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FLOYD IMPLICATED IN CRIME.
sippi.” Bailey wrote a letter to him, antedated the 1st of December, disclosing the material facts of the case, and pleading, for himself, that his motive bad been only to save the honor of Floyd, which was compromised by illegal advances.
Thompson returned to Washington on the 22d, when the letter was placed in his hands. After consultation, it is said, with Floyd, he revealed the matter to the President, who was astounded. The farce of discovering the thief was then performed, Thompson being chief manager. The AttorneyGeneral, and Robert Ould the District Attorney (who afterward became one of the most active servants of the confederated conspirators at Richmond), were called to take a part. Neither the robber, nor the key of the safe in which the bonds were kept, could be found. Mayor Berret was required to detail a special police force to guard every avenue leading to the Interior Department, so that no clerks might leave. These clerks were all examined touching their knowledge of the matter. Nothing was elicited. Then the safe was broken open, and the exact amount of the theft was speedily made known. At length Bailey was discovered, and made a full confession.
The wildest stories as to the amount of funds stolen immediately went abroad. It was magnified to millions. It was already known that Cobb had impoverished the Treasury; it was now believed that plunder was the business of the Cabinet, for the public held Floyd and Thompson responsible for the crime which Bailey had confessed. The blow given to the public credit was a staggering one. The Grand Jury of Washington soon acted on the matter, and Floyd was indicted on three counts, namely, malversation in office, complicity in the abstraction of the Indian Trust Fund, and conspiracy against the Government. The House of Representatives appointed a Committee to make a thorough investigation of the affair, and they concluded their report « with the expression of an opinion, mildly
a February 12, drawn, that Floyd's conduct in the matter “could not be reconciled with purity of private motives and faithfulness to public trusts." When the indictment of the Grand Jury and the report of the Committee were made, Floyd was far beyond the reach of marshals and courts. He had fled in disgrace from the National Capital, and was an honored guest of the public authorities at Richmond," who boldly defied the national power.
The excitement on account of the robbery in the Interior Department was followed by intelligence of the proceedings at Pittsburg, already mentioned, where an immense meeting of the citizens was held in the street, in front of the Court House, in the evening of the 27th, and they resolved that it was the duty of the President “to purge his
JOUIN B. FLOYD.
1 The Government lost over six hundred thousand dollars. * Report of the Investigating Committee, February 12, 1861.
3 See note 3, page 127.
• See page 123.
RESIGNATION OF SECRETARY FLOYD.
Cabinet of every man known to give aid and comfort to, or in any way countenancing, the revolt of any State against the authority of the Constitution and the laws of the Union.” On the morning of the same day, the
news of the occupation of Fort Sumter by the garrison of Fort . December 27, Moultrie reached Washington, and produced the greatest con
sternation among the conspirators. The Cabinet assembled at midday. They had a stormy session. Floyd urgently demanded an order for Anderson's return to Fort Moultrie, alleging that the President, by withholding it, was violating the “solemn pledges of the Government.” The latter, remembering his implied, if not actual pledges, was inclined to give the order;' but the warning voices of law, duty, and public opinion made him hesitate. They spoke to his conscience and his prudence about faithfulness, impeachment, and a trial for treason; and to his patriotism concerning the goodness and the greatness of his native land, and its claims upon his gratitude. He paused, and the Cabinet adjourned without definite action.
The position of the aged President, during the eventful week we are here considering, was a most painful one. He was evidently involved in perilous toils into which he had fallen in less troublous times, when he believed that he had called into his counsels true men, as the world of politicians goes. He found himself, if not deceived, unexpectedly subjected to the control of bad men; and for two or three days after this Cabinet meeting, as the writer was informed by an intimate acquaintance of the President, he was in continual fear of assassination.
On the morning after the stormy cabinet meeting just mentioned, news came that Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney had been seized by South Carolina troops. The President breathed more freely. He felt himself relieved from much embarrassment, for the insurgents had committed the first act of war. He now peremptorily refused to order the withdrawal of the garrison from
Sumter, and on the following day the disappointed Floyd re* December 29. signed the seals of his office, fled to Richmond, and afterward took up arms against his country. In his letter of resignation, this man, covered, as with a garment, with some of the darkest crimes known in history, spoke of “patriotism” and “honor.” He said :-“I deeply regret that I feel myself under the necessity of tendering to you my resignation as Secretary of War, because I can no longer hold it under my convictions of patriotism, nor with honor, subjected as I am to a violation of solemn pledges and plighted faith.” His resignation was immediately accepted, and his place filled by the patriotic Kentuckian, Joseph Holt. Then a load of anxiety was lifted from the burdened hearts of the loyal people of the Republic. The purification of Buchanan's Cabinet went on, and there was a general change in the ministry by the middle of January. When Attorney-General Black succeeded General Cass as Secretary of State, his office was filled by Edwin M. Stanton, afterward Secretary of War under President Lincoln; Philip F. Thomas, of Maryland, had succeeded Cobb as Secretary of the Treasury.
I See Letter of President Buchanan to the Commissioners of South Carolina," December 30, 1860.
? In reply to a statement made by General Scott, concerning the apparent remissness of duty on the past of the Administration at that crisis, published in the National Intelligencer on the 21st of October, 1862, Mr. Buchanan says that it was at his request that Floyd resigned. This allegation of the President, which is undoubtedly true, makes Floyd's high-sounding words about wounded patriotism and honor, in connection with his infamous official career, appear extremely ridiculous.
SOUTH CAROLINA COMMISSIONERS.
Unwilling to assist the Government in enforcing the laws, Thomas resigned,
There was still another cause for excitement in Washington and throughout the country, during the eventful week we are considering. It was the arrival and action of Messrs. Barnwell, Adams, and Orr, the “Commissioners” for South Carolina. They evidently expected to stay a long time, as embassadors of their “Sovereign State” near the Government of the United States. Their fellow-conspirator, W. H. Trescot, who had just left the State Department, in which he could be no longer useful to the enemies of his country, had hired the fine dwelling-house of the widow of Captain Joseph Smoot, of the United States Navy, No. 352 (Franklin Row) K Street, as their ministerial residence. There they took up their abode on their arrival, on the 26th, with servants and other necessaries for carrying on a domestic establishment, and Trescot was duly installed their Secretary. They were greeted with distinguished consideration by their fellow-conspirators, and the multitude of sympathizers in the National Capital; and they doubtless had roseate dreams of official and social fellowship with Lord Lyons, M. Mercier, Baron
Von Gerolt, and other foreign ministers then in Washington. That dream, however, assumed the character of a nightmare, when, on the following day, they heard of Anderson and his gallant little band being in Fort Sumter.
On the 28th, the “Commissioners” addressed a formal diplomatic letter to the Presi
1860. dent, drawn up, it is said, by Orr, who was once Speaker of the National House of Representatives, and
who had been denounced in his own State as the prince of demagogues.” That letter informed the President
RESIDENCE OF THE
I See his Letter of Resignation, January 11, 1861. · The house next to the open space in the picture.
• Orr's views seem to have undergone a change. In a letter to the editor of the Charleston Mercury, dated January 24, 1858, Andrew Calhoun said: "I found, on my return to this state, that Orr, that prince of demagogues, had, by all kinds of appliances, so nationalized public opinion about here, that sentiments are habitually uttered suited to the meridian of Connecticut, but destructive to the soil and ancient faith of the State." This Calhoun and other conspirators found it necessary to work upon the people continually, to keep them prepared for treasonable work at the proper moment. Whenever they found a man of influence true to the Union, they denounced and persecuted him, and men in more humble spheres were cowed into meek submission by the truculent Oligarchy.
THE COMMISSIONERS' PUBLIC LETTER.
that they were authorized and empowered to treat with the Government of the United States for the delivery of the forts, magazines, light-houses, and other real estate, with their appartenances, in the limits of South Carolina ; and also for an apportionment of the public debt, and for a division of all other property held by the Government of the United States as agent of the Confederated States, of which South Carolina was recently a member; and generally to negotiate as to all other measures and arrangements proper to be made and adopted in the existing relation of the parties, and for the continuance of peace and amity between the Commonwealth and the Government at Washington. They also furnished him with a copy of the
Ordinance of Secession. They said it would have been their duty, under their instructions, to have informed him that they were ready to negotiate, “but (referring to Anderson's movements) the events of the last twenty-four hours ” had altered the condition of affairs under which they came. They reminded him that the authorities of South Carolina could, at any time within the past sixty days, have taken possession of the forts in Charleston harbor, but they were restrained by pledges given in a manner that they could not doubt. They assured him that until
the circumstances of Anderson's movements were explained in a manner to relieve them of all doubt as to the spirit in which the negotiations should be conducted, they would be compelled to suspend all discussion. In conclusion, they urged the President to immediately withdraw all the National troops from Charleston harbor, because, under the circumstances, they were a “standing menace,” which rendered negotiations impossible, and threatened to bring to a bloody issue questions which ought to be settled with temperance and judgment."
The arrogance and insolence visible in this letter, considering the criminal position of the men who signed it, and the circumstances to which it related, offended the President, who would have been applauded by every loyal man in the country. if he had arrested them on a charge of treason. Yet
he treated the “ Commissioners” and their letter with marked • December, 1860.
courtesy in a reply written on the 30th.” He referred them to
his Annual Message for a definition of his intended course concerning the property of the United States and the collection of the revenue. He could only meet them as private gentlemen of the highest character, and
JAMES L. ORR.
i See page 102.
3 Three weeks later, Francis C. Treadwell, of New York, & counselor of the Supreme Court, offered to Chief-Justice Taney an affirmation, in due form, that certain persons (naming most of the public men known to have been engaged in the great conspiracy) were guilty of conspiring against the Constitution and Government of the United States, and had committed the crime of treason, or misprision of treason, and praying for their arrest. This paper was returned to Mr. Treadwell by the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Benjamin C. Howard, with the remark, that the Chief Justice deemed it "an imp per paper to be offered to the Court."
THE PRESIDENT'S LETTER TO THE COMMISSIONERS.
was willing to lay before Congress any proposition they might make. To recognize their State as a foreign power would be usurpation on his part; he should refer the whole matter of negotiation to Congress. He denied ever having made any agreement with the Congressional delegates from South Carolina concerning the withholding of re-enforcements from the Charleston forts, or any pledge to do so ;' but declared that it had been his intention, all along, not to re-enforce them, and thus bring on a collision, until they should be attacked, or until there was evidence that they were about to be attacked. “This," he said, " is the whole foundation of the alleged pledge.” He then referred them to the instructions to Major Anderson, already noticed,' in which that officer was authorized to occupy any one of the forts with his small force in case of an attack, and to take similar steps when he should “ bave tangible evidence of a design to proceed to a hostile act." He also referred to the fact that the South Carolinians had already committed an act of war by seizing two forts belonging to the National Government in Charleston harbor, and had flung out the Palmetto flag over them, in place of the old standard of the Union. “It is under all these circumstances,” he said, with evident indignation," that I am urged immediately to withdraw the troops from the harbor of Charleston, and am informed that without this negotiation is impossible. This I cannot do; this I will not do. Such an idea was never thought of by me in any possible contingency.” He informed them that he had just heard of the capture of the Arsenal at Charleston and half a million of dollars' worth of property by the insurgents, and said, -" Comment is needless;" and then gave them to understand that he considered it his duty to defend Fort Sumter, as a portion of the public property of the United States. He concluded with expressing “great personal regard” for the “Commissioners."
Two days later, the “ Commissioners” replied to this note in January 1, a long and extremely insolent and insulting letter. As representatives of a “sovereign power," they said, they “had felt no special solicitude” as to the character in which the President might receive them, and they had no reason to thank him for permitting them to have their propositions laid before Congress. They then referred to the declarations in his Message, that he had no right, and would not attempt, “to coerce a seceding State,” and pointed to his subsequent acts, as virtual pledges that such were his honest convictions of duty. “Some weeks ago," they said, , “the State of South Carolina declared her intention, in the existing condition
See page 102 When Jacob Thompson, the Secretary of the Interior, reached Oxford, Mississippi, after leaving office, he was honored by a public reception. In the course of a speech on that occasion, he said, speaking of affairs in Charleston harbor :-"The President agreed with certain gentlemen, undertaking to represent South Carolina, that no change should be made in the military status of the forts; and when Major Anderson, adopting an extreme measure of war, only justified in the presence of an overpowering enemy, spiked his guns and burned his gun-carriages, and moved, with his garrison, from Fort Moultrie to Fort Samter, and thus committed an act of hostility, the President heard of the movement with chagrin and mortification."
It is the deliberate conviction of Joseph Holt, the loyal Secretary of War during the last seventy days of Mr. Buchanan's administration, that no such pledge was ever given. See his reply to allegations in a speech of ex-Postmaster-General Blair, at Clarkesville, Maryland, in August, 1865. It is fair to conclude that men like the * Commissioners" from South Carolina, and Jacob Thompson, all engaged in the commission of the highest crime known, namely, treason to their Government, would not be slow in the use of the more venal and common sin of making false accusations, especially when such accusations might furnish some excuse for their iniquity. No proof has ever been given that the President violated his oath by making such pledge.
* See page 125, and note 1, page 129