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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 had 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 Treas. ury, and on the 14th General 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, alléging 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 General 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 Senators generally treated the election of the previous November as having been a virtual decision against the equality and rights of the slavehold ingStates. The Republican members disavowed this construction, and proclaimed their willingness to adopt any just and proper measures which would quiet the apprehensions of the South, while they insisted that the authority of the Constitution should be maintained, and the constitutional election of a President should be respected. At the opening of the session, Mr. Powell, of Kentucky, in the Senate, moved the reference of that portion of the President's Message which related to the Sectional difficulties of the country, to a select committee of thirteen. This resolution being adopted, Mr. Critten den immediately afterwards introduced a series of joint resolutions, embodying what came to be known afterWards as the Crittenden Compromise—proposing to submit to the action of the people of the several States the following amendments to the Constitution :
1. Prohibiting slavery in all the territory of the United States north of 35' 30, and protecting it as property in all territory south of that line; and admitting into the Union, with or without slavery, as its Constitution might provide, any State that might be formed out of such territory, whenever its population should be sufficient to entitle it to a member of Congress. 2. Prohibiting Congress from abolishing slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction within Slave States. 3. Prohibiting Congress from abolishing slavery within the District of Columbia, so long as slavery should exist in Virginia or Maryland; or without the consent of the inhabitants, or without just compensation, to the owners. 4. Prohibiting Congress from hindering the transportation of slaves from one State to another, or to a Territory in which slavery is allowed. 5. Providing that where a fugitive slave is lost to his owner by violent resistance to the execution of the process of the law for his recovery, the United States shall pay to said owner his full value, and may recover the Fame from the county in which such rescue occurred.
6. These provisions were declared to be unchangeable by any future amendment of the Constitution, as were also the existing articles relating to the representation of slaves and the surrender of fugitives.
Besides these proposed amendments of the Constitution, Mr. Crittenden’s resolutions embodied certain declarations in affirmance of the constitutionality and binding force of the fugitive slave law—recommending the repeal by the States of all bills, the effect of which was to hinder the execution of that law, proposing to amend it by equalizing its fees, and urging the effectual execution of the law for the suppression of the African slave-trade.
These resolutions were referred to the Committee of Thirteen, ordered on Mr. Powell's motion, and composed of the following senators:—
Messrs. Powell, Hunter, Crittenden, Seward, Toombs, Douglas, Collamer, Davis, Wade, Bigler, Rice, Doolittle, and Grimes.
On the 31st of December, this committee reported that they “ had not been able to agree upon any general plan of adjustment.” The whole subject was nevertheless discussed over and over again during the residue of the session ; but no final action was taken until the very day of its close. On the 21st of January, Messrs. Yulee and Mallory, of Florida, resigned their seats in the Senate, because their State had passed an ordinance of secession; and on the 28th, Mr. Iverson, of Georgia, followed their example. Messrs. Clay and Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, and Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, followed next, and, on the 4th of February, Messrs. Slidell and Benjamin, of Louisiana, also took their leave.
In the House of Representatives the debates took the same general direction as in the Senate. On the first day of the session a resolution was adopted, by a vote of one hundred and forty-five to thirty-eight, to refer so much of the President's Message as related to the perilous condition of the country, to a committee of one from each State. This committee was appointed as follows:–
Corwin of Ohio. Dunn of Indiana.
Nelson of Tennessee.
A great variety of resolutions were offered and referred to this committee. In a few days the committee reported the following series of resolutions, and recommended their adoption :
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all attempts on the parts of the legislatures of any of the States to obstruct or hinder the recovery and surrender of fugitives from service or labor, are in derogation of the Constitution of the United States, inconsistent with the comity and good neighborhood that should prevail among the several States, and dangerous to the peace of the Union.
Resolved, That the several States be respectfully requested to cause their statutes to be revised, with a view to ascertain if any of them are in conflict with, or tend to embarrass or hinder the execution of the laws of the United States, made in pursuance of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States, for the delivering up of persons held to labor by the laws of any State and escaping therefrom; and the Senate and House of Representatives earnestly request that all enactments having such tendency be forth with repealed, as required by a just sense of constitutional obligations, and by a due regard for the peace of the Republic; and the President of the United States is requested to communicate these resolutions to the governors of the several States, with a request that they will lay the same before the legislatures thereof, respectively.
Resolred, That we recognize slavery as now existing in fifteen of the United States by the usages and laws of those States; and we recognize no authority, legally or otherwise, outside of a State where it so exists, to