The Great Conspiracy

Ten companies of Philadelphia troops, reaching Baltimore at the same
time, unarmed, were also violently assailed by the crazy mob, and, after
a two hours’ fight, reached the cars and returned to Philadelphia.

Washington City–already, by the Secession of Virginia, cut off from the
South–was thus practically cut off from the North as well; and to
isolate it more completely, the telegraph wires were cut down and the
railroad bridges burned. A mere handful of regulars, the few volunteers
that had got through before the outbreak in Baltimore, and a small
number of Union residents and Government department clerks–these, under
General Winfield Scott, constituted the paltry force that, for ten days
after the Call for troops, held the National Capital.

Informed, as the Rebels must have been, by their swarming spies, of the
weakness of the Federal metropolis, it seems absolutely marvelous that
instant advantage was not taken of it.

The Richmond Examiner, of April 23d, said: “The capture of Washington
City is perfectly within the power of Virginia and Maryland, if Virginia
will only make the effort with her constituted authorities; nor is there
a single moment to lose. * * * The fanatical yell for the immediate
subjugation of the whole South is going up hourly from the united voices
of all the North; and, for the purpose of making their work sure, they
have determined to hold Washington City as the point whence to carry on
their brutal warfare. Our people can take it–they will take it–and
Scott, the arch-traitor, and Lincoln, the Beast, combined, cannot
prevent it. The just indignation of an outraged and deeply injured
people will teach the Illinois Ape to repeat his race and retrace his
journey across the borders of the Free Negro States still more rapidly
than he came. * * * Great cleansing and purification are needed and
will be given to that festering sink of iniquity, that wallow of Lincoln
and Scott–the desecrated city of Washington; and many indeed will be
the carcasses of dogs and caitiff that will blacken the air upon the
gallows before the great work is accomplished. So let it be!”

But despite all this fanfaronade of brutal bluster, and various
movements that looked somewhat threatening, and this complete isolation
for more than a week from the rest of the World, the city of Washington
was not seized by the Rebels, after all.

This nervous condition of affairs, however, existed until the 25th–and
to General Benjamin F. Butler is due the chief credit of putting an end
to it. It seems he had reached the Susquehanna river at Perryville,
with his Eighth Massachusetts Regiment on the 20th–the day after the
Sixth Massachusetts had been mobbed at Baltimore–and, finding his
further progress to Washington via Baltimore, barred by the destruction
of the bridge across the Susquehanna, etc., he at once seized a large
ferry steamer, embarked his men on her, steamed down the river and
Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, took possession of
the frigate Constitution, the Naval Academy, and the city itself,
gathered supplies, and being reinforced by the arrival by water of the
famous New York Seventh, and other regiments, repaired the branch
railroad to Annapolis Junction (on the main line of railroad between
Baltimore and Washington), and transferred his column from thence, by
cars, on the 25th, to the National Capital–soon thereafter also taking
military possession of Baltimore, which gave no further trouble to the
Union Cause. In the meantime, however, other untoward events to that
Cause had happened.

Two days after the Call for troops, the Virginia Convention (April 17th)
secretly voted to Secede from the Union. An expedition of Virginia
troops was almost at once started to capture the Federal Arsenal at
Harper’s Ferry, which, as has already been intimated, was evacuated
hastily on the night of the 18th, by the handful of Union regulars
garrisoning it, after a futile effort to destroy the public property and
stores it held. Another expedition was started to seize the Federal
Navy Yard at Norfolk–a rich prize, containing as it did, between 2,000
and 3,000 pieces of heavy ordnance (300 of them Dahlgrens), three old
line-of-battle ships and a number of frigates, including the Cumberland
and the fine forty-gun steam frigate Merrimac, together with thousands
of kegs of powder and immense stores of other munitions of war, and
supplies–that had cost in all some $10,000,000. Without an enemy in
sight, however, this fine Navy Yard was shamefully evacuated, after
partly scuttling and setting fire to the vessels–the Cumberland alone
being towed away–and spiking the guns, and doing other not very
material damage.

So also, in North Carolina, Rebel influence was equally active. On the
20th of April Governor Ellis seized the Federal Branch Mint at,
Charlotte, and on the 22d the Federal Arsenal at Fayetteville. A few
days thereafter his Legislature authorized him to tender to Virginia–
which had already joined the Confederacy–or to the Government of the
Confederate States itself, the volunteer forces of North Carolina. And,
although at the end of January the people of that State had decided at
the polls that no Secession Convention be held, yet the subservient
Legislature did not hesitate, on demand, to call one together which met
in May and ordained such Secession.

Thus, by the end of May, 1861, the Confederacy had grown to comprise
nine instead of seven States, and the Confederate troops were
concentrating on Richmond–whither the Rebel Government was soon to
remove, from Montgomery.

By this time also not only had the ranks of the regular Union Army been
filled and largely added to, but 42,000 additional volunteers had been
called out by President Lincoln; and the blockade of the Southern ports
(including those of Virginia and North Carolina) that had been
proclaimed by him, was, despite all obstacles, now becoming effectual
and respected.

Washington City and its suburbs, by the influx of Union volunteers, had
during this month become a vast armed camp; the Potomac river had been
crossed and the Virginia hills (including Arlington heights) which
overlooked the Federal Capital, had been occupied and fortified by Union
troops; the young and gallant Colonel Ellsworth had been killed by a
Virginia Rebel while pulling down a Rebel flag in Alexandria; and
General Benjamin F. Butler, in command at Fortress Monroe, had by an
inspiration, solved one of the knottiest points confronting our armies,
by declaring of three Negroes who had fled from their master so as to
escape working on Rebel fortifications, that they should not be returned
to that master–under the Fugitive Slave Law, as demanded by a Rebel
officer with a flag of truce–but were confiscated “property,” and would
be retained, as “contraband of war.”

It was about this time, too, that the New Orleans Picayune fell into
line with other unscrupulous Rebel sheets, by gravely declaring that:
“All the Massachusetts troops now in Washington are Negroes, with the
exception of two or three drummer boys. General Butler, in command, is
a native of Liberia. Our readers may recollect old Ben, the barber, who
kept a shop in Poydras street, and emigrated to Liberia with a small
competence. General Butler is his son.” Little did the writer of that
paragraph dream how soon New Orleans would crouch at the very feet of
that same General!

And now, while the armed hosts on either side are assembling in hostile
array, or resting on their arms, preliminary to the approaching fray of
battle, let us glance at the alleged causes underlying this great
Rebellion against the Union.


In preceding Chapters of this work, it has been briefly shown, that from
the very hour in which the Republic of the United States was born, there
have not been wanting, among its own citizens, those who hated it, and
when they could not rule, were always ready to do what they could, by
Conspiracy, Sedition, Mutiny, Nullification, Secession, or otherwise, to
weaken and destroy it. This fact, and the processes by which the
Conspirators worked, is very well stated, in his documentary “History of
the Rebellion,” by Edward McPherson, when he says: “In the Slaveholding
States, a considerable body of men have always been disaffected to the
Union. They resisted the adoption of the National Constitution, then
sought to refine away the rights and powers of the General Government,
and by artful expedients, in a series of years, using the excitements
growing out of passing questions, finally perverted the sentiments of
large masses of men, and prepared them for Revolution.”

Before giving further incontestable proofs establishing this fact, and
before endeavoring to sift out the true cause or causes of Secession,
let us first examine such evidences as are submitted by him in support
of his proposition.

The first piece of testimony, is an extract from an unpublished journal
of U. S. Senator Maclay of Pennsylvania, from March 4, 1789, to March 3,
1791–the period of the First Congress under the Federal Constitution.
It runs thus:

“1789, June 9.–In relation to the Tariff Bill, the affair of confining
the East India Trade to the citizens of America had been negatived, and
a committee had been appointed to report on this business. The report
came in with very high duties, amounting to a prohibition. But a new
phenomenon had made its appearance in the House (meaning the Senate)
since Friday.

“Pierce Butler, from South Carolina, had taken his seat, and flamed like
a meteor. He arraigned the whole Impost law, and then charged
(indirectly) the whole Congress with a design of oppressing South
Carolina. He cried out for encouraging the Danes and Swedes, and
foreigners of every kind, to come and take away our produce. In fact he
was for a Navigation Act reversed.

“June 11.–Attended at the hall as usual.

“Mr. Ralph Izard and Mr. Butler opposed the whole of the drawbacks in
every shape whatever.

“Mr. (William) Grayson, of Virginia, warm on this subject, said we were
not ripe for such a thing. We were a new Nation, and had no business
for any such regulations–a Nation /sui generis/.

“Mr. (Richard Henry) Lee (of Virginia) said drawbacks were right, but
would be so much abused, he could not think of admitting them.

“Mr. (Oliver) Ellsworth (of Connecticut) said New England rum would be
exported, instead of West India, to obtain the drawback.

“I thought it best to say a few words in reply to each. We were a new
Nation, it was true, but we were not a new People. We were composed of
individuals of like manners, habits, and customs with the European
Nations. What, therefore, had been found useful among them, came well
recommended by experience to us. Drawbacks stand as an example in this
point of view to us. If the thing was right in itself, there could be
no just argument drawn against the use of a thing from the abuse of it.
It would be the duty of Government to guard against abuses, by prudent
appointments and watchful attention to officers. That as to changing
the kind of rum, I thought the collection Bill would provide for this,
by limiting the exportation to the original casks and packages. I said
a great deal more, but really did not feel much interest either way.
But the debates were very lengthy.

“Butler flamed away, and THREATENED A DISSOLUTION OF THE UNION, with
regard to his State, as sure as God was in the firmament. He scattered
his remarks over the whole Impost bill, calling it partial, oppressive,
etc., and solely calculated to oppress South Carolina, and yet ever and
anon declaring how clear of local views and how candid and dispassionate
he was. He degenerates into mere declamation. His State would live
free, or die glorious.”

The next piece of evidence is General Jackson’s letter to Rev. A. J.
Crawford, as follows:


“WASHINGTON, May 1, 1833.

“MY DEAR SIR: * * * I have had a laborious task here, but Nullification
is dead; and its actors and courtiers will only be remembered by the
People to be execrated for their wicked designs to sever and destroy the
only good Government on the globe, and that prosperity and happiness we
enjoy over every other portion of the World. Haman’s gallows ought to
be the fate of all such ambitious men who would involve their Country in
Civil War, and all the evils in its train, that they might reign and
ride on its whirlwinds and direct the storm. The Free People of these
United States have spoken, and consigned these wicked demagogues to
their proper doom. Take care of your Nullifiers; you have them among
you; let them meet with the indignant frowns of every man who loves his
Country. The Tariff, it is now known, was a mere pretext–its burden
was on your coarse woolens. By the law of July, 1832, coarse woolen was
reduced to five per cent., for the benefit of the South. Mr. Clay’s
Bill takes it up and classes it with woolens at fifty per cent., reduces
it gradually down to twenty per cent., and there it is to remain, and
Mr. Calhoun and all the Nullifiers agree to the principle. The cash
duties and home valuation will be equal to fifteen per cent. more, and
after the year 1842, you pay on coarse woolens thirty-five per cent. If
this is not Protection, I cannot understand; therefore the Tariff was
only the pretext, and Disunion and a Southern Confederacy the real
object. The next pretext will be the Negro or Slavery question.

“My health is not good, but is improving a little. Present me kindly to
your lady and family, and believe me to be your friend. I will always
be happy to hear from you.
Another evidence is given in the following extract from Benton’s “Thirty
Years in the Senate,” vol. ii., as follows:

“The regular inauguration of this Slavery agitation dates from the year
1835; but it had commenced two years before, and in this way:
Nullification and Disunion had commenced in 1830, upon complaint against
Protective Tariff. That, being put down in 1833 under President
Jackson’s proclamation and energetic measures, was immediately
substituted by the Slavery agitation. Mr. Calhoun, when he went home
from Congress in the spring of that year, told his friends that ‘the
South could never be united against the North on the Tariff question–
that the sugar interest of Louisiana would keep her out–and that the
basis of Southern Union must be shifted to the Slave question.’ Then
all the papers in his interest, and especially the one at Washington,
published by Mr. Duff Green, dropped Tariff agitation, and commenced
upon Slavery, and in two years had the agitation ripe for inauguration,
on the Slavery question. And in tracing this agitation to its present
stage, and to comprehend its rationale, it is not to be forgotten that
it is a mere continuation of old Tariff Disunion, and preferred because
more available.”

Again, from p. 490 of his private correspondence, Mr. Clay’s words to an
Alabamian, in 1844, are thus given:

“From the developments now being made in South Carolina, it is perfectly
manifest that a Party exists in that State seeking a Dissolution of the
Union, and for that purpose employ the pretext of the rejection of Mr.
Tyler’s abominable treaty. South Carolina, being surrounded by Slave
States, would, in the event of a Dissolution of the Union, suffer only
comparative evils; but it is otherwise with Kentucky. She has the
boundary of the Ohio extending four hundred miles on three Free States.
What would our condition be in the event of the greatest calamity that
could befall this Nation?”

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