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posed action, distinctly notified the complotters that he was equally without constitutional power to oppose their carrying out that purpose. When appealed to by the veteran head of the army, at a still earlier day, to take firm military possession of the United States forts on the southern coast, the same public functionary could find no means of adopting this prudent precaution. Consequently, the rebellious South Carolina leaders carried through their ordinance of secession on the 20th of December, 1860. Fort Moultrie, by an overt act of treason, was seized on the 28th, and the Palmetto flag was raised over Government property in Charleston. On the 3d of January, 1861, without even the pretext of a secession ordinance, or any form of authority from his own State, Gov. Brown, of Georgia, seized Forts Pulaski and Jackson, at Savannah; and this exam. ple was followed next day, in Alabama, by the occupation of Fort Morgan, at Mobile.
The patient submission with which all these acts were witnessed by the Executive, nay, the meekness with which he had himself invited them, and the ready assistance rendered to these efforts of treason by some of the highest officers immediately about him, were followed by the natural results. On the 9th of January, the steamer Star of the West, tardily dispatched with a small re-enforcement for Fort Sumter, now held by a totally inadequate garrison, was fired into from rebel batteries erected on Morris' Island, and from Fort Moultrie. On the same day, the conspirators in Mississippi, now, as in the times of repudiation, under the lead of Jefferson Davis, followed their co-laborers in South Carolina, in the pretense of secession. Alabama, Florida and Georgia were speedily subjected to a similar process of rebel manipulation. Louisiana, on the 28th of January, and Texas on the 1st of February, were proclaimed as having dissolved their connection with the Union. Meanwhile, the delegates of these States successively withdrew from Congress.
On the 10th of December, Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury, had resigned the position he had so zealously perverted to the aid of the great conspiracy, and departed to the more immediate scene of action, that he might hasten the con
summation, for a time delayed, and so earnestly resisted in Georgia as seemingly to involve the result in doubt. The venerable Secretary of State, Lewis Cass, surrendered his place four days later, in disgust at the hopelessness of his efforts to roase President Buchanan to some effective resistance to the destructive blows aimed at the national life. John B. Floyd soon after (Dec. 29) retired from the office of Secretary of War, which he had used to disarm the loyal portion of the country, and to fill the rebellious States with cannon and muskets, which they were not slow to appropriate to the uses of rebellion. Jacob Thompson, without resigning, absented himself on a tour in the South, throwing all the weight of his influence as a cabinet officer in favor of rebellion in his native State of North Carolina. Bold peculation was meanwhile left to do its work in his department, in aid of the treasonable labors of high officials in crippling the Government, and in rendering the new administration as powerless as possible to meet the approaching crisis. The Secretary of the Navy had notoriously dispersed our war vessels to distant seas, so that months must pass before the incoming administration could bring an effective naval force to bear on the rebellion.
Delegates from the seven States in which this spreading insurrection had become predominant assembled at Montgomery, in Alabama, on the 6th of February, organized their “ Confederacy" under a temporary constitution, and, on the 9th, selected Jefferson Davis to be their President, with Alexander H. Stephens as Vice President. The latter had been chosen as a representative of the more conservative sentiment, having strenuously resisted secession, as an utterly needless rebellion against “the best government upon earth,” and his acceptance was a token of the general acquiescence of all political leaders of the States concerned in the rebellion now organized. Around this nucleus of seven States, thus completely in revolt, it was expected by the conspirators that every State in which slavery existed would soon be gathered, by a common interest, in the bonds of a common crime. The leaven of rebellion was industriously diffused through every other slaveholding State, and in several, movements were already in progress, which afterward culminated in secession ordinances.
While this confederacy of seven States was forming, a convention, composed of delegates from most of the free States, and from all the border slave States, was in session at Washington, aiming to bring about, by compromise, a peaceable solution of the pending struggle. On the part of leading loyal men this conference was conducted in good faith, in a conciliatory spirit, and with an earnest desire to avert any more seri. ous collision than had already occurred. On the other hand, it was manifest that at least the delegates from Virginia, with John Tyler at their head, were aiming only to use this means to widen the gulf already existing, and to overcome the decided Union majority still existing in all the border slave States. While a series of propositions, therefore, looking to peace on the basis of a preserved Union, were agreed to by a majority of the Convention (which adjourned on the 1st of March), no practical result appeared in the rebellious districts, unless of an adverse character. This action did serve, however, to proclaim to all the world the anxiety of the people of the free States to avert, by any possible concessions, the full initiation of civil war.
On the 11th of February, likewise, the Federal House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by Mr. Corwin, of Ohio (soon after concurred in by the Senate), providing for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, forever prohibiting any legislation by Congress interfering with slavery in any State of the Uniona measure that fully set aside one of the chief pretended occasions for revolt. Going still further, in the way of concession, and in fact surrendering the long controversy about slavery in the Territories, were the resolutions known as the Crittenden Compromise, and which certain Southern Senators deliberately defeated, in their own house, by withholding their votes.
The temper and purpose of the secession leaders were thus distinctly manifested. They would have no compromise. On their own terms, of final separation alone, would they listen to terms of peace. Many of them manifestly desired war, and exulted in the hope of such revenge upon their Northern oppo
nents as var only could bring; while all insisted on yielding nothing, except on the condition of substantially gaining everything they aimed at, by a full recognition of a separate and independent Confederacy comprising all the slaveholding States. For to this end, though less than half the number of those States had already been carried by the revolutionists, they were zealously laboring, and of the final issue no doubt was entertained, when once the Montgomery organization was countepanced as a legitimate government.
It is unpleasant to mention, yet impartial history can not omit the fact, that hopes of peaceable submission to secession were seemingly encouraged in Southern minds by newspapers and orators in the North, at this period, and that a number of political leaders, with scarcely any apparent popular support, it is true, earnestly advocated what they termed the policy of peaceable separation. To this day, perhaps, it may be doubtful to many minds whether, had not a spirit of unbounded insolence and a haughty defiance, that spurned even the slightest concession, been manifested by the secession leaders, this complacent policy-more fatal than any former compromisemight not have gained the ascendency in the popular mind.
So much had been brought to final accomplishment by the conspirators during the closing months of Mr. Buchanan's administration. Such was the spirit manifested by them to repel conciliation in every form, to maintain peace solely on condition of the complete submission of the loyal States to every essential demand of secessionism. And such, on the other hand, was the amicable disposition of loyal men everywhere, and their earnest wish to avoid a collision of arms, if any other solution were possible short of absolute degradation and ruin to the nation. Jefferson Davis, in assuming power as head of the “Confederacy,” at Montgomery, February 18, stated the sole conditions of peace in the following unmistakeable language :
If a just perception of mutual interest shall permit us peaceably to pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will have been fulfilled. But if this be denied us, and the integrity of our territory and jurisdiction be assailed,
it will but remain for us with firm resolve to appeal to arms, and invoke the blessing of Providence on a just cause.
This was immediately followed by the recommendation that a Confederate army be organized and put in training for the emergency; "a well instructed, disciplined army, more numerous than would usually be required, on a peace establishment," being distinctly indicated as essential to his plans.
While it is thus clear that he and all his coadjutors were determined on war from the outset, and at all hazards, unless disunion were recognized as an accomplished fact, and the jurisdiction of the Government over the rebellious districts were abandoned without a struggle, it is equally manifest that not a single grievance complained of could have failed of redress, under our popular institutions, by peaceable methods. While deluding their adherents with smooth words, they deliberately chose an appeal to arms, and scorned a peaceable solution, which was equally at their disposal, under the Constitution and the laws.
Some acts of vigor and patriotic fidelity, during the closing days of Mr. Buchanan's administration, deserve to be remembered, to the honor of those cabinet ministers, to whom alone the country was indebted for these redeeming deeds. Dix, Stanton and Holt had preserved a remainder of popular respect for a Government that all the loyalty of the nation rejoiced to see transferred to the hands of a new executive, untried though he was, and terrible as was the task devolving upon him.
Despite all the threats, constantly repeated for months past, that Mr. Lincoln should never be permitted to occupy the Presidential chair, and desperate as had been the plottings for his assassination, he appeared at the east front of the capitol and received, at the appointed time, the oath from Chief Justice Taney. During the period that had elapsed since the election, Mr. Lincoln had carefully studied the situation, closely watching the course of events, His inaugural address shows the results of his observation, and of the application of his sterling good sense and comprehensive practical judgment to the mastery of the problem to be solved by him as head of the nation. He