The Great Conspiracy

[At a later day, March 11, 1861, a permanent Constitution for the
“Confederate States” was adopted, and, in the Fall of the same
year, Messrs. Davis and Stephens were elected by popular vote, for
the term of six years ensuing, as President and Vice-President,
respectively, of the Confederacy.]

Mr. Davis almost at once left Jackson, Mississippi, for Montgomery,
where he arrived and delivered his Inaugural, February 17, having
received on his road thither a succession of ovations from the
enthusiastic Rebels, to which he had responded with no less than twenty-
five speeches, very similar in tone to those made in the United States
Senate by Mr. Wigfall and others of that ilk-breathing at once defiance
and hopefulness, while admitting the difficulties in the way of the new

“It may be,” said he, at Jackson, “that we will be confronted by War;
that the attempt will be made to blockade our ports, to starve us out;
but they (the Union men of the North) know little of the Southern heart,
of Southern endurance. No amount of privation could force us to remain
in a Union on unequal terms. England and France would not allow our
great staple to be dammed up within our present limits; the starving
thousands in their midst would not allow it. We have nothing to
apprehend from Blockade. But if they attempt invasion by land, we must
take the War out of our territory. If War must come, it must be upon
Northern, and not upon Southern soil. In the meantime, if they were
prepared to grant us Peace, to recognize our equality, all is well.”

And, in his speech at Stevenson, Alabama, said he “Your Border States
will gladly come into the Southern Confederacy within sixty days, as we
will be their only friends. England will recognize us, and a glorious
future is before us. The grass will grow in the Northern cities, where
the pavements have been worn off by the tread of Commerce. We will
carry War where it is easy to advance–where food for the sword and
torch await our Armies in the densely populated cities; and though they
may come and spoil our crops, we can raise them as before; while they
cannot rear the cities which took years of industry and millions of
money to build.”

Very different in tone to these, were the kindly and sensible utterances
of Mr. Lincoln on his journey from Springfield to Washington, about the
same time, for Inauguration as President of the United States. Leaving
Springfield, Illinois, February 11th, he had pathetically said:

“My friends: No one, not in my position, can realize the sadness I feel
at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived
more than a quarter of a century. Here my children were born, and here
one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. I
go to assume a task more difficult than that which has devolved upon any
other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded
except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times
relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine blessing
which sustained him; and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance
for support. And I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may
receive that Divine assistance, without which I cannot succeed, but with
which success is certain. Again I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

At Indianapolis, that evening, the eve of his birthday anniversary,
after thanking the assembled thousands for their “magnificent welcome,”
and defining the words “Coercion” and “Invasion”–at that time so
loosely used–he continued: “But if the United States should merely hold
and retake her own Forts and other property, and collect the duties on
foreign importation, or even withhold the mails from places where they
were habitually violated, would any or all of these things be ‘Invasion’
or ‘Coercion’? Do our professed lovers of the Union, who spitefully
resolve that they will resist Coercion and Invasion, understand that
such things as these on the part of the United States would be
‘Coercion’ or ‘Invasion’ of a State? If so, their idea of means to
preserve the object of their great affection would seem to be
exceedingly thin and airy.”

At Columbus, Ohio, he spoke in a like calm, conservative, reasoning way
–with the evident purpose of throwing oil on the troubled waters–when
he said: “I have not maintained silence from any want of real anxiety.
It is a good thing that there is no more than anxiety; for there is
nothing going wrong. It is a consoling circumstance that, when we look
out, there is nothing that really hurts anybody. We entertain different
views upon political questions; but nobody is suffering anything. This
is a consoling circumstance; and from it we may conclude that all we
want is time, patience, and a reliance on that God who has never
forsaken this People.”

So, too, at Pittsburg, Pa., February 15th, he said, of “our friends,” as
he termed them, the Secessionists: “Take even their own views of the
questions involved, and there is nothing to justify the course they are
pursuing. I repeat, then, there is no crisis, except such an one as may
be gotten up at any time by turbulent men, aided by designing
politicians. My advice to them, under the circumstances, is to keep
cool. If the great American People only keep their temper both sides of
the line, the trouble will come to an end, and the question which now
distracts the Country be settled, just as surely as all other
difficulties, of a like character, which have been originated in this
Government, have been adjusted. Let the people on both sides keep their
self-possession, and, just as other clouds have cleared away in due
time, so will this great Nation continue to prosper as heretofore.”

And toward the end of that journey, on the 22nd of February–
Washington’s Birthday–in the Independence Hall at Philadelphia, after
eloquently affirming his belief that “the great principle or idea that
kept this Confederacy so long together was * * * that sentiment in the
Declaration of Independence which gave Liberty not alone to the People
of this Country, but” he hoped “to the World, for all future time * * *
which gave promise that, in due time, the weight would be lifted from
the shoulders of all men”–he added, in the same firm, yet temperate and
reassuring vein: “Now, my friends, can this Country be saved on that
basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the
world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved on that basis,
it will be truly awful. But, if this Country cannot be saved without
giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be
assassinated on this spot than surrender it. Now in my view of the
present aspect of affairs, there need be no bloodshed or War. There is
no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course; and I may say,
in advance, that there will be no bloodshed, unless it be forced upon
the Government, and then it will be compelled to act in self-defense. *
* * I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, if it be
the pleasure of Almighty God, to die by.”

Thus, as he progressed on that memorable journey from his home in
Illinois, through Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh,
Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Albany, New York, Trenton, Newark,
Philadelphia, and Harrisburg-amid the prayers and blessings and
acclamations of an enthusiastic and patriotic people–he uttered words
of wise conciliation and firm moderation such as beseemed the high
functions and tremendous responsibilities to which the voice of that
liberty–and-union-loving people had called him, and this too, with a
full knowledge, when he made the Philadelphia speech, that the enemies
of the Republic had already planned to assassinate him before he could
reach Washington.

The prudence of his immediate friends, fortunately defeated the
murderous purpose–and by the simple device of taking the regular night
express from Philadelphia instead of a special train next day–to
Washington, he reached the National Capital without molestation early on
the morning of the 23rd of February.

That morning, after Mr. Lincoln’s arrival, in company with Mr. Lovejoy,
the writer visited him at Willard’s Hotel. During the interview both
urged him to “Go right along, protect the property of the Country, and
put down the Rebellion, no matter at what cost in men and money.” He
listened with grave attention, and said little, but very clearly
indicated his approval of all the sentiments thus expressed–and then,
with the same firm and manly and cheerful faith in the outcome, he
added: “As the Country has placed me at the helm of the Ship, I’ll try
to steer her through.”

The spirit in which he proposed to accomplish this superhuman task, was
shown when he told the Southern people through the Civic authorities of
Washington on the 27th of February–When the latter called upon him–
that he had no desire or intention to interfere with any of their
Constitutional rights–that they should have all their rights under the
Constitution, “not grudgingly, but fully and fairly.” And what was the
response of the South to this generous and conciliatory message?
Personal sneers–imputations of Northern cowardice–boasts of Southern
prowess–scornful rejection of all compromise–and an insolent challenge
to the bloody issue of arms!

Said Mr. Wigfall, in the United States Senate, on March 2d, alluding to
Mr. Lincoln, “I do not think that a man who disguises himself in a
soldier’s cloak and a Scotch cap (a more thorough disguise could not be
assumed by such a man) and makes his entry between day and day, into the
Capital of the Country that he is to govern–I hardly think that he is
going to look War sternly in the face.

[Had Mr. Wigfall been able at this time to look four years into the
future and behold the downfall of the Southern Rebellion, the
flight of its Chieftains, and the capture of Jefferson Davis while
endeavoring to escape, with his body enclosed in a wrapper and a
woman’s shawl over his head, as stated by Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart
of Jefferson Davis’s Staff, p. 756, vol. ii., Greeley’s American
Conflict–he would hardly have retailed this slander.]

“I look for nothing else than that the Commissioners from the
Confederated States will be received here and recognized by Abraham
Lincoln. I will now predict that this Republican Party that is going to
enforce the Laws, preserve the Union, and collect Revenue, will never
attempt anything so silly; and that instead of taking Forts, the troops
will be withdrawn from those which we now have. See if this does not
turn out to be so, in less than a week or ten days.”

In the same insulting diatribe, he said: “It is very easy for men to
bluster who know there is going to be no danger. Four or five million
people living in a territory that extends from North Carolina down to
the Rio Grande, who have exports to above three hundred million dollars,
whose ports cannot be blockaded, but who can issue letters of marque and
reprisal, and sweep your commerce from the seas, and who will do it, are
not going to be trifled with by that sensible Yankee nation. Mark my
words. I did think, at one time, there was going to be War; I do not
think so now. * * * The Star of the West swaggered into Charleston
harbor, received a blow planted full in the face, and staggered out.
Your flag has been insulted; redress it if you dare! You have submitted
to it for two months, and you will submit to it for ever. * * * We
have dissolved the Union; mend it if you can; cement it with blood; try
the experiment! we do not desire War; we wish to avoid it. * * * This
we say; and if you choose to settle this question by the Sword, we feel,
we know, that we have the Right. We interfere with you in no way. We
ask simply that you will not interfere with us. * * * You tell us you
will keep us in the Union. Try the experiment!”

And then, with brutal frankness, he continued: “Now, whether what are
called The Crittenden Resolutions will produce satisfaction in some of
these Border States, or not, I am unaware; but I feel perfectly sure
they would not be entertained upon the Gulf. As to the Resolutions
which the Peace Congress has offered us, we might as well make a clean
breast of it. If those Resolutions were adopted, and ratified by three
fourths of the States of this Union, and no other cause ever existed, I
make the assertion that the seven States now out of the Union, would go
out upon that.”


While instructive, it will also not be devoid of interest, to pause
here, and examine the nature of the Crittenden Resolutions, and also the
Resolutions of the Peace Congress, which, we have seen, were spurned by
the Secession leaders, through their chief mouthpiece in the United
States Senate.

The Crittenden Compromise Resolutions * were in these words:

“A Joint Resolution proposing certain Amendments to the Constitution of
the United States:

“Whereas, serious and alarming dissensions have arisen between the
Northern and the Southern States, concerning the Rights and security of
the Rights of the Slaveholding States, and especially their Rights in
the common territory of the United States; and whereas, it is eminently
desirable and proper that these dissensions, which now threaten the very
existence of this Union, should be permanently quieted and settled by
Constitutional provisions which shall do equal justice to all Sections,
and thereby restore to the People that peace and good-will which ought
to prevail between all the citizens of the United States; Therefore:

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States of America, in Congress assembled, (two thirds of both Houses
concurring), the following articles be, and are hereby proposed and
submitted as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which
shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of said
Constitution, when ratified by Conventions of three-fourths of the
several States:

“Article I. In all the territory of the United States now held, or
hereafter to be acquired, situate north of latitude 36 30′, Slavery or
involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is prohibited,
while such territory shall remain under Territorial government. In all
the territory south of said line of latitude, Slavery of the African
race is hereby recognized as existing, and shall not be interfered with
by Congress, but shall be protected as Property by all the departments
of the Territorial government during its continuance. And when any
Territory, north or south of said line, within such boundaries as
Congress may prescribe, shall contain the population requisite for a
member of Congress, according to the then Federal ratio of
representation of the People of the United States, it shall, if its own
form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union, on an
equal footing with the original States; with or without Slavery, as the
Constitution of such new State may provide.

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