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orandum (April 1st), as follows: "The President may desire to supply Sumter, but will not do so without giving notice to Governor Pickens"; adding verbally (Campbell says) that he still did not believe the attempt would be made, and that there was no design to reënforce Sumter. Campbell acknowledges that he took notice of this very important correction and definition. "There was a departure here from the pledges of the previous month," he writes; "but with the verbal explanation I did not consider it a matter then to complain of."*
The commissioners and their game here drop into the background, and Mr. Justice Campbell takes up the rôle of leading conspirator. History will ask, Of what had this high minister of the law any right to complain? Two days afterward we find him making a confidential report to the insurrectionary chief at Montgomery, as follows:
I do not doubt that Sumter will be evacuated shortly, without any effort to supply it; but in respect to Pickens I do not think there is any settled plan, and it will not be abandoned spontaneously, and under any generous policy, though perhaps they may be quite willing to let it be beleaguered and reduced to extremities. I can only infer as to this. All that I have is a promise that the status will not be attempted to be changed prejudicially to the Confederate States without notice to me. It is known that I make these assurances on my own responsibility. I have no right to mention any name or to pledge any person. I am the only responsible person to you, I consenting to accept such assurances as are made to me and to say, "I have confidence that this will or will not be done." I have no expectation that there will be bad faith in
the dealings with me.
Now I do not see that I can do more. I have felt them in a variety of forms as to the practicability of some armistice or truce that should be durable and would relieve the anxiety of the country. But at present there can be no compact, treaty, recognition of any kind. There will be no objection to giving the commissioners their answer; but if the answer is not called for it will not be sent, and it is intimated that it would be more agreeable to withhold it. So far as I can judge, the present desire is to let things remain as they are, without action of any kind. There is a strong indisposition for the call of Congress, and it will not be done except under necessity. The radicals of the Senate went off in anger, and Trumbull's coercion resolution was offered after a contumelious interview with the President. My own notion is that the inactive policy is as favorable to you as any that this Administration could adopt for you, and that I would not interrupt it.
Here the learned judge might have stopped, and perhaps would have left posterity to question his method rather than his motives. But inexorable History demanded her tribute of truth under her master-spell he went on, and in the concluding paragraph of the letter his own hand recorded a confession little to have *Campbell to Seward. "Rebellion Record."
+ Campbell to Jefferson Davis, April 3, 1861. Unpublished MS.
Jefferson Davis to Campbell, April 6, 1861. Unpublished MS.
been expected from an officer whose duty it was to expound and to administer the law of treason as written in the Constitution of the United States and the acts of Congress.
The great want [he continued] of the Confederate States is peace. I shall remain here some ten or fifteen days. My own future course is in some manner depending upon circumstances and the opinions of friends. At present I have access to the Administration I could not have except under my present relations to the Government, and I do not know who could have the same freedom. I have therefore deferred any settlement on the subject until the chance of being of service at this critical period has terminated. This letter is strictly confidential and private. †
There is no need of comment on this "aid
and comfort" to the enemies of his Government by a member of the highest court of the United States. It only remains to note the acknowledgment and estimate of it by Jefferson Davis, replying from Montgomery under date of April 6th:
Accept my thanks for your kind and valuable services to the cause of the Confederacy and of peace between those who, though separated, have many reasons to feel towards each other more than the friendships common among nations. Our policy is, as you say, peace. . . . In any event I will gratefully remember your zealous labor in a sacred cause, and hope your fellow-citizens may at some time give you acceptable recognition of your service, and appreciate the heroism with which you have encountered a hazard from which most men would have shrunk.
While this direct correspondence between Davis and Campbell was being carried on, the commissioners, to whom Mr. A. B. Roman had been sent as a reënforcement, were, partly as a matter of form, partly for ulterior purposes, kept in Washington by the Montgomery cabinet to "loiter in the ante-chambers of officials." The occupation seems to have grown irksome to them; for, nowise deceived or even encouraged by Campbell's pretended "pledges," they asked, under date of March 26th, "whether we shall dally longer with a Government hesitating and doubting as to its own course, or shall we demand our answer at once?"§ On April 2d, Toombs gave them Jefferson Davis's views at length. He thought the policy of Mr. Seward would prevail. He cared nothing for Seward's motives or calculations. So long as the United States neither declare war nor establish peace, "it affords the Confederate States the advantages of both conditions, and enables them to make all the necessary arrangements for the public defense, and the solidifying of their Government, more safely, cheaply, and expeditiously than they could were the attitude of the United States more definite and decided." || The commisCommissioners to Toombs, March 26, 1861. Unpublished MS.
Toombs to commissioners, April 2, 1861. Unpublished MS.
A. B. ROMAN, CONFEDERATE COMMISSIONER. (FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY BRADY.)
sioners were therefore to make no demand for
their answer, but maintain their present position. In view of this confident boast of the chief of the rebellion of "the advantages of both conditions," his subsequent accusation of bad faith on the part of the Lincoln administration is culminating proof of the insincerity and tortuous methods of the rebel game.
CIVIL war, though possible, did not at the moment seem imminent or necessary: Lincoln had declared in his inaugural that he would not begin it; Jefferson Davis had written in his instructions to the commissioners that he did not desire it. This threw the immediate contest back upon the secondary questionthe control and adhesion of the border slaveStates; and of these Virginia was the chief subject of solicitude. The condition of Virginia had become anomalous; it was little understood by the North, and still less by her own citizens. She retained all the ideal sentiment growing out of her early devotion to and sacrifices for the Union; but it was warped by her coarser and stronger material interest in slavery. She still deemed she was the mother of presidents; whereas she had degenerated into being, like other border States, the mother of slave-breeders and of an annual crop of black-skinned human chattels to be sold to the cotton, rice, and sugar planters of her neighboring commonwealths. She thought herself the leader of the South; whereas she was only a dependent of the Gulf States. She yet believed
herself the teacher of original statesmanship; whereas she had become the unreasoning follower of Calhoun's disciples-the Ruffins, the Rhetts, and the Yanceys of the ultra South.
The political demoralization of Virginia was completed by the John Brown raid. From that time she dragged her anchors of state; her faith in both constitution and liberty was gone. The true lesson of that affair was indeed the very reverse. The overwhelming popular sentiment of the North denounced the outrage; the national arms defended Virginia and suppressed the invasion; the State vindicated her local authority by hanging the captured offenders. Thus public opinion, Federal power, and State right united in a precedent amounting of itself to an absolute guaranty, but which might have been easily crystallized into statute or even constitutional law. Sagacious statesmanship would have plucked this flower of safety. On the contrary, her blind partisanship spurned the opportunity, distrusted government, and sought refuge in force. Her then governor confesses that from that period we began to prepare for the worst. We looked carefully to the State armory; and whilst we had the selection of the State quota of arms we were particular to take field ordnance instead of altered muskets; and when we left the gubernatorial chair, there were in the State armory at Richmond 85,000 stand of infantry arms and 130 field-pieces of artillery, besides $30,000 worth of new revolving arms purchased from Colt. Our decided opinion was that a preparation of the Southern States in full panoply of arms, and prompt action, would have prevented civil war.
MARTIN J. CRAWFORD, CONFEDERATE COMMISSIONER. (FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY BRADY.)
Many strong external signs indicated the persistent adherence of Virginia to the Union. Her legislature refused the proposition of South Carolina for a conference of the Southern States, made in the winter of 1859-60. In the presidential election her citizens voted overwhelmingly for Bell and Everett and their platform of "The Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement of the laws." Notwithstanding these manifestations of allegiance, public sentiment took on a tone and a determination which, paradoxical as it may seem, was rebellion in guise of loyalty. It is perhaps best illustrated by the declaration of ex-Governor Wise that he meant to fight in the Union,* not out of it. To the nation at large the phrase had a pretty and patriotic sound; but when explained to be a determination to fight the Federal Government "in the Union," it becomes as rank treason as secession itself.
However counterfeit logic or mental reservations concealed it, the underlying feeling was to fight, no matter whom, and little matter how, for the protection of slavery and slave
As to parting from the Union in my affections, I shall never do that. As to leaving its flag, whenever I leave this confederacy, this north star confederacy, which makes the needle tremble northward, sir, I shall carry the old flag of the Union out with me; and if ever I have to fight,- so help me, God! I will fight with the star-spangled banner still in one hand and my musket in the other. I will never take any Southern cross or any palmetto for my flag. I will never admit that a Yankee can drive me from the Union and
property. In this spirit Virginia continued her military preparations. To this end half a million dollars were voted in the winter of 1859-60, and a million more in that of 1860 -61. Commissioners were appointed to purchase arms; companies were raised, officers appointed, regiments organized, camps of instruction formed. It was one of these that Floyd sent Hardee to inspect and drill in November, 1860. Before the end of January, this appeal to military strength by Virginia was duly paraded in the United States Senate as a menace, to extort a compromise and constitutional guarantees for slavery. Nor did the threat seem an empty one. The State professed to have an actual army of 62 troops of cavalry, numbering 2547 men; 14 companies of artillery, numbering 820 men; and 149 companies of infantry, numbering 7180 men. All these were uniformed and armed; while 6000 men additional were formed into companies, ready to have arms put into their hands.t
Governor Letcher, the successor of Wise, had begun his administration with the announced belief that disunion was "not only a possible but a highly probable event." The defeat of his favorite, Douglas, and the success of Lincoln, served therefore as a pretended justification of his fears, if not an actual stimulant of his hopes. The presidential election was scarcely over when he called an extra session of the legislature, to "take into consideration the condition of public affairs" consequent on the excitement produced by "the election of sectional candidates for President and VicePresident."|| That body met January 7, 1861; the doctrine of non-coercion, South Carolina secession, and the Fort Sumter affair had become every-day topics, and the South generally was in a seething ferment. On Federal affairs Governor Letcher's message was a medley of heterogeneous and contradictory arguments and recommendations. He declared a disruption of the Union inevitable. He desired a national convention. He thought that four republics might be formed. He scolded South Carolina for her precipitate action. He joined a correct and a false quotation of Lincoln's sentiments. He opposed a State convention. He recommended sending commissioners to other slave-States. He proposed terms to the North, and thought they take from me our capital. I will take from him forts; I will take from him flags; I will take from him our capital; I will take from him, if I can, my whole country, and save the whole. Will that satisfy the gentleman as to fighting in the Union?" [Speech of H. A. Wise in the Virginia Convention, April 10, 1861. "Richmond Enquirer."]
+ Report Adj.-General of Virginia, Feb. 27, 1861. Inaugural message, Jan. 7, 1860.
|| Governor Letcher, proclamation, Nov. 15, 1860.
would be "freely, cheerfully, and promptly assented to." He said, " Let the New England States and western New York be sloughed off." He wanted railroads to Kansas and direct trade to Europe. And finally he summed up: "Events crowd upon each other with astonishing rapidity. The scenes of to-day are dissolved by the developments of to-morrow. The opinions now entertained may be totally revolutionized by unforeseen and unanticipated occurrences that an hour or a day may bring forth." The simple truth was, that in Governor Letcher's hands the "Old Dominion" was adrift towards rebellion without rudder or compass.
His quarrel with South Carolina turned upon an important point. The irascible Palmetto State was offended that Virginia had a year before rejected her proposal for a Southern conference. In retaliation she now intimated that she would help to destroy Virginia's slave-market. "The introduction of slaves from other States," said her governor," which may not become members of the Southern Confederacy, and particularly the border States, should be prohibited by legislative enactment, and by this means they will be brought to see that their safety depends upon a withdrawal from their enemies, and a union with their friends and natural allies."* Mississippi made a similar threat. "As it is more than probable," said her executive, "that many of the citizens of the border States may seek a market for their slaves in the cotton-States, I recommend the passage of an act prohibiting the introduction of slaves into this State unless their owners come with them and become citizens, and prohibiting the introduction of slaves for sale by all persons whomsoever." Governor Letcher grew very indignant over these declarations. "These references to the border States," said he, " are pregnant with meaning, and no one can be at a loss to understand what that meaning is. While disavowing any unkind feeling towards South Carolina and Mississippi, I must still say that I will resist the coercion of Virginia into the adoption of a line of policy whenever the attempt is made by
Northern or Southern States."
Incensed against the North and distrustful of the South, the governor pushed forward his military preparations. Especially did he cast a longing eye at Fort Monroe. "As far back as January 8th" (1861), says he, "I consulted with a gentleman whose position enabled him to know the strength of that fortress, and whose experience in military matters enabled him to form an opinion as to the number of men that would be required to capture it. He represented it to be one of the strongest fortifications in the world, and expressed his
doubts whether it could be taken unless assailed by water as well as by land, and simultaneously." Since Governor Letcher had neither a fleet nor a properly equipped army, he did not follow up this design. The discussion of the project, however, illustrates the condition of his allegiance to the flag of his country and the constitution he was then under oath to uphold.
Like the governor, the legislature at once put itself in an attitude of quasi-rebellion by resolving, on the second day of the session, that it would resist any attempt of the Federal Government to coerce a seceding State. It soon passed an act to assemble a convention; and by a large appropriation for defense, already mentioned, by issuing treasury notes,
by amending the militia laws, and by authorizing counties to borrow money to purchase arms, and especially by its debates, further fostered and stimulated the prevailing secession undertow during the whole of its extra session, from January 7th to April 4th.
The election for a convention was held February 4th, and provoked a stirring contest. Its result was apparently for union; the Union members claimed a majority of three to one. This was, however, evidently an exaggerated estimate. The precise result could not be well defined. Politics had become a Babel. Discussion was a mere confusion of tongues. * Governor Gist, message.
+ Governor Letcher, message, Jan. 7, 1861. Governor Letcher, message, Dec. 2, 1861.
Party organization was swallowed up in intrigue; and conspiracy, not constitutional majorities, became the basis and impulse of legislation.
The Virginia convention met February 13th, and its proceedings reflect a maze of loose declamation and purposeless resolves. It had no fixed mind, and could, therefore, form no permanent conclusion. The prevailing idea of the majority seemed to be expressed in a single phrase of one of its members, that "he would neither be driven by the North nor dragged by the cotton-States." It was virtually a mere committee of observation, waiting the turn of political winds and tides. It gave, however, two encouraging though negative signs of promise; the first, that it had undoubtedly been chosen by a majority of voters really attached to the Union and desiring to remain in it; the second, that during a session of well-nigh a month it had not as yet passed an ordinance of secession, which had so far been a quick result in other State conventions.
Baldwin as a proper representative, who came
what occurred at this interview. The witnesses
are Mr. Baldwin himself and Mr. John Minor Botts, both of whom gave their testimony mittee of Congress in 1866, after the close of
under oath before the Reconstruction Com
As said at the beginning of this chapter, the course of the border States, and especially of Virginia, was on all hands the subject of chief solicitude. Her coöperation was absolutely out in this instance. Summers, pleading imessential to the secession government at Mont-portant business in the convention, excused gomery. This point, though not proclaimed ever, that he and others selected one John B. himself from coming. It would appear, howwas understood by Jefferson Davis, and to powerful intrigues from that quarter many otherwise unaccountable movements may doubtless be ascribed. Neither was her adherence to the Union undervalued by Lincoln. Seward was deeply impressed both with the necessity and the possibility of saving her from secession "as a brand from the burning." He relied (too confidently, as the event proved) on the significance of the late popular vote. He sent an agent to Richmond, who brought him hopeful news. He had already proposed to strengthen the hands of the Virginia Unionists by advising Lincoln to nominate George W. Summers to fill the existing vacancy on the bench of the United States Supreme Court.* Under his prompting, no doubt, Lincoln now perhaps thought it possible to bring his personal influence to bear on the Virginia con vention. He authorized Seward to invite Summers, or some equally influential and determined Union leader, to come to Washington. It is not likely that he had any great faith in such an effort; for the refusal or neglect of Scott, Gilmer, and Hunt to accept a cabinet appointment, offered each of them with more or less distinctness, had proved that Southern Unionism of this type was mere lipservice and not a living principle. It so turned
he called upon the President, who related to Mr. Botts testifies that on the 7th of April him, in confidence, that a week or ten days previously he had written to Summers to come to Washington, and he, instead of obeying Baldwin. On Baldwin's arrival (on the 5th of the summons, had, after that long delay, sent April, as Botts relates the story) Lincoln took him into a private room in the Executive Mansion, and said to him in substance:
Mr. Baldwin, why did you not come here sooner? men of that convention to come to me for more than a I have been waiting and expecting some of you gentleweek past. I had a most important proposition to make to you. But I am afraid you have come too late. However, I will make the proposition now. We have in Fort Sumter, with Major Anderson, about eighty men. Their provisions are nearly exhausted. I have not only written to Governor Pickens, but I have sent a special messengert to him to say that I will not permit these + This messenger was not sent until the evening of April 6th.