Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

A DIVISION OF THE FLAG PROPOSED.

247

in a manner to have a salutary moral effect upon both parties. Let the blue union be diagonally divided, from left to right or right to left, and the thirteen stripes longitudinally, so as to make six and a half stripes in the upper, and six and a half stripes in the lower portion. Referring to it, as on a map, the upper portion being North, and the lower portion being South, we have the upper diagonal division of the blue

"NORTHERN" FLAG.

field and the upper six and a half stripes for the Northern Flag, and the lower diagonal division of the blue field and the lower six and a half stripes for the Southern Flag. The portion of the blue

field in each flag to contain the stars to the number of States embraced in each confederacy. The reasons for such division are obvious. It prevents

**SOUTHERN FLAG.

moiety of the old flag, will retain something, at least, of the sacred memories of the past for the sober reflection of each confederacy. And then if a war with some foreign nation, or combina

all dispute on a claim for the old flag by either confederacy. It is distinctive; for the two cannot be mistaken for each other, either at sea or at a distance on land. Each flag, being & tion of nations, should unhappily occur (all wars being unhappy), under our treaty of offense and defense, the two separate flags, by natural affinity, would clasp fittingly together, and the glorious old flag of the Union, in its entirety, would again be hoisted, once more embracing all the sister States.' Would not this division of the old flag thus have a salutary moral effect inclining to union? Will there not also be felt a sense of shame when either flag is seen by citizens of either confederacy? Will the old time-honored banner, bequeathed to us by our honored ancestors of every State, shall be flung to the breeze in its original integrity, as the rallying-point for a common defense, will not a shout of welcome, going up from the Rio Grande to Maine, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, rekindle in patriotic hearts in both confederacies a fraternal yearning for the old Union?"

REUNITED FLAG.

it not speak to them of the divisions which have separated members of the same household, and will not the why be forced from their lips, Why is the old flag divided? And when once

Such was the notable plan for reconciliation put forth by the most distinguished of the leaders of the Peace party, that played an important part during the civil war. This novel proposition-this disjunctive conjunctive plan of conciliation, like the experiment of making a delicate China vase stronger and more beautiful by first breaking it into fragments, and cementing it by foreign agency, shared the fate of others in Congress and in the Peace Convention. It was rejected as insufficient. The conspirators had resolved on absolute, wide, and eternal separation, while the vast majority of the people of the Republic had as firmly resolved that there should be no division of the flag, of the territory, or of the "sacred associations of the Past" for out of that Past came the voice of the Father of his Country,

The sketches of the divided Flag are from drawings made for me by Professor Morse.

248

CONVENTION OF CONSPIRATORS AT MONTGOMERY.

saying: "It is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your National Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can, in any event, be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts."

On the same day when the Peace Convention assembled at Washington to deliberate upon plans for preserving the Union, a band of usurpers, chosen by the secession conventions of six States without the consent or sanction of the people, met in the State House at Montgomery, in Alabama (a city of

sixteen thousand inhabitants, on the Alabama River, and over three hundred miles by water from the Gulf of Mexico), for the purpose of perfecting schemes for the destruction of the Union. They were forty-two in number, and represented the disloyal politicians of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. For days heavy rains had been flooding the whole region between the Savannah and Tombigbee Rivers, damaging railways, and making traveling perilous. The train that conveyed Stephens, and Toombs, and T. R. Cobb, of Georgia, and Chesnut, and Withers, and Rhett, of South Carolina, was thrown from the track between West Point and Montgomery, and badly broken up. Everybody was frightened, but nobody was hurt; and at a late hour, on the 4th, these leaders in conspiracy entered Montgomery. Not long afterward the Convention assembled in the Legisla tive Hall, around which were hung, in unseemly intermingling, the portraits

[graphic]

STATE HOUSE AT MONTGOMERY.

1 Washington's Farewell Address to his countrymen.

2 The following are the names of the delegates :

South Carolina.-R. B. Rhett, James Chesnut, Jr., W. P. Miles, T. J. Withers, R. W. Barnwell, C. G. Memminger, L. M. Keitt, W. W. Boyce. Georgia.-Robert Toombs, Howell Cobb, Benjamin H. Hill, Alexander H. Stephens, Francis Barbour, Martin J. Crawford, E. A. Nisbett, Augustus B. Wright, Thomas R. R. Cobb, Augustus Keenan. Alabama.-Richard W. Walker, Robert H. Smith, Colin J. McRae, John Gill Shorter, S. F. Hale. David P. Lewis, Thomas Fearn, J. L. M. Curry, W. P. Chilton. Mississippi.-Willie P. Harris, Walker Brooke, A. M. Clayton, W. S. Barry, J. T. Harrison, J. A. P. Campbell, W. S. Wilson. Louisi ana-John Perkins, Jr., Duncan F. Kenna, C. M. Conrad, E. Spencer, Henry Marshall. Florida.- Jack son Morton, James Powers, W. B. Ochiltree.

ORGANIZATION OF THE MONTGOMERY CONVENTION.

249

of George Washington and John C. Calhoun; of Andrew Jackson and William L. Yancey; of General Marion, Henry Clay, and the historian of Alabama, A. J. Pickett. Robert W. Barnwell, of South Carolina, was chosen temporary chairman; and the blessing of a just God was invoked upon the premeditated labors of these wrong-doers by the Rev. Basil Manly.

That assembly of conspirators was permanently organized by the appropriate choice of Howell Cobb, of Georgia, as presiding officer. Johnson F. Hooper, of Montgomery, was chosen clerk.' On taking the chair, Cobb made a short speech, in which he said, truly, that their assemblage was of no ordinary character. They met, he said, as representatives of sovereign and independent States, who had dissolved the political associations which connected them with the United States. He declared that the separation was a "fixed and irrevocable fact"-that it was "perfect, complete, and perpetual." The duty imposed upon them was to make provision for the Government of the "seceded States." It was desirable to maintain the most friendly relations with their "late sister States, as with the world," and especially with the Slave-labor States. He doubted not that he, and the men before him, would prove equal to the task assigned them. He counseled them to assume all responsibility necessary to the accomplishment of the work they had entered upon. "With a consciousness of the justice of our cause," he said, "and with confidence in the guidance and blessings of a kind Providence, we will this day inaugurate for the South a new era of peace, security, and prosperity."

[ocr errors]

As the delegates assumed to be representatives of "Sovereign States," it was agreed that all votes should be taken by States. Having adopted rules for the guidance of the Convention, they at once proceeded to business with great diligence. It was soon discovered that perfect harmony was not to be expected. There were too many ambitious men in that little assemblage to allow the prevalence of sweet concord, or serenity of thought and manner. They were nearly all aspirants to high positions in the inchoate empire. Each felt himself, like Bottom the Weaver, capable of performing any part. in the drama about opening, either as "Lion," "Pyramus," "Wall," or Moonshine." The South Carolinians were specially ambitious for distinction. They longed for the most lofty honors and the most prodigal emoluments. Had they not been leaders in the revolutionary movements? Had they not struck the first blow for the destruction of the Republic, on whose ruins they were about to build the majestic fabric of "free government," founded on Slavery? Had they not, therefore, a pre-emptive right to the best domain in the new commonwealth? Judge Magrath, who with ludicrous solemnity laid aside his judicial robes at Charleston, sent word that he would like to put them on again at Montgomery as attorney-general. Robert Barnwell Rhett, the most belligerent of the demagogues of the

3

1 Hooper was at one time editor of the Montgomery Mail, a violent secession sheet. He had for assistant clerks Robert S. Dixon and A. R. Lamar. Hooper died in great poverty in Richmond, some time in the year 3 See page 48.

1862

* See picture of banner, page 106.

"Memminger mentioned to the delegates that he was requested by Judge McGrath to say to them, that he would be glad to be appointed attorney-general by the President of the Confederacy. There will be solicitations enough from South Carolina for offices. But keep this to yourself."-Autograph Letter of R. B. Rhett to his Son, February 11, 1861.

250

CHARACTER OF THE MONTGOMERY CONVENTION.

"Palmetto State "--the perfect representative of the disloyal politicians of South Carolina-thought himself peculiarly fitted for a secretary of war, and evinced special sensitiveness because his claims to distinction were overlooked. Of this he wrote complaining letters to his son, the editor of the Charleston Mercury. Some of these are before me, and are rich revelations of disappointed ambition.' Memminger aspired to be secretary of the treasury, and James Chesnut, Jr., who had "patriotically" made a sacrifice of his seat in the National Senate, was spoken of as a fitting head of the new nation.

The policy advocated by Rhett and his class, and the Mercury, their organ, had been that of violence from the beginning. From the hour when Anderson entered Sumter, they had counseled its seizure. In the Convention at Montgomery, Rhett urged that policy with vehemence, and tried to infuse his own spirit of violence into that assembly. He was met by calm and steady opposition, under which he chafed; and privately he denounced his associates there as cowards and imbeciles. Men like Stephens, and Hill, and Brooke, and Perkins, controlled the fiery spirits in that Convention, and it soon assumed a dignity suited to the gravity of the occasion.

5

4

The sessions of the Montgomery Convention were generally held in secret. That body might properly be called a conclave-a conclave of conspirators. On the second day of the session, Mr. Memminger, of South Carolina, offered a series of three resolutions, declaring that it was expedient forthwith to form a confederacy of "seceded States," and that a committee be appointed to report a plan for a provisional government, on the basis of the Constitution of the United States; that the committee consist of thirteen members; and that all propositions in reference to a provisional government be referred to that committee. Alexander H. Stephens then moved that the word "Congress" be used instead of "Convention," when applied to the body then in session, which was agreed to.

On the following day," commissioners from North Carolina ap• February 6, peared, and were invited to seats in the Convention. They came 1861. only as commissioners from a State yet "a part of the Federal

Union," and had no right to appear as delegates. Their object was, according to instructions, to effect an "honorable and amicable adjustment of all the

7

1 That they have not put me forward for office," said Rhett, "is true. I have two enemies in the [South Carolina] delegation. One friend, who, I believe, wants no office himself, and will probably act on the same principle for his friend-and the rest, personally, are indifferent to me, whilst some of them are not indifferent to themselves. There is no little jealousy of me, by a part of them, and they never will agree to recommend me to any position whatever under the Confederacy. I expect nothing, therefore, from the delegation lifting me to position.. Good-by, my dear son. I have never been wise in pushing myself forward to office or power, and, I suppose, never will be. I cannot change. Prepare for disappointment."—Autograph Letter, February 11, 1861.

2 See page 51.

3 See page 129.

4. If the people of Charleston," he said, "should burn the whole crew in effigy, I should not be surprised. No reasoning on earth can satisfy the people of the South, that within two months a whole State could not take a fort defended by but seventy men. The thing is absurd. We must be disgraced."—Autograph Letter, February 11, 1861.

The Alabamians seem to have been special objects of Rhett's dislike. “Alabama," he said, "has the meanest delegation in this body. There is not a statesman amongst them; and they are always ready for all the hasty projects of fear. Our policy has but little chance in this body."—Autograph Letter, February 18,

1861.

5 On one or two occasions propositions were made to employ two stenographers to take down the debates. These propositions were voted down, and no reporters were allowed. They had open as well as secret sessions. Their open sessions they called the "Congress," and their secret sessions they called the "Convention." The Commissioners were David L. Swain, M. W. Ransom, and John L. Bridges. 7 See page 198.

THE PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION.

251

difficulties that distract the country, upon the basis of the Crittenden Resolutions, as modified by the Virginia Legislature." They soon perceived that their mission would be fruitless, and they returned to their homes.

On the 7th a resolution was received by the Convention, from the Alabama Legislature, placing at the disposal of the "Provisional Government of the Confederacy of the Seceding States" the sum of five hundred thousand dollars as a loan, for the purpose of setting the machinery of the new government in motion. It was accepted with thanks. The preliminary measures for the formation of that provisional government had been taken. Mr. Memminger, Chairman of the Committee to report a plan, had submitted one.' It was discussed that day and a part of the next, in secret session, when the Constitution of the United States, with some important modifications, was adopted as a form of government for the new Confederacy," which was afterward known by the false title of "CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA." It was a false title, because no States, as States, were parties to the unholy league. The "government," so called, was composed only of a band of confederated traitors, who had usurped the powers and trampled upon the rights of the people, who constitute the State, and were about to make war upon the Republic to the hurt of that people.

[ocr errors]

The Provisional Constitution declared that the Convention at Montgomery was a "Congress," vested with all the legislative powers of that of the United States. It provided that the Provisional President should hold his office for one year, unless superseded by the establishment of a permanent government; that each State should be a judicial district, and that the several district judges should compose the supreme court of the Confederacy; that the word "Confederacy" should be substituted for "Union," as used in the National Constitution; that the President might veto a separate appropriation without affecting a whole bill; that the African Slave-trade should be prohibited; that the Congress should be empowered to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of the Confederacy; that all appropriations should be made upon demands of the President or heads of departments; and that members of the Congress might hold offices of honor and emolument under the Provisional Government. No mention was made of taxes, excepting those in the form of a tariff for revenue; nor the keeping of troops and ships of war by the States; nor for any ratification of the Constitution, it being only provisional. The word "slave" was used where, in the National Constitution, it is avoided. The Provisional Government was required to take immediate steps for a settlement of all matters concerning property, between the United States and the "Confederacy." All legislative powers were vested in the "Congress" then assembled, until otherwise ordained. Only in the above-named features did the Provisional Constitution adopted by the Convention differ essentially from the National Constitution.

Notwithstanding the Provisional Constitution received the unanimous vote of the Convention, it did not satisfy all the members. The violent

1 The original draft of the Provisional Constitution is in the handwriting of Mr. Memminger. It is among the archives of the Confederate Government," at Washington City.

*This would bear most injuriously upon Virginia, whose annual income from the sale of slaves to the cotton planters now included in the "Confederacy," was counted by millions of dollars. This probibition was calculated to make Virginia hasten to join the Southern league against the Republic. See page 94.

« AnteriorContinuar »