The Great Conspiracy

In the House, Mr. Logan, had, on the 5th of February, 1861, said:

“Men, Sir, North and South, who love themselves far better than
their Country, have brought us to this unhappy condition. * * *
Let me say to gentlemen, that I will go as far as any man in the
performance of a Constitutional duty to put down Rebellion, to
suppress Insurrection, and to enforce the laws; but when we
undertake the performance of these duties, let us act in such a
manner as will be best calculated to preserve and not destroy the
Government, and keep ourselves within the bounds of the
Constitution. * * * Sir, I have always denied, and do yet deny,
the Right of Secession. There is no warrant for it in the
Constitution. It is wrong, it is unlawful, unconstitutional, and
should be called by the right name, Revolution. No good, Sir, can
result from it, but much mischief may. It is no remedy for any

“I hold that all grievances can be much easier redressed inside the
Union than out of it. * * * If a collision must ensue between
this Government and any of our own people, let it come when every
other means of settlement has been tried and exhausted; and not
then, except when the Government shall be compelled to repel
assaults for the protection of its property, flag, and the honor of
the Country. * * *

“I have been taught to believe that the preservation of this
glorious Union, with its broad flag waving over us, as the shield
for our protection on land and on sea, is paramount to all the
Parties and platforms that ever have existed, or ever can exist. I
would, to-day, if I had the power, sink my own Party, and every
other one, with all their platforms, into the vortex of ruin,
without heaving a sigh or shedding a tear, to save the Union, or
even stop the Revolution where it is.”

After enumerating the various propositions for adjustment, then
pending in the House, to wit: that of Senator Crittenden; that of
Senator Douglas; that of the Committee of Thirty-three; that of the
Border States; and those of Representatives McClernand, Kellogg,
and Morris, of Illinois, Mr. Logan took occasion to declare that
“in a crisis like this” he was “willing to give his support to any
of them,” but his preference was for that of Mr. Morris.

Said he: “He (Morris) proposes that neither Congress nor a
Territorial Legislature shall interfere with Slavery in the
Territories at all; but leaves the people, when they come to form
their State Constitution, to determine the question for themselves.
I think this is the best proposition, because it is a fair
concession on all sides. The Republicans give up their
Congressional intervention; those who are styled ‘Squatter
Sovereigns’ give up their Territorial legislative policy; and the
Southern (Slave) protectionists give up their protection-
intervention policy; thus every Party yields something. With this
proposition as an Article in the Constitution, it would satisfy
every conservative man in this Union, both North and South, I do
seriously and honestly believe.

“Having indicated my preference of these propositions, and my
reasons for that preference, I have said all I desire to say on the
point, except to repeat again, that I will willingly vote for any
of them, or make any other sacrifice necessary to save the Union.
It makes no kind of difference to me what the sacrifice; if it will
save my Country, I am ready to make it.” * * *

“There are some in this Hall,” said he, “that are almost ready to
strike the Party fetters from their limbs, and assist in measures
of Peace. Halt not; take the step; be independent and free at
once! Let us overcome Party passion and error; allow virtue and
good sense in this fateful hour to be triumphant; let us invoke
Deity to interpose and prepare the way for our Country’s escape
from the perils by which we are now surrounded; and in view of our
present greatness and future prospects, our magnificent and growing
cities, our many institutions of learning, our once happy and
prosperous People, our fruitful fields and golden forests, our
enjoyment of all civil and religious blessings–let Parties die
that these be preserved. Such noble acts of patriotism and
concession, on your part, would cause posterity to render them
illustrious, and pause to contemplate the magnitude of the events
with which they were connected. * * * In the name of the patriotic
sires who breasted the storms and vicissitudes of the Revolution;
by all the kindred ties of this Country; in the name of the many
battles fought for your Freedom; in behalf of the young and the
old; in behalf of the Arts and Sciences, Civilization, Peace,
Order, Christianity, and Humanity, I appeal to you to strike from
your limbs the chains that bind them! Come forth from that
loathsome prison, Party Caucus; and in this hour–the most gloomy
and disheartening to the lovers of Free Institutions that has ever
existed during our Country’s history–arouse the drooping spirits
of our countrymen, by putting forth your good strong arms to assist
in steadying the rocking pillars of the mightiest Republic that has
ever had an existence.”

“Mr. Speaker,” continued he, “a word or two more, and I am done.
Revolution stalks over the Land. States have rebelled against the
constituted authorities of the Union, and now stand, sword in hand,
prepared to vindicate their new nationality. Others are preparing
to take a similar position. Rapidly transpiring events are
crowding on us with fearful velocity. Soon, circumstances may
force us into an unnatural strife, in which the hand of brother
shall be uplifted against brother, and father against son. My God,
what a spectacle! If all the evils and calamities that have ever
happened since the World began, could be gathered in one great
Catastrophe, its horrors could not eclipse, in their frightful
proportions, the Drama that impends over us. Whether this black
cloud that drapes in mourning the whole political heavens, shall
break forth in all the frightful intensity of War, and make
Christendom weep at the terrible atrocities that will be enacted–
or, whether it will disappear, and the sky resume its wonted
serenity, and the whole Earth be irradiated by the genial sunshine
of Peace once more–are the alternatives which this Congress, in my
judgment, has the power to select between.”

In this same broad spirit, Mr. Seward, in his great speech of January
12th, had said: “Republicanism is subordinate to Union, as everything
else is and ought to be–Republicanism, Democracy, every other political
name and thing; all are subordinate-and they ought to disappear in the
presence of the great question of Union.” In another part of it, he had
even more emphatically said: “I therefore * * * avow my adherence to the
Union in its integrity and with all its parts, with my friends, with my
Party, with my State, with my Country, or without either, as they may
determine, in every event, whether of Peace or War, with every
consequence of honor or dishonor, of life or death. Although I lament
the occasion, I hail with cheerfulness the duty of lifting up my voice
among distracted debates, for my whole Country and its inestimable
Union.” And as showing still more clearly the kindly and conciliatory
attitude of the great Republican leader, when speaking of those others
who seemed to be about to invoke revolutionary action to oppose–and
overthrow the Government–he said: “In such a case I can afford to meet
prejudice with Conciliation, exaction with Concession which surrenders
no principle, and violence with the right hand of Peace.”

In the House of Representatives, too, the voice of patriotism was often
heard through the loud clamor and disorder of that most disorderly and
Treason-uttering session–was heard from the lips of statesmen, who rose
high above Party, in their devotion to the Union. The calm,
dispassionate recital by Henry Winter Davis (of Maryland), of the
successive steps by which the Southern leaders had themselves created
that very “North” of whose antagonism they complained, was one of the
best of these, in some respects. He was one of the great Select
Committee of Thirty-three, and it was (February 5th) after the
Resolutions, heretofore quoted, had been reported by it, that he
condensed the history of the situation into a nutshell, as follows:

“We are at the end of the insane revel of partisan license which, for
thirty years, has, in the United States, worn the mask of Government.
We are about to close the masquerade by the dance of death. The Nations
of the World look anxiously to see if the People, ere they tread that
measure, will come to themselves.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Southern politicians have created a North. Let us trace the process
and draw the moral.

“The laws of 1850 calmed and closed the Slavery agitation; and President
Pierce, elected by the almost unanimous voice of the States, did not
mention Slavery in his first two Messages. In 1854, the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise, at the instance of the South, reopened the

“Northern men, deserted by Southern Whigs, were left to unite for self-

“The invasion of Kansas, in 1855 and 1856, from Missouri; the making a
Legislature and laws for that Territory, by the invaders; still further
united the Northern people. The election of 1856 measured its extent.

“The election of Mr. Buchanan and his opening policy in Kansas, soothed
the irritation, and was rapidly demoralizing the new Party, when the
Pro-Slavery Party in Kansas perpetrated, and the President and the South
accepted, the Lecompton fraud, and again united the North more
resolutely in resistance to that invasion of the rights of self-

“The South for the first time failed to dictate terms; and the People
vindicated by their votes the refusal of the Constitution.

“Ere this result was attained, the opinions of certain Judges of the
Supreme Court scattered doubts over the law of Slavery in the
Territories; the South, while repudiating other decisions, instantly
made these opinions the criterion of faithfulness to the Constitution;
while the North was agitated by this new sanction of the extremest
pretensions of their opponents.

“The South did not rest satisfied with their Judicial triumph.

“Immediately the claim was pressed for protection by Congress to
Slavery, declared by the Supreme Court, they said, to exist in all the

“This completed the union of the Free States in one great defensive
league; and the result was registered in November. That result is now
itself become the starting point of new agitation–the demand of new
rights and new guarantees. The claim to access to the Territories was
followed by the claim to Congressional protection, and that is now
followed by the hitherto unheard of claim to a Constitutional Amendment
establishing Slavery, not merely in territory now held, but in all
hereafter held from the line of 36 30′ to Cape Horn, while the debate
foreshadows in the distance the claim of the right of transit and the
placing of property in Slaves in all respects on the footing of other
property–the topics of future agitation. How long the prohibition of
the importation of Slaves will be exempted from the doctrine of
equality, it needs no prophet to tell.

“In the face of this recital, let the imputation of autocratic and
tyrannical aspirations cease to be cast on the people of the Free
States; let the Southern people dismiss their fears, return to their
friendly confidence in their fellow-citizens of the North, and accept,
as pledges of returning Peace, the salutary amendments of the law and
the Constitution offered as the first fruits of Reconciliation.”

But calmness, kindness, and courtesy were alike thrown away in both
Houses upon the implacable Southern leaders. As the last day of that
memorable session, which closed in the failure of all peaceful measures
to restore the Union, slowly dawned–with but a few hours lacking of the
time when Mr. Lincoln would be inaugurated President of the United
States–Mr. Wigfall thought proper, in the United States Senate, to
sneer at him as “an ex-rail-splitter, an ex-grocery keeper, an ex-
flatboat captain, and an ex-Abolition lecturer”–and proceeded to scold
and rant at the North with furious volubility.

“Then, briefly,” said he, “a Party has come into power that represents
the antagonism to my own Section of the Country. It represents two
million men who hate us, and who, by their votes for such a man as they
have elected, have committed an overt act of hostility. That they have

“You have won the Presidency,” said he, to the Republicans, “and you are
now in the situation of the man who had won the elephant at a raffle.
You do not know what to do with the beast now that you have it; and one-
half of you to-day would give your right arms if you had been defeated.
But you succeeded, and you have to deal with facts. Our objection to
living in this Union, and therefore the difficulty of reconstructing it,
is not your Personal Liberty bills, not the Territorial question, but
that you utterly and wholly misapprehend the Form of Government.”

“You deny,” continued he, “the Sovereignty of the States; you deny the
right of self-government in the People; you insist upon Negro Equality;
your people interfere impertinently with our Institutions and attempt to
subvert them; you publish newspapers; you deliver lectures; you print
pamphlets, and you send them among us, first, to excite our Slaves to
insurrection against their masters, and next, to array one class of
citizens against the other; and I say to you, that we cannot live in
peace, either in the Union or out of it, until you have abolished your
Abolition societies; not, as I have been misquoted, abolish or destroy
your school-houses; but until you have ceased in your schoolhouses
teaching your children to hate us; until you have ceased to convert your
pulpits into hustings; until you content yourselves with preaching
Christ, and Him crucified, and not delivering political harangues on the
Sabbath; until you have ceased inciting your own citizens to make raids
and commit robberies; until you have done these things we cannot live in
the same Union with you. Until you do these things, we cannot live out
of the Union at Peace.”

Such were the words–the spiteful, bitter words–with which this chosen
spokesman of the South saluted the cold and cloudy dawn of that day
which was to see the sceptre depart from the hands of the Slave Power

A few hours later, under the shadow of the main Pastern Portico of the
Capitol at Washington–with the retiring President and Cabinet, the
Supreme Court Justices, the Foreign Diplomatic Corps, and hundreds of
Senators, Representatives and other distinguished persons filling the
great platform on either side and behind them–Abraham Lincoln stood
bareheaded before full thirty thousand people, upon whose uplifted faces
the unveiled glory of the mild Spring sun now shone–stood reverently
before that far greater and mightier Presence termed by himself, “My
rightful masters, the American People”–and pleaded in a manly, earnest,
and affectionate strain with “such as were dissatisfied,” to listen to
the “better angels” of their nature.

Temperate, reasonable, kindly, persuasive–it seems strange that Mr.
Lincoln’s Inaugural Address did not disarm at least the personal
resentment of the South toward him, and sufficiently strengthen the
Union-loving people there, against the red-hot Secessionists, to put the
“brakes” down on Rebellion. Said he:

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