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THE CONSPIRACY AT BALTIMORE.
281 the 22d, and she, Mr. Sumner, and others left Harrisburg at the time appointed, and passed on to the National Capital without interference.
There has never been a public legal investigation concerning the alleged plot to assassinate the President elect at that time. Sufficient facts have been made known through the testimony of detectives to justify the historian in assuming that such a plot was formed, and that it failed only because of the change in Mr. Lincoln's movements. It was alleged that "statesmen, bankers, merchants, and others" were engaged in the conspiracy,' and that these were meeting secretly then, and did meet secretly a long time thereafter, in a private room in Taylor's Building. The plan, as revealed, seems to have been to create a mob of the most excitable elements of society in Baltimore, ostensibly against the Republican Committee in that city, while they and the nobly loyal citizens were honoring Mr. Lincoln by a public reception at the railway station. In the confusion created by the mob, the hired assassins were to rush forward, shoot or stab the President elect while in his carriage, and fly back to the shelter of the rioters.
The policemen of Baltimore at that time were under the direction of George P. Kane, as Chief Marshal. He was a violent secessionist, and seems to have been the plastic instrument of conspirators in Baltimore, who were chiefly of the moneyed Oligarchy, connected by blood or marriage with the great land and slave holders in the more Southern States. Kane afterward fled beyond the Potomac, took up arms
against his country, and received a commission in the insurgent army. It is asserted that an arrangement had been made for him to so control the police on that occasion, as not to allow a suppression of the mob until the terrible deed should be accomplished. His complicity in the movements which resulted in the murder of Massachusetts troops while passing through Baltimore, a few weeks later, makes it easy to believe that he was concerned in the plot to assassinate the President elect.
GEORGE P. KANE,
The disloyal press of Baltimore seemed to work in complicity with the conspirators on this occasion. A leading editorial in the Republican, on the 22d, was calculated to incite tumult and violence; and on the following morning, the day on which Mr. Lincoln was expected to arrive in Baltimore, the Exchange, in a significant article, said to its readers :-" The President elect of the United States will arrive in this city, with his suite, this afternoon, by special train from Harrisburg, and will proceed, we learn, directly to Washington. It is to be hoped that no opportunity will be afforded him-or that, if it be afforded, he will not embrace it-to repeat in our ears the sentiments which he is reported to have expressed yesterday in Philadelphia."
Intelligence of Mr. Lincoln's arrival at Washington soon spread over the
1 Baltimore Correspondence of the New York Times, February 23, 1861.
2 For these sentiments, see page 277.
THE PRESIDENT ELECT IN WASHINGTON.
town, and at an early hour Willard's Hotel was crowded with his friends, personal and political, who came to give him a cordial welcome. Loyal men of all parties rejoiced at his safe arrival; and, because of it, there was gladness throughout the land. That gladness was mingled with indignation because of the circumstances attending that arrival, and the journey preceding it. Had the danger at Baltimore been made known, and protectors called for, two hundred thousand loyal citizens of the Free-labor States would have escorted the President elect to the Capital.
At an early hour, accompanied by Mr. Seward, Mr. Lincoln called on President Buchanan. The latter could scarcely believe the testimony of his own eyes. He gave his appointed successor a cordial greeting. The Cabinet was then in session: By invitation, the President elect passed into their chamber. He was received with demonstrations of delight. He then called to see General Scott, at his head-quarters. The veteran was absent. Mr. Lincoln returned to Willard's, and there received his friends unceremoniously during the remainder of the day. In the evening he was formally waited upon by the Peace Convention,' in a body, and afterward by loyal women of Washington City. Only the secessionists (and they were a host) kept aloof. Foiled malice, disappointment, and chagrin made them sullen. A capital plan in their scheme had been frustrated; and General Scott, whose defection had been hoped and prayed for, and expected because he was born in Virginia, was standing firm as a rock in the midst of the surges of secession, and had filled the National Capital with so many troops that its security against the machinations of the conspirators, secret or open, was considered complete.
On Wednesday, the 27th, the Mayor and Common Council waited upon Mr. Lincoln, and gave him a welcome. On the same day, he and Mrs. Lincoln were entertained at a dinner-party given by Mr. Spaulding, Member of Congress from Buffalo, New York; and on that evening, they were visited at Willard's by several Senators, and Governor Hicks of Maryland, and were serenaded by the members of the Republican Association at Washington, to whom he made a short speech-the last one previous to his inauguration."
Having followed the President elect from his home to the Capital, and left him there on the eve of his assuming the responsibilities of Chief Magistrate of the Republic, let us turn a moment and hold brief retrospective intercourse with the actual President, who seemed to be as anxious as were the people for the close of his official career. We have seen him, from the opening of the session of Congress until the disruption of his Cabinet, at the close of December, working or idling, voluntarily or involuntarily, in seeming harmony with the wishes of the conspirators. We have seen him after that surrounded by less malign influences, and prevented, by loyal men in his Cabinet, from allowing his fears or his inclinations to do the Republic serious January 4, harm. And when the National Fast-day which he had recom1861. mended had been observed," he spoke some brave words in a January 8. message sent in to Congress,' saying, it was his right and his duty to "use military force defensively against those who resist the Federal
1 See page 237.
History of the Administration of President Lincoln: by Henry J. Raymond, page 110. Vice-President Hamlin and Thomas Corwin also made speeches.
PRESIDENT BUCHANAN AND THE CONSPIRATORS.
283 officers in the execution of their legal functions, and against those who assail the property of the Federal Government;" yet he refused to support these brave words by corresponding dutiful action, and cast the whole responsibility of meeting the great peril upon Congress, at the same time suggesting to it the propriety of yielding to the demands of the disloyal Oligarchy, by adopting, substantially, the Crittenden Compromise.
Mr. Buchanan seemed determined to get through with the remainder of his term of office as quietly as possible, and as innocent of all offense toward the conspirators as "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” would allow. In his efforts to please his "Southern friends," he sometimes omitted to be just. While the country was ringing with plaudits for Major Anderson, because of his gallant and useful conduct at Fort Sumter, and Lieutenant-General Scott asked the President to show his regard for the faithful soldier, and act as "the interpreter of the wish of millions" by nominating Anderson for the rank of lieutenant-colonel by brevet, for his "wise and heroic transfer of the garrison of Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter;" also by nominating him for the rank of colonel by brevet, "for his gallant maintenance of the latter fort, under severe hardships, with but a handful of men, against the threats and summons of a formidable army," the President, who might, in that act, have won back much of the lost respect of his countrymen, refused, saying in substance :- 'I leave that for my successor to do." And with a seeming desire to maintain his inoffensive position toward the conspirators, he pursued a timorous and vacillating policy, which greatly embarrassed his loyal counselors, and paralyzed their efforts to strengthen the ship of State, so as to meet safely the shock of the impending tempest.
Notwithstanding his efforts to please his "Southern friends," they would not allow the current of the President's official life to flow smoothly on, after Holt and Dix, loyal Democrats, became his counselors. They would not trust him with such advisers at his ear. It has been said that he "preached like a patriot, but practised like a traitor." His preaching offended and alarmed them, especially the South Carolina politicians, for its burden was against the dignity of their "Sovereign nation." While Sumter was in possession of National troops, they felt that South Carolina was insulted and her sovereignty and independence were denied. So, on the 11th of January, two days after the attack on the Star of the West, Governor Pickens, as we have observed, sent A. G. Magrath and D. F. Jamison, of his Executive Council, to demand its surrender to the authorities of the State. Major Anderson refused to give it up, and referred the matter to the President; whereupon Pickens sent Isaac W. Hayne, the Attorney-General of the State, in company with Lieutenant Hall, of Anderson's command, to Washington City, to present the same demand to the National Executive. Hayne bore a letter from the Governor to the President, in which the former declared, that the demand for surrender was suggested because of his "earnest desire to avoid the bloodshed which a persistence in the attempt to retain posses
1 In his Message on the 8th of January he said:-"At the beginning of these unhappy troubles, I determined that no act of mine should increase the excitement in either section of the country. If the political conflict were to end in civil war, it was my determined purpose not to commence it, nor even to furnish an excuse for it in any act of this Government."
? Letter of Lieutenant-General Scott to President Buchanan, February 26, 1861. See page 160.
COMMISSIONER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA.
sion of that fort would cause, and which would be unavailing to secure that possession." Commissioner Hayne was authorized to "give the pledge of the State" that the valuation of the public property within Fort Sumter should be "accounted for by the State, upon the adjustment of its relations with the United States, of which it was a part.'
Mr. Hayne arrived in Washington City on the 13th of January, when ten of the disloyal Senators, still holding seats in Congress, advised him, in writing, not to present the letter of Pickens to the President until after the Southern Confederacy should be formed, a month later. They proposed to ask the President to agree not to re-enforce Fort Sumter, in the mean time. "I am not clothed with power to make the arrangement you suggest," Mr. Hayne replied, in writing;
but, provided you can get assurances, with which you are entirely satisfied, that no re-enforcements will be sent to Fort Sumter in the interval, and that the public peace will not be disturbed by any act of hostility toward South Carolina, I will refer your communication to the authorities of South Carolina, and, withholding the communication with which I am at the present charged, will await further instructions."
ISAAC W HAYNE
This correspondence was laid before the President" by Senators Slidell, Fitzpatrick, and Mallory, and the President was asked to consider January 16, the matter. He replied, through Mr. Holt, the Secretary of War, that he could not give such pledge, for the simple reason that he had no authority to do so, being bound as an Executive officer to enforce the laws as far as practicable. He informed them that it was not deemed necessary to re-enforce Major Anderson at that time; but told them, explicitly, that should the safety of that officer at any time require it, the effort to give him re-enforcements and supplies would be made. He reminded them that Congress alone had the power to make war, and that it would be an act of
1 Letter of Francis W. Pickens to President Buchanan, January 11, 1861.
2 These were Wigfall, Hemphill, Yulee, Mallory, Jefferson Davis, C. C. Clay, Jr., Fitzpatrick, Iverson, Slidell, and Benjamin.
3 The boldness and impunity of the conspirators in Congress, at this time, is illustrated by this correspondence which they laid before the President, and asked that he would "take into consideration the subject of said correspondence." In their letter to Hayne, signed by the ten Senators, they assure him that they represent States which have already seceded from the United States, or will have done so before the 1st of February next," and which would meet South Carolinians "in convention on or before the 15th of that month." "Our people." said these conspirators to Mr. Hayne, "feel that they have a common destiny with your people, and expect to form with them, in that convention, a new confederation and provisional government. We must and will share your fortunes, suffering with you the evils of war, if it cannot be avoided, and enjoying with you the blessings of peace if it can be preserved."
This letter was written on the 15th of January, the day after several of these Senators had written to the conventions of their several States, intimating that it might be well for them to retain their seats in Congress, in order to more effectually carry on their treasonable work. These men were not only not arrested, but their request was responded to by the Secretary of War, under the direction of the President, as courteously and considerately as if they were true and loyal to their Government.
STATE SOVEREIGNTY DENIED.
usurpation on the part of the Executive to give any assurance that Congress would not exercise that power.
⚫ January 31, 1861.
When this correspondence reached Charleston, Governor Pickens ordered Hayne to present the demand for the surrender of Sumter forthwith. He did so," in a letter of considerable length, to which Secretary Holt gave a final answer on the 6th of February, in which, as in his reply to Senators Fitzpatrick, Mallory, and Slidell, he claimed for the Government the right to send forward re-enforcements when, in the judgment of the President, the safety of the garrison required them—a right resting on the same foundation as the right to occupy the fort. He denied the right of South Carolina to the possession of the fort, and said :—“ If the announcement, so repeatedly made, of the President's pacific purpose in continuing the occupation of Fort Sumter until the question shall be settled by competent authority, has failed to impress the government of South Carolina, the forbearing conduct of the Administration for the last few months should be received as conclusive evidence of his sincerity. And if this forbearance, in view of the circumstances which have so severely tried it, be not accepted as a satisfactory pledge of the peaceful policy of this Administration towards South Carolina, then it may be safely affirmed that neither language nor conduct can possibly furnish one. If, with all the multiplied proofs which exist of the President's anxiety for peace, and of the earnestness with which he has pursued it, the authorities of that State shall assault Fort Sumter, and peril the lives of the handful of brave and loyal men shut up within its walls, and thus plunge our common country into the horrors of civil war, then upon them and those they represent must rest the responsibility."
Here ended the attempt of the conspirators of South Carolina to have the sovereignty of that State acknowledged by diplomatic intercourse. It had utterly failed. The President refused to receive Governor Pickens's agent, excepting as "a distinguished citizen of South Carolina," and also refused any compliance with the demands of the authorities of that State. He had been strongly inclined to yield to these demands; but recent manifestations of public opinion convinced him that he could not do so without exciting the hot indignation of the loyal portion of the people. Coincident with these manifestations were the strong convictions of Holt, Dix, and Attorney-General Stanton of his Cabinet.'
1 The secret history of these public demonstrations of a desire to hold Fort Sumter has been given by General Daniel E. Sickles, in a brief eulogy of Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War during a greater portion of Mr. Lincoln's Administration. "Toward evening, on one of the gloomy days in the winter of 1861," says Sickles, the Attorney-General [Stanton] sent for one of the representatives in Congress from New York, and informed him that unless the public opinion of the North was instantly manifested, the President would yield to the demand of South Carolina, and order Major Anderson back from Sumter to Moultrie. It was decided at once that an envoy should go to the principal Northern cities and announce that the President had decided to maintain Anderson in Sumter at all hazards. Fire some powder,' said Stanton; all we can do yet is to fire blank cartridges; a thousand bullets or a bale of hemp would save us from a bloody rebellion. The President will not strike a blow, but he will resist if he sees the temper of the people demands resistance. Go and fire some cannon, and let the echoes come to the White House.' The next day salutes were fired in New York, Philadelphia, Albany, and other cities, in honor of President Buchanan's determination to sustain the gallant Anderson. Congratulating telegrams were sent from prominent men in all these cities to the President; the corporate authorities of New York passed earnest resolutions of support; several journals, in leading articles of remarkable power, indorsed and commended the decision of the President. The next day the decision was made. The demand of South Carolina for the evacuation of Fort Sumter was refused; it remained only for the South to secede, or make war.”—Address at the Opening of the American Institute Fair, in New York, on the 12th of September, 1865.