obtained more votes than we could muster for any other man."’ I think, as near as I can recollect, those are about his identical words.
I responded at once to him that I did not intend to recall to him that he was a minority President
, but simply to announce the broad fact that he was the President
not of the men who voted for him, but of the whole people of the United States
, and that of the wishes and feelings and interests of the whole people of the United States
--the party with 1,100,000 majority as well as the minority party by whom he was elected, ought to be consulted by him.
here interposed and presented three alternative propositions to him. First, that be might remain perfectly idle and passive and let the disintegration of the States go on as it had gone on; secondly, give guarantees such as were asked, and bring the whole power of his Administration to bear in obtaining those guarantees; or, thirdly, resort to coercion and attempt to force the seceding States into obedience.
He illustrated very distinctly and clearly those three propositions.
When the conversation had slackened a little I ventured to appeal to him in a manner in which I never appealed to any other man, and never expect to do again.
I said that as to the last proposition I desired to say one word — that I trusted and prayed to God that he would not resort to coercion; that if he did, the history of his Administration would be written in blood, and all the waters of the Atlantic ocean
could never wash it from his hands.
(Hear, hear, and applause.) He asked me what I would do, and if meant by coercion the collection of the revenue and the taking back of the forts which he said belonged to the United States
I replied that that was the only mode in which was it possible that he could, under the Constitution
, resort to coercion — by an attempt to collect the revenue and to take back the forts.
He had placed himself in a chair with rounds to it, with his feet upon the highest round — a long, lanky man, with very large side whiskers, with his elbows upon his knees, and his hands upon the of his face, in an attitude of listening, and when he would speak he would drop his hands and raise his head.
Dropping his hand and raising his head, he said he would tell me a little anecdote which had happened when he first came to the bar. An old man, he said, had applied to him to bring a suit, and made out a capital case, as he thought; but when the evidence was detailed before the jury it was the worst case he had ever listened to, and while the evidence was going on the old man came, listening to the evidence himself, and whispered in his ear, ‘"Guv it up."’--(Laughter) ‘"Now,"’ said he, ‘"Governor, wouldn't this be 'guvin' it up! "’
I assure you, Mr. Chairman
, I don't present it in any light different from that in which it actually acourred — none whatever.
I said to him: ‘"Mr. President
, it may be said that it would be 'guvin' it up; but hadn't you better 'guv it up' without bloodshed than drench this land with blood, and then have to 'guv it up!'"’ (Applause) He then asked what he was to do with his oath of office — He said he had sworn to see the laws faithfully executed, and, addressing himself to me, he said: ‘"I would like to know from you what I am to do with my oath of office."’ I said to him that he had taken a solemn oath to see the laws faithfully executed; but that Congress was then in session, and application had been made to Congress to give to the President
of the United States
the power to collect the revenue by armed vessels outside of the ports, and Congress had refused to give that power.
‘"If,"’ I said, ‘"Congress fails to give the necessary power, Mr. President
, to you to collect the revenue by vessels outside the ports, how are you to collect it?
Do you think you can send a collector to the port of Charleston
, to the port of Savannah
, or of New Orleans, to collect the revenue there?
Is it not an impossibility, and does your oath bind you to do a thing that is impossible?
As to the forts, that is a matter within your discretion, sir. You can withdraw the troops if you please. --You are the Commander-in-Chief
, and it belongs to you either to keep them there or to withdraw them totally, and prevent a collision and a consequent deadly and ruinous war." ’
‘"Well,"’ said he, raising himself again, ‘"I will only answer you by telling you a little anecdote which struck me — excuse me,"’ says he, ‘"a little anecdote which struck me as you were going on.--It is from Esop's fables, and doubtless in your schoolboy days you have read it. Esop, you know,"’ says he, ‘"illustrates great principles often by making mute animals speak and act, and according to him there was a lion once that was desperately in love with a beautiful lady, and he courted the lady, and the lady became enamored of him and agreed to marry him, and the old people were asked for their consent.
They were afraid of the power of the lion, with his long and sharp claws and his tusks, and they said to him: ‘'We can have no objection to so respectable a personage as you but our daughter is frail and delicate, and we hope that you will submit to have your claws out off and your tusks drawn, because they might do very serious injury to her'’ The lion submitted being very much in love.
His claws were cut off and his tusks drawn, and they took clubs and then knocked him on the head."’ (Laughter.)
I replied, I think, about in substance this — that it was an exceedingly interesting anecdote, and very apprepes,
but not altogether a satisfactory answer to me, and then said to him, ‘"Mr. Lincoln
, this to me, sir, is the most serious and all absorbing subject that has ever engaged my attention as a public man. I deprecate and look with horror upon a fratricidal war. I look at the injury that it is to do, not only to my own section — that I know is to be desolated and drenched in blood — but I think of the injury that it is to do the cause of humanity itself, and I appeal to you, apart from these tests, to lend us your aid and countenance in averting a calamity like that."’
Before he replied, Mr. Rives
, of Va, got up. We had before that conversed sitting in a semi circle around the President
; but Mr. Rives
rose from his chair, and with a dignity and eloquence that I have seldom heard surpassed in the course of my life, he appealed to him I could not pretend to give even the substance of his speech; but I remember that he told him that he was then a very old man; that there never had been a throb of his heart that was not in favor of the perpetuation of the Union
; that he came there with a hope and a wish to perpetuate it, and that all his efforts had been exerted in endeavoring to procure such guarantees as would perpetuate it; but that he desired to say to him.--and he said it with a trembling voice — in order that he might know, and not say thereafter that he was not fully warned, that he agreed with every word I had said with regard to the horrors of this anticipated war, and that if he did resort to coercion Virginia
would leave the Union
and join the seceding States.
‘"Nay, sir,"’ he said, ‘"old as I am, and dearly as I have loved this Union, in that event I go, with all my heart and soul."’ (Hear, hear.)
jumped up from his chair, as Mr. Rives
was standing, advanced one step towards him, and said: ‘"Mr. Rives
, Mr. Rives
, if Virginia
will stay in I will withdraw the troops from Fort Sumter
stepped back and said, ‘"Mr. President
, I have no authority to speak for Virginia
, I am one of the humblest of her sons; but if you will guarantee to do that, it will be one of the wisest things you have ever done.
Do that, and give us guarantees, and I can only promise you that whatever influence I possess shall be exerted to promote the Union
and to restore it to what it was."’ We then, all of us, got up and were standing.
I was on the outer circle.
He said: ‘"Well, gentlemen, I have been wondering very much whether, if Mr. Douglas
of Mr. Bell
had been elected President
, you would have dared to talk to him as freely as you have to me."’
I did not hear the answer, but I am told that Mr. Guthrie
answered him about in this way: ‘"Mr. President
, if Gen Washington
occupied the seat that you will soon fill, and it had been necessary to talk to him as we have to you to save such a Union as this, I for one should talk to him as we have to you."’ (Hear, hear) That closed the conversation.