Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Chap. II.

Those leaders know that Mr. Lincoln will administer the Government in
strict and impartial obedience to the Constitution and laws, seeking only
the safety and welfare of the whole people, through the prosperity and
glory of the Union. For this reason, they precipitate the conflict;
fearing that, if they wait for a provocation, none will be furnished, and
that, without fuel, their fires must be extinguished.

66

The Disunion sentiment is paramount in at least seven States; while it divides and distracts as many more. Nor is it wise to deceive ourselves with the impression that the South is not in earnest. It is in earnest; and the sentiment has taken hold of all classes with such blind vehemence as to crush out' the Union sentiment."

66 6

Disaffection lurked,' wrote Mr. Seward in 1861, if it did not openly avow itself in every department and in every bureau, in every regiment, and in every ship of war; in the Post-office and in the Customhouse, and in every Legation and Consulate from London to Calcutta. Of 4,470 officers in the public service, civil and military, 2,154 were representatives of States where the revolutionary movement was openly advocated and urged, even if not actually organized.' "—Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams, 10th April, 1861.

A

CHAPTER III.

Revolt of South Carolina, Georgia, and the Gulf States.-Organization of the Southern Confederacy.—Attitude of President Buchanan and of the Federal Congress.-Anxiety to avert a Conflict.-Fruitless endeavours to devise a Plan of Compromise.

LONG before the election of 1860 the chances of Secession, and the arguments for it, had been canvassed throughout the South without any attempt at concealment; it had been openly threatened within the walls of Congress, and the 6th November found the plans of the leading Secessionists, if not complete, sufficiently matured for immediate action.

The foremost part in this rash enterprise was accepted, or assumed, by South Carolina. The South Carolinian is reputed hasty and impetuous by nature; the institutions of the State have retained a tincture of aristocracy, and nowhere else in America has so commanding an influence been commonly exercised by a few opulent families. It has been her pride, as a State, to be prompt in decision and fearless in action. The response of the Colony, in 1765, to the Massachusetts Circular was among the earliest and boldest steps towards American independence. "South Carolina," in the somewhat overcoloured language of Mr. Bancroft, "founded American Union." Her fiery impatience in 1832 hurried her alone

1 "As the united American people spread through the vast expanse over which their jurisdiction now extends, be it remembered that the blessing of union is due to the warmheartedness of South Carolina. 'She was all alive and felt at every pore.""— History of the American Revolution," vol. ii, p. 335.

E

Chap. III. to the very verge of revolt from that Union; and she was the first in 1860 to raise her hand against it.

The South Carolina Legislature had assembled on the 4th November. On the 7th, with hardly the formality of a discussion, an Act was passed summoning a Convention of delegates to be elected by the inhabitants of the State, and to meet at Columbia on the 17th December following. The Convention met, adjourned to Charleston, and immediately appointed a Committee to prepare an Ordinance of Secession. So rapid were its proceedings, that on the 20th the Ordinance was presented, and adopted by a unanimous vote; and South Carolina was on the same day solemnly proclaimed an independent commonwealth.1 Her example was followed in quick succession by Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. In all of these States Conventions were held, on the summons either of the Legislature or of the Governor, and Ordinances of Secession passed; and each, one by one, declared itself free, sovereign, and independent. The dates of these proceedings are shown in the subjoined Table:

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

1 This Ordinance, on the model of which those of other seceding States were afterwards framed, was in the following terms :

"An Ordinance to dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled The Constitution of the United States of America.'

"We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the Ordinance adopted by us in Convention on the 23rd day of May, in the year of our Lord 1788, whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified, and also all Acts and parts of Acts of the General Assembly of

In Texas the Ordinance, after being adopted by the Chap. III. Convention, was submitted to the people of the State for ratification. The majority for secession was 34,794, the minority against it 11,235. The Convention in this State was summoned by a private requisition, but was sanctioned by the Legislature.

All marks of the Federal sovereignty within the seceding States were immediately effaced, and all the instruments through which the general Government had exercised its constitutional powers were destroyed, or appropriated by the State Governments. The Circuit and District Courts ceased to sit, and the Federal tribunals were supplanted by those of the State; the State authorities took possession of custom-houses and postoffices; Federal officials resigned, or were dismissed, or passed into the service of the State and took the oath of allegiance to it. The Federal arsenals at Charleston, Mount Vernon, Augusta, Baton Rouge, and Mobile, the Pensacola navy-yard, the forts commanding the approaches to Savannah, Mobile, and New Orleans, were seized and wrested from the Federal Government, without a shot fired or a blow struck, as well as Forts Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, and Sullivan's Island in South Carolina, and Forts Barrancas and McRae, near Pensacola. All of these seizures were effected before the end of January, and some of them without waiting for the passing of a Secession Ordinance, the active secessionists throughout the South being in regular correspondence with one another, and the Governors for the most part warmly devoted to the cause. In Texas, where the United States had a regular force about 2,500 strong, Commissioners were sent to the headquarters of the officer commanding the department, with

the State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed, and the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of 'The United States of America,' is hereby dissolved."-American Annual Cyclopædia for 1861, p. 650.

Chap. III. instructions to demand the withdrawal of the troops and a surrender of the ordnance stores and public property under his control. A military force was organized to support these demands. General Twiggs, a Georgian by birth and an officer of long service, yielded to them, and marched his soldiers to the coast, whence they were conveyed to the North-an act of timidity or supineness for which he was soon afterwards cashiered. Two detachments, which had been left behind in his retreat, subsequently surrendered to a superior force and were dismissed on parole. Two military posts of some strength-Fort Sumter at the mouth of Charleston harbour, and Fort Pickens situated on the extremity of a long island which bars the entrance of Pensacola Bay -continued to be held for the United States by officers whose fidelity was unshaken; but, except at these isolated points, the authority of the Federal Government had everywhere throughout the seceding States ceased to be acknowledged, and every symbol of the Union had disappeared.

The revolt of this group of States was effected, as we have seen, not suddenly or simultaneously, but by a series of acts extending over a considerable time, without violence or disorder, and with as near an approach perhaps as a revolt is capable of to formal regularity of proceeding. The declaration of independence was preceded in every case by the holding of a Convention; and, in the choice of delegates, "secession or no secession " was known to be the real issue presented to the electors. The authority of the Union was dethroned and de facto abolished; but in the internal administration of the several States there was no violent displacement of power, since none was called for, and in most instances there was no change at all. If the South had succeeded in severing itself from the Union, the complete sovereignty of these States, as regards their internal government and laws, must have been held to date from

« AnteriorContinuar »