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Stephens's Speech. 39
hope, and, perhaps, by it lose all, and have your last slave wrenched from you by stern military rule, as South America and Mexico were, or by the vindictive decree of universal emancipation, which may reasonably be expected to follow?
"But, again, gentlemen, what have we to gain by this proposed change of our relation to the general government? We have always had the control of it, and can yet, if we remain in it, and are as united as we have been. We have had a majority of the Presidents chosen from the South, as well as the control and management of most of those chosen from the North. We have had sixty years of Southern Presidents to their twenty-four, thus controlling the executive department. So of the Judges of the Supreme Court, we have had eighteen from the South and but eleven from the North. Although nearly four fifths of the judicial business has arisen in the Free States, yet a majority of the Court has always been from the South. This we have required, so as to guard against any interpretation of the constitution unfavorable to us. In like manner, we have been equally watchful to guard our interests in the Legislative branch of government. In choosing the presiding Presidents (pro tern.) of the Senate, we have had twenty-four to their eleven. Speakers of the House, we have had twenty-three and they twelve. While the majority of the Representatives, from their greater population, have always been from the North, yet we have so generally secured the Speaker, because he, to a great extent, shapes and controls the legislation of the country. Nor have we had less control in every other department of the general government.
"Leaving out of view, for the present, the countless millions of dollars you must expend in a war with the North, with tens of thousands of your sons and brotherg slain in battle, and offered up as sacrifices on the altar of your ambition—and for what, we ask again? Is it for the overthrow of the American Government, established by our common ancestry, cemented and built up by their sweat and blood, and founded on the broad principles of Right, Justice and Humanity? And as such, I must declare here, as I have often done before, and which has been repeated by the greatest and wisest of statesmen and patriots, in this and other lands, that it is the best and freest government; the most equal in its rights; the most just in its decisions; the most lenient in its measures, and the most inspiring in its principles to elevate the race of men, that tlie sun of heaven ever shone upon.
"Now, for you to attempt to overthrow such a government as this, under which we have lived for more than three-quarters of a century—in which we have gained our wealth, our standing as a nation, our domestic safety, while elements of peril are around us, with peace and tranquillity accompanied with unbounded prosperity and rights unassailed—is the hight of madness, folly and wickedness, to which I can neither lend my sanction nor my vote."
The President elect stood upon a platform which did not warrant the apprehension that he would interfere, or sanction interference with slavery in the States. It is true he had said, "It is my opinion that this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free," but he had also said, "I now assure you that I neither then had, nor have, nor ever had, any purpose, in any way, of interfering with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe we have no power, under the Constitution of the United States, or rather under the form of government under which we live, to interfere with the institution of slavery, or any other of the institutions of our sister States, be they Free or Slave States."* If the Southern Senators and Representatives remained in their places, he was without a majority in Congress, and was, indeed, dependent upon the courtesy of his opponents for the confirmation of his cabinet. He was hedged in upon every side, and powerless for evil had it been in his heart.
But madness ruled the hour. Southern conspirators were bent on securing what had long been planned; viz., separation from the Union. Mr. Lincoln's election was made the pretext, and active preparations were made. Unfortunately, the President, Mr. Buchanan, lacked that courage and inflexible purpose which the crisis demanded, and cowered piteously before the coming storm. There was an understanding that, while he remained in power, there should be no open assault upon the government, and the old man seemed to feel with the ancient King, "Good is the word of the Lord, if there be peace in my day." Arch-conspirators were about his council board. They removed southward large stores of heavy ordnance, small arms and ammunition, and then, except where they had reason to believe the commanding officers in sympathy with them, removed the garrisons, leaving only a feeble handful of defenders at each post. The navy was scattered through all distant seas, and made as inefficient as possible. A heavy debt was pressed upon an exhausted treasury.
The Southern press, pulpit and rostrum, were busy "firing the Southern heart," and an excited people was ready for revolt. Union sentiment, where it existed, was suppressed by violence. Proclamations of Governors, Acts of Legislatures, Ordinances of Conventions, followed in rapid succession. Military companies were formed and drilled, Southern Members of Congress resigned and returned to their constituents, and State after State declared itself out of the Union.
* Speech in Cincinnati, September, 1859.
HUMILIATION IN WASHINGTON. 41
During these days, between the election and inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, it was humiliating to be in the National Capitol. Regularly, for a time, the conspirators arose in their places in the American Congress, and, after the utterance of treasonable sentiments, after defying the government, they would announce their State withdrawn from the Union, and they then said their mock farewells! And all that was borne by the shadow of the government which held the power of this great country!
On the 20th of December, 1860, the Convention of South Carolina declared "The Union now existing between South Carolina and other States of North America is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the earth, as a free, sovereign and independent State, with full power to levy war and conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do."
On the 24th, Governor Pickens issued his proclamation, declaring "South Carolina is, and has a right to be, a free and independent State, and, as such, has a right to levy war, conclude peace, negotiate treaties, leagues and covenants, and to do all acts whatever that rightfully appertain to a free and independent State."
The telegraph carried the news throughout the nation that the chain of the Union was broken, and men said, every where, "What will the government do?" The government did—nothing! In the South, the intelligence excited the people as did the display of the fiery cross the ancient Highland clans. In Congress it produced little apparent excitement. It was announced by Mr. Garnet, of Virginia. The Pacific Railroad was the order of the day, and Mr. G. said that his State would not consent to be held responsible for any financial obligation in its construction. "Sir," said he, "while your Bill is under consideration, one of the sovereign States of this Confederacy has, by the glorious act of her people, withdrawn, in vindication of her rights, from the Union, as the telegraph announced at half-past one to-day." There was applause by a few conspirators, but most of the members manifested utter indifference. Boyce and Ashmore, the only remaining Representatives of the recusant State, left their seats, exchanged salutations with personal friends and fellow malcontents, and retired from the Hall of Representatives. Mr. Buchanan had before him a clearly defined duty, namely, to enforce the authority of the United States, but his blood was thin aind ran slowly. He dared not, but contented himself with mumbling dreary platitudes, and prating about "coercion."
The telegraph gave the announcement at Springfield, the home of Mr. Lincoln, giving him an intimation of the unwonted cares and momentous difficulties likely to environ his administration. He had gauged the probabilities long before, and manifested neither surprise nor alarm. The Journal^ of that city, supposed to reflect his views, said:
"If South Carolina does not obstruct the collection of the revenue, at her ports, or violate another Federal law, there will be no trouble, and she will not be out of the Union. If she violates the law, then comes the tug of war. The President of the United States, in such an emergency, has an imperative duty to perform. Mr. Buchanan may shirk it, or the emergency may not exist during his administration. If not, then the Union will last through his term of office. If the overt act, on the part of South Carolina, takes place on or after the fourth day of March, then the duty of executing the law will devolve upon Mr. Lincoln."
The influence of the above paragraph can scarcely be estimated. It appeared in a newspaper printed in a little Western city, but it was understood to represent the faith and purpose of the coming Chief Magistrate. It was widely copied, and loyal men, as they read it, took heart and hope. The Union, loved with unutterable love, should not be lost! It would soon have a President who would defend it to the last extremity!" Oh, that the fourth of March were come!" was said by many, both men and women. They felt they had done the South no wrong. They would offer no apologies. The threat of disunion should wring no new abandonment of honor, no new concession to wrong! After the manner prescribed by law, a President had been chosen. If for that, secession was attempted, it should not be permitted. For the present, they would wait and hope that, at the end of the many months of senile incapacity, if nothing worse, the sinewy hand of the Western President should be laid heavily upon treason.
On the 26th Major Anderson evacuated Fort Moultrie and occupied Fort Sumter. His little force was in the greatest peril, but ieinforoements were withheld. Two days previously he wrote to Washington, "When I inform you that my garrison consists of only sixty OCCUPATION OF FORT SUMTER. 43
effective men, and we are in a very indifferent work, the walls of which are only fourteen feet high, and that we have, within one hundred and sixty yards of our walls, sand hills which command our works, and which afford admirable sites for batteries, and the finest covers for sharpshooters, and that, besides this, there are numerous houses, some of them within pistol shot, you will at once see that if attacked in force, headed by any one but a simpleton, there is scarcely a possibility of our being able to hold out long enough for our friends to come to our succor."
Fort Sumter was the key to the Charleston harbor; once occupied, from it Moultrie could be knocked to pieces, and reinforcements from the sea prevented. He knew the keen eyes of the Charleston authorities were upon it. He plead for reinforcements—General Scott seconded the appeal. ISTo—the act would be construed as unfriendly, as a menace, and exasperate the South Carolina rebels: must be avoided; and was! Major Anderson went on improving Moultrie, as though he proposed to stay permanently; at the same time he ordered the work being done on Sumter to be pressed to early completion. When notified by Captain Foster that all was ready, he took a responsibility, the announcement of which electrified the nation. Without specific instructions from the President or Secretary of War, on the 26th, he gave orders to prepare for the evacuation of Fort Moultrie. Night came; vessels were loaded with women, children and personal effects. The boats stood off, as if for Fort Johnson, but landed at Fort Sumter. At dawn, all had found the new shelter, except a few who remained to put Fort Moultrie on a peace footing. This was effected by Captain Johnson and eight men, who coolly proceeded to dismount the heavy guns, and burn the gun carriages. Governor Pinckney and the Convention took alarm from the smoke. Drums beat, the militia flew to arms, and soon the wildest rumors were afloat, corrected, however, by the appearance of Captain Johnson, in the streets of Charleston, who, on behalf of Major Anderson, communicated his action to the authorities. It gave great offense and was construed into a threat of "coercion." A communication was sent to Washington, through commissioners, who were instructed to demand of President Buchanan an order remanding Major Anderson to Moultrie, but that was too much, even for him. The State authorities took steps for the imme