« AnteriorContinuar »
their respective declarations. This could hardly be dis- Chap. III. puted at least by an American jurist.1
Yet in most of these States, if not in all, opinion during the earlier stages of the revolt was far from being unanimous. The division was especially marked in Alabama,-where the northern and upland counties were generally Unionist,-in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Men whose station, character, and experience made them respectable, were found to urge, not only that secession was not justified by the election of a Republican President, but that it was inexpedient. The South and its institutions, they urged, even slavery itself, were really safer under the Constitution than they would be if the Union were dissolved. No one spoke more eloquently in this sense than Mr. A. H. Stephens, of Georgia, who, scarcely three months later, became Vice-President of the Confederacy. Few, however, appear to have directly opposed Secession; the many who dreaded the movement, and followed it reluctantly, confined themselves for the most part to counselling delay and co-operation among the Slave States, in preference to separate action. But opposition and reluctance were everywhere overborne and silenced, sometimes perhaps by direct intimidation, but more generally by that instinctive deference which Americans, like Englishmen, are accustomed to yield to the decision of majorities, as well as by the strong and blinding attachment which the Southerner cherished towards his State. To his appre
1 See the well-known case of McIlvaine v. Coxe's Lessee, Cranch, iv, 212. 2 of the state of feeling in Texas General Houston wrote as follows, in September 1861:
"The time has been when there was a powerful Union sentiment in Texas, and a willingness on the part of many true patriots to give Mr. Lincoln a fair trial in the administration of the Federal Government. There was also a time when many of the best men in the country hoped that by an energetic demonstration they might bring about a reconstruction of the Government upon such principles as might guarantee the rights of the South. These times have passed by, while Union and reconstruction have become obsolete terms, or, if even mentioned, it is
Chap. III. hension this was patriotism; duty to his State ranked high, perhaps highest, among his public duties. With men like Lee and Maury, and many thousands more, this was the ruling motive. The sword once drawn, such men, though they would never have unsheathed it voluntarily, felt bound to side with their own Government and their own people, threw themselves into the cause with unhesitating gallantry, and adhered to it with unswerving constancy. And yet I think it must always be a doubtful question whether there would ever have been a secession at all, but for the deliberate temerity of South Carolina.
Even before the revolt was consummated, preparations had been made in the seceding States to form a Confederacy for their common government and defence. Delegates from all except Texas, which had not yet seceded, met on the 4th February at the town of Montgomery in Alabama, and proceeded to organize themselves as a General Convention and Provisional Congress of the "Confederate States of North America," to establish a temporary form of Government, and elect a President and Vice-President. For the Presidency their choice fell on Mr. Jefferson Davis, a Mississippi planter, who had sat as Senator in Congress, and had long exercised a commanding influence among the politicians of the South. Educated at the Military Academy at West Point, he had served in Mexico, and had held the office of Secretary at War. Mr. Davis hastened at once to Montgomery, took the oath of office, formed a Cabinet, and threw himself into the arduous work of organizing the resources of the Confederacy. On the 11th March the temporary form of Government, which had been only in reference to past events. If there is any Union sentiment in Texas, I am not apprised of it."-American Annual Cyclopædia for 1861, p. 692.
General Houston had himself been unwilling to follow the movement, and had been deprived of the Governorship for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.
borrowed from the Constitution of the United States, Chap. III. was superseded by a permanent Constitution, framed on the same general model, but containing an express prohibition of protective duties, and a declaration that in all new territories which the Confederate States might acquire, negro slavery, as it existed in those States, should be recognized and protected by the territorial Legislatures and by Congress. This Constitution was forthwith submitted for ratification in each of the seven seceding States, not to the popular suffrage, but to the Convention by whose instrumentality the work of secession had been accomplished; and each, by a vote of its Convention, laid down its lately acquired independence, and took its place within the new Confederacy.
"The internal affairs of the Confederate Government," says a painstaking and generally accurate chronicler, "were early placed upon an organized and efficient system. The withdrawal from the United States and the creation of a Confederacy caused but few changes, and these consisted rather in the persons who held public offices than in any change in the nature of the offices themselves. The transmission of the mails was gradually suspended by the Federal Government after the secession of each State, and was entirely assumed by the Confederate Government within the limits of the Confederate States after the 31st of May. The Courts of the United States were also organized as Courts of the Confederate States, and the officers of the army and navy who resigned became officers in the
1 The Convention sat and acted as a Provisional Congress from February 1861 to February 1862, when it was succeeded by the first regular Congress of the Confederate States, which sat for two years. The second Congress met on the 19th February, 1864, and ceased to exist on the dissolution of the Confederacy. Mr. Davis was chosen Provisional President for one year, from 18th February, 1861, to 19th February, 1862. In the autumn of 1861 he was elected, under the Constitution, President for six years, and held office till the same catastrophe.
Chap. III. army and navy of the Confederate States.
Revenue officers, in like manner, continued as such under the new Government."1
What, during the progress of the events which have been briefly told, was the attitude of the Federal Government and of the States which remained faithful to the Union ?
The vote of November, momentous as were the consequences attached to it, made no immediate change in the Federal Executive. In the eye of the law that vote did but nominate 303 persons, whose duty it was to elect a President; the election itself took place early in December, and the votes then given were transmitted under seal to Washington, to be opened and counted on a stated day, in the presence of the House of Representatives and the Senate; at the conclusion of this ceremony, which took place on the 13th February, the name of the successful candidate was for the first time publicly announced by the Vice-President, Mr. Breckinridge, and on the 4th of March he entered on the duties of his office. The object which the framers of the Constitution contemplated when they made the election indirect is frustrated, for, except in form, the election is not indirect; the delay which they deemed necessary has been made unnecessary by the increasing swiftness of communications; but the old machinery is retained, and for four months after the choice of the nation has been ascertained the President elect con
1 American Annual Cyclopædia for 1861, p. 1512.
Mr. Davis, in his Message to Congress (29th April, 1861), said, "Since your adjournment all the Courts, with the exception of those of Mississippi and Texas, have been organized by the appointment of marshals and district attorneys, and are now prepared for the exercise of their functions. In the two States just named the gentlemen confirmed as Judges declined to accept the appointment, and no nominations have yet been made to fill the vacancies."-See also Acts and Resolutions of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States, Tyler & Co., Richmond,
tinues to be a private citizen, and the Government to Chap. III. be administered as before by the person whom he is destined to succeed. When the change of President denotes also a change of policy, this arrangement has its inconveniences, which are liable to become serious should occasion arise for prompt and decided action. Mr. Buchanan then continued until the 4th March, 1861-that is, until the revolt of the Gulf States was complete-to be the Chief Magistrate of the Union; and it has been commonly affirmed in America that to his supineness and the disloyalty of his Ministers the calamities of the four ensuing years were largely due. There was disaffection - perhaps there was treachery -in the President's Cabinet, and he was himself irresolute and supine. But in justice to Mr. Buchanan it must be remembered that he had been borne into office as a Democrat and by the Democratic party, that a majority of Americans were, or had been, Democrats, and that to men imbued with these principles the idea of coercing a refractory State-though, as Jackson had shown, not intolerable-was still distasteful in the highest degree. It must be remembered also that the seven middle States were trembling on the verge of revolt, pulled hither and thither by contending influences, protesting vehemently against coercion, and calling out for concessions which they were themselves unable to specify or define. Representatives of these States sat in Congress until after the 1st of March. The Gulf States themselves were represented there until they had formally resolved on secession. Moreover, it cannot be stated too plainly that as to the course which ought to be pursued towards the South, opinion was, and long continued to be, wavering and undecided. The sentiment which predominated throughout the North was a sincere desire to tranquillize and win back the South, if possible, by any reasonable measures of conciliation. And behind this was a feel