Imágenes de páginas



institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to the balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend;' and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.'


"I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States, when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause-as cheerfully to one section as to another."

The President referred to the Fugitive Slave Act as constitutional, but suggested that it should have provisions that would throw around it "all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence," so that "a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave." He also suggested that it might be well to provide by law "for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guaranties that 'the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."" These "privileges and immunities" had not been fully enjoyed by citizens of the Free-labor States while in the Slave-labor States, for many years.

The President then spoke of the political construction and character of the Republic. "I hold," he said, "that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever-it being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself. If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of a contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it-break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

"Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association, in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence, in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation, in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was, 'to form a more perfect Union.' But if the destruction of the Union, by one or by a part only of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before, the Constitution having lost. the vital element of perpetuity."

1 See page 82.

2 For a quarter of a century, conspirators against the nationality of the Republic had been teaching the opposite doctrine, until, at the beginning of the war, it was proclaimed as a fundamental dogma of the political



"It follows, from these views, that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances. I, therefore, consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken, and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it, so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union, that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

"In doing this, there need be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the National authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be but necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable withal, I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices."

The President then declared that he should endeavor, by justice, to reconcile all discontents, with a hope of bringing about a "peaceful solution of the National troubles." If there were any who sought to destroy the Union in any event, to those he need "address no word." To those who really loved the Union, he spoke in terms of zealous and earnest pleading, asking them to consider well so "grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes," before undertaking it. He asked the malcontents to point to a single instance where "any right, plainly written in the Constitution," had been denied. He declared that if, "by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution-certainly would if such right were a vital But such is not our case," he said. "All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them, by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions in the Constitution, that controversies never arise concerning them."


creed of the conspirators and the Oligarchy, that the Union was a temporary compact, and the National Government no government at all, but only the "agent of the Sovereign States." Edward A. Pollard editor of the Richmond Examiner, who wrote a history of the war, opens his first volume with these remarkable words as the key-note to his whole performance:-"The American people of the present generation were born in the belief that the Union of the States was destined to be perpetual. A few minds rose superior to this nata delusion," et cætera.


293 The President then spoke of the necessity of acquiescence of either minorities or majorities in the decisions of questions. Without such acquiescence, the Government could not exist. "If a minority in such case," he said, "will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which, in turn, will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new Confederacy, a year or two hence, arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? . . . Plainly, the central idea of secession is anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it, does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism."

The President referred to the binding character of the decisions of the Supreme Court in all special cases; but he said, evidently with the action of Chief-Justice Taney in the Dred Scott case in his mind,' "The candid citizen must confess, that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal." He referred to the impossibility of a dissolution of the Union, physically speaking. The people of the respective sections, who differed widely in opinions, might, like a divorced husband and wife, separate absolutely, by going out of the reach of each other, but the territory of the respective sections must remain "face to face," and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. The question then arises, whether that intercourse would be more agreeable after separation. "Can aliens," asked the President, "make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced among aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you."

The President recognized the right of the people to change their existing form of government when they should become weary of it, either by amending the Constitution or by revolution; and, in view of present difficulties, he expressed his concurrence in the proposition for a Convention of Repre sentatives of all the States, to deliberate on constitutional amendments; and he went so far as to say, that he had no objections to any amendment which should, by an express and irrevocable decree, provide that the National Government should never interfere with Slavery in the States where it existed. The Chief Magistrate, he said, had no power to fix any terms for a separation of States. That was for the people to do. His business was only to execute the laws. He believed in the ultimate wisdom and justice of the American people. "Why not have a patient confidence in that justice?" he asked. "Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right?

1 See note 1, page 34.



If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people." He concluded by an earnest exhortation to his countrymen to think calmly and well upon the whole subject. He begged them to take time for serious deliberation. "Such of you," he said, "as are now dissatisfied, still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. . . . In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government; whilst I shall have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend it.' I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Long before sunset on that beautiful 4th of March, the brilliant pageant of the inauguration of a President had dissolved, and thousands of citizens, breathing more freely now that the first and important chapter in the history of the new Administration was closed without a tragic scene, were hastening homeward. But Washington City was to be the theater of another brilliant display the same evening, in the character of an Inauguration Ball. Notwithstanding a pall of gloom and dark forebodings overspread the land, and the demon of Discord, with his torch and blade, was visibly on the wing, expediency seemed to declare that none of the usual concomitants of the inauguration ceremonies should be omitted on this occasion, but that every thing should move on after the old fashion, as if the Government were perfectly undisturbed by the stormy passions of the time.

The preparations for the ball had been made in the usual manner. A large temporary building had been erected for the purpose near the City Hall, whose council-chamber and committee-rooms were used as dressingrooms for the guests. The hall, a parallelogram in shape, was decorated with red and white muslin, and many shields bearing National and State arms. Several foreign ministers and their families, and heads of departments and their families, were present. The dancing commenced at eleven o'clock. Ten minutes later the music and the motion ceased, for it was announced that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, in whose honor the ball was given, were about to enter the room. The President appeared first, accompanied by Mayor Berret, of Washington, and Senator Anthony, of Rhode Island. Immediately behind him came Mrs. Lincoln, wearing a rich watered silk dress, an elegant point-lace shawl, deeply bordered, with camelias in her hair and pearl ornaments. She was leaning on the arm of Senator Douglas, the President's late political rival. The incident was accepted as a proclamation of peace and friendship between the champions. Mr. Hamlin, the Vice-President, was already there; and the room was crowded with many distinguished



men and beautiful and elegantly dressed women. The utmost gayety and hilarity prevailed; and every face but one was continually radiant with the unmixed joy of the hour. That face was Abraham Lincoln's. The perennial good-humor of his nature could not, at all times, banish from his countenance

[graphic][merged small]

that almost painfully sad thoughtfulness of expression, more frequently seen afterward, when the cares of State had marred his brow with deeper furrows. Of all that company, he was the most honored and the most burdened; and with the pageantry of that Inauguration Day and that Inauguration Bal!, ended, for him, the poetry of his Administration. Thereafter his life was spent in the sober prose of dutiful endeavor to save and redeem the nation.


On the day after Mr. Lincoln's inauguration, the Senate, in extraordinary session, confirmed his appointments of Cabinet ministers. He had chosen for Secretary of State, William H. Seward, of New York; for Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio; for Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania; for Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, of Connecticut; for Secretary of the Interior, Caleb Smith, of Indiana; for Postmaster-General, Montgomery Blair, of Maryland; and for AttorneyGeneral, Edward Bates, of Missouri. Mr. Seward had been a prominent candidate for a nomination for the Presidency, at Chicago. On that account,

1 The dress of one of the ladies was thus described by an eye-witness:-"The robe was of white illusion, décolleté, puffed sleeves, with six flounces, embroidered with cherry silk; an overskirt of cherry satin, looped up with clusters of white roses; a pointed waist of same, edged with a quilling of white satin; head-dress, a chaplet of ivy; ornaments, diamonds and opals."

2 See the Frontispiece to this volume. The picture represents the President and his Cabinet, with General Scott, in consultation concerning military affairs. I have endeavored to give this picture an historic value, by presenting not only a correct portraiture of the men, but also of the room in which the meetings of the Cabinet were held, in the White House. The drawing of the room was made for me, with great accuracy, by Mr. C. K. Stellwagen, of the Ordnance Department, in October, 1864, and the grouping of the figures by Mr. Schuselle, an accomplished artist of Philadelphia. This council chamber of the Executive is on the southern side of the White House. overlooking the public grounds, the Smithsonian Institute, the unfinished Washington Monument, and the Potomac River. The Washington Monument is seen, in the picture, through one of the windows.

« AnteriorContinuar »