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secession; and in reply to these Alexander H. Stephens addressed the Legislature by special invitation on the 14th of November. It was the greatest effort of his life, and takes rank as the ablest speech made by a Southerner in opposition to disunion. The occasion appears to have been one of great excitement. Toombs sat on the platform beside the speaker, and interlarded the address with his cynical interrogatories and comments, which Stephens met in every instance with successful repartee.

The speaker declared that to secede in consequence of Lincoln's election was to break the Constitution, and show bad faith. "We went into the election with this people," said he. "The result was different from what we wished; but the election has been constitutionally held." Mr. Lincoln could do the South no harm against an adverse House and Senate. This government, with all its defects, came nearer the object of all good governments than any other on the face of the earth. One by one he refuted the charges and complaints which had been advanced by Toombs, and warned his hearers against the perils of sudden disunion. Liberty once lost might never be restored. Georgia had grown great, rich, and intelligent in the Union.

so, I have but little doubt, with a view to a more certain re-formation of the Union."*

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To understand this statement more thoroughly, it must be added that Mr. Stephens's great Union speech was also enthusiastically hailed by the North as a sign of firm allegiance. But that part of the country totally misapprehended its spirit and object. With all his eloquently asserted devotion to the Union, he was a pro-slavery man of the most ultra type. He defended the institution upon the higher-law" doctrine. "If slavery," said he, "as it exists with us is not best for the African, constituted and made as he is, if it does not best promote his welfare and happiness, socially, morally, and politically, as well as that of his master, it ought to be abolished." He believed slavery should be protected in the Territories by Federal law. He did not go quite to the extent of advocating a revival of the African slave-trade; but went so far as to suggest that without such a reopening the South could not maintain her coveted balance of power. "If the policy of this country," said he, "settled in its early history, of prohibiting further importations or immigrations of this class of population, is to be adhered to, the race of competition between us and our brethren of the North in the colonization of new States, which heretofore has been so well maintained by us, will soon have to be abandoned."‡

"I look upon this country, with our institutions," continued he," as the Eden of the world, the Paradise of the Universe. It may be that out of it we may be come greater and more prosperous; but I am candid and sincere in telling you that I fear if we yield to passion, and without sufficient cause shall take that instead of becoming greater, or more peaceful, prosperous, and happy instead of becoming gods we will become demons, and at no distant day commence cutting one another's throats."


So again, while he asserted that the South had lost nothing, but gained much through the slavery agitation, and while he maintained that she was menaced by no danger, he had been for nearly ten years a conditional disunionist. During the agitation of 1850, a convention of Georgia passed certain resolutions, known as the "Georgia platform." The resolutions declared the acceptance of the Compromise of 1850 as a "permanent adjustment"; and then went on to threaten disunion in case that adjustment were violated.§ This "Georgia platform " was Mr. Stephens's rallying-ground and stronghold; latterly he had extended it by including personal liberty bills as a cause of disunion. He loved the Union, but he held

The speech created an immense sensation throughout the South, and but for an artful trick of the secessionists would have arrested and changed the immediate tide of secession in Georgia. Seeing that the underlying Union feeling was about to endanger their scheme of revolt, through a defection or hesitation on the part of the Empire State of the South, they devised an adroit plea to appropriate its whole force to further their own plans. They persistently urged that "we can make better terms out of the Union than in it." Mr. Stephens the Union secondary to the Georgia platform; himself has explained the misrepresentation and its result."Two-thirds at least of those who voted for the ordinance of secession did Stephens," War Between the States," Vol. II., p.321. Stephens, Farewell Speech, Augusta, Ga., July 2d, 1859. Cleveland, "Life of Stephens," p. 650. Ibid., p. 647.

"Fourth. That the State of Georgia, in the judgment of this convention, will, and ought to resist, even (as a last resort) to a disruption of every tie which binds her to the Union, any future act of Congress abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, without the consent and petition of the slave-holders thereof, or any act abolishing slavery in places within the slaveVOL. XXXV.-12.

and he opposed secession because he thought it a departure from this platform. "Not only a departure from the Georgia platform," said holding States, purchased by the United States for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, navyyards, and other like purposes; or in any act suppressing the slave-trade between slave-holding States; or in any refusal to admit as a State any territory apply. ing, because of the existence of slavery therein; or in any act prohibiting the introduction of slaves into the territories of Utah and New Mexico; or in any act repealing or materially modifying the laws now in force for the recovery of fugitive slaves."-[Stephens," War Between the States," Vol. II., p. 676. ]

he," and from the long-established principles of the national Democratic party, but an entire change of position of the entire South, of all parties, not of all individuals, in relation to the power and jurisdiction of the Federal Government over the subject of African slavery." Still further when the disruption of the Charleston convention paralyzed the Democratic party, Mr. Stephens lost heart. He thought the times out of joint. He saw no further prospect of doing good. The popular

fever must run its course. If disunion came he avowed he would yield to the misfortune. His destiny, he said, lay with Georgia and the South. It will appear from this that if Mr. Stephens was not a flexible reasoner, he was a most unsafe political mentor. Yet, out of this lethargy of conviction and will came the splendid outburst of patriotic eloquence and Union argument of his Milledgeville speech; only to be marred, however, at its close by renewed adhesion to the Georgia platform, and a new subserviency to the "will of Georgia." The newspapers brought the report of Mr. Stephens's speech to Springfield, the home of

Mr. Lincoln, as well as to all other Northern cities, and the President-elect read its stirring periods with something of the general hope that a gleam of light was shining upon dark places. Like other men in the North, he had no means of knowing the eccentricities of Mr. Stephens's principles and policy, and therefore probably shared the general error of overvaluing his expressions of attachment to the Union. He had personally known him as fellow-congressman and a fellow-whig in 1847-9; they had become co-laborers in their advocacy of the nomination and election of General Taylor to the presidency, and through these associations contracted a warm social and political friendship.

It was, therefore, most natural that, upon reading his reported speech Mr. Lincoln addressed a note of a few lines to Mr. Stephens, asking him for a revised copy; and that this note led to a short but most interesting correspondence.

Mr. Stephens replied courteously, saying that his speech had not been revised by him; that while the newspaper report contained several verbal inaccuracies, its main points were sufficiently clear for all practical purposes. The note closed with the following sentence "The country is certainly in great peril, and no man ever had heavier or greater responsibilities resting upon him than you have in the present momentous crisis." The phrase seemed to open the way to a confidential interchange

Stephens, Augusta Speech, Sept. 1st, 1860. Cleveland, p. 692.

of thought; and a few days afterwards Mr. Lincoln wrote the following frank letter: "For your own eye only.

"SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Dec. 22d, 1860. "HON. A. H. STEPHENS. "MY DEAR SIR: Your obliging answer to my short note is just received, and for which please accept my thanks. I fully appreciate the present peril the country is in, and the weight of responsibility on me. Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere with the slaves, or with them about the slaves? If they do, I wish to answer you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears. The South would be in no more danger in this respect than it was in the time of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right and ought to be extended, while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That, I suppose, is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us. Yours very truly, "A. LINCOLN."‡

With equal frankness Mr. Stephens, under date of December 30th, wrote back a long reply, which is conspicuous for its candid admissions. Premising that though differing from him politically he was not Mr. Lincoln's enemy, Mr. Stephens proceeds as follows:

"I will also add that in my judgment the people of the South do not entertain any fears that a Republican administration, or at least the one about to be inaugurated, would attempt to interfere directly and immediately with slavery in the States. Their apprehension and disquietude do not spring from that source. They do not arise from the fact of the known antislavery opinother Presidents are generally admitted to have been ions of the President-elect. Washington, Jefferson, and antislavery in sentiment. But in those days antislavery did not enter as an element into party organizations.... But now this subject, which is conof the Government so far as the States are concerned, fessedly on all sides outside of the constitutional action is made the central idea in the platform of principles announced by the triumphant party. The leading object seems to be simply, and wantonly, if you please, to put the institutions of nearly half the States under the ban of public opinion and national condemnation. This, upon general principles, is quite enough of itself to arouse a spirit not only of general indignation, but of revolt on the part of the proscribed.... We at the South do think African slavery, as it exists with us, both morally and politically right. This opinion is formed upon the inferiority of the black race; you, however, and perhaps a majority of the North, think it wrong. Admit the difference of opinion. The same difference those who formed the Constitution when it was made of opinion existed to a more general extent amongst and adopted. The changes have been mainly to our side. As parties were not formed on this difference of opinion then, why should they be now? The same difference would, of course, exist in the supposed case of religion. When parties, or combinations of men, therefore, so form themselves, must it not be assumed to arise not from reason or any sense of justice, but from fanaticism? The motive can spring from no other source, and when men come under the influence of fanaticism, there is no telling where their impulses or passions may drive them. This is what creates our

Stephens to Landrum, July 1st, 1860. Cleveland, P. 672. Stephens," War Between the States," Vol. II., p. 266.

discontent and apprehension. . . . Conciliation and harmony, in my judgment, can never be established by force. Nor can the Union, under the Constitution, be maintained by force. The Union was formed by the consent of Independent Sovereign States. Ultimate sovereignty still resides with them separately, which can be resumed, and will be, if their safety, tranquillity, and security in their judgment require it. Under our system, as I view it, there is no rightful power in the general government to coerce a State in case any one of them should throw herself upon her reserved rights, and resume the full exercise of her sovereign powers. Force may perpetuate a Union—that depends upon the contingencies of war. But such a Union would not be the Union of the Constitution: it would be nothing short of a consolidated despotism."


Mr. Lincoln could not, of course, enter upon a further discussion of the topics raised, and made no reply to Mr. Stephens's letter. The correspondence is noteworthy as showing how both writers agreed perfectly upon the actual and underlying cause of the political crisis, vis., that the South believed slavery to be right and ought to be extended, while the North believed it was wrong and ought to be restricted. It was a conflict of public opinion. Such conflicts have come in all times, in all nations, and under all forms of government. They have sprung from every passion of the human soul, ambition, avarice, the generous affection of kindred nations, and the deadly hatred of religious fanaticism. But, admitting the existence of such a conflict of opinion, the true and legitimate inquiry arises, Was it a proper cause of war?

History must answer this question unhesitatingly and emphatically in the negative. In ages happily passed, the anger of a king, the caprice of a mistress, or the ambition of a minister has often deluged a nation in blood. But in our day the conscience of civilization demands that the sword shall only defend the life of governments, or the life, liberty, and property of their subjects. It has ordained that written constitutions should decide claims of rulers and rights of citizens. Casuistry the most adroit could not prove the right of the free States to expel the slave-States for believing the institution of slavery to be a substantial blessing; equally absurd was the doctrine that the slave-States had a right to destroy the Union by secession because the free States thought slavery a moral, social, and political evil. Upon this question, as upon all others, public opinion was the arbiter appointed by the Constitution and laws. Upon this question the lawful and constitutional verdict had been pronounced by the election of Lincoln; and the proper duty of the

South under the circumstances had been admirably stated by Mr. Stephens himself in his Milledgeville speech: "In my judgment the election of no man constitutionally chosen to that high office, is sufficient cause for any

Stephens," War Between the States," Vol. II., pp. 267-70.

State to separate from the Union. It ought to stand by and aid still in maintaining the Constitution of the country."†

Mr. Stephens's letter utterly ignored the existence of the pro-slavery sentiment in the South, which had for six years been united and unceasing in party affiliation and action; that this party action had wrought the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in violation of plighted political faith, and generous comity between sections. Moreover that antislavery opinions had there been not only under ban of public sentiment, but had notoriously for years been visited with mob violence, and been made the subject of prohibitory penal statutes. The experiment of a sentimental union dreamed by Stephens and others had been fully tried in the compromise of 1850, and first and flagrantly violated by the South herself, under party coalition, against every appeal and protest.


ONE of the vexatious duties of Lincoln was to answer the importunings of a class of sincere, intelligent, but timid men, alarmed by the signs of disunion, who besought him to make some public statement or declaration to quiet the South. Requests of this character were not confined to one party, but came from all; the more considerable numbers being from Republicans and from Southern unionists or followers of Bell and Everett. The great bulk of these letters were, of course, never answered; but occasionally one was received from a man of such standing and influence that to ignore it would not only seem ungracious, but might subject the President-elect to more serious misrepresentation than it had already been his lot to endure. Both to show a prominent phase of current politics and his manner of dealing with it, several replies of this class are laid before the reader.

Thus, for instance, he wrote, confidentially, to Mr. William S. Speer, a citizen of Tennessee, under date of October 23d:

"I appreciate your motive when you suggest the propriety of my writing for the public something disclaiming all intention to interfere with slaves or slavery in the States; but in my judgment it would do no good. I have already done this many, many times; and it is in print, and open to all who will read. Those who will not read or heed what I have already publicly said would not read or heed a repetition of it. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” ”‡

Among the political newspapers of the West, none had for many years taken a higher rank or wielded a greater influence than the "Louisville Journal." It had in a manner been Mr. Lincoln's primer in politics in those early days + Cleveland, p. 696.

Lincoln to Speer, Oct. 23d, 1860. Unpublished MS.

when he labored through Blackstone, or even farther back when he was yet struggling with Kirkham's grammar on the shady knolls of New Salem. Compared with these rocks and pitfalls of letters, the anecdotes, the wit, the epigrammatic arguments of the "Louisville Journal" were a very garden of delight, not only to Lincoln, but to the crude yet knowledge-hungry intellects of the whole Mississippi Valley. In time the "Journal" became a great luminary, and the name of its witty editor a household word. For long years it was a beacon and watchtower of the Whig party; then the Pandora's box of the Nebraska bill was opened; and when finally in the extraordinary campaign of 1860 Lincoln read this once-favorite sheet, it was to find himself the victim of its satire and depreciation. Victory, however, is a sovereign balm for detraction; and it must have been easy for him to forgive his old friend George D. Prentice when the latter wrote him (October 26th): "There is evidently a very strong probability of your being elected to the presidency by the popular vote." Expressing the "strongest" confidence in both his "personal and political integrity," he suggests that in the event of his election he should publish a letter setting forth his conservative views and intentions, " to assure all good citizens of the South and to take from the disunionists every excuse or pretext for treason."* To this appeal Mr. Lincoln prepared a reply, October 29th, though it was not then sent. "Your suggestion," wrote he, "that I in a certain event shall write a letter setting forth my conservative views and intentions, is certainly a very worthy one. But would it do any good? If I were to labor a month, I could not express my conservative views and intentions more clearly and strongly than they are expressed in our platform and in my many speeches already in print and before the public. And yet even you, who do occasionally speak of me in terms of personal kindness, give no prominence to these oft-repeated expres sions of conservative views and intentions, but busy yourself with appeals to all conservative men to vote for Douglas, to vote any way which can possibly defeat me,- thus impressing your readers that you think I am the very worst man living. If what I have already said has failed to convince you, no repetition of it would convince you. The writing of your letter, now before me, gives assurance that you would publish such a letter from me as you suggest; but, till now, what reason had I to suppose the 'Louisville Journal,' even, would publish a repetition of that which is already at its command, and which it does not press upon the public attention? And now, my friend,- for such I esteem you personally, do not misunderstand me. I have not decided that I will not do substantially what you suggest. I will not forbear from doing so merely on punctilio and pluck. If I do finally abstain, it will be because of apprehension that it would do harm. For the good men of the South-and I regard the majority of them as such-I have no objection to repeat seventy and seven times. But I have bad men also to deal with, both North and South; men who are eager for something * Prentice to Lincoln, Oct. 26th, 1860. Unpublished MS. + Lincoln to Prentice, Oct. 29th, 1860. Unpublished MS.

new upon which to base new misrepresentations; men who would like to frighten me, or at least to fix upon me the character of timidity and cowardice. They would seize upon almost any letter I could write as being an awful coming down.' I intend keeping my eye upon these gentlemen, and to not unnecessarily put any weapons in their hands."†

On the 16th of November he wrote a letter of very similar purport to Mr. N. Paschal, editor of the "Missouri Republican."

This letter was withheld till after election.

"I could say nothing which I have not already said, and which is in print, and accessible to the public. Please pardon me for suggesting that if the papers like yours, which heretofore have persistently garbled and misrepresented what I have said, will now fully and fairly place it before their readers, there can be no further misunderstanding. I beg you to believe me sincere, when I declare I do not say this in a spirit of complaint or resentment; but that I urge it as the true cure for any real uneasiness in the country, that my course may be other than conservative. The Republican newspapers now and for some time past are and have been republishing copious extracts from my many published speeches, which would at once reach the whole public if your class of papers would also publish them. I am not at liberty to shift my ground- that is out of the question. If I thought a repetition would do any good itive harm. The secessionists per se, believing they I would make it. But in my judgment it would do poshad alarmed me, would clamor all the louder."

With solicitations of this nature coming in part from his political friends, Mr. Lincoln was not only as firm and decided, but more emphatic and unsparing in criticism. On November 5th, the day before the presidential election, there arrived at Springfield, and called upon the President-elect, a gentleman from New England of some prominence in political and official life, who brought and presented letters of this same tenor from a considerable number of citizens representing business, commercial, and manufacturing industries of that region. He was one of those keen, incisive talkers who went direct to the heart of his mission.

"I have called to see," he said, "if the alarms of many persons in New England engaged in commerce and manufactures cannot by some means be relieved. I am myself largely interested in manufactures. Our trade has fallen off, our workmen are idle, we get no orders from the South, and with the increasing chances of civil war, bankruptcy and ruin stare us in the face."

Something in the persistence and manner of his interlocutor, something in the tone of the letters presented, and still more in the character of the signers, quickly irritated Lincoln to a warmth of retort he seldom reached until after long provocation. He divined at once the mercenary nature of the appeal about to be tried on him, and it roused him to repel the pressure. His visitor closed by asking some

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conservative promise "to reassure the men honestly alarmed."

"There are no such men," bluntly replied Lincoln. "This is the same old trick by which the South breaks down every Northern victory. Even if I were personally willing to barter away the moral principle involved in this contest for the commercial gain of a new submission to the South, I would go to Washington without the countenance of the men who supported me and were my friends before the election; I would be as powerless as a block of buckeye wood."

The man still insisted, and Lincoln continued:

"The honest men (you are talking of honest men) will look at our platform and what I have said. There they will find everything I could now say, or which they would ask me to say. All I could add would be but repetition. Having told them all these things ten times already, would they believe the eleventh declaration ? Let us be practical. There are many general terms afloat, such as 'conservatism,' enforcement of the irrepressible conflict at the point of the bayonet,' 'hostility to the South,' etc., all of which mean nothing without definition. What then could I say to allay their fears, if they will not define what particular act or acts they fear from me or my friends?"

At this stage of the conversation his visitor, who with true military foresight had provided a reserve, handed him an additional letter numerously signed, asking if he did not there recognize names that were a power.

"Yes," retorted Lincoln sharply, glancing at the document, "I recognize them as a set of liars and knaves who signed that statement about Seward last year."

The visitor was taken aback at this familiarity with the local politics of his State, but rallied and insisted that there were also other names on the list. Lincoln now looked through the paper more carefully, his warmth meanwhile cooling down a little.

"Well," answered he, laughing, "after reading it, it is about as I expected to find it. It annoyed me to hear that gang of men called respectable. Their conduct a year ago was a disgrace to any civilized citizen."

Here his visitor suggested that the South was making armed preparations.

"The North," answered Lincoln, "does not fear invasion from the slave-States, and we of the North certainly have no desire, and never had, to invade the South. They have talked about what they intend to do in the event of a Black Republican victory, until they have convinced themselves there is really no courage

left in the North."

VOL. XXXV.-13.


"Have we backed this time?" interrupted the visitor.

"That is just what I am pressed to do now," replied Lincoln. "If I shall begin to yield to these threats, if I begin dallying with them, the men who have elected me (if I shall be elected) would give me up before my election, and the South, seeing it, would deliberately kick me out. If my friends should desire me to repeat anything I have before said, I should have no objection to do so. If they required me to say something I had not yet said, I would either do so or get out of the way. If I should be elected, the first duty to the country would be to stand by the men who elected me."*

Still, from time to time the point was pressed upon him from other influential quarters. Mr. Raymond, editor of the "New York Times," joined in urging it. Lincoln, on November 28th, answered him confidentially as follows:

"Yours of the 14th was received in due course. I have delayed so long to answer it, because my reasons for not coming before the public in any form just now had substantially appeared in your paper (the Times'), and hence I feared they were not deemed sufficient by you, else you would not have written me as you did. I now think we have a demonstration in favor of my view. On the 20th instant Senator Trumbull made a short speech, which I suppose you have both seen and approved. Has a single newspaper, heretofore against us, urged that speech upon its readers with a purpose to quiet public anxiety? Not one, so far as I know. On the contrary, the Boston Courier' and its class hold me responsible for that speech, and endeavor to inflame the North with the belief that it foreshadows coming administration; while the Washington Conan abandonment of Republican ground by the institution' and its class hold the same speech up to the South as an open declaration of war against them. This is just as I expected, and just what would happen *Nicolay, Manuscript memoranda.

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