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manufacturing districts; nearly all mills and manufactories were either entirely closed or were working on short time, and thousands were thus deprived of work or any means of subsistence for themselves and families, with the wants and necessities of a “Northern winter” staring them full in the face, and but little hopes of a speedy termination of difficulties. November 22d all the banks in the District of Columbia, and also those in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wheeling, and Norfolk, Va., together with the Farmers’ and Exchange Bank in Charleston, S. C., suspended specie payments. 23d, the banks of Augusta, Ga., Trenton, N. J., and Pittsburg, Penn., suspended specie payments. 26th, all the principal banks of Tennessee, including the State Bank, suspended specie payments. The twenty-ninth of November was observed, in most of the Northern States, as a day of thanksgiving and prayer; sermons were preached by many eminent divines, generally urging a policy of peace, concession, and fraternization in the great questions of the day. The eyes of the masses of the North were now turned, with an imploring look, towards Congress, with the hope that that body, when convened, would take some measures to avert the impending blow which seemed ready to fall upon us, and calm the troubled waters of political discord, and restore peace and unity. On the twenty-seventh of November a special session of the Legislature of Maryland was called for, which Governor Hicks refused to convene, and wrote a letter in reply, taking strong grounds against secession, and declared his purpose was to avoid any precipitation of his State in action on the part of secessionists. December 3d, Congress met at Washington; the House opened at twelve o’clock, with the following impressive and eloquent prayer for the Union, by the Chaplain of the House, the Rev. Mr. Stockton : —
“O God! we remember the past, and we are grateful for the past. We thank thee for the discovery of this New World; we thank thee for the colonization of our part of it; we thank thee for the establishment of our National Independence; we thank thee for the organization of our National Union; we thank thee for all the blessings we have enjoyed within this Union, — national blessings, civil blessings, social blessings, spiritual blessings, all kinds of blessings, unspeakably great and precious blessings, such blessings as were never enjoyed by any other people since the world began. And now, O Lord, our God, we offer to thee our humble praise for the past, the present; and for all the future will it please thee, for Christ's sake, to grant us thy special aid. Thou art very high and lifted up; thou lookest down over the whole land, from lake to gulf, from sea to sea, from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof; and thou knowest all our doings, and thou knowest all our failings; thou knowest that our good men are at fault, and that our wise men are at fault, in the North and in the South, in the East and in the West,-they are all at fault; we know not what is best for us to do, and with common consent we come to thee, O Lord, our God; and we pray thee to overrule all unreasonable and wicked men, in all parts of our confederacy. We pray thee to inspire, and to strengthen, and to assist all true patriots in every part of the Union; may thy blessing rest upon all departments of our government. We remember, with especial solicitude, the President of these United States, and his immediate advisers. They lack wisdom, but if they call upon thee thou wilt give them wisdom, for thou givest it to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. Whilst we trust that they pray for themselves, we here, also, pray for them; let thy Holy Spirit be granted unto them, and grant that they may speedily see what is exactly right for them to do, and grant them grace to do it, and to fully understand the position in which they are placed. We thank thee for this bright and beautiful morning; for the assembling of the two Houses of Congress; we pray that thy blessing may rest on the Vice-President, and upon every senator in his place; upon the Speaker of the House, and upon every member in his place. We rejoice to learn that they see their responsibilities, and that they feel their responsibilities, and that many of them are looking towards thee for counsel and direction. O Lord, our God, let thy own presence subdue every heart, every mind; and sanctify all actions to thy own glory and the greatness of our whole people; and O grant that we may still live in peace and harmony in this blessed Union. Amen.” The roll of members was then called. Most of the States were fully represented; to the surprise of some, every member from South Carolina, except one (Mr. Bonham), answered to his name on roll-call in the House. But no senators were present from South Carolina, Georgia, or Louisiana, -the South Carolina Senators, Chesnut and Hammond, having resigned their seats in the Senate, the former on the tenth, and the latter on the eleventh, of the previous month (November). We are compelled, though painfully and reluctantly, to yield to the force of concurring evidence, establishing the fact that treachery and treason has struck at the very root of the Federal Government. The solicitude and impatience of the people, generally, to see or hear the presidential message, was intense; hoping, and clinging to that hope with the tenacity of life, that it might contain measures of compromise which would forever settle the question of disunion, and leave the country unscathed by the terrible ravages of civil war. The message could not be transmitted to Congress at the opening of the session, simply because fair manuscript copies for each House could not be made out in time, without employing the clerks on Sunday.
Early on the morning of the third the President dispatched Mr. Trescott, Assistant Secretary of State, to Charleston, with the message, and to urge a postponement of action, in regard to secession, until Congress could act on compromises and remedies; who, after an absence of seven days, returns and immediately resigns his office. At twelve o’clock, on the 4th, the President’s message was delivered to both Houses of Congress, and the department reports sent in. The message takes strong grounds for conciliation; blames the North for its aggressions on slavery; proposes plans of compromise; recommends amendments to the Constitution ; denies the right of secession, yet disparages coercion. Its reading was listened to with the most profound attention, yet it did not satisfy the South, nor please the North ; it was attacked fiercely in the Senate by Clingman, of North Carolina, and defended by Crittenden, of Kentucky. Southern senators declare the message to be weak, vacillating, inconsistent and untrue; while the leading Republican senators were united and unhesitating in pronouncing it a weak, silly paper, unworthy such a man at such a time. Evidently it was not what was expected; at the time of our country’s greatest peril something more decisive was hoped for.
It was charged by some that the President secretly favored secession, and quietly responded to the calls of the South, made upon the government, and if not actually assisting in the movement, at least doing nothing to hinder it. “He that is not for me is against me.”
Then it was urged by the friends of Mr. Buchanan that, as his term of office had nearly expired, he declined to act, choosing rather to leave the settlement of all national difficulties to the incoming administration—peaceful imbecility! How long, think you, my readers, would the “hero of New Orleans,” the immortal Jackson, have sat
with his arms folded and his eyes closed, patiently waiting
for the time to arrive when he should retire, and leave his successor to settle difficulties as best he could “In the field of argument, or on the field of battle,” would he not spring to his feet (as on a former occasion), and with the words—“By the Eternal, I take the responsibility l’’ — employ all his powers to suppress the rebellion, though the people of his own native State were the prime movers in it 2 s In the House, Mr. Boteler, of Virginia, offered a resolution to appoint a special committee, of one from each State, to whom should be referred so much of the President's message as “relates to the present perilous condition of the country.” The United States Senate, December 4th, was characterized by the most exciting speeches of Southern senators, looking to secession as their only relief from Northern domination. In the House, on the Question of referring the secession matter in the message to a special committee, the declaration of Mr. Miles, of South Carolina, that his State was already out of the confederacy, in everything but form; of Mr. Hawkins, of Florida, that the day of compromises was passed forever; of Mr. Singleton, of Mississippi, that his State could take care of herself; of Mr. Pugh, of Alabama, that the Union was virtually dissolved; of Mr. Jones, of Georgia, that his State was prepared to go out of the confederacy; and of other southerners to a similar effect, produced but little sensation. There was a slight startle upon the announcement of Mr. Miles, “that his State was out of the Union,” and the inquiry was made, in the gallery, why he and his colleagues were occupying seats in the national capitol. The answer to this question was —To get their money and stationery. December 5th, at the meeting of the State Electoral Colleges, Abraham Lincoln, for President, and Hannibal Hamlin, for Vice-President, received the votes of seventeen States, or one hundred and eighty electoral votes.