The Great Conspiracy

Well might the thoroughly loyal Grinnell, of Iowa–after exposing what
he termed the “sophistry of figures” by which Mr. Cox had seen fit “to
misrepresent and traduce” the Western States-exclaim: “Sir, I have no
words which I can use to execrate sufficiently such language, in
arraying the Sections in opposition during a time of War; as if we were
not one People, descended from one stock, having one interest, and bound
up in one destiny!”

The damage that might have been done to the Union Cause by such
malignant Democratic attacks upon the National unity and strength, may
be imagined when we reflect that at this very time the annual expenses
of our Government were over $600,000,000, and growing still larger; and
that $1.90 in legal tender notes of the United States was worth but
$1.00 in gold, with a downward tendency. Said stern old Thaddeus
Stevens, alluding on this occasion, to Statesmanship of the peculiar
stamp of the Coxes and Fernando Woods: “He who in this time will pursue
such a course of argument for the mere sake of party, can never hope to
be ranked among Statesmen; nay, Sir, he will not even rise to the
dignity of a respectable Demagogue!”

Within a week after this, (June 9, 1864), we find in the Senate also,
similarly insidious attacks upon the strength of the Government, made by
certain Northern Democrats, who never tired of undermining Loyalty, and
creating and spreading discontent among the People. The Bill then up,
for consideration, was one “to prohibit the discharge of persons from
liability to Military duty, by reason of the payment of money.”

In the terribly bloody Campaign that had now been entered upon by Grant
–in the West, under Sherman, and in the East, under his own personal
eye–it was essential to send to the front, every man possible. Hence
the necessity for a Bill of this sort, which moreover provided, in order
as far as possible to popularize conscription, that all calls for drafts
theretofore made under the Enrolling Act of March 3, 1863, should be for
not over one year’s service, etc.

This furnished the occasion for Mr. Hendricks, among other Peace
Democrats, to make opposing speeches. He, it seems, had all along been
opposed to drafting Union soldiers; and because, during the previous
Winter, the Senate had been unwilling to abolish the clause permitting a
drafted man to pay a commutation of $300 (with which money a substitute
could be procured) instead of himself going, at a time when men were not
quite so badly needed as now, therefore Mr. Hendricks pretended to think
it very strange and unjustifiable that now, when everything depended on
getting every possible man in the field, the Senate should think of
“abandoning that which it thought right last Winter!”

He opposed drafting; but if drafting must be resorted to, then he
thought that what he termed “the Horror of the Draft” should be felt by
as many of the Union people as possible!–or, in his own words: “the
Horror of the Draft ought to be divided among the People.” As if this
were not sufficient to conjure dreadful imaginings, he added: “if one
set of men are drafted this year to serve twelve months, and they have
to go because the power of the Government makes them go, whether they
can go well or not, then at the end of the year their neighbors should
be subjected to the same Horror, and let this dreadful demand upon the
service, upon the blood, and upon the life of the People be distributed
upon all.”

And, in order apparently to still further intensify public feeling
against all drafting, and sow the seeds of dissatisfaction in the hearts
of those drafted at this critical time, when the fate of the Union and
of Republican Government palpably depended upon conscription, he added:
“It is not so right to say to twenty men in a neighborhood: ‘You shall
go; you shall leave your families whether you can or not; you shall go
without the privilege of commutation whether you leave starving wives
and children behind you or not,’ and then say to every other man of the
neighborhood: ‘Because we have taken these twenty men for three years,
you shall remain with your wives and children safely and comfortably at
home for these three years.’ I like this feature of the amendment,
because it distributes the Horror of the Draft more equally and justly
over the whole People.”

Not satisfied with rolling the “Horror of the Draft” so often and
trippingly over his tongue, he also essayed the role of Prophet in the
interest of the tottering god of Slavery. “The People,” said he,
“expect great results from this Campaign; and when another year comes
rolling around, and it is found that this War is not closed, and that
there is no reasonable probability of its early close, my colleague
(Lane) and other Senators who agree with him will find that the People
will say that this effusion of blood must stop; that THERE MUST BE SOME

And, as a further declaration likely to give aid and comfort to the
Rebel leaders, he said: “I do not believe many men are going to be
obtained by a draft; I do not believe a very good Army will be got by a
draft; I do not believe an Army will be put in the field, by a draft,
that will whip General Lee.”

But while all such statements were, no doubt, intended to help the foes
of the Union, and dishearten or dismay its friends, the really loyal
People, understanding their fell object, paid little heed to them. The
predictions of these Prophets of evil fell flat upon the ears of lovers
of their Country. Conspirators, however much they might masquerade in
the raiment of Loyalty, could not wholly conceal the ear-marks of
Treason. The hand might be the hand of Esau, but the voice was the
voice of Jacob.

On the 8th of June–after a month of terrific and bloody fighting
between the immediate forces of Grant and Lee–a dispatch from Sherman,
just received at Washington, was read to the House of Representatives,
which said: “The Enemy is not in our immediate front, but his signals
are seen at Lost Mountain, and Kenesaw.” So, at the same time, at the
National Capital, while the friends of the Union there, were not
immediately confronted with an armed Enemy, yet the signals of his
Allies could be seen, and their fire upon our rear could be heard, daily
and almost hourly, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The fight in the House, upon the Thirteenth Amendment, now seemed
indeed, to be reaching a climax. During the whole of June 14th, until
midnight, speech after speech on the subject, followed each other in
rapid succession. Among the opposition speeches, perhaps those of
Fernando Wood and Holman were most notable for extravagant and
unreasoning denunciation of the Administration and Party in power–whose
every effort was put forth, and strained at this very time to the
utmost, to save the Union.

Holman, for instance, declared that, “Of all the measures of this
disastrous Administration, each in its turn producing new calamities,
this attempt to tamper with the Constitution threatens the most
permanent injury.” He enumerated the chief measures of the
Administration during its three and a half years of power-among them the
Emancipation Proclamation, the arming of the Blacks, and what he
sneeringly termed “their pet system of finance” which was to “sustain
the public credit for infinite years,” but which “even now,” said he,
“totters to its fall!” And then, having succeeded in convincing himself
of Republican failure, he exultingly exclaimed: “But why enumerate?
What measure of this Administration has failed to be fatal! Every step
in your progress has been a mistake. I use the mildest terms of

Fernando Wood, in his turn also, “mildly” remarked upon Republican
policy as “the bloody and brutal policy of the Administration Party.”
He considered this “the crisis of the fate of the Union;” declared that
Slavery was “the best possible condition to insure the happiness of the
Negro race”–a position which, on the following day, he “reaffirmed”–
and characterized those members of the Democratic Party who saw Treason
in the ways and methods and expressions of Peace Democrats of his own
stamp, as a “pack of political jackals known as War Democrats.”

On the 15th of June, Farnsworth made a reply to Ross–who had claimed to
be friendly to the Union soldier–in which the former handled the
Democratic Party without gloves. “What,” said he, referring to Mr.
Ross, “has been the course of that gentleman and his Party on this floor
in regard to voting supplies to the Army? What has been their course in
regard to raising money to pay the Army? His vote will be found
recorded in almost every instance against the Appropriation Bills,
against ways and means for raising money to pay the Army. It is only a
week ago last Monday, that a Bill was introduced here to punish
guerrillas * * * and how did my colleague vote? Against the Bill.* * *
On the subject of arming Slaves, of putting Negroes into the Army, how
has my colleague and his Party voted? Universally against it. They
would strip from the backs of these Black soldiers, now in the service
of the Country, their uniforms, and would send them back to Slavery with
chains and manacles. And yet they are the friends of the soldier!”* * *
“On the vote to repeal the Fugitive Slave Law, how did that (Democratic)
side of the House vote? Does not the Fugitive Slave Law affect the
Black soldier in the Army who was a Slave? That side of the House are
in favor of continuing the Fugitive Slave Law, and of disbanding Colored
troops. How did that side of the House vote on the question of arming
Slaves and paying them as soldiers? They voted against it. They are in
favor of disbanding the Colored regiments, and, armed with the Fugitive
Slave Law, sending them back to their masters!”

He took occasion also to meet various Democratic arguments against the
Resolution,–among them, one, hinging on the alleged right of Property
in Slaves. This was a favorite idea with the Border-State men
especially, that Slaves were Property–mere chattels as it were,–and,
only the day before, a Northern man, Coffroth of Pennsylvania, had said:

“Sir, we should pause before proceeding any further in this
Unconstitutional and censurable legislation. The mere abolition of
Slavery is not my cause of complaint. I care not whether Slavery is
retained or abolished by the people of the States in which it exists–
the only rightful authority. The question to me is, has Congress a
right to take from the people of the South their Property; or, in other
words, having no pecuniary interest therein, are we justified in freeing
the Slave-property of others? Can we Abolish Slavery in the Loyal State
of Kentucky against her will? If this Resolution should pass, and be
ratified by three-fourths of the States–States already Free–and
Kentucky refuses to ratify it, upon what principle of right or law would
we be justified in taking this Slave-property of the people of Kentucky?
Would it be less than stealing?”

And Farnsworth met this idea–which had also been advanced by Messrs.
Ross, Fernando Wood, and Pruyn–by saying: “What constitutes property?
I know it is said by some gentlemen on the other side, that what the
statute makes property, is property. I deny it. What ‘vested right’
has any man or State in Property in Man? We of the North hold property,
not by virtue of statute law, not by virtue of enactments. Our property
consists in lands, in chattels, in things. Our property was made
property by Jehovah when He gave Man dominion over it. But nowhere did
He give dominion of Man over Man. Our title extends back to the
foundation of the World. That constitutes property. There is where we
get our title. There is where we get our ‘vested rights’ to property.”

Touching the ethics of Slavery, Mr. Arnold’s speech on the same occasion
was also able, and in parts eloquent, as where he said: ‘Slavery is to-
day an open enemy striking at the heart of the Republic. It is the soul
and body, the spirit and motive of the Rebellion. It is Slavery which
marshals yonder Rebel hosts, which confront the patriot Armies of Grant
and Sherman. It is the savage spirit of this barbarous Institution
which starves the Union prisoners at Richmond, which assassinates them
at Fort Pillow, which murders the wounded on the field of battle, and
which fills up the catalogue of wrong and outrage which mark the conduct
of the Rebels during all this War.

“In view of all the long catalogue of wrongs which Slavery has inflicted
upon the Country, I demand to-day, of the Congress of the United States,
the death of African Slavery. We can have no permanent Peace, while
Slavery lives. It now reels and staggers toward its last deathstruggle.
Let us strike the monster this last decisive blow.”

And, after appealing to both Border-State men, and Democrats of the Free
States, not to stay the passage of this Resolution which “will strike
the Rebellion at the heart,” he continued: “Gentlemen may flatter
themselves with a restoration of the Slave-power in this Country. ‘The
Union as it was!’ It is a dream, never again to be realized. The
America of the past, has gone forever. A new Nation is to be born from
the agony through which the People are now passing. This new Nation is
to be wholly Free. Liberty, Equality before the Law, is to be the great

So, too, Mr. Ingersoll eloquently said–among many other good things:–
“It is well to eradicate an evil. That Slavery is an evil, no sane,
honest man will deny. It has been the great curse of this Country from
its infancy to the present hour, And now that the States in Rebellion
have given the Loyal States the opportunity to take off that curse, to
wipe away the foul stain, I say let it be done. We owe it to ourselves;
we owe it to posterity; we owe it to the Slaves themselves to
exterminate Slavery forever by the adoption of the proposed Amendment to
the Constitution. * * * I believe Slavery is the mother of this
Rebellion, that this Rebellion can be attributed to no other cause but
Slavery; from that it derived its life, and gathers its strength to-day.
Destroy the mother, and the child dies. Destroy the cause, and the
effect will disappear.

“Slavery has ever been the enemy of liberal principles. It has ever
been the friend of ignorance, prejudice, and all the unlawful, savage,
and detestable passions which proceed therefrom. It has ever been
domineering, arrogant, exacting, and overbearing. It has claimed to be
a polished aristocrat, when in reality it has only been a coarse,
swaggering, and brutal boor. It has ever claimed to be a gentleman,
when in reality it has ever been a villain. I think it is high time to
clip its overgrown pretensions, strip it of its mask, and expose it, in
all its hideous deformity, to the detestation of all honest and
patriotic men.”

After Mr. Samuel J. Randall had, at a somewhat later hour, pathetically
and poetically invoked the House, in its collective unity, as a
“Woodman,” to “spare that tree” of the Constitution, and to “touch not a
single bough,” because, among other reasons, “in youth it sheltered”
him; and furthermore, because “the time” was “most inopportune;” and,
after Mr. Rollins, of Missouri, had made a speech, which he afterward
suppressed; Mr. Pendleton closed the debate in an able effort, from his
point of view, in which he objected to the passage of the Joint
Resolution because “the time is not auspicious;” because, said he, “it
is impossible that the Amendment proposed, should be ratified without a
fraudulent use of the power to admit new States, or a fraudulent use of
the Military power of the Federal Government in the Seceded States,”–
and, said he, “if you should attempt to amend the Constitution by such
means, what binding obligation would it have?”

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 | View All | Next -»

Be the first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.