The Great Conspiracy

The fact is, that from its very conception, as well as birth, they hated
and opposed the Union, because they disliked a Republican and preferred
a Monarchical form of Government. Their very inability to prevent the
consummation of that Union, imbittered them. Hence their determinaion
to seize every possible occasion and pretext afterward to destroy it,
believing, as they doubtless did, that upon the crumbled and mouldering
ruins of a dissevered Union and ruptured Republic, Monarchical ideas
might the more easily take root and grow. But experience had already
taught them that it would be long before their real object could even be
covertly hinted at, and that in the meantime it must be kept out of
sight by the agitation of other political issues. The formulation and
promulgation therefore, by Jefferson, in the Kentucky Resolutions of
1798, and by Madison, in the Virginia Resolutions of 1799, of the
doctrine of States Rights already referred to, was a perfect “God-send”
to these men. For it not only enabled them to keep from public view and
knowledge their ultimate aim and purpose, but constituted the whip which
they thenceforth everlastingly flourished and cracked over the shrinking
heads of other and more patriotic people–the whip with which, through
the litter of their broken promises, they ruthlessly rode into, and, for
so long a period of years held on to, supreme power and place in the

Including within the scope of States Rights, the threats of
Nullification, Disunion and Secession–ideas abhorrent to the Patriot’s
mind–small wonder is it that, in those days, every fresh demand made by
these political autocrats was tremblingly acceded to, until patience and
concession almost utterly exhausted themselves.

Originally disturbing only South Carolina and Georgia to any extent,
these ambitious men, who believed in anything rather than a Republic,
and who were determined to destroy the Union, gradually spread the
spirit of jealousy and discontent into other States of the South; their
immediate object being to bring the Southern States into the closest
possible relations the one with the other; to inspire them all with
common sympathies and purposes; to compact and solidify them, so that in
all coming movements against the other States of the Union, they might
move with proportionately increased power, and force, and effect,
because of such unity of aim and strength.

This spirit of Southern discontent, and jealousy of the Northern States,
was, as we have seen, artfully fanned by the Conspirators, in heated
discussions over the Tariff Acts of 1824, and 1828, and 1832, until, by
the latter date, the people of the Cotton-States were almost frantic,
and ready to fight over their imaginary grievances. Then it was that
the Conspirators thought the time had come, for which they had so long
and so earnestly prayed and worked, when the cotton Sampson should wind
his strong arms around the pillars of the Constitution and pull down the
great Temple of our Union–that they might rear upon its site another
and a stronger edifice, dedicated not to Freedom, but to Free-Trade and
to other false gods.

South Carolina was to lead off, and the other Cotton States would
follow. South Carolina did lead off–but the other Cotton-States did
not follow.

It has been shown in these pages how South Carolina declared the Tariff
Acts aforesaid, null and void, armed herself to resist force, and
declared that any attempt of the general Government to enforce those
Acts would cause her to withdraw from the Union. But Jackson as we know
throttled the treason with so firm a grip that Nullification and
Secession and Disunion were at once paralyzed.

The concessions to the domineering South, in Clay’s Compromise Tariff of
1833, let the Conspirators down easily, so to speak; and they pretended
to be satisfied. But they were satisfied only as are the thirsty sands
of Africa with the passing shower.

The Conspirators had, however, after all, made substantial gains. They
had established a precedent for an attempt to secede. That was
something. They had demonstrated that a single Southern State could
stand up, armed and threatening, strutting, blustering, and bullying,
and at least make faces at the general Government without suffering any
very dreadful consequences. That was still more.

They had also ascertained that, by adopting such a course, a single
Southern State could force concessions from the fears of the rest of the
United States. That was worth knowing, because the time might come,
when it might be desirable not only for one but for all the Southern
States to secede upon some other pretext, and when it would be awkward,
and would interfere with the Disunion programme, to have the other
States either offer or make concessions.

They had also learned the valuable lesson that the single issue of Free-
Trade was not sufficiently strong of itself to unite all the Southern
States in a determination to secede, and thus dissolve the Union. They
saw they must agitate some other issue to unify the South more
thoroughly and justify Disunion. On looking over the whole field they
concluded that the Slavery question would best answer their purpose, and
they adopted it.

It was doubtless a full knowledge of the fact that they had adopted it,
that led Jackson to make the declaration, heretofore in these pages
given, which has been termed “prophetic.” At any rate, thenceforth the
programme of the Conspirators was to agitate the Slavery question in all
ways possible, so as to increase, extend and solidify the influence and
strength of the Slave power; strain the bonds uniting them with the Free
States; and weaken the Free States by dividing them upon the question.
At the same time the Free-Trade question was to be pressed forward to a
triumphal issue, so that the South might be enriched and strengthened,
and the North impoverished and weakened, by the result.

That was their programme, in the rough, and it was relentlessly adhered
to. Free-Trade and Slavery by turns, if not together, from that time
onward, were ever at the front, agitating our People both North and
South, and not only consolidating the Southern States on those lines, as
the Conspirators designed, but also serving ultimately to consolidate,
to some extent–in a manner quite unlooked for by the Conspirators–
Northern sentiment, on the opposite lines of Protection and Freedom.

The Compromise Tariff Act of 1833–which Clay was weak enough to
concede, and even stout old Jackson to permit to become law without his
signature–gave to the Conspirators great joy for years afterward, as
they witnessed the distress and disaster brought by it to Northern homes
and incomes–not distress and disaster alone, but absolute and
apparently irreparable ruin.

The reaction occasioned by this widespread ruin having brought the Whigs
into power, led to the enactment of the Protective-Tariff of 1842 and–
to the chagrin of the Conspirators–industrial prosperity and plenty to
the Free North again ensued.

Even as Cain hated his brother Abel because his sacrifices were
acceptable in the sight of God, while his own were not, so the Southern
Conspirators, and other Slave-owners also, had, by this time, come to
hate the Northern free-thinking, free-acting, freedom-loving mechanic
and laboring man, because the very fact and existence of his Godgiven
Freedom and higher-resulting civilization was a powerful and perpetual
protest against the–abounding iniquities and degradations of Slavery as
practiced by themselves.

Hence, by trickery, by cajoling the People With his, and their own,
assurances that he was in favor of Protection–they secured the election
in 1844 of a Free-Trade President, the consequent repeal of the
Protective-Tariff of 1842–which had repaired the dreadful mischief
wrought by the Compromise Act of 1833–and the enactment of the infamous
Free-Trade Tariff of 1846, which blasted the manufacturing and farming
and trade industries of the Country again, as with fire.

The discovery of the great gold fields of California, and the enormous
amount of the precious metal poured by her for many succeeding years
into the lap of the Nation, alone averted what otherwise would
inevitably have been total ruin. As it was, in 1860, the National
credit had sunk to a lower point than ever before in all its history.
It was confessedly bankrupt, and ruin stalked abroad throughout the
United States.

But while, with rapid pen, the carrying out of that part of the Southern
Conspirators’ Disunion programme which related to Free-Trade, is thus
brought again to mind, the other part of that programme, which related
to Slavery, must not be neglected or overlooked. On this question they
had determined, as we have seen, to agitate without ceasing–having in
view, primarily, as already hinted, the extension of Slave territory and
the resulting increase of Slave power in the Land; and, ulteriorly, the
solidifying of that power, and Disunion of the Republic, with a view to
its conversion into an Oligarchy, if not a Monarchy.

The bitterness of the struggle over the admission of Missouri as a Slave
State in 1820, under the Missouri Compromise, was to be revived by the
Conspirators, at the earliest possible moment.

Accordingly in 1836–only three years after the failure of Nullification
in South Carolina, the Territory, of Arkansas was forced in as a Slave
State, and simultaneously the Slave-owning henchmen of the Conspirators,
previously settled there for the purpose, proclaimed the secession from
Mexico, and independence, of Texas. This was quickly followed, in 1844,
by Calhoun’s hastily negotiated treaty of annexation with Texas; its
miscarriage in the Senate; and the Act of March 2, 1845–with its sham
compromise–consenting to the admission of Texas to the Union of States.

Then came the War with Mexico; the attempt by means of the Wilmot
proviso to check the growing territorial-greed and rapacity of the
Slave-power; and the acquisition by the United States, of California and
New Mexico, under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which brought

Then occurred the agitation over the organization of Territorial
governments for Oregon, California, and New Mexico, and the strong
effort to extend to the Pacific Ocean the Missouri-Compromise line of
36 30′, and to extend to all future Territorial organizations the
principles of that compromise.

Then came the struggle in 1850, over the admission of California as a
State, and New Mexico and Utah to Territorial organization–ending in
the passage of Clay’s Compromise measures of 1850.

Yet still the Southern Conspirators–whose forces, both in Congress and
out, were now well-disciplined, compacted, solidified, experienced, and
bigotedly enthusiastic and overbearing–were not satisfied. It was not
their intention to be satisfied with anything less than the destruction
of the Union and of our Republican form of Government. The trouble was
only beginning, and, so far, almost everything had progressed to their
liking. The work must proceed.

In 1852-3 they commenced the Kansas-Nebraska agitation; and, what with
their incessant political and colonizing movements in those Territories;
the frequent and dreadful atrocities committed by their tools, the
Border-ruffians; the incessant turmoil created by cruelties to their
Fugitive-slaves; their persistent efforts to change the Supreme Court to
their notions; these-with the decision and opinion of the Supreme Court
in the Dred Scott case–together worked the Slavery question up to a
dangerous degree of heat, by the year 1858.

And, by 1860–when the people of the Free States, grown sick unto death
of the rule of the Slave-power in the General Government, arose in their
political might, and shook off this “Old Man of the Sea,” electing,
beyond cavil and by the Constitutional mode, to the Presidential office,
a man who thoroughly represented in himself their conscience, on the one
hand, which instinctively revolted against human Slavery as a wrong
committed against the laws of God, and their sense of justice and equity
on the other, which would not lightly overlook, or interfere with vested
rights under the Constitution and the laws of man–the Conspirators had
reached the point at which they had been aiming ever since that failure
in 1832 of their first attempt at Disunion, in South Carolina.

They had now succeeded in irritating both the Free and the Slave-holding
Sections of our Country against each other, to an almost unbearable
point; had solidified the Southern States on the Slavery and Free-Trade
questions; and at last–the machinations of these same Conspirators
having resulted in a split in the Democratic Party, and the election of
the Republican candidate to the Presidency, as the embodiment of the
preponderating National belief in Freedom and equality to all before the
Law, with Protection to both Labor and Capital–they also had the
pretext for which they had both been praying and scheming and preparing
all those long, long years–they, and some of their fathers before them.

It cannot be too often repeated that to secure a Monarchy, or at least
an Oligarchy, over which the leading Conspirators should rule for life–
whether that Monarchy or that Oligarchy should comprise the States of
the South by themselves, or all the States on a new basis of Union–was
the great ultimate aim of the Conspirators; and this could be secured
only by first disrupting the then existing Republican Union of
Republican States.

The doctrine of the right of Secession had now long been taught, and had
become a part of the Southern Slave-holders’ Democratic creed, as fully
as had the desirability of Slavery and Free-Trade–and even many of the
Northern Democrats, and some Republicans as well, were not much inclined
to dispute, although they cared not to canvass, the point.

The programme of action was therefore much the same as had been laid
down in the first attempt in 1832:–first South Carolina would secede
and declare her independence; then the other Slave States in quick
succession would do likewise; then a new Constitution for a solid
Southern Union; then, if necessary, a brief War to cement it–which
would end, of course, in the independence of the South at least, but
more probably in the utter subjugation and humiliation of the Free

When the time should come, during, or after this War–as come, in their
belief, it would–for a change in the form of Government, then they
could seize the first favorable occasion and change it. At present,
however, the cry must be for “independence.” That accomplished, the
rest would be easy. And until that independence was accomplished, no
terms of any sort, no settlement of any kind, were either to be proposed
or accepted by them.

These were their dreams, their ambitions, their plans; and the tenacious
courage with which they stuck to them “through thick and thin,” through
victory and disaster, were worthy of a better cause.

While, therefore, the pretexts for Secession were “Slavery” and “Free-
Trade”–both of which were alleged to be jeopardized in the election and
inauguration of Abraham Lincoln–yet, no sooner had hostilities
commenced between the seceding States and the Union, than they declared
to the World that their fight was not for Slavery, but for Independence.

They dared not acknowledge to the World that they fought for Slavery,
lest the sympathies of the World should be against them. But it was
well understood by the Southern masses, as well as the other people of
the Union, that both Slavery and Free-Trade were involved in the fight–
as much as independence, and the consequent downfall of the Union.

President Lincoln, however, had made up his mind to do all he properly
could to placate the South. None knew better than he, the history of
this Secession movement, as herein described. None knew better than he,
the fell purpose and spirit of the Conspirators. Yet still, his kindly
heart refused to believe that the madness of the Southern leaders was so
frenzied, and their hatred of Free men, Free labor, and Free
institutions, so implacable, that they would wilfully refuse to listen
to reason and ever insist on absolutely inadmissible terms of

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