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sufficient cause shall take that step, that instead of becoming greater, or more peaceful, prosperous, and happy-instead of becoming gods we will become demons, and at no distant day commence cutting each other's throats.” Mr. Stephens on that occasion went on, in a strain of high patriotism and common sense, to speak of the proposed secession of the State of Georgia, in language which will forever stand as a judicial
condemnation of the action of the rebel States. “The first · question that presents itself,” said Mr. Stephens, “is, shall the
people of the South secede from the Union in consequence of the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States? My countrymen, I tell you candidly, frankly, and earnestly that I do not think that they ought. In my judgment the election of no man, constitutionally chosen to that high office, is sufficient cause for any State to separate from the Union. It ought to stand by and aid still in maintaining the Constitution of the country. To make a point of resistance to the Government, to withdraw from it because a man has been constitutionally elected, puts us in the wrong. * * We went into the election with this people. The result was different from what we wished; but the election has been constitutionally held. Were we to make a point of resistance to the Government, and go out of the Union on this account, the record would be made up hereafter against us."
After the new Confederacy had been organized, and Mr. Stephens had been elected its Vice-President, he made an elaborate speech to the citizens of Savannah, in which he endeavored to vindicate this attempt to establish a new government in place of the government of the United States, and to set forth the new principles upon which it was to rest, and which were to justify the movement in the eyes of the world and of impartial posterity. That. exposition is too important to be omitted here. It is the most authoritative and explicit
statement of the character and objects of the new government which has ever been made. Mr. Stephens said :
“The new constitution has put at rest forever all agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us--the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jeffer. son, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the 'rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with ; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Provi. dence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the Constitution, was the prevailing idea at the time. The Constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly used against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a government built upon it was wrong when the storm came and the wind blew, it fell.'
"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; 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 moral condition. This, our new Government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, 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 is even so amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well that this truth was not genorally admitted even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North who still cling to these errors with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind; from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises ; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises are. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is en. titled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just; but their premises being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the Northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with ime posing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery; that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle-a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of man. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds we should succeed, and that he and his associates in their crusade against our institutions would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as well as in physics and mechanics, I admitted, but told him that it was he and those acting with him who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
"In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side, complete throughout the length and breadth of the Confederate States. It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted; and I cannot permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world."
We have thus traced the course of events in the Southern States during the three months that succeeded the election of President Lincoln. Let us now see what took place in Washington during the same time. Congress met on the 3d of December and the Message of President Buchanan was at once sent in. That document ascribed the discontent of the Southern States to the alleged fact that the violent agitation in the North against slavery bad created disaffection among the slaves, and created apprehensions of servile insurrection. The President
vindicated the hostile action of the South, assuming that it was prompted by these apprehensions; but went on to show that there was no right on the part of any State to secede from the Union, while at the same time he contended that the General Government had no right to make war on any State for the purpose of preventing it from seceding, and closed this portion of his Message by recommending an amendment of the Constitution which should explicitly recognize the right of property in slaves, and provide for the protection of that right in all the territories of the United States. The belief that the people of South Carolina would make an attempt to seize one or more of the forts in the harbor of Charleston, created considerable uneasiness at Washington; and on the 9th of December the Representatives from that State wrote to the President expressing their “strong convictions” that no such attempt would be made previous to the action of the State Convention, “ provided that no re-enforcements should be sent into those forts, and their relative military status shall remain as at present.” On the 10th of December Howell Cobb resigned his office as Secretary of the Treasury, and on the 14th Gen. Cass resigned as Secretary of State. The latter resigned because the President refused to re-enforce the forts in the harbor of Charleston. On the 20th the State of South Carolina passed the ordinance of secession, and on the 26th Major Anderson transferred his garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. On the 29th John B. Floyd resigned his office as Secretary of War, alleging that the action of Major Anderson was in violation of pledges given by the Government that the military status of the forts at Charleston should remain unchanged, and that the President had declined to allow him to issue an order, for which he had applied on the 27th, to withdraw the garrison from the harbor of Charleston. On the 29th of December, Messrs. Barnwell, Adams, and Orr arrived at Washington, as Commissioners from the State of South Carolina, and at once opened a correspondence with President Buchanan, asking for the delivery of the forts and other government property at Charleston to the authorities of South Carolina. The President replied on the 30th, reviewing the whole question-stating that in removing from Fort Moultrie Major Anderson acted solely on his own responsibility, and that his first impulse on hearing of it was to order him to return, but that the occupation of the fort by South Carolina and the seizure of the arsenal at Charleston had rendered this impossible. The Commissioners replied on the 1st of January, 1861, insisting that the President had pledged himself to maintain the status of affairs in Charleston harbor previous to the removal of Major Anderson from Fort Moultrie, and calling on him to redeem this pledge. This communication the President returned.
On the 8th of January the President sent a Message to Congress, calling their attention to the condition of public affairs, declaring that while he had no right to make aggressive war upon any State, it was his right and his duty to “use military force defensively against those who resist the Federal officers in the execution of their legal functions, and against those who assail the property of the Federal Government;"—but throwing the whole responsibility of meeting the extraordinary emergencies of the occasion upon Congress. On the same day Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi, resigned his office as Secretary of the Interior, because the Star of the West had been sent on the 5th, by order of the Government, with supplies for Fort Sumter, in violation, as he alleged, of the decision of the Cabinet. On the 10th, P. F. Thomas, of Maryland, who had replaced Howell Cobb as Secretary of the Treasury, resigned, and was succeeded by Gen. John A. Dix, of New York.
The debates and the action of Congress throughout the session related mainly to the questions at issue between the two sections. The discussion opened on the 3d of December as soon as the President's Message had been read. The Southern