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FIRST ASSUMPTION OF SOVEREIGNTY.
They thought there was no propriety in retaining the emblems of a Government which had become so oppressive and injurious to their interests as to require a separation from it. Yet they did pay deference to that sentiment in others, by recommending a flag that had a certain resemblance to the one they were deserting. It was to consist of " a red field with a white space extending horizontally through the center, and equal in width to one-third the width of the flag"-in other words, three stripes, two of them red, and one white: the union, blue, extending down through the white space, and stopping at the lower red space. In the center of the union a circle of white stars, corresponding in number with the States of the "Confederacy." This was the flag under which the maddened hosts of that "Confederacy" rushed to battle, at the beginning of the war that ensued. It was first displayed in public on the 4th of March, when it was unfurled over the State House at Montgomery. The first assumption of sovereignty on the part of the Convention was on the 12th," when it was resolved that the new Government should February, take under its charge all questions and difficulties then existing "between the Sovereign States of this Confederacy and the Government of the United States," relating to the occupation of forts, arsenals, navy yards, and other public establishments. The President of the Convention was requested to communicate this resolution to the Governors of the several States. This was extremely offensive to the South Carolinians. They saw in it dark visions of the passing away of the "sovereignty" of their State. That Commonwealth, so lately proclaimed a "nation," was thereby shorn of its greatness, and placed on a common level with "sister States." The Mercury, speaking for the Hotspurs of the coast region, at once preached rebellion against the usurpers at Montgomery. It declared
February 14. that Fort Sumter belonged to South Carolina alone. It was the pet victim of the Palmettoese, and no other wolf should seize it. two efforts," said the Mercury, "to obtain peaceable possession of Fort Sumter, and a submission, for two months, to the insolent military domination in our bay of a handful of men, the honor of the State requires that no further intervention, from any quarter, should be tolerated, and that this fort should be taken, and taken by South Carolina alone. By any other course, it appears to us, unless all the positions of the Governor are false, the State must be disgraced." The South Carolinians were pacified by promises, and, as we shall observe, were gratified in their belligerent desires.
On the 13th, John Gregg, one of the delegates from Texas, appeared' and took a seat in the Convention, although the Ordinance of Secession adopted in that State had not been ratified by the people, according to legal requireThe rest of the delegation were on their way. In this act, as in all others, the conspirators utterly disregarded the will of the people. On the same day, the Convention commenced preparations for war, by instructing
1 The delegation was composed of Louis T. Wigfali, J. H. Reagan, J. Hemphill, T. N. Waul, John Gregg, W. S. Oldham, and W. B. Ochiltree.
RECEPTION OF JEFFERSON DAVIS.
the Military and Naval Committees to report plans for the organization of an army and navy, and to make provision for the officers in each service who had deserted their flag and were seeking employment from the Confederates at Montgomery.
Preparations were now made for the reception and inauguration of Davis. He was at his home near Vicksburg when apprised of
a February 15,
his election, and he hastened to Montgomery on the circuitous 1861. railway route by the way of Jackson, Grand Junction, Chattanooga, and West Point. His journey was a continuous ovation. He made twenty-five speeches on the way, all breathing treason to the Government by whose bounty he had been educated and fed, and whose laws he had frequently sworn to uphold. A committee of the Convention and the public authorities of Montgomery met him eight miles from the city." At Opelika, two companies from Columbus, Georgia, joined the February 15 escort. He reached his destination at ten o'clock at night, where he was received with unbounded enthusiasm. Cannon thundered a welcome, and the shouts of a vast multitude filled his ears. At the railway station he was formally received, and made a speech, in which he briefly reviewed the then position of the South, and said the time for compromises had passed. "We are now determined," he said, "to maintain our position, and make all who oppose us smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel." He had no doubts of the result, if coercion should be persisted in. "We will maintain our rights and our government," he said, “at all hazards. We ask nothing; we want nothing; and will have no complications. If the other States join our Confederacy, they can freely come in on our terms. Our separation from the old Union is complete, and no compromise, no reconstruction can now be entertained."
Davis was conducted from the station to the Exchange Hotel, where a large crowd, many of them women, awaited his arrival. He made a speech. from the balcony or gallery to the assembled populace, while on each side of him stood a negro, with a candle, that the people might see his face. He addressed them as "Brethren of the Confederated States of America." He expressed undoubting confidence in the success of the revolution they had just inaugurated. They had nothing to fear at home, for they were united as one people; and they had nothing to fear from abroad, for if war should come, their valor would be sufficient for any occasion.
The inaugural ceremonies took place at noon on the 18th, upon a platform erected in front of the portico of the State House. Davis and Stephens, with the Rev. Dr. Manly, riding in an open barouche, and followed by a large concourse of State officials and citizens, moved from the Exchange Hotel to the Capitol, while cannon were thundering. The eminence on which the Capitol stands was crowded at an early hour. It is said that so grand a spectacle had not been seen in the Slavelabor States since the ovation given in New Orleans to the victorious General Jackson, in January, 1815.
At one o'clock in the afternoon, after a prayer by Dr. Manly, Davis commenced pronouncing his Inaugural Address. He defended the right of secession; and he declared that, "moved by no interest or passion to invade the rights of others, and anxious to cultivate peace and commerce with the
INAUGURATION OF JEFFERSON DAVIS.
nations," if they could not hope to avoid war, they might at least expect that posterity would acquit them of having needlessly engaged in it. "Doubly justified," he said, "by the absence of wrong on their part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others," there could be no doubt of success. The world must have their " agricultural productions" (meaning cotton), and mutual interest would invite good-will and kind offices, especially from the manufacturing and navigating States of the Union. "If, however," he said, "passion or lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency, and maintain, by the final arbitrament of the sword, that position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth." He declared that they had separated from the old Union from necessity, and not from choice. Having done so, they must prepare to stand alone; and he recommended the immediate organization of an army and navy. He suggested privateering or piracy as an arm of strength for them. "Besides the ordinary remedies," he said, "the well-known resources for retaliation upon the commerce of an enemy will remain to us." He closed by invoking the protection of the Almighty, while they should be performing the work of destroying the noble fabric of free institutions erected by the fathers. At the close of the address, the oath of office was administered to Davis by Howell Cobb, the President of the Convention.
In the evening, after the inauguration, Davis, in imitation of the custom
at the National Capital,
held a levee at Estelle Hall; and Montgomery was brilliantly lighted up by bonfires and illuminations. A spacious mansion was soon afterward provided for Davis and his family, and it became distinguished as the "White House of the Southern Confederacy."
Davis chose, from among the most active of his fellow-conspirators, fitting agents to assist him in his nefarious work, and ostentatiously titled He called Robert Toombs
them in imitation of the National Government. to act as "Secretary of State;" Charles G. Memminger, as "Secretary of the Treasury;" Le Roy Pope Walker, as "Secretary of War;" Stephen R: Mallory, as "Secretary of the Navy," and John H. Reagan, as "PostmasterGeneral." Afterward, Judah P. Benjamin was appointed to be "AttorneyGeneral." William M. Browne, late editor of the Washington Constitution,
The official residence of the President of the United States, at Washington City, being white, has always been better known by the title of "The White House" than by any other.
DAVIS AND HIS CHIEF COUNSELORS.
President Buchanan's official organ, was appointed "Assistant Secretary of State," and Philip Clayton, of Georgia, "Assistant Secretary of the Treasury." He offered John Slidell a seat in his "cabinet," but that conspirator preferred a safer sphere of action,
as minister to some foreign court. He was gratified; and Davis's leading associates in crime were all soon supplied with places of honor and profit.
JOHN H. REAGAN.
Jefferson Davis was about fifty-four years of age at the time we are considering. His person was sinewy and light, a little above. the middle hight, and erect in posture. His features were regular and well-defined; his face was thin and much wrinkled; one eye was sightless, and the other was dark and piercing. He was born in Kentucky, and was taken to reside in Mississippi in early boyhood. He was educated at the Military Academy at West Point, on the Hudson River; served under his father-in-law, General Taylor, in the war with Mexico; occupied a seat in the National Senate, and was a member of President Pierce's Cabinet, as Secretary of War. He was a man of much ability, and considerable refinement of manner when in good society. As a politician, he was utterly unscrupulous. In public life, he was untruthful and treacherous. He was not a statesman, nor a high-toned partisan. He was calm, audacious, reticent, polished, cold, sagacious, rich in experience of State affairs, possessed of great concentration of purpose, an imperious will, abounding pride, and remarkable executive ability. He was a relentless foe, and was well fitted to be the leader in the commission of a crime greater in magnitude than any recorded in the annals of mankind.
Alexander H. Stephens, the lieutenant of the chief of the conspirators, was a few years the junior of Davis, having been born in Georgia in 1812. He had climbed to distinction from obscurity by the force of his own genius. Sickness had kept his frame weak from boyhood, and he never weighed a hundred pounds avoirdupois. His voice was effeminate, yet, when it was used in glowing oratory, of which he was often a charming master, it became, at times, quite sonorous. He was for several years an able representative of his State in the National Congress. More conservative and honest, and less courageous than Davis, he performed a comparatively passive part in the great drama of crime in which he was an actor. Three of the members of Davis's privy council, namely, Toombs, Mallory, and Benjamin, had lately left their seats in the National Senate. Their previous career we shall hereafter consider. Memminger was a man of fine culture, and eminent as a lawyer. So also was Walker, whose social and professional position in northern Alabama was inferior to but few. Reagan was a lawyer of ability, and was a judge in Texas when he rebelled against his Government.
The Confederates, having assumed for their league a national character, at once presented their claims to recognition as such by the powers of the earth. They sent commissioners to Europe to secure formal recognition by,
260 THE CONSPIRATORS' REPRESENTATIVES IN EUROPE.
and make commercial arrangements with, the leading governments there. These Commissioners were William L. Yancey, of Alabama; P. A. Rost, of Louisiana; A. Dudley Mann, of Virginia; and T. Butler King, of Georgia. Yancey was to operate in England, Rost in France, and Mann in Holland and Belgium. King seems to have had a sort of roving commission. Yancey had more real ability and force of character than either of the others. He was not a statesman, but a demagogue, and lacked almost every requisite for a diplomatist. He could fill with wild passion an excitable populace at home, but he utterly failed to impress the more sober English mind with a sense of his wisdom or the justice of his cause. Rost was a Frenchman, who emigrated to Louisiana in early life, married a woman of fortune, and finally reached a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court of that State. Mann was a.dull statistician of very moderate ability; and King was an extensive farmer and slaveholder. These men so fitly represented their bad cause in Europe, that confidence in the justice or the ultimate success of that cause was speedily so impaired, that they went wandering about, seeking in vain for willing listeners among men of character in diplomatic circles; and, finally, they abandoned their missions in disgust, to the relief of statesmen who were wearied with their importunities and offended by their duplicity. Mr. Stephens assumed the office of expounder of the principles upon which the new government was founded and was to be established.
made the occasion of a speech to the citizens of Savannah, March 21, Georgia," the opportunity for giving that exposition to the world." He declared that the immediate cause of the rebellion was African Slavery existing in the United States; and said that Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this as the "rock on which the Union would split." He doubted whether Jefferson understood the truth on which that rock stood. He, and "most of the leaders at the time of the formation of the old Constitution," entertained the erroneous idea that "the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically." They erroneously believed "that in the order of Providence the institution would be evanescent and pass away." That, he said, was "the prevailing idea of the fathers," who rested upon the false assumption put forth in the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created equal."1
"Our new government," said the Expounder, "is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that Slavery— subordination to the superior race— —is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so, even among us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well that this truth was not generally admitted even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty
1 This was in flat contradiction of the extra-judicial opinion of the late Chief-Justice Taney, who said that the "prevailing opinion of the time" was, that the negroes were "so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." See his decision in the Dred Scott case.