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secession; and in reply to these Alexander H. so, I have but little doubt, with a view to a Stephens addressed the Legislature by special more certain re-formation of the Union.”* invitation on the 14th of November. It was To understand this statement more thorthe greatest effort of his life, and takes rank as oughly, it must be added that Mr. Stephens's the ablest speech made by a Southerner in great Union speech was also enthusiastically opposition to disunion. The occasion appears hailed by the North as a sign of firm allegito have been one of great excitement. Toombs ance. But that part of the country totally sat on the platform beside the speaker, and in- misapprehended its spirit and object. With all terlarded the address with his cynical interrog- his eloquently asserted devotion to the Union, atories and comments, which Stephens met in he was a pro-slavery man of the most ultra every instance with successful repartee. type. He defended the institution upon the
The speaker declared that to secede in con- “higher-law” doctrine. “If slavery,” said he, sequence of Lincoln's election was to break “as it exists with us is not best for the African, the Constitution, and show bad faith. “We constituted and made as he is, if it does not went into the election with this people,” said best promote his welfare and happiness, sohe. “The result was different from what we cially, morally, and politically, as well as that wished; but the election has been constitu- of his master, it ought to be abolished.”+ He tionally held.” Mr. Lincoln could do the South believed slavery should be protected in the no harm against an adverse House and Sen- Territories by Federal law. He did not go quite ate. This government, with all its defects, came to the extent of advocating a revival of the nearer the object of all good governments than African slave-trade; but went so far as to sugany other on the face of the earth. One by gest that without such a reopening the South one he refuted the charges and complaints could not maintain her coveted balance of which had been advanced by Toombs, and power. “If the policy of this country,” said warned his hearers against the perils of sudden he, “settled in its early history, of prohibiting disunion. Liberty once lost might never be further importations or immigrations of this restored. Georgia had grown great, rich, and class of population, is to be adhered to, the intelligent in the Union.
race of competition between us and our breth" I look upon this country, with our institutions," ren of the North in the colonization of new continued he," as the Eden of the world, the Paradise States, which heretofore has been so well of the Universe. It may be that out of it we may be maintained by us, will soon have to be abancome greater and more prosperous; but I am candid doned." I and sincere in telling you that I fear if we yield to passion, and without sufficient cause shall take that step,
So again, while he asserted that the South instead of becoming greater, or more peaceful, pros- had lost nothing, but gained much through the perous, and happy – instead of becoming gods we will slavery agitation, and while he maintained that become demons, and at no distant day commence cut- she was menaced by no danger, he had been ting one another's throats."
for nearly ten years a conditional disunionist. The speech created an immense sensation During the agitation of 1850, a convention of throughout the South, and but for an artful Georgia passed certain resolutions, known as trick of the secessionists would have arrested the “Georgia platform." The resolutions deand changed the immediate tide of secession clared the acceptance of the Compromise of in Georgia. Seeing that the underlying Union 1850 as a “permanent adjustment”; and then feeling was about to endanger their scheme went on to threaten disunion in case that adof revolt, through a defection or hesitation on justment were violated.Ş This “Georgia platthe part of the Empire State of the South, they form" was Mr. Stephens's rallying-ground and devised an adroit plea to appropriate its whole stronghold; latterly he had extended it by force to further their own plans. They persist- including personal liberty bills as a cause of ently urged that “we can make better terms disunion. He loved the Union, but he held out of the Union than in it.” Mr. Stephens the Union secondary to the Georgia platform; himself has explained the misrepresentation and he opposed secession because he thought and its result.“ Two-thirds at least of those it a departure from this platform. “ Not only who voted for the ordinance of secession did a departure from the Georgia platform,” said he, “and from the long-established principles of thought; and a few days afterwards Mr. of the national Democratic party, but an entire Lincoln wrote the following frank letter : change of position of the entire South, of all
*Stephens,“War Between the States," Vol. II., p.321. holding States, purchased by the United States for the + Stephens, Farewell Speech, Augusta, Ga., July 2d, erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, navy1859. Cleveland, “ Life of Stephens,” p. 650. yards, and other like purposes; or in any act suppressIbid., p. 647.
ing the slave-trade between slave-holding States; or "Fourth. That the State of Georgia, in the judgment in any refusal to admit as a State any territory apply. of this convention, will, and ought to resist, even (as ing, because of the existence of slavery therein; or in a last resort) to a disruption of every tie which binds any act prohibiting the introduction of slaves into the her to the Union, any future act of Congress abolish- territories of Utah and New Mexico; or in any act reing slavery in the District of Columbia, without the pealing or materially modifying the laws now in force consent and petition of the slave-holders thereof, or for the recovery of fugitive slaves."-[Stephens, “ War any act abolishing slavery in places within the slave. Between the States," Vol. II., p. 676.]
“For your own eye only. parties, not of all individuals, in relation to the
“SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Dec. 22d, 1860. power and jurisdiction of the Federal Govern- “ Hon. A. H. STEPHENS. ment over the subject of African slavery." “MY DEAR SIR: Your obliging answer to my short Still further : when the disruption of the note is just received, and for which please accept my
thanks. I fully appreciate the present peril the counCharleston convention paralyzed the Demo
try is in, and the weight of responsibility on me. Do cratic party, Mr. Stephens lost heart. He the people of the South really entertain fears that a Rethought the times out of joint. He saw no publican administration would, directly or indirectly, further prospect of doing good. The popular interfere with the slaves, or with them about the slaves? fever must run its course. If disunion came still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for
If they do, I wish to answer you, as once a friend, and he avowed he would yield to the misfortune. such fears. The South would be in no more danger in His destiny, he said, lay with Georgia and the this respect than it was in the time of Washington. I South. It will appear from this that if Mr. suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You
think slavery is right and ought to be extended, while Stephens was not a flexible reasoner, he was
we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That, I a most unsafe political mentor. Yet, out of suppose, is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial this lethargy of conviction and will came the difference between us.
Yours very truly, splendid outburst of patriotic eloquence and
“A. LINCOLN." Únion argument of his Milledgeville speech ; only to be marred, however, at its close by re- date of December 30th, wrote back a long re
With equal frankness Mr. Stephens, under newed adhesion to the Georgia platform, and ply, which is conspicuous for its candid admisa new subserviency to the will of Georgia.” sions. Premising that though differing from
The newspapers brought the report of Mr. him politically he was not Mr. Lincoln's enemy, Stephens's speech to Springfield, the home of Mr. Stephens proceeds as follows: Mr. Lincoln, as well as to all other Northern cities, and the President-elect read its stirring “I will also add that in my judgment the people of periods with something of the general hope the South do not entertain any fears that a Republican that a gleam of light was shining upon dark administration, or at least the one about to be inaugura
ted, would attempt to interfere directly and immediateplaces. Like other men in the North, he had ly with slavery in the States. Their apprehension and no means of knowing the eccentricities of Mr. disquietude do not spring from that source. They do Stephens's principles and policy, and therefore not arise from the fact of the known antislavery opin. probably shared the general error of overval- other Presidents are generally admitted to have been uing his expressions of attachment to the antislavery in sentiment. But in those days antiUnion. He had personally known him as fel- slavery did not enter as an element into party orlow-congressman and a fellow-whigin 1847-9; ganizations. . But now this subject, which is conthey had become co-laborers in their advocacy of the Government so far as the States are concerned,
fessedly on all sides outside of the constitutional action of the nomination and election of General Tay- is made the central idea in the platform of principles lor to the presidency, and through these asso- announced by the triumphant party: The leading obciations contracted a warm social and political ject seems to be simply, and wantonly, if you please, to friendship.
put the institutions of nearly half the States under the
ban of public opinion and national condemnation. This, It was, therefore, most natural that, upon upon general principles, is quite enough of itself to reading his reported speech Mr. Lincoln ad- arouse a spirit not only of general indignation, but of dressed a note of a few lines to Mr. Stephens, revolt on the part of the proscribed. : : . We at the asking him for a revised copy; and that this South do think African slavery, as it exists with us, both
morally and politically right. This opinion is formed note led to a short but most interesting corre- upon the inferiority of the black race; you, however, spondence.
and perhaps a majority of the North, think it wrong. Mr. Stephens replied courteously, saying Admit the difference of opinion. The same difference that his speech had not been revised by him; those who formed the Constitution when it was made that while the newspaper report contained sev- and adopted. The changes have been mainly to our eral verbal inaccuracies, its main points were side. As parties were not formed on this difference of sufficiently clear for all practical purposes. The opinion then, why should they be now? The same note closed with the following sentence; of religion. When parties, or combinations of men, “ The country is certainly in great peril, and therefore, so form themselves, must it not be assumed no man ever had heavier or greater responsi- to arise not from reason or any sense of justice, but bilities resting upon him than
you have in the from fanaticism? The motive can spring from no other present momentous crisis.” The phrase seemed fanaticism, there is no telling where their impulses or
source, and when men come under the influence of to open the way to a confidential interchange assions may drive them. This is what creates our
Stephens, Augusta Speech, Sept. Ist, 1860. Cleve- + Stephens to Landrum, July 1st, 1860. Cleveland, land, p. 692.
Stephens,“War Between the States," Vol. II.,p. 266.
discontent and apprehension. Conciliation and State to separate from the Union. It ought to harmony, in my judgment, can never be established by stand by and aid still in maintaining the Conforce. Nor can the Union, under the Constitution, be stitution of the country.” + maintained by force. The Union was formed by the consent of Independent Sovereign States. Ultimate
Mr. Stephens's letter utterly ignored the sovereignty still resides with them
separately, which can existence of the pro-slavery sentiment in the be resumed, and will be, if their safety, tranquillity, and South, which had for six years been united security in their judgment require it. Under our sys and unceasing in party affiliation and action; eral government to coerce a State in case any one of that this party action had wrought the repeal them should throw herself upon her reserved rights, of the Missouri Compromise in violation of and resume the full exercise of her sovereign powers. plighted political faith, and generous comity Force may perpetuate a Union that depends upon between sections. Moreover that antislavery be the Union of the Constitution: it would be nothing opinions had there been not only under ban of short of a consolidated despotism.".
public sentiment, but had notoriously for years Mr. Lincoln could not, of course, enter upon been visited with mob violence, and been made a further discussion of the topics raised, and the subject of prohibitory penal statutes. The made no reply to Mr. Stephens's letter. The experiment of a sentimental union dreamed by correspondence is noteworthy as showing how Stephens and others had been fully tried in the both writers agreed perfectly upon the actual compromise of 1850, and first and flagrantly and underlying cause of the political crisis,- violated by the South herself
, under party viz., that the South believed slavery to be right coalition, against every appeal and protest. and ought to be extended, while the North believed it was wrong and ought to be restricted. It
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. was a conflict of public opinion. Such conflicts ONE of the vexatious duties of Lincoln was have come in all times, in all nations, and un- to answer the importunings of a class of sinder all forms of government. They have sprung cere, intelligent, but timid men, alarmed by from every passion of the human soul, ambition, the signs of disunion, who besought him to avarice, the generous affection of kindred na- make some public statement or declaration to tions, and the deadly hatred of religious fanat- quiet the South. Requests of this character icism. But, admitting the existence of such a were not confined to one party, but came from conflict of opinion, the true and legitimate in- all; the more considerable numbers being from quiry arises, Was it a proper cause of war? Republicans and from Southern unionists or
History must answer this question unhesitat- followers of Bell and Everett. The great bulk ingly and emphatically in the negative. In ages of these letters were, of course, never answered; happily passed, the anger of a king, the caprice but occasionally one was received from a man of a mistress, or the ambition of a minister has of such standing and influence that to ignore often deluged a nation in blood. But in our it would not only seem ungracious, but might day the conscience of civilization demands that subject the President-elect to more serious the sword shall only defend the life of govern- misrepresentation than it had already been ments, or the life, liberty, and property of their his lot to endure. Both to show a prominent subjects. It has ordained that written consti- phase of current politics and his manner of tutions should decide claims of rulers and rights dealing with it, several replies of this class are of citizens. Casuistry the most adroit could laid before the reader. not prove the right of the free States to expel Thus, for instance, he wrote, confidentially, the slave-States for believing the institution of to Mr. William S. Speer, a citizen of Tennesslavery to be a substantial blessing; equally see, under date of October 23d: absurd wasthedoctrine that the slave-States had
“I appreciate your motive when you suggest the a right to destroy the Union by secession be- propriety of my writing for the public something discause the free States thought slavery a moral, claiming all intention to interfere with slaves or slavsocial, and political evil. Upon this question, ery in the States ; but in my judgment it would do no
good. I have already done this many, many times ; as upon all others, public opinion was the ar- and it is in print, and open to all who will read. Those biter appointed by the Constitution and laws. who will not read or heed what I have already pubUpon this question the lawful and constitu- licly said would not read or heed a repetition of it. tional verdict had been pronounced by the elec- If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will tion of Lincoln ; and the proper duty of the they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."" South under the circumstances had been ad- Among the political newspapers of the West, mirably stated by Mr. Stephens himself in his none had for many years taken a higher rank Milledgeville speech : “ În my judgment the or wielded a greater influence than the“ Louiselection of no man constitutionally chosen to ville Journal.” It had in a manner been Mr. that high office, is sufficient cause for any Lincoln's primer in politics in those early days
* Stephens,“ War Between the States," Vol. II., pp. + Cleveland, p. 696. 267–702
Lincoln to Speer, Oct. 23d, 1860. Unpublished MS.
when he labored through Blackstone, or even new upon which to base new misrepresentations; men farther back when he was yet struggling with who would like to frighten me, or at least to fix upon Kirkham's grammar on the shady knolls of would seize upon almost any letter I could write as New Salem. Compared with these rocks and being an “awful coming down.' I intend keeping pitfalls of letters, the anecdotes, the wit, the my eye upon these gentlemen, and to not unnecessarepigrammatic arguments of the “Louisville ily put any weapons in their hands." + Journal” were a very garden of delight, not only to Lincoln, but to the crude yet knowl. On the 16th of November he wrote a letter of
This letter was withheld till after election. edge-hungry intellects of the whole Mississippi Valley. In time the “ Journal” became a very similar purport to Mr. N. Paschal, editor great luminary, and the name of its witty ed- of the “Missouri Republican.” itor a household word. For long years it was "I could say nothing which I have not already said, a beacon and watchtower of the Whig party; and which is in print, and accessible to the public. Please then the Pandora's box of the Nebraska bili pardon me for suggesting that if the papers like yours,
which heretofore have persistently garbled and misrepwas opened; and when finally in the extraor- resented what I have said, will now fully and fairly dinary campaign of 1860 Lincoln read this place it before their readers, there can be no further once-favorite sheet, it was to find himself the misunderstanding: I beg you to believe me sincere, victim of its satire and depreciation. Victory, or resentment; but that i'urge it as the true cure for
when I declare I do not say this in a spirit of complaint however, is a sovereign balm for detraction; any real uneasiness in the country, that my course may and it must have been easy for him to forgive be other than conservative. The Republican newspahis old friend George D. Prentice when the pers now and for some time past are and have been relatter wrote him (October 26th): “ There is publishing copious extracts from my many published evidently a very strong probability of your if your class of papers would also publish them. I am being elected to the presidency by the popular not at liberty to shift my ground that is out of the vote.” Expressing the “strongest” confidence question. If I thought a repetition would do any good in both his “ personal and political integrity," I would make it. But in my judgment it would do poshe suggests that in the event of his election he had alarmed me, would clamor all the louder.” | should publish a letter setting forth his conservative views and intentions,“ to assure all good With solicitations of this nature coming in citizens of the South and to take from the dis- part from his political friends, Mr. Lincoln unionists every excuse or pretext for treason.”* was not only as firm and decided, but more
To this appeal Mr. Lincoln prepared a re- emphatic and unsparing in criticism. On Noply, October 29th, though it was not then sent. vember 5th, the day before the presidential
“ Your suggestion,” wrote he, “that I in a certain election, there arrived at Springfield, and called event shall write a letter setting forth my conservative upon the President-elect, a gentleman from views and intentions, is certainly a very worthy one. New England of some prominence in political But would it do any good? If I were to labor a month, and official life, who brought and presented I could not express my conservative views and inten, letters of this same tenor from a considerable tions more clearly and strongly than they are expressed in our platform and in my many speeches already in number of citizens representing business, comprint and before the public. And yet even you, who mercial, and manufacturing industries of that do occasionally speak of me in terms of personal kind- region. He was one of those keen, incisive talksions of conservative views and intentions, but busy ers who went direct to the heart of his mission. yourself with appeals to all conservative men to vote “ I have called to see,” he said, if the alarms for Douglas,- to vote any way which can possibly de. of many persons in New England engaged in I am the very worst man living. If what I have already commerce and manufactures cannot by some said has failed to convince you, no repetition of it would means be relieved. I am myself largely interconvince you. The writing of your letter, now before ested in manufactures. Our trade has fallen off, me, gives assurance that you would publish such a let- our workmen are idle, we get no orders from the ter from me as you suggest; but, till now, what reason South, and with the increasing chances of civil publish a repetition of that which is already at its
com- war, bankruptcy and ruin stare us in the face.” mand, and which it does not press upon the public atten
Something in the persistence and manner tion? And now, my friend, - for such I esteem you per: of his interlocutor, something in the tone of sonally,-- do not misunderstand me. I have not decided the letters presented, and still more in the charthat I will not do substantially what you suggest. I will not forbear from doing so merely on punctilio and acter of the signers, quickly irritated Lincoln pluck. If I do finally abstain, it will
be because of ap- to a warmth of retort he seldom reached until prehension that it would do harm. For the good men after long provocation. He divined at once of the South — and I regard the majority of them as the mercenary nature of the appeal about to times. But I have bad men also to deal with, both be tried on him, and it roused him to repel the North and South; men who are eager for something pressure. His visitor closed by asking some * Prenticeto Lincoln,Oct. 26th, 1860. Unpublished MS. Lincoln to Paschal, Nov. 16th, 1860. Unpublished + Lincoln to Prentice, Oct. 29th, 1860. Unpublished MS. MS.
GEORGE D. PRENTICE.
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
(FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY BRADY.) declaration ? Let us be practical. There are many general terms afloat, such as conserva- “ Have we backed this time?" interrupted tism,' enforcement of the irrepressible con- the visitor. flict at the point of the bayonet,''hostility to
“ That is just what I am pressed to do now," the South,' etc., all of which mean nothing replied Lincoln. “If I shall begin to yield to without definition. What then could I say to these threats, if I begin dallying with them, allay their fears, if they will not define what the men who have elected me (if I shall be particular act or acts they fear from me or my elected) would give me up before my election, friends ?"
and the South, seeing it, would deliberately At this stage of the conversation his visitor, kick me out. If my friends should desire me who with true military foresight had provided to repeat anything I have before said, I should a reserve, handed him an additional letter have no objection to do so. If they required numerously signed, asking if he did not there me to say something I had not yet said, I recognize names that were a power.
would either do so or get out of the way. If I “Yes," retorted Lincoln sharply, glancing at should be elected, the first duty to the country the document, “I recognize them as a set of would be to stand by the men who elected me."* liars and knaves who signed that statement
Still, from time to time the point was pressed about Seward last year.”
upon him from other influential quarters. Mr. The visitor was taken aback at this familiar- Raymond, editor of the “ New York Times,” ity with the local politics of his State, but ral- joined in urging it. Lincoln, on November lied and insisted that there were also other 28th, answered him confidentially as follows: names on the list. Lincoln now looked through the paper more carefully, his warmth mean- have delayed so long to answer it
, because my reasons
“ Yours of the 14th was received in due course. I while cooling down a little.
for not coming before the public in any form just now “Well," answered he, laughing, “after read- had substantially appeared in your paper (the Times”), ing it, it is about as I expected to find it. It and hence I feared they were not deemed sufficient by annoyed me to hear that gang of men called you, else you would not have written me as you did. Í
now think we have a demonstration in favor of my respectable. Their conduct a year ago was a view. On the 20th instant Senator Trumbull made a disgrace to any civilized citizen.”
short speech, which I suppose you have both seen and Here his visitor suggested that the South approved. Has a single newspaper, heretofore against was making armed preparations.
us, urged that speech upon its readers with a purpose
to quiet public anxiety? Not one, so far as I know. “The North," answered Lincoln,“ does not On the contrary, the Boston Courier and its class fear invasion from the slave-States, and we of hold me responsible for that speech, and endeavor to the North certainly have no desire, and never inflame the North with the belief that it foreshadows had, to invade the South. They have talked coming administration; while the Washington Con
an abandonment of Republican ground by the inabout what they intend to do in the event of a stitution and its class hold the same speech up to Black Republican victory, until they have con- the South as an open declaration of war against them. vinced themselves there is really no courage This is just as I expected, and just what would happen left in the North.”
* Nicolay, Manuscript memoranda. Vol. XXXV. – 13.