« AnteriorContinuar »
sustained at the hands of the Federal Government, but from motives of personal and sectional ambition, and for the purpose of establishing a government which should be permanently and completely in the interest of slavery.
But the disclosures which have since been made, imperfect comparatively as they are, prove clearly that the whole secession movement was in the hands of a few conspirators, who had their head-quarters at the national capital, and were themselves closely connected with the Government of the United States. A secret meeting of these men was held at Washington on the night of the 5th of January, 1861, at which the Senators from Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida were present. They decided, by resolutions, that each of the Southern States should secede from the Union as soon as possible; that a convention of seceding States should be held at Montgomery, Alabama, not later than the 15th of February; and that the Senators and Members of Congress from the Southern States ought to remain in their seats as long as possible, in order to defeat measures that might be proposed at Washington hostile to the secession movement. Davis of Mississippi, Slidell of Louisiana, and Mallory of Florida, were appointed a committee to carry these decisions into effect; and, in pursuance of them, Mississippi passed an ordinance of secession January 9th ; Alabama and Florida, January 11th ; Louisiana, January 26th, and Texas, February 5th. All these acts, as well as all which followed, were simply the execution of the behests of this secret conclave of conspirators who had resolved upon secession. In all the conventions of the seceding States, delegates were appointed to meet at Montgomery. In not one of them was the question of secession submitted to a vote of the people ; although in some of them the legislatures had expressly forbidden them to pass any ordinance of secession without making its validity depend on its ratification by the popular vote. The Convention met at Montgomery on the 4th of February, and adopted a provisional constitution, to continue in operation for one year. Under this constitution Jeffer
son Davis was elected President of the new Confederacy, and Alex. H. Stephens, of Georgia, Vice-President. Both were inaugurated on the 18th. In an address delivered on his arrival at Montgomery, Mr. Davis declared that “the time for compromise has now passed, and the South is determined to maintain her position, and make all who oppose her smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel, if coercion is persisted in.” He felt sure of the result; it might be they would “have to encounter inconveniences at the beginning,” but he had no doubts of the final issue. The first part of his anticipation has been fully realized ; the end has hardly proved to be as peace. ful and satisfactory as he predicted.
The policy of the new Confederacy towards the United States was soon officially made known. The government decided to maintain the status quo until the expiration of Mr. Buchanan's term, feeling assured that, with his declared belief that it would be unconstitutional to coerce a State, they need apprehend from his administration no active hostility to their designs. They had some hope that
, by the 4th of March, their new Confederacy would be so far advanced that the new Administration might waive its purpose of coercion ; and they deemed it wise not to do any thing which should rashly forfeit the favor and support of "that very large portion of the North whose moral sense was on their side.” Nevertheless, they entered upon prompt and active preparations for war. Contracts were made in various parts of the South for the manufacture of powder, shell, cannon-balls, and other munitions of war. Recruiting was set on foot in several of the States. A plan was adopted for the organization of a regular army of the Confederacy, and on the 6th of March Congress passed an act authorizing a military force of one hundred thousand men.
Thus was opened a new chapter in the history of Amer. ica. Thus were taken the first steps towards overthrowing the Government and Constitution of the United States, and establishing a new nation, with a new Constitution, resting upon new principles, and aiming at new results.
The Constitution of the United States was ordained "in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” We have the clear and explicit testimony of A. H. Stephens, the VicePresident of the rebel Confederacy, echoing and reaffirming that of the whole civilized world to the fact, that these high and noble objects—the noblest and the grandest at which human institutions can aim-have been more nearly attained in the practical working of the Government of the United States than anywhere else on the face of the earth. “I look upon this country, with our institutions," said Mr. Stephens before the legislature of Georgia, on the 14th of November, 1860, after the result of the presidential election was known, “as the Eden of the world, the paradise of the universe. It may be that out of it we may become greater and more prosperous, but I am candid and sincere in teliing you that I fear, if we rashly evince passion, and without 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. 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
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 amoug us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferkon, 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 Providence, 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 insti. tution 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 fundamentalls 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 governinen
built upon it was wrong-when the 'storm came and the wind blew, it tell.'
“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 normal 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 generally 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 entitled 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 imposing effect, that we of the South would be com pelled, 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
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 it was in physics or 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 priuciple 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