Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ASSEMBLING OF A PEACE CONVENTION.

235

CHAPTER X.

PEACE MOVEMENTS.-CONVENTION OF CONSPIRATORS AT MONTGOMERY.

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.

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

a 1861. 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 II. Morse, Stephen Coburn, Stephen C. Foster.

New Hampshire.--Amos Tuck, Levi Cimberlain, Asa Fowler.
Vermont.-Hiland Hall, Lucius E. Chittenden, Levi Underwood, H. Henry Baxter, B. D. Harris.

Massachusette.-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 8. 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

Nero Jersey.--Charles S. Olden, Peter D. Vroom, Robert F. Stockton, Benjamin Williamson, Joseph F. Randolph, Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, Rodran 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. Goldsborough, J. Dixon Roman, Benjamin C. Howard.

236

DELEGATES IN THE PEACE CONVENTION.

appointed by Legislatures, they were chosen by the Governors. Many of these delegates were instructed, either by formal resolutions of the appointing power or by informal expressions of opinion. Much caution was exercised, because there were well-grounded suspicions that the Virginia politicians, who had proposed the Convention, were adroitly playing into the hands of the conspirators. One of the resolutions that accompanied their invitation to a conference declared that the Crittenden Compromise, so modified as to apply to all the territory of the Republic south of latitude 36° 30', and to provide that “Slavery of the African race" should be "effectually protected as property therein during the existence of the Territorial gover:ment;" also, to secure to the holders of slaves the right of transit with this property, "between and through the non-slaveholding States and Territories," constituted a basis of adjustment that would be acceptable to Virginia. This avowal of their demands at the outset was candid, if not modest and conciliatory.

Massachusetts instructed its delegates to confer with the General Gorernment, or with the separate States, or with any association of delegates from such States, and to report to the Legislature. Rhode Island said:

“Agree, if practicable, upon some amicable adjustment of present difficulties, upon the basis and spirit of the National Constitution."

New York wished it not to be understood that, in acceding to the request of Virginia, it

approved of Virginia's desires, as expressed in the resolutions of its Legislature. It was willing to do all in its power to bring about an honorable settlement of the national difficulties. New Jersey earnestly

[graphic]

WILLARD'S HALL

Virginia.—John Tyler, Wm. C. Rives, John W. Brockenbrongh, George W. Summers, James A. Seddon. North Carolina.-George Davis, Thomas Ruffin, David S. Reid, D. M. Barringer, J. M. Morehead.

Tennessee.-Samuel Milligan, Josiah M. Anderson, Robert L. Caruthers, Thomas Martin, Isane R Hawkins, A. W. 0. Totten, R. J. McKinney, Alvin Cullum, William P. Hickerson, George W. Jones, F. R. Zollicoffer, William H. Stephens.

Kentucky.-William O. Butler, James B. Clay, Joshua F. Bell, Charles S. Morehead, James Guthrie, Charles A. Wickliffe.

Missouri.-John D. Coalter, Alexander W. Doniphan, Waldo P. Johnson, Aylett H. Buckner, Harrison IIough.

Ohio.-Salmon P. Chase, John C. Wright, William S. Groesbeck, Franklin T. Backus, Reuben Hitcheock, Thomas Ewing, V. B. Horton, C. P. Wolcott.

Indiana.-Caleb B. Smith, Pleasant A. Hackleman, Godlove 8. Orth, E. W. H. Ellis, Thomas Slanghter.
Nlinois.--John Wood, Stephen T. Logan, John M. Palmer, Burton C. Cook, Thomas J. Turner.
Tova. - James Harian, James W. Grimes, Samuel H. Curtis, William Vandever.
Kansas.- Thomas Ewing, Jr., J. C. Stone, H. J. Adams, M. F. Conway.

ORGANIZATION OF THE PEACE CONVENTION.

237

It was

a 1841-1815.

urged the adoption of the Crittenden Compromise. Pennsylvania declared its willingness to make any honorable concession for the sake of peace, but did not desire any amendment or alteration of the Constitution. ready to fulfill every duty prescribed to it by that Constitution, even to the full execution of the Fugitive Slave Act. Delaware simply declared its devotion to the Union, and instructed its delegates to do all in their power for its preservation. Ohio was willing to meet its fellow States in convention, but felt satisfied with the Constitution as it was; while Indiana instructed its delegates not to commit that State to any action until nineteen of the States should be represented, and until they had communicated with the General Assembly of their State, and received permission to commit it to proposed measures. Illinois wished it to be understood that its willingness to confer was not a committal of the State to any proposed policy. It was anxious for conciliation, but saw no reason for amending the Constitution for the purpose. Kentucky would be satisfied with the Crittenden Compromise, according to the Virginia model. Tennessee was willing to adjust all difficulties by the same process, but with enlarged franchises for the slaveholders; while Missouri instructed its delegates to endeavor to agree upon some plan for the preservation or reconstruction of the Union. Its delegates were always to be subordinate to the General Assembly or the State Convention of Missouri.

The Convention was permanently organized by the appointment of John Tyler, of Virginia (once President of the Republic)," as the presiding officer, and Crafts J. Wright, of Obio, son of one of the delegates from that State, as secretary. Mr. Tyler delivered a short address on taking the chair, in which he said:“The eyes of the whole country are turned to this assembly, in expectation and hope. I trust that you may prove yourselves worthy of the great occasion. Our ancestors probably committed a blunder in not having fixed upon every fifth decade for a call of a general convention to amend and reform the Constitution. On the contrary, they have made the difficulties next to insurmountable to accomplish amendments to an instrument which was perfect for five millions of people, but not wholly so for thirty millions. Your patriotism will surmount the difficulties, however great, if you will but accomplish one triumph in advance, and that is a triumph over party. And what is party, when compared to the work of rescuing one's country from danger? Do this, and one long, lourd shout of joy and gladness will resound throughout the land.” At the conclusion of this address, Mr. Wickliffe, of Kentucky, offered a resolution that the Convention should be opened with prayer. It was agreed to, and the Rev. Dr. P. D. Gurley officiated.

The regular business of the Convention was opened by Mr. Guthrie, of

[graphic]

JOIIN TYLER.

238

AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION PROPOSED.

Kentucky, who offered a resolution that a committee of one from each State be appointed by the delegates thereof, to be nominated to the President of the Convention, and to be appointed by him, to whom should be referred the resolutions of the State of Virginia, and the other States represented, and all propositions for the adjustment of existing difficulties between the States; the committee to have authority to report what it might deem right, necessary, and proper, to restore harmony and preserve the Union. The resolation was adopted; the committee was appointed, and the subjects laid before it were duly discussed, sometimes with warmth, but always with courtesy. On the 15th, Mr. Guthrie, Chairman of the Committee, made a report, in which several amendments to the Constitution were offered. It was proposed

First, To re-establish the parallel of 36° 30' north latitude as a line, in the territory north of which Slavery should be prohibited; but in all territory south of it Slavery might live, without interference from any power, while a territorial government existed. It also proposed that when any Territory north or south of that line should contain the requisite number of inhabitants to form a State, it should, if its form of government should be republican, be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, either with or without Slavery, as the constitution of the new State might determine.

Second, That territory should not be acquired by the United States, unless by treaty; nor, except for naval and commercial stations, unless such treaty should be ratified by four-fifths of all the members of the Senate.

Third, That the Constitution nor any amendment thereof should be construed to give Congress power to interfere with Slavery in any of the States of the Union, nor in the District of Columbia, without the consent of Maryland and the slaveholders concerned; and, in case of the abolition of Slavery, making compensation to those who refused to consent; nor to prohibit representatives and others from taking their slaves to and from Washington; nor to interfere with Slavery in places under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, such as arsenals and navy-yards, in States where it was recognized; nor to interfere with the transportation of slaves from one Slave-labor State to another; nor to authorize any higher rate of taxation on slaves than on land.

Fourth, That the clause in the Constitution relating to the rendition of fugitive slaves should not be construed to prevent any of the States, by appropriate legislation, and through the action of their judicial and ministerial officers, from enforcing the delivery of fugitives from labor to the person to whom such service or labor should be duc.

1 The following are the names of the delegates who composed the Committee:- Maine, Lott M. Morrill: New Hampshire, Asa Fowler; Vermont, Iiland Hall; Massachusetts, Francis B. Crowninshield: Rhode Island. Samnel Ames; Connecticut, Roger S. Baldwin; New York, David Dudley Field; New Jersey, Peter D. Vroom; Pennsylvania, Thomas White; Ohio, Thomas Ewing; Indiana, Caleb B. Smith; Illinois, Stephen F. Logan; Iowa, James Harlan ; Delaware, Daniel M. Bates; North Carolina, Thomas Ruflin; Virginia, James A. Seddon: Kentucky, James Guthrie; Maryland, Reverdy Johnson; Tennessee, F. R. Zollicoffer; Missouri, A. W. Doniphan.

2 The National Constitution says:-" New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union." The proposed amendment said, any new State * shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union.” The importance of this difference in phraseology, as well as its intent, is obvious.

[blocks in formation]

Fifth, That the foreign Slave-trade should be forever prohibited.

Sixth, That the first, second, third, and fifth of the foregoing propositions, when in the form of ratified amendments to the Constitution, and the clause relating to the rendition of fugitive slaves, should not be amended or abolished without the consent of all the States.

Seventh, That Congress should provide by law that the United States should pay to the owner the full value of his fugitive from labor, in all cases where the law-officer, whose duty it was to arrest such fugitive, should be prevented from doing so by violence or intimidation, or when such fugitive should be rescued after arrest, and the claimant thereby should lose his property.

Two members of the Committee (Baldwin, of Connecticut, and Seddon, of Virginia) each presented a minority report. Baldwin proposed a general Convention of all the States,' to consider amendments to the Constitution; and Seddon, afterward the so-called “Secretary of War" of the confederated traitors, affirming that the majority report would not be acceptable to Virginia, because it conceded less than the Crittenden Compromise, whereas Virginia wanted all that and more, proposed, in addition to an absolute guaranty of Slavery south of 36° 30', an amendment that should not only give the slaveholder a right to take his slaves through Free-labor States, but allow him protection for his slaves, as property, while on the sea on such journey. He also proposed an amendment that should forever exclude. from the ballot-box and public office, “persons who are in whole or in part of the African race.” He also proposed another that should recognize the right of peaceable secession. He offered his propositions as a substitute for the majority report, well knowing that they would not be adopted by the Convention.

In the open Convention, Charles A. Wickliffe, of Kentucky, proposed that that body should request the several States which had passed obnoxious Personal Liberty Acts to repeal them, and to allow slaves to cross their territory when being taken from one Slave-labor State to another. On the 18th, Amos Tuck, of New Hampshire, submitted an address and resolutions. In the former, the distractions of the country were deplored and the right of secession denied; in the latter, it was proposed that the Convention should recognize the fact that the National Constitution gives no power to Congress, nor any other branch of the General Government, to interfere with Slavery in any of the States, and that neither of the great political organizations of the country contemplated a violation of the spirit of the Constitution ; that the Constitution was established for the good of the whole people, and that when the rights of any portion of them are disregarded, redress can and ought to be provided ; and that a convention of all the States to propose amendments to the Constitution be recommended. Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, proposed that the Convention should adjourn to the 4th of April, to enable all of the States to be represented in it.

These various propositions and others were earnestly discussed for sereral

1 The Legislature of Kentucky had made application to Congress to call a convention of all the States to consider amendments to the Constitution, and Mr. Baldwin proposed that the several States should join Ken. tacky in this request.

« AnteriorContinuar »