Imágenes de páginas



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 Slidell' and Judah P. Benjamin, of Louisiana, withdrew from the National Senate they were so dishonoring. Slidell 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 yours; 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


1 See page 61.

The Louisiana conspirators, as we have observed, adopted as a device for their flag thirteen stripes, alternate red, white, and blue, and a single yellow star on a red ground in one corner. The blue stripe soiled the purity of appearance of the old flag. It was, indeed, dishonored.



conspirators, Slidell 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 of Louisiana, in his declaration that the secession movement was theirs, and not of political leaders!

Benjamin followed Slidell 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," December 31, 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;' 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,


1 Benjamin was afterward convicted by testimony in open court, at the trial of the assassins of President Lincoln, of having been one of the chief plotters at Richmond, while he was the so-called "Secretary of State" of Jefferson Davis, of schemes for burning the cities, steamboats, hospitals, &c., and poisoning the public fountains of water in the Free-labor States.


233 paying tribute to your power; and you never, never can degrade them to the level of an inferior and servile race-never, never, NEVER!"1 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 Freelabor States of the peril of offending the cotton interest. He assured them that France and England 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." 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 February 5, withdrawal from his seat in the House."

[ocr errors]




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, Nevada, 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

1 Congressional Globe, December 31, 1860.



the 27th of December, Charles Francis Adams, a distinguished citizen of Massachusetts, whose people were the chief offenders of the Oligarchy, of fered 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."

1 This resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives by a vote of one hundred and thirty-three against sixty-five, or more than two-thirds in its favor. The Senate passed it by a vote of twenty-four against twelve.


2 In an able speech in the Senate on the 21st of February, Henry Wilson said: "What a saddening, humiliating, and appalling spectacle does America now present to the gaze of mankind! Conspiracies in the Cabinet and in the halls of legislation; conspiracies in the Capital and in the States; conspiracies in the Army and in the Navy; conspiracies everywhere to break the unity of the Republic; to destroy the grandest fabric of free government the human understanding ever conceived, or the hand of man ever reared. States are rushing madly from their spheres in the constellation of the Union, raising the banners of revolt, defying the Federal authority, arming men, planting frowning batteries, arming fortresses, dishonoring the National flag, clutching the public property, arms, and moneys, and inaugurating the reign of disloyal factions. . This conspiracy against the unity of the Republic, which, in its development, startles and amazes the world by its extent and power, is not the work of a day; it is the labor of a generation. . . . This wicked plot for the dismemberment of the Confederacy, which has now assumed such fearful proportions, was known to some of our elder statesThomas H. Benton ever raised his warning voice against the conspirators. I can never forget the terrible energy of his denunciations of the policy and acts of the nullifiers and secessionists. During the great Lecompton struggle, in the winter of 1858, his house was the place of resort of several members of Congress, who sought his counsels, and delighted to listen to his opinions. In the last conversation I had with him, but a few days before he was prostrated by mortal disease, he declared that 'the disunionists had prostituted the Democratic party-that they had complete control of the Administration; that these conspirators would have broken up the Union, if Colonel Frémont had been elected: that the reason he opposed Frémont's election [he was his son-in-law] was, that he knew these men intended to destroy the Government, and he did not wish it to go in pieces in the hands of a member of his family.' I expressed some doubt of the extent and power of such a conspiracy to dismember the Union or to seize the Government; to which he replied, that he knew their purposes to be a Southern Confederacy, for efforts were early made to enlist him in the wicked scheme;' that 'so long as the people of the North should be content to attend to commerce and manufactures, and accept the policy and rule of the disunionists, they would condescend to remain in the Union: but should the Northern people attempt to exercise their just influence in the nation, they would attempt to seize the Government, or disrupt the Union; but,' said he, with terrible emphasis, God and their own crimes will put them in the hands of the people!" How solemnly that prophecy of the great leader of the Democratic party in its days of genuine strength has been fulfilled!






[ocr errors]

N Monday, the 4th of February, 1861, the day on which Slidell and Benjamin left the Senate, a Convention known as the Peace Congress, or Conference, assembled in Willard's Hall, in Washington City, a large room in a building originally erected as a church edifice on F Street, and then attached to Willard's Hotel.

a 1861.

This Convention, as we have observed,' was proposed by resolutions of the Virginia Legislature, passed on the 19th of January," and highly approved by the President of the Republic. The proposition met with favorable consideration throughout the country. Omens of impending war were becoming more numerous every day; and at the time this proposition was made, it was evident that no plan for the adjustment of existing difficulties could be agreed upon by the National Legislature. It was thought that a convention of conservative men, fresh from the people, might devise some salutary measures that should go before Congress with such weight of popular authority as to induce acquiescence, and lead to action that would secure pacification, the great object sought.

The Legislatures of most of the States were in session when the proposition went forth, and the response was so general and so prompt, that delegates from twenty-one States-fourteen of them Free-labor and seven of them Slave-labor States-appeared in the Convention. When they were not

1 See page 194.

* Some of the delegates were then members of Congress, both of the Senate and the House of Repre sentatives. The following are the names of the delegates:

Maine.-William P. Fessenden, Lott M. Morrill, Daniel E. Somes, John J. Perry, Ezra B. French, Freeman H. Morse, Stephen Coburn, Stephen C. Foster.

New Hampshire.-Amos Tuck, Levi Chamberlain, Asa Fowler.

Vermont.-Hiland Hall, Lucius E. Chittenden, Levi Underwood, H. Henry Baxter, B. D. Harris. Massachusetts.-John Z. Goodrich, Charles Allen, George S. Boutwell, Theophilus P. Chandler, Francis B. Crowninshield, John M. Forbes, Richard P. Waters.

Rhode Island.-Samuel Ames, Alexander Duncan, William W. Hoppin, George H. Browne, Samuel G. Arnold.

Connecticut. Roger S. Baldwin, Chauncey F. Cleveland, Charles J. McCurdy, James T. Pratt, Robins Battell, Amos S Treat.

New York-David Dudley Field, William Curtis Noyes, James S. Wadsworth, James C. Smith, Amaziah B. James, Erastus Corning, Francis Granger, Greene C. Bronson, William E. Dodge, John A. King, John E. Wool

New Jersey.-Charles S. Olden, Peter D. Vroom, Robert F. Stockton, Benjamin Williamson, Joseph F. Randolph, Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, Rodman M. Price, William C. Alexander, Thomas J. Stryker. Pennsylvania.-James Pollock, William H. Meredith, David Wilmot, A. W. Loomis, Thomas E. Franklin, William McKennan, Thomas White.

Delaware.-George B. Rodney, Daniel M. Bates, Henry Ridgley, John W. Houston, William Cannon. Maryland.-John F. Dent, Reverdy Johnson, John W. Crisfield, Augustus W. Bradford, William T. Goldsborongh, J. Dixon Roman, Benjamin C. Howard.

« AnteriorContinuar »