Imágenes de páginas

Enemies at Home.


eagerly awaiting a breaking-up of the Union, in order that they might profit by its ruin. Thus, immediately after the secession of South Carolina, Fernando Wocd, Mayor of New York, issued a proclamation, in which he recommended that it should secede, and become a "free city." All over the country, Democrats like Wood were looking forward to revolutions in which something might be picked up, and not a few really spoke of the revival of titles of nobility. All of these prospective governors of lordly Baratarias avowed sympathy with the South. It was chiefly by reliance on these Northern sympathisers that the Confederacy was led to its ruin. President Lincoln found himself in command of a beleagured fortress which had been systematically stripped and injured by his predecessor, a powerful foe storming without, and nearly half his men doing their utmost to aid the enemy from within.

On the 4th March, 1861, Lincoln took the oath to fulfil his duties as President, and delivered his inaugural address. In this he began by asserting that he had no intention of interfering with slavery as it existed, or of interfering in any way with the rights of the South, and urged that, by law, fugitive slaves must be restored to their owners. In reference to the efforts being made to break up the Union, he maintained that, by universal law and by the Constitution, the union of the States must be perpetual.


"It is safe to assert," he declared, "that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination." With great wisdom, and in the most temperate language, he pointed out the impossibility of any government, in the true sense of the word, being liable to dissolution because a party wished it. One party to a contract may violate or break it, but it requires all to lawfully rescind it.

"I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it as far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary."

He asserted that the power confided to him would be used to hold and possess all Government property and collect duties; but went so far in conciliation as to declare, that wherever hostility to the United States should be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there would be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. Where the enforcement of such matters, though legally right, might be irritating and nearly impracticable, he would deem it better to

His Inaugural Address.


forego for a time the uses of such offices. He pointed out that the principle of secession was simply that of anarchy; that to admit the claim of a minority would be to destroy any government; while he indicated with great intelligence the precise limits of the functions of the Supreme Court. And he briefly explained the impossibility of a divided Union existing, save in a jarring and ruinous manner. "Physically speaking," he said, "we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face; and intercourse either amicable or hostile must continue between them. Why should there not be," he added, "a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Mighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people."

It has been well said that this address was the wisest utterance of the time. Yet it was, with all its gentle and conciliatory feelings, at once misrepre

sented through the South as a malignant and tyrannical threat of war; for to such a pitch of irritability and arrogance had the entire Southern party been raised, that any words from a Northern ruler, not expressive of the utmost devotion to their interests, seemed literally like insult. It was not enough to promise them to be bound by law, when they held that the only law should be their own will.

To those who lived through the dark and dreadful days which preceded the outburst of the war, every memory is like that of one who has passed through the valley of the shadow of death. It was known that the enemy was coming from abroad; yet there were few who could really regard him as an enemy, for it was as when a brother advances to slay a brother, and the victim, not believing in the threat, rises to throw himself into the murderer's arms. And vigorous defence was further paralysed by the feeling that traitors were everywhere at work-in the army, in the Cabinet, in the family circle.

President Lincoln proceeded at once to form his Cabinet. It consisted of William H. Seward-who had been his most formidable competitor at the Chicago Convention-who became Secretary of State; Simon Cameron-whose appointment proved as discreditable to Mr. Lincoln as to the country-as Secretary of War; Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury; Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy; Caleb B.

[blocks in formation]

Smith, Secretary of the Interior; Montgomery Blair, Postmaster-General; and Edward Bates, AttorneyGeneral. It was well for the President that these were all, except Cameron, wise and honest men, for the situation of the country was one of doubt, danger, and disorganisation. In Congress, in every drawingroom, there were people who boldly asserted and believed in the words of a rebel, expressed to B. F. Butler-that "the North could not fight; that the South had too many allies there." "You have friends," said Butler, "in the North who will stand by you as long as you fight your battles in the Union; but the moment you fire on the flag, the Northern people will be a unit against you. And you may be assured, if war comes, slavery ends." Orators and editors in the North proclaimed, in the boldest manner, that the Union must go to fragments and ruin, and that the only hope of safety lay in suffering the South to take the lead, and in humbly following her. The number of these despairing people-or Croakers, as they were called-was very great; they believed that Republicanism had proved itself a failure, and that on slavery alone could a firm government be based. Open treason was unpunished; it was boldly said that Southern armies would soon be on Northern soil; the New Administration seemed to be without a basis; in those days, no men except rebels seemed to know what to do.

« AnteriorContinuar »