« AnteriorContinuar »
HISTORY OF THE GREAT REBELLION.
of the Confederacy, from any port or place beyond the said limits, may freely pass with their cargoes to any other place beyond the said limits, without let or hindrance, on paying pilotage and other charges. Regulations were made to prevent the disposing of any part of the cargoes without payment of the customs due to the Confederate States. This the Southerners probably thought was all that the Western people could desire, or, at least, justly claim.
Having thus extended one hand, as they supposed, to the Western navigation, they extended the other to Great Britain, by modifying the navigation laws. The act, which was ready for the President's assent on the 26th of February, was "to modify the navigation laws, and to repeal all discriminating duties on ships and vessels;" and enacted that "all laws which forbid the employment in the coastingtrade of ships or vessels not enrolled or licensed, and also all laws which forbid the importation of goods, wares, or merchandise from one port of the Confederate States to another, or from any foreign port or⚫ place in a vessel belonging wholly or in part to a subject or citizen of any foreign State or power, are hereby repealed." Discriminating duties on foreign ships were also repealed. Thus, the coasting-trade from Charleston to Galveston was now thrown open to the British flag. This was certainly a tempting bait to Great Britain, who had so long sought from the Federal Government to be admitted to the coasting-trade of the United States in return for the right to trade between her colonies. As the South owns no shipping, but supplies an immense freight annually in cotton, rice, and tobacco, it was equivalent to offering her carrying-trade to Great Britain.
The act for the suppression of the slave-trade was in the usual terms, but contained a provision for dealing with the negroes found on board the captured vessels, which is somewhat amusing. If the vessel is cleared from any port in the United States, the President shall communicate with the Governor of that State, and "shall offer to deliver such negroes to the said State on receiving a guarantee that the said negroes shall enjoy the rights and privileges of freemen in such State, or in any other State of the United States, or that they shall be transported to Africa, and there set at liberty, without expense to the Government." The notion of the Confederate States bargaining with Massachusetts or Pennsylvania that a negro shall "have all the rights and privileges of a freeman," might imply a doubt as to the sincerity of their professions in behalf of the negro. In default of the foreign State accepting this offer, the President was empowered to receive any propositions made for the transport of the negroes to Africa by private persons, and, should no such philanthropist offer himself, "the President shall cause the said negroes to be sold at public auction to the highest bidder." This, it must be confessed, is a descent from the lofty morality of the earlier part of the clause. All these acts were passed with great unanimity.
On the 6th of February, an act placing at the disposition of Congress five hundred thousand dollars for the placing of the seceded States in a better condition of defence was passed by the legislature of Alabama. This offer was accepted by the Confederate Congress.
On the 9th of February, a committee of one from each State was appointed, to report upon a flag. The Government assumed, February 12th, charge of the questions pending between the several States of the Confederacy and the Government of the United States, relating to the occupation of forts, arsenals, dock-yards, and other public establishments, and directed that act to be communicated to the several States; and again, on the 15th of March, 1861, the Congress recommended the respective States to cede the forts, arsenals, dock-yards, and other public establishments within their respective limits, to the Confederate States; and, in case of such cession, authorized and empowered the President to take charge of the said property. It was also provided by act of February 28th, that the President be directed to assume control of all military operations of the Confederate States; and he was authorized to receive the arms acquired from the United States and then in the forts, arsena's, and navy-yards of the several States, and all other arms and munitions which they might desire to turn over and make chargeable to the Confederate Government.
On the 9th of March, the Confederate Congress passed an act for the organization of the army, to be composed of one corps of engineers, one corps of artillery, one regiment of cavalry, and six regiments of infantry, and to number ten thousand seven hundred and thirty-seven officers and men.
Meeting of Congress.-President's Message.-Resignation of Secretaries Cobb, Cass, Floyd, and Thompson.-Defalcations.-Special Message of the President.-Committee of Thirty-three.-Crittenden Resolutions-Border States' Plan.-Virginia Resolutions.-Peace Convention-Close of Congress.-New Territories.-Finance.Constitutional Amendment-Mr. Lincoln's Arrival at Washington.-Inaugural; its Effects. Southern Commissioners.-Supplies to Fort Sumter.-Policy of the Government. Charleston Harbor.-Events at the South.-Bombardment and Surrender of Fort Sumter.-Fort Pickens Reinforced.
WHILE preparations for conventions of the Southern States were on foot, with the view of bringing about disunion, the Congress of the United States met at Washington, as usual, on December 3d. The South Carolina representatives were present, but the Senators having resigned November 11th, were absent. The other Southern represen tations were generally full.
The message of the President was largely occupied with a discussion of the state of the country. He declared that the long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with Southern interests had at length produced its natural effects in sectional discord; and that the true cause of the Southern disquiet was neither the personal liberty bills of the Northern States, nor the claim to exclude slavery from the national territory, but the fact that continual agitation was inspiring the slaves with the hope of freedom, and thus daily undermining the security of the Southern people. The apprehensions
from this cause, he alleged, would make disunion inevitable. The President stated that, with the possible exception of the Missouri Compromise, no act had ever passed Congress impairing in the slightest degree the rights of the South to their property in slaves; no act had passed, or was likely to pass Congress, excluding slavery from the Territories; that the Supreme Court had decided that slaves are property, and that the owners have a right to take them into the Territories under the protection of the Constitution; and that no territorial legisla ture possesses the power to exclude slavery from the Territories. The power belongs nowhere except to the whole people when forming a State Constitution. That neither Congress nor the President are responsible for the State personal liberty laws, which, he said, have all been declared unconstitutional and void, by all courts before which the question has been brought, with the exception of a single State court in Wisconsin, and there the decision had been reversed before the proper tribunal. He argued strongly against the right of secession, declaring it to be simply revolution. He then summed up the powers of the executive under the constitution, and the laws of 1795 and 1807; "but these," he said, “do not apply in a State where there are no Federal officers through whose agency the laws can be executed. The property of the United States in Charleston had, with the consent of the State, been purchased by the Federal Government, and Congress has the exclusive power to legislate therein; hence there were no obstacles to the collection of the duties in Charleston."
"It is not believed," he added, "that any attempt will be made to expel the United States from the property. The officer in charge has orders to act on the defensive, and if he should be assailed, the responsibility would rest rightfully on the heads of the assailants."
The President, in relation to the power of coercing a State that attempts to withdraw from the Confederacy, held that the power to do so"was expressly refused by the convention which framed the Constitution." The President advised an explanatory amendment to the constitution on the subject of slavery.
On December 10th, the Secretary of the Treasury, Howell Cobb, of Georgia, resigned. In his letter of resignation, he stated that he agreed with the President in the policy and measures of the Administration, although he differed from some of the theoretical doctrines expressed in the message, as well as from the hope expressed in it, that the Union could yet be preserved. Mr. Thomas, of Maryland, was appointed to succeed Mr. Cobb as Secretary of the Treasury. The resignation of Mr. Cobb was followed by that of the Hon. Lewis Cass, Secretary of State, on the ground that the President had refused to reinforce the garrison at Fort Moultrie. This work, situated on Sullivan's Island, in Charleston harbor, was one of the few fortifications in Southern ports in which the Government maintained an armed force, and was watched with great jealousy by the authorities of South Carolina. He was succeeded by Attorney-General Black, and Mr. Stanton, of Pennsylvania, succeeded Mr. Black as Attorney-General. While General Cass resigned because the President would not strengthen Major Anderson's command, John B. Floyd, Secretary of War, resigned on the
ground that he had, with the assent of the President, assured the authorities of South Carolina that, pending the adoption of some decided line of policy, there should be no change in the position of forces in Charleston harbor. On the evening of December 26th, the garrison was transferred from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, which he claimed was a violation of that pledge, and on the refusal of the President to redeem it, by withdrawing the troops, he declared he could not remain in the cabinet. His resignation was at once accepted, and Mr. Holt, Postmaster-General, appointed to the War Department ad interim. Mr. Horatio King was appointed Postmaster-General.
The position of Major Anderson at Fort Sumter was not much improved from what it had been at Fort Moultrie. He was safe from immediate attack, but his supplies were becoming exhausted, and it became necessary to succor him. An attempt was made to extort a pledge from the President that no reinforcements should be sent ; but no such pledge was given, and the Star of the West left New York, January 5th, with supplies and two hundred and fifty men, to be thrown into the fort. In consequence of this, Mr. Thompson resigned as Secretary of the Interior, January 8th. On the 11th, Mr. Thomas, who had succeeded Mr. Cobb in the Treasury Department, also resigned for a similar reason. General John A. Dix was appointed in his place.
At this juncture, when the frequent changes in the cabinet were causing universal uneasiness, the country was startled with accounts of immense frauds in the War Department. It appeared that there had been outstanding large contracts with Russell, Majors & Co., to convey army supplies across the plains to Utah, during the Mormon war. The capital required to conduct these was very great, and it had been customary for the contractors to give drafts on the Government at three and four months. These were officially accepted by Mr. Floyd, the amount to be charged at maturity upon the sum then due to the con
In consequence of the growing commercial difficulties, Russell & Co. found it no longer possible to raise money on the drafts. Under these circumstances, Mr. Russell induced Godard Bailey, a clerk in the Department of the Interior, to abstract from the department eight hundred and seventy one thousand dollars of stocks belonging to the Indian Fund, and loan them to him for the purpose of raising money to meet his contracts. The discovery of these facts produced immense excitement. There is no doubt but that this incident had a powerful influence upon the course of events. The policy of the President seemed to be in some degree strengthened by the changes that had taken place in the cabinet. The immediate difficulty was the position of Major Anderson at Charleston, and the departure of the Star of the West from New York, January 5th, with men and stores for that point, under a clearance for Havana, had given the President renewed confidence. On the 8th of January, therefore, the day on which the Star of the West should have succeeded in her mission, the President sent to Congress a special message upon the state of the country, reiterating his opinion previously expressed, in opposition to the right of secession, and his views in relation to his own duty and that of Con