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A STARTLING ANNOUNCEMENT IN CONGRESS.
AFFAIRS AT THE NATIONAL CAPITAL.-WAR COMMENCED IN CHARLESTON HARBOR.
HEN intelligence of Anderson's occupation of Fort Sumter went abroad, it created intense excitement. In the Freelabor States, as we have observed, it produced joyful emotions. In the Slave-labor States it kindled anger, and intensified the hurricane of passion then sweeping over them. From these, proffers of sympathy and military aid were sent to the South Carolinians, and they were
amazingly strengthened by the evidences of hearty co-operation in their revolutionary designs, which came not only from the Cotton-producing States, but from Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and even from Maryland.
The National Capital, in the mean time, became the theater of important and startling events, calculated to add to the feverish excitement throughout the country. Congress had not adjourned during the holidays, as usual.
On the day when the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession was * December 20, passed," the House of Representatives was discussing the Pacific
Railway Bill. Half an hour after that ordinance was adopted, the telegraph told the news to the representatives of that State in Congress, and all but two of them immediately left the hall. A little later it was publicly announced by Representative M. R. H. Garnett, of Virginia, who, contending in the discussion that his State would not be responsible for any bonds which the Government might issue for the construction of the Pacific Road, said :-“ Why, Sir, even while your bill is under debate, one of the Sovereign States of this Confederacy has, by the glorious act of her people, withdrawn, in vindication of ber rights, from the Union, as the telegraph announced to us at half-past one o'clock. . . . It is my solemn belief that the people of Virginia, when my State takes that course which thronging events will lead her to take, will not hold themselves responsible for the first cent of these bonds and appropriations.”! These words were followetl by applause from some of the Southern members; and Messrs. Boyce and Ashmore, the two remaining representatives of South Carolina, arose from their seats, shook hands with some of their friends, and left the hall. Four days afterward, a letter signed by the entire South Carolina delegation, then in Washington, was sent in to the Speaker, announcing, in the peculiar phraseology of the devotees of State Supremacy, that the action of their State had dissolved their connection with those whom they had been associated with
1 Report of the Proceedings of Congress, in the Washington Globe, December 20, 1860.
PATRIOTIC MOVEMENT IN WASHINGTON.
in a common agency” (meaning the National Congress), and that they should vacate their seats.' After drawing their pay from the public treasury up to the hour of their desertion, they departed for their homes. The South Carolina Senators, as we have observed, had already resigned.
The announcement of the treasonable movements at Charleston was heard with a calm dignity quite remarkable by the representatives of the Freelabor States, who had begun to look with contempt on the dramatic performances of some of the Hotspurs of the cotton-growing region, and thought it, time to rebuke them. On the same evening the New York delegation, excepting those from the city of New York, held a consultation, and passed a resolution, by unanimous rote, saying for the people of their State, that they believed that the appropriate remedy for every existing grievance might be applied under the Constitution, and that they should insist upon "a prompt and energetic enforcement of all the laws of the General Government." This resolution, which was applauded by representatives from other States, was sent to the Governor of New York (Morgan), with a suggestion, that in his forthcoming message he should give such expression that the enemies of the Government should know that " New York, at least, will never submit to the doctrine of secession;" also, suggesting the propriety of recommending the Legislature to adopt measures for forming " volunteer companies, to sustain, if need be, the Union to protect the Federal property, and aid in enforcing the Federal laws." It was felt that the time for public meetings, for political speeches, and for moral suasion, had passed, and that the people should rise in their majesty, and say, with the vehemence of conscious power, to the traitors everywhere-Touch the Ark of our Covenant with patricidal hands at your peril!
While there was calmness in Congress on the annunciation of the action of South Carolinians, there was great excitement throughout the Capital. The writer was in Washington at the time, and was in conversation with General Cass, at his house, on the great topic of the hour, when a relative brought to him a bulletin concerning the act of secession. The venerable statesman read the few words that announced the startling fact, and then throwing up his hands, while tears started from his eyes, he exclaimed, with uncommon emotion :-“Can it be! Can it be! Oh,” he said, “I had hoped to retire from the public service, and go home to die with the happy thought, that I should leave to my children, as an inheritance from patriotic men, a united and prosperous republic. But it is all over ! This is but the beginning of the end. The people in the South are mad ; the people in the North are asleep. The President is pale with fear, for his official household is full of traitors, and conspirators control the Government. God only knows what is to be the fate of my poor country! To Him alone must we look in this hour of thick darkness.”
The writer left the venerable ex-Minister of State, and went over to the War and Navy Departments. The offices were closed for the day, but the
1 This letter was signed by John McQueen, Milledge L. Bonham, W. W. Boyce, and J. D. Ashmore. Lawrence M. Keitt and William Porcher Miles were then in the Secession Convention at Charleston.
2 See page 51.
DISLOYALTY IN THE NATIONAL CAPITAL.
halls and lobbies were resonant with the voices of excited men. There were treasonable utterances there, shocking to the ears of loyal citizens. I went to the hotels on Pennsylvania Avenue" Willard's," the “ Kirkwood,” “Brown's," and "The Nat onal," and found them swarming with guests, for it was then the late dinner-hour. There was wild excitement among them; secession cockades were plentiful, and treason and sedition walked as boldly and defiantly in these hotels, and in the streets of the National Capital, as in the "Mills House," and the streets of Charleston. I took up the newspapers, and found no word of comfort therein for the lovers of the country. “The long-threatened result of Black Republican' outrage and antocracy,” said one, “has taken place in South Carolina; secession is a fixed fact.” Another, the Government gazette, praised the dignity of the South Carolina Convention. “If the telegraphic abstract may be relied upon," it said, “it is not easy to conceive of any thing more calm, more thoughtful, more dignified, than the utterances which followed the taking of the decisive step. . . . Almost Spartan simplicity animates the oratory. . . . A few days will bring the issue to the chambers of the Capitol. South Carolina, through her representatives, will reappear in Washington, in a character that will test the virtue of the Federal system, and the good sense of Congress. Let us hope that the solemnity of Charleston will not be left to stand in contrast to frivolity or passion in this the metropolis of the Union." I went home with a friend living near Bladensburg. His family physician--a şmall, fiery man, named Garnett, ani son-in-law of ex-Governor Wise, of Virginia—came to see a sick child. He was full of passion. “Noble South Carolina,” he said, “has done her duty bravely. Now Virginia and Maryland must immediately raise an armed force sufficient to control the district, and never allow Abe Lincoln to set his foot on its soil.” The little enthusiast was only the echo of the Virginia conspirators. A few days before, the Richmond Enquirer, cdited by Wise's son, who perished while in arms against his country, thus insolently concluded an article on the subject of sending commissioners from that State to others : _“Let the first convention, then, be held between Maryland and Virginia, and, these two States agreeing, let them provide sufficient force to seize the city of Washington, and if coercion is to be attempted, let it begin with subjugating the States of Maryland and Virginia. Thus practical and efficient fighting in the Union will prevent the powers of the Union from falling into the hands of our enemies. We hope Virginia will depute her commissioners to Maryland first, and, providing for the seizure of Washington and Old Point, Harper's Ferry and Gosport Navy Yard, present these two States in the attitude of rebels inviting coercion. This was the way Patrick Henry brought about the Revolution, and this is the best use that Virginia can make of commissioners of any
kind." Governor Wise had already publicly announced that, in the event of an attempt at "coercion” on the part of the National Government, Fortress Monroe, the Navy Yard at Gosport, and the armory and arsenal at Harper's
1 The prefix " Black” was given to the Republican party because, being favorable to the abolition of Slavery, its members were ranked as friends of the negro. This name was applied by the Oligarchy in the South, and was freely used by their partisans in the North.
? Washington States.
INTENTIONS OF THE CONSPIRATORS,
Ferry would be seized, and held for the purpose of opposing the Government. Already Judge A. H. Handy, a commissioner from Mississippi, had visited Maryland for the purpose of engaging that State in the Virginia scheme of seizing the National Capital, and preventing the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln. The conspirators were so confident of the success of their schemes, that one of the leading Southern Senators, then in Congress, said: "Mr. Lincoln will not dare to come to Washington after the expiration of the term of Mr. Buchanan. This city will be seized and occupied as the capital of the Southern Confederacy, and Mr. Lincoln will be compelled to take his oath of office in Philadelphia or in New York.” And the veteran editor, Duff Green, the friend and confidential co-worker with Calhoun when the latter quarreled with President Jackson, and who naturally espoused the cause of the secessionists, told Joseph C. Lewis, of Washington, while under the halffinished dome of the Capitol, early in 1861 "We intend to take possession of the Army and Navy, and of the archives of the Government; not allow the electoral votes to be counted; proclaim Buchanan provisional President, if he will do as we wish, and if not, choose another; seize the Harper's Ferry Arsenal and the Norfolk Navy Yard simultaneously, and sending armed men down from the former, and armed vessels up from the latter, take possession of Washington, and establish a new government."
There is ample evidence that the seizure of Washington City, the Government buildings, and the archives of the nation, was an original and capital feature in the plan of the conspirators; and their assertions, after they were foiled in this, that they sought only for "independence," and that all they asked was “to he let alone,” was the most transparent hypocrisy. They aimed at revolution at first, and disunion afterwards. They had assurances, they believed, that the President would not interfere with their measures. Should Congress pass a Force Bill, he was pledged by the declarations of his annual Message to withhold his signature from it; and most of them were satisfied that they might, during the next seventy days, establish their “Southern Confederacy,” and secure to it the possession of the Capital, without governmental interposition. Yet all were not satisfied. Some vigilant South Carolina spies in Washington would not trust the President. One of them, signing only the name of “Charles," in a letter to Rhett, the editor of the Charleston Mercury, said: “I know all that has been done here, but depend upon nothing that Mr. Buchanan promises. He will cheat us
1 Correspondence (Occasional) of the Philadelphia Press, December 21, 1860. In the same letter, which was a trumpet-call to the country to arouse it to a sense of its danger and to act, the writer (J. W. Forney) said:** The Administration of the Government is in the hands of the enemies of the country. The President of the United States has ceased to be the Chief Magistrate of a free people, and may be called the chief of those who are seeking to enslave a free people. He is quoted by the secessionists, if not as their active, at least as their quiescent ally! He refuses to exercise his functions, and to enforce the laws! He refuses to protect the public property, and to re-enforee the gallant Anderson at Fort Moultrie! He sends the Secretary of the Interior te North Carolina, with the intention of forcing that loyal and conservative State into the ranks of the disunionists! While sending General Harney to Kansas with a large military force to suppress a petty border insurgent, he folds his arms when General Scott and his brave subordinates in the South appeal to him for succor. His Attorney-General argues with all his ingenuity against the power of the Federal Government to enforce the laws of the country. His confidants are disunionists. His lealers in the Senate and in the House are disunionists! and while he drives into exile the oldest Statesman in America, simply and only because ho dares to raise his voice in favor of the country, he consults daily with men who publicly arow, in their seats in Congress, that the Union is dissolved, and that the laws are standing still! Is it not time, then, for the American people to take the country into their own hands, and to administer the Government in their swn way?"
ROBBERY OF INDIAN TRUST-FUNDS.
unless we are too quick for him." He then urged the seizure of the forts, Sumter particularly, without a moment's delay. Neither would the conspirators fully trust each other. William H. Trescot, already mentioned, a South Carolinian, and then Assistant Secretary of State and who for years had been conspiring against the Government, was thought to be tricky. The writer just quoted said :"Further, let me warn you of the danger of Governor Pickens making Trescot his channel of communication with the President, for the latter will be informed of every thing that transpires, and that to our injury. Tell Governor Pickens this at once, before matters go further." And the elder Rhett commenced a letter to his son, of the Charleston Mercury, by saying :-“Jefferson Davis is not only a dishonest man, but a liar !" These politicians seem to have had a correct appreciation of each other's true character.
While the excitement in Washington because of the doings at Charleston was at its hight, it was intensified by a new development of infamy, in the discovery of the theft of an enormous amount of the Indian Trust-Fund, which was in the custody of the conspirator, Jacob Thompson, the Secretary of the Interior. The principal criminal in the affair was undoubtedly Floyd, the Secretary of War. He had been chiefly instrumental in getting up a military expedition into the Utah Territory, in which about six millions of dollars of the public treasure were squandered, to the hurt of the national credit, at a critical time. The troops were stationed there at a point called Camp Floyd ; and the Secretary had contracted with the firm of Russell, Major, & Waddell for the transportation of supplies thither from Fort Leavenworth, and other points on the Missouri River. For this service they were to receive about one million of dollars a year. Floyd accepted from them drafts on his Department, in anticipation of service to be performed, to the amount of over two millions of dollars. These acceptances were so manifestly illegal, that they could with difficulty be negotiated. The contractors became embarrassed by the difficulty, and hit upon a scheme for raising money more rapidly.
Russell bad become acquainted with Goddard Bailey, a South Carolinian and kinsman of Floyd, who was the clerk in the Interior Department in
whose special custody were the State bonds composing the Indian a July, 1860.
Trust-Fund. He induced Bailey to exchange these bonds for Floyd's illegal acceptances. These were hypothecated in New York, and money raised on them. When, as we have observed, the financial affairs of the country became clouded, late in 1860, these bonds. depreciated,
and the holders called on Russell for additional security. Bailey b December 13.
supplied him with more bonds, until the whole amount was the sum of eight hundred and seventy thousand dollars. When the time approached for him to be called upon by the Indian Bureau for the coupons payable on the 1st of January, on the abstracted bonds, Bailey found himself in such a position that he was driven to a confession. Thompson, his employer, was then in North Carolina, on the business of conspiracy, as Commissioner of the “Sovereign State of Missis
2 The same. 1 Autograph letter, dated Washington, December 22, 1860.
3 Autograph letter. 4 Report of the Committee of Investigation of the House of Represontatives, February 12, 1861. 6 See page 115.