The Great Conspiracy

“I am as ever, and forever, your supporter, ally and friend.

“L. Q. C. LAMAR.

“COL. JEFF. DAVIS, Washington, D. C.”] This was but a part of the deliberate, cold-blooded plan mapped out in
detail, early in the session succeeding the election of Mr. Lincoln, in
a secret Caucus of the Chief Plotters of the Treason. It was a secret
conference, but the programme resolved on, soon leaked out.

The following, which appeared in the Washington National Intelligencer
on Friday, January 11, 1861, tells the story of this stage of the Great
Conspiracy pretty clearly:

“The subjoined communication, disclosing the designs of those who have
undertaken to lead the movement now threatening a permanent dissolution
of the Union, comes to us from a distinguished citizen of the South
[understood to be Honorable Lemuel D. Evans, Representative from Texas
in the 34th Congress, from March 4, 1855, to March 3, 1857] who formerly
represented his State with great distinction in the popular branch of

“Temporarily sojourning in this city he has become authentically
informed of the facts recited in the subjoined letter, which he
communicates to us under a sense of duty, and for the accuracy of which
he makes himself responsible.

“Nothing but assurances coming from such an intelligent, reliable source
could induce us to accept the authenticity of these startling
statements, which so deeply concern not only the welfare but the honor
of the Southern people.

“To them we submit, without present comment, the programme to which they
are expected to yield their implicit adhesion, without any scruples of
conscience as without any regard for their own safety.

“‘WASHINGTON, January 9, 1861.

“‘I charge that on last Saturday night (January 5th), a Caucus was held
in this city by the Southern Secession Senators from Florida, Georgia,
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. It was then and
there resolved in effect to assume to themselves the political power of
the South, and, to control all political and military operations for the
present, they telegraphed to complete the plan of seizing forts,
arsenals, and custom-houses, and advised the Conventions now in session,
and soon to assemble, to pass Ordinances for immediate Secession; but,
in order to thwart any operations of the Government here, the
Conventions of the Seceding States are to retain their representations
in the Senate and the House.

“‘They also advised, ordered, or directed the assembling of a Convention
of delegates from the Seceding States at Montgomery on the 13th of
February. This can of course only be done by the revolutionary
Conventions usurping the powers of the people, and sending delegates
over whom they will lose all control in the establishment of a
Provisional Government, which is the plan of the dictators.

“‘This Caucus also resolved to take the most effectual means to dragoon
the Legislatures of Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and
Virginia into following the Seceding States. Maryland is also to be
influenced by such appeals to popular passion as have led to the
revolutionary steps which promise a conflict with the State and Federal
Governments in Texas.

“‘They have possessed themselves of all the avenues of information in
the South–the telegraph, the press, and the general control of the
postmasters. They also confidently rely upon defections in the army and

“‘The spectacle here presented is startling to contemplate. Senators
entrusted with the representative sovereignty of the States, and sworn
to support the Constitution of the United States, while yet acting as
the privy councillors of the President, and anxiously looked to by their
constituents to effect some practical plan of adjustment, deliberately
conceive a Conspiracy for the overthrow of the Government through the
military organizations, the dangerous secret order, the ‘Knights of the
Golden Circle,’ ‘Committees of Safety,’ Southern leagues, and other
agencies at their command; they have instituted as thorough a military
and civil despotism as ever cursed a maddened Country.

“‘It is not difficult to foresee the form of government which a
Convention thus hurriedly thrown together at Montgomery will irrevocably
fasten upon a deluded and unsuspecting people. It must essentially be
‘a Monarchy founded upon military principles,’ or it cannot endure.
Those who usurp power never fail to forge strong chains.

“‘It may be too late to sound the alarm. Nothing may be able to arrest
the action of revolutionary tribunals whose decrees are principally in
‘secret sessions.’ But I call upon the people to pause and reflect
before they are forced to surrender every principle of liberty, or to
fight those who are becoming their masters rather than their servants.

“As confirming the intelligence furnished by our informant we may cite
the following extract from the Washington correspondence of yesterday’s
Baltimore Sun:

“‘The leaders of the Southern movement are consulting as to the best
mode of consolidating their interests into a Confederacy under a
Provisional Government. The plan is to make Senator Hunter, of
Virginia, Provisional President, and Jefferson Davis Commander-in-Chief
of the army of defense. Mr. Hunter possesses in a more eminent degree
the philosophical characteristics of Jefferson than any other statesman
now living. Colonel Davis is a graduate of West Point, was
distinguished for gallantry at Buena Vista, and served as Secretary of
War under President Pierce, and is not second to General Scott in
military science or courage.’

“As further confirmatory of the above, the following telegraphic
dispatch in the Charleston Mercury of January 7, 1861, is given:

“‘[From our Own Correspondent.]

“‘WASHINGTON, January 6.–The Senators from those of the Southern States
which have called Conventions of their people, met in caucus last night,
and adopted the following resolutions:

“‘Resolved, That we recommend to our respective States immediate

“‘Resolved, That we recommend the holding of a General Convention of the
said States, to be holden in the city of Montgomery, Alabama, at some
period not later than the 15th day of February, 1861.’

“These resolutions were telegraphed this evening to the Conventions of
Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. A third resolution is also known to
have been adopted, but it is of a confidential character, not to be
divulged at present. There was a good deal of discussion in the caucus
on the question of whether the Seceding States ought to continue their
delegations in Congress till the 4th of March, to prevent unfriendly
legislation, or whether the Representatives of the Seceding States
should all resign together, and leave a clear field for the opposition
to pass such bills, looking to Coercion, as they may see fit. It is
believed that the opinion that they should remain prevailed.”

Furthermore, upon the capture of Fernandina, Florida, in 1862, the
following letter was found and published. Senator Yulee, the writer,
was present and participated as one of the Florida Senators, in the
traitorous “Consultation” therein referred to–and hence its especial
“WASHINGTON, January 7, 1861.

“My DEAR SIR:–On the other side is a copy of resolutions adopted at a
consultation of the Senators from the Seceding States–in which Georgia,
Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida were

“The idea of the meeting was that the States should go out at once, and
provide for the early organization of a Confederate Government, not
later than 15th February. This time is allowed to enable Louisiana and
Texas to participate. It seemed to be the opinion that if we left here,
force, loan, and volunteer Bills might be passed, which would put Mr.
Lincoln in immediate condition for hostilities; whereas, by remaining in
our places until the 4th of March, it is thought we can keep the hands
of Mr. Buchanan tied, and disable the Republicans from effecting any
legislation which will strengthen the hands of the incoming

“The resolutions will be sent by the delegation to the President of the
Convention. I have not been able to find Mr. Mallory (his Senatorial
colleague) this morning. Hawkins (Representative from Florida) is in
Connecticut. I have therefore thought it best to send you this copy of
the resolutions.

“In haste, yours truly

“‘Sovereignty Convention,’ Tallahassee, Fla.”

The resolutions “on the other side” of this letter, to which he refers,
are as follows:

“Resolved, 1–That in our opinion each of the Southern States should, as
soon as may be, Secede from the Union.

“Resolved, 2–That provision should be made for a Convention to organize
a Confederacy of the Seceding States, the Convention to meet not later
than the 15th of February, at the city of Montgomery, in the State of

“Resolved, That in view of the hostile legislation that is threatened
against the Seceding States, and which may be consummated before the 4th
of March, we ask instructions whether the delegations are to remain in
Congress until that date for the purpose of defeating such legislation.

“Resolved, That a committee be and are hereby appointed, consisting of
Messrs. Davis, Slidell, and Mallory, to carry out the objects of this
In giving this letter to the World–from its correspondent accompanying
the expedition–the New York Times of March 15, 1862, made these
forcible and clear-headed comments:

“The telegraphic columns of the Times of January 7, 1861, contained the
following Washington dispatch: ‘The Southern Senators last night
(January 5th) held a conference, and telegraphed to the Conventions of
their respective States to advise immediate Secession.’ Now, the
present letter is a report by Mr. Yulee, who was present at this
‘consultation’ as he calls it, of the resolutions adopted on this
occasion, transmitted to the said Finegan, who by the way, was a member
of the ‘Sovereign Convention’ of Florida, then sitting in the town of

“It will thus be seen that this remarkable letter, which breathes
throughout the spirit of the Conspirator, in reality lets us into one of
the most important of the numerous Secret Conclaves which the Plotters
of Treason then held in the Capital. It was then, as it appears, that
they determined to strike the blow and precipitate their States into
Secession. But at the same time they resolved that it would be
imprudent for them openly to withdraw, as in that case Congress might
pass ‘force, loan, and volunteer bills,’ which would put Mr. Lincoln in
immediate condition for hostilities. No, no! that would not do. (So
much patriotic virtue they half suspected, half feared, was left in the
Country.) On the contrary, ‘by remaining in our places until the 4th of
March it is thought we can keep the hands of Mr. Buchanan tied, and
disable the Republicans from effecting any legislation which will
strengthen the hands of the incoming Administration.’ Ah what a tragic
back-ground, full of things unutterable, is there!

“It appears, however, that events were faster than they, and instead of
being able to retain their seats up to the 4th of March, they were able
to remain but a very few weeks. Mr. Davis withdrew on the 21st of
January, just a fortnight after this ‘consultation.’ But for the rest,
mark how faithfully the programme here drawn up by this knot of Traitors
in secret session was realized. Each of the named States represented by
this Cabal did, ‘as soon as may be, Secede from the Union’–the
Mississippi Convention passing its Ordinance on the heels of the receipt
of these resolutions, on the 9th of January; Florida and Alabama on the
11th; Louisiana on the 26th, and Texas on the 1st of February; while the
‘organization of the Confederate Government’ took place at the very time
appointed, Davis being inaugurated on the 18th of February.

“And here is another Plot of the Traitors brought to light. These very
men, on withdrawing from the Senate, urged that they were doing so in
obedience to the command of their respective States. As Mr. Davis put
it, in his parting speech, ‘the Ordinance of Secession having passed the
Convention of his State, he felt obliged to obey the summons, and retire
from all official connection with the Federal Government.’ This letter
of Mr. Yulee’s clearly reveals that they had themselves pushed their
State Conventions to the adoption of the very measure which they had the
hardihood to put forward as an imperious ‘summons’ which they could not
disobey. It is thus that Treason did its Work.”


When we remember that it was on the night of the 5th of January, 1861,
that the Rebel Conspirators in the United States Senate met and plotted
their confederated Treason, as shown in the Yulee letter, given in the
preceding Chapter of this work, and that on the very next day, January
6, 1861, Fernando Wood, then Mayor of the great city of New York, sent
in to the Common Council of that metropolis, his recommendation that New
York city should Secede from its own State, as well as the United
States, and become “a Free City,” which, said he, “may shed the only
light and hope of a future reconstruction of our once blessed
Confederacy,” it is impossible to resist the conviction that this
extraordinary movement of his, was inspired and prompted, if not
absolutely directed, by the secret Rebel Conclave at Washington. It
bears within itself internal evidences of such prompting.

Thus, when Mayor Wood states the case in the following words, he seems
to be almost quoting word for word an instruction received by him from
these Rebel leaders–in connection with their plausible argument,
upholding it. Says he:

“Much, no doubt, can be said in favor of the justice and policy of a
separation. It may be said that Secession or revolution in any of the
United States would be subversive of all Federal authority, and, so far
as the central Government is concerned, the resolving of the community
into its original elements–that, if part of the States form new
combinations and, Governments, other States may do the same. Then it
may be said, why should not New York city, instead of supporting by her
contributions in revenue two-thirds of the expenses of the United
States, become also equally independent? As a Free City, with but
nominal duty on imports, her local Government could be supported without
taxation upon her people. Thus we could live free from taxes, and have
cheap goods nearly duty free. In this she would have the whole and
united support of the Southern States, as well as all the other States
to whose interests and rights under the Constitution she has always been

That is the persuasive casuistry peculiar to the minds of the Southern
Secession leaders. It is naturally followed by a touch of that self-
confident bluster, also at that time peculiar to Southern lips-as

“It is well for individuals or communities to look every danger square
in the face, and to meet it calmly and bravely. As dreadful as the
severing of the bonds that have hitherto united the States has been in
contemplation, it is now apparently a stern and inevitable fact. We
have now to meet it, with all the consequences, whatever they may be.
If the Confederacy is broken up the Government is dissolved, and it
behooves every distinct community, as well as every individual, to take
care of themselves.

“When Disunion has become a fixed and certain fact, why may not New York
disrupt the bands which bind her to a venal and corrupt master–to a
people and a Party that have plundered her revenues, attempted to ruin
her commerce, taken away the power of self-government, and destroyed the
Confederacy of which she was the proud Empire City? * * *”

After thus restating, as it were, the views and “arguments” of the Rebel
Junta, as we may presume them to have been pressed on him, he becomes
suddenly startled at the Conclave’s idea of meeting “all the
consequences, whatever they may be,” and, turning completely around,
with blanching pen, concludes:

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