The Great Conspiracy

Thereafter, in both Senate and House, such speeches by Rebel-
sympathizers, the aiders and abettors of Treason, grew more frequent and
more virulent than ever. As was well said to the House, by one of the
Union members from Ohio (Mr. Eckley):

“A stranger, if he listened to the debates here, would think himself in
the Confederate Congress. I do not believe that if these Halls were
occupied to-day by Davis, Toombs, Wigfall, Rhett, and Pryor, they could
add anything to the violence of assault, the falsity of accusation, or
the malignity of attack, with which the Government has been assailed,
and the able, patriotic, and devoted men who are charged with its
Administration have been maligned, in both ends of the Capitol. The
closing scenes of the Thirty-Sixth Congress, the treasonable
declarations there made, contain nothing that we cannot hear, in the
freedom of debate, without going to Richmond or to the camps of Treason,
where most of the actors in those scenes are now in arms against us.”

With such a condition of things in Congress, it is not surprising that
the Richmond Enquirer announced that the North was “distracted,
exhausted, and impoverished,” and would, “through the agency of a strong
conservative element in the Free States,” soon treat with the Rebels “on
acceptable terms.”

Things indeed had reached such a pass, in the House of Representatives
especially, that it was felt they could not much longer go on in this
manner; that an example must be made of some one or other of these
Copperheads. But the very knowledge of the existence of such a feeling
of just and patriotic irritation against the continued free utterance of
such sentiments in the Halls of Congress, seemed only to make some of
them still more defiant. And, when the 8th of April dawned, it was
known among all the Democrats in Congress, that Alexander Long proposed
that day to make a speech which would “go a bow-shot beyond them all” in
uttered Treason. He would speak right out, what the other Conspirators
thought and meant, but dared not utter, before the World.

A crowded floor, and packed galleries, were on hand to listen to the
written, deliberate Treason, as it fell from his lips in the House. His
speech began with an arraignment of the Government for treachery,
incompetence, failure, tyranny, and all sorts of barbarous actions and
harsh intentions, toward the Rebels–which led him to the indignant

“Will they throw down their arms and submit to the terms? Who shall
believe that the free, proud American blood, which courses with as quick
pulsation through their veins as our own, will not be spilled to the
last drop in resistance?”

Warming up, he proceeded to say: “Can the Union be restored by War? I
answer most unhesitatingly and deliberately, No, never; ‘War is final,
eternal separation.'”

He claimed that the War was “wrong;” that it was waged “in violation of
the Constitution,” and would “if continued, result speedily in the
destruction of the Government and the loss of Civil Liberty, and ought
therefore, to immediately cease.”

He held also “that the Confederate States are out of the Union,
occupying the position of an Independent Power de facto; have been
acknowledged as a belligerent both by Foreign Nations and our own
Government; maintained their Declaration of Independence, for three
years, by force of arms; and the War has cut asunder all the obligations
that bound them under the Constitution.”

“Much better,” said he, “would it have been for us in the beginning,
much better would it be for us now, to consent to a division of our
magnificent Empire, and cultivate amicable relations with our estranged
brethren, than to seek to hold them to us by the power of the sword. *
* * I am reluctantly and despondingly forced to the conclusion that the
Union is lost, never to be restored. * * * I see neither North nor
South, any sentiment on which it is possible to build a Union. * * * in
attempting to preserve our Jurisdiction over the Southern States we have
lost our Constitutional Form of Government over the Northern. * * * The
very idea upon which this War is founded, coercion of States, leads to
despotism. * * * I now believe that there are but two alternatives, and
they are either an acknowledgment of the Independence of the South as an
independent Nation, or their complete subjugation and extermination as a
People; and of these alternatives I prefer the former.”

As Long took his seat, amid the congratulations of his Democratic
friends, Garfield arose, and, to compliments upon the former’s peculiar
candor and honesty, added denunciation for his Treason. After drawing
an effective parallel between Lord Fairfax and Robert E. Lee, both of
whom had cast their lots unwillingly with the enemies of this Land, when
the Wars of the Revolution and of the Rebellion respectively opened,
Garfield proceeded:

“But now, when hundreds of thousands of brave souls have gone up to God
under the shadow of the Flag, and when thousands more, maimed and
shattered in the Contest, are sadly awaiting the deliverance of death;
now, when three years of terrific warfare have raged over us, when our
Armies have pushed the Rebellion back over mountains and rivers and
crowded it back into narrow limits, until a wall of fire girds it; now,
when the uplifted hand of a majestic People is about to let fall the
lightning of its conquering power upon the Rebellion; now, in the quiet
of this Hall, hatched in the lowest depths of a similar dark Treason,
there rises a Benedict Arnold and proposes to surrender us all up, body
and spirit, the Nation and the Flag, its genius and its honor, now and
forever, to the accursed Traitors to our Country. And that proposition
comes–God forgive and pity my beloved State!–it comes from a citizen
of the honored and loyal Commonwealth of Ohio! I implore you, brethren
in this House, not to believe that many such births ever gave pangs to
my mother-State such as she suffered when that Traitor was born!”

As he uttered these sturdy words, the House and galleries were agitated
with that peculiar rustling movement and low murmuring sound known as a
“sensation,” while the Republican side with difficulty restrained the
applause they felt like giving, until he sadly proceeded:

“I beg you not to believe that on the soil of that State another such
growth has ever deformed the face of Nature and darkened the light of
God’s day.”

The hush that followed was broken by the suggestive whisper:

“But, ah,” continued the Speaker–as his voice grew sadder still–“I am
reminded that there are other such. My zeal and love for Ohio have
carried me too far. I retract. I remember that only a few days since,
a political Convention met at the Capital of my State, and almost
decided, to select from just such material, a representative for the
Democratic Party in the coming contest; and today, what claims to be a
majority of the Democracy of that State say that they have been cheated
or they would have made that choice!”

[This refers to Horatio Seymour, the Democratic Governor of New

After referring to the “insidious work” of the “Knights of the Golden
Circle” in seeking “to corrupt the Army and destroy its efficiency;” the
“riots and murders which,” said he, “their agents are committing
throughout the Loyal North, under the lead and guidance of the Party
whose Representatives sit yonder across the aisle;” he continued: “and
now, just as the time is coming on when we are to select a President for
the next four years, one rises among them and fires the Beacon, throws
up the blue-light–which will be seen, and rejoiced over, at the Rebel
Capital in Richmond–as the signal that the Traitors in our camp are
organized and ready for their hellish work! I believe the utterance of
to-day is the uplifted banner of revolt. I ask you to mark the signal
that blazes here, and see if there will not soon appear the answering
signals of Traitors all over the Land. * * * If these men do mean to
light the torch of War in all our homes; if they have resolved to begin
the fearful work which will redden our streets, and this Capitol, with
blood, the American People should know it at once, and prepare to meet

At the close of Mr. Garfield’s patriotic and eloquent remarks, Mr. Long
again got the floor, declared that what he had said, he believed to be
right, and he would “stand by it,” though he had to “stand solitary and
alone,” and “even if it were necessary to brave bayonets, and prisons,
and all the tyranny which may be imposed by the whole power and force of
the Administration.”

Said he: “I have deliberately uttered my sentiments in that speech, and
I will not retract one syllable of it.” And, to “rub it in” a little
stronger, he exclaimed, as he took his seat, just before adjournment:
“Give me Liberty, even if confined to an Island of Greece, or a Canton
of Switzerland, rather than an Empire and a Despotism as we have here

This treasonable speech naturally created much excitement throughout the

On the following day (Saturday, April 9, 1864), immediately after
prayer, the reading of the Journal being dispensed with, the Speaker of
the House (Colfax) came down from the Speaker’s Chair, and, from the
floor, offered a Preamble and Resolution, which ended thus:

“Resolved, That Alexander Long, a Representative from the second
district of Ohio, having, on the 8th day of April, 1864, declared
himself in favor of recognizing the Independence and Nationality of the
so-called Confederacy now in arms against the Union, and thereby ‘given
aid, Countenance and encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility
to the United States,’ is hereby expelled.”

The debate which ensued consumed nearly a week, and every member of
prominence, on both the Republican and Democratic sides, took part in
it–the Democrats almost invariably being careful to protest their own
loyalty, and yet attempting to justify the braver and more candid
utterances of the accused member.

Mr. Cox led off, April 9th, in the defense, by counterattack. He quoted
remarks made to the House (March 18, 1864) by Mr. Julian, of Indiana, to
the effect that “Our Country, united and Free, must be saved, at
whatever hazard or cost; and nothing, not even the Constitution, must be
allowed to hold back the uplifted arm of the Government in blasting the
power of the Rebels forever;”–and upon this, adopting the language of
another–[Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts.]–Mr. Cox declared that “to
make this a War, with the sword in one hand to defend the Constitution,
and a hammer in the other to break it to pieces, is no less treasonable
than Secession itself; and that, outside the pale of the Constitution,
the whole struggle is revolutionary.”

He thought, for such words as he had just quoted, Julian ought to have
been expelled, if those of Long justified expulsion!

Finally, being pressed by Julian to define his own position, as between
the Life of the Nation, and the Infraction of the United States
Constitution, Mr. Cox said: “I will say this, that UNDER NO

This sentiment was loudly applauded, and received with cries of “THAT IS
IT!” “THAT’S IT!” by the Democratic side of the House, apparently in
utter contempt for the express and emphatic declaration of Jefferson
that: “A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the
highest duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws
of Necessity, of Self-preservation, of SAVING OUR COUNTRY WHEN IN
DANGER, are of higher obligation. To LOSE OUR COUNTRY by a scrupulous
adherence to written law WOULD BE TO LOSE THE LAW ITSELF, with Life,
Liberty, Property, and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus

[In a letter to J. B. Colvin, Sept. 20, 1810, quoted at the time
for their information, and which may be found at page 542 of vol.
v., of Jefferson’s Works.]

Indeed these extreme sticklers for the letter of the Constitution, who
would have sacrificed Country, kindred, friends, honesty, truth, and all
ambitions on Earth and hopes for Heaven, rather than violate it–for
that is what Mr. Cox’s announcement and the Democratic endorsement of it
meant, if they meant anything–were of the same stripe as those
querulous Ancients, for the benefit of whom the Apostle wrote: “For THE
LETTER KILLETH, but the Spirit giveth life.”

And now, inspired apparently by the reckless utterances
of Long, if not by the more cautious diatribe of Cox, Harris of
Maryland, determining if possible to outdo them all, not only declared
that he was willing to go with his friend Long wherever the House chose
to send him, but added: “I am a peace man, a radical peace man; and I am
for Peace by the recognition of the South, for the recognition of the
Southern Confederacy; and I am for acquiescence in the doctrine of
Secession.” And, said he, in the midst of the laughter which followed
the sensation his treasonable words occasioned, “Laugh as you may, you
have got to come to it!” And then, with that singular obfuscation of
ideas engendered, in the heads of their followers, by the astute Rebel-
sympathizing leaders, he went on:

“I am for Peace, and I am for Union too. I am as good a Union man as
any of you. [Laughter.] I am a better Union man than any of you!
[Great Laughter.] * * * I look upon War as Disunion.”

After declaring that, if the principle of the expulsion Resolution was
to be carried out, his “friend,” Mr. Long, “would be a martyr in a
glorious cause”–he proceeded to announce his own candidacy for
expulsion, in the following terms:

“Mr. Speaker, in the early part of this Secession movement, there was a
Resolution offered, pledging men and money to carry on the War. My
principles were then, and are now, against the War. I stood, solitary
and alone, in voting against that Resolution, and whenever a similar
proposition is brought here it will meet with my opposition. Not one
dollar, nor one man, I swear, by the Eternal, will I vote for this
infernal, this stupendous folly, more stupendous than ever disgraced any
civilized People on the face of God’s Earth. If that be Treason, make
the most of it!

“The South asked you to let them go in peace. But no, you said you
would bring them into subjugation. That is not done yet, and God
Almighty grant that it never may be. I hope that you will never
subjugate the South. If she is to be ever again in the Union, I hope it
will be with her own consent; and I hope that that consent will be
obtained by some other mode than by the sword. ‘If this be Treason,
make the most of it!'”

An extraordinary scene at once occurred–Mr. Tracy desiring “to know
whether, in these Halls, the gentleman from Maryland invoked Almighty
God that the American Arms should not prevail?” “Whether such language
is not Treason?” and “whether it is in order to talk Treason in this
Hall?”–his patriotic queries being almost drowned in the incessant
cries of “Order!” “Order!” and great disorder, and confusion, on the
Democratic side of the House.

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