The Great Conspiracy

On the 6th of January, Mr. Ashley called up his motion to reconsider the
vote defeating the Thirteenth Amendment, and opened the debate with a
lengthy and able speech in favor of that measure, in concluding which he

“The genius of history, with iron pen, is waiting to record our verdict
where it will remain forever for all the coming generations of men to
approve or condemn. God grant that this verdict may be one over which
the friends of Liberty, impartial and universal, in this Country and
Europe, and in every Land beneath the sun, may rejoice; a verdict which
shall declare that America is Free; a verdict which shall add another
day of jubilee, and the brightest of all, to our National calendar.”

The debate was participated in by nearly all the prominent men, on both
sides of the House–the speeches of Messrs. Cox, Brooks, Voorhees,
Mallory, Holman, Woods and Pendleton being the most notable, in
opposition to, and those of Scofield, Rollins, Garfield and Stevens, in
favor of, the Amendment. That of Scofield probably stirred up “the
adversary” more thoroughly than any other; that of Rollins was more
calculated to conciliate and capture the votes of hesitating, or Border-
State men; that of Garfield was perhaps the most scholarly and eloquent;
while that of Stevens was remarkable for its sledge-hammer pungency and
characteristic brevity.

Mr. Pendleton, toward the end of his speech, had said of Mr. Stevens:
“Let him be careful, lest when the passions of these times be passed
away, and the historian shall go back to discover where was the original
infraction of the Constitution, he may find that sin lies at the door of
others than the people now in arms.” And it was this that brought the
sterling old Patriot again to his feet, in vindication of the acts of
his liberty-inspired life, and in defense of the power to amend the
Constitution, which had been assailed.

The personal antithesis with which he concluded his remarks was in
itself most dramatically effective, Said he:

“So far as the appeals of the learned gentleman (Mr. Pendleton) are
concerned, in his pathetic winding up, I will be willing to take my
chance, when we all moulder in the dust. He may have his epitaph
written, if it be truly written, ‘Here rests the ablest and most
pertinacious defender of Slavery, and opponent of Liberty;’ and I will
be satisfied if my epitaph shall be written thus: ‘Here lies one who
never rose to any eminence, and who only courted the low ambition to
have it said that he had striven to ameliorate the condition of the
poor, the lowly, the downtrodden, of every race, and language, and

As he said these words, the crowded floors and galleries broke out into
involuntary applause for the grand “Old Commoner”–who only awaited its
cessation, to caustically add: “I shall be content, with such a eulogy
on his lofty tomb and such an inscription on my humble grave, to trust
our memories to the judgment of after ages.”

The debate, frequently interrupted by Appropriation Bills, and other
important and importunate measures, lasted until the 31st of January,
when Mr. Ashley called the previous question on his motion to

Mr. Stiles at once moved to table the motion to reconsider. Mr.
Stiles’s motion was lost by 57 yeas to 111 nays. This was in the nature
of a test-vote, and the result, when announced, was listened to, with
breathless attention, by the crowded House and galleries. It was too
close for either side to be satisfied; but it showed a gain to the
friends of the Amendment; that was something. How the final vote would
be, none could tell. Meanwhile it was known, from the announcements on
the floor, that Rogers was absent through his own illness and Voorhees
through illness in his family.

The previous question being seconded and the main question ordered, the
yeas and nays were called on the motion to reconsider–and the intense
silence succeeding the monotonous calling of the names was broken by the
voice of the Speaker declaring the motion to reconsider, carried, by 112
yeas to 57 nays.

This vote created a slight sensation. There was a gain of one,
(English), at any rate, from among those not voting on the previous
motion. Now, if there should be but the change of a single vote, from
the nays to the yeas, the Amendment would be carried!

The most intensely anxious solicitude was on nearly every face, as Mr.
Mallory, at this critical moment, made the point of order that “a vote
to reconsider the vote by which the subject now before the House was
disposed of, in June last, requires two-thirds of this Body,” and
emphatically added: “that two-thirds vote has not been obtained.”

A sigh of relief swept across the galleries, as the Speaker overruled
the point of order. Other attempted interruptions being resolutely met
and defeated by Mr. Ashley, in charge of the Resolution, the “previous
question” was demanded, seconded, and the main question ordered–which
was on the passage of the Resolution.

And now, amid the hush of a breathless and intent anxiety–so absolute
that the scratch of the recording pencil could be heard–the Clerk
commenced to call the roll!

So consuming was the solicitude, on all sides, for the fate of this
portentous measure, that fully one-half the Representatives kept tally
at their desks as the vote proceeded, while the heads of the gathered
thousands of both sexes, in the galleries, craned forward, as though
fearing to lose the startlingly clear responses, while the roll-call

When it reached the name of English–Governor English, a Connecticut
Democrat, who had not voted on the first motion, to table the motion to
reconsider, but had voted “yea” on the motion to reconsider,–and he
responded with a clear-cut “aye” on the passage of the Resolution–it
looked as though light were coming at last, and applause involuntarily
broke forth from the Republican side of the floor, spreading instantly
to the galleries, despite the efforts of the Speaker to preserve order.

So, when Ganson of New York, and other Democrats, voted “aye,” the
applause was renewed again and again, and still louder again, when, with
smiling face–which corroborated the thrilling, fast-spreading, whisper,
that “the Amendment is safe!”–Speaker Colfax directed the Clerk to call
his name, as a member of the House, and, in response to that call, voted

Then came dead silence, as the Clerk passed the result to the Speaker-
during which a pin might have been heard to drop,–broken at last by the
Speaker’s ringing voice: “The Constitutional majority of two-thirds
having voted in the affirmative, the Joint Resolution is passed.”

[The enrolled Resolution received the approval and signature of the
President, Feb. 1, 1865,]

The words had scarcely left the Speaker’s lips, when House and galleries
sprang to their feet, clapping their hands, stamping their feet, waving
hats and handkerchiefs, and cheering so loudly and so long that it
seemed as if this great outburst of enthusiasm–indulged in, in defiance
of all parliamentary rules–would never cease!

In his efforts to control it, Speaker Colfax hammered the desk until he
nearly broke his mallet. Finally, by 4 o’clock, P.M., after several
minutes of useless effort–during which the pounding of the mallet was
utterly lost in the noisy enthusiasm and excitement, in which both the
Freedom-loving men and women of the Land, there present, participated–
the Speaker at last succeeded in securing a lull.

Advantage was instantly taken of it, by the successor of the dead Owen
Lovejoy, Mr. Ingersoll of Illinois, his young face flushing with the
glow of patriotism, as he cried: “Mr. Speaker! In honor of this
Immortal and Sublime Event I move that the House do now adjourn.” The
Speaker declared the motion carried, amid renewed demonstrations of

During all these uncontrollable ebullitions of popular feeling in behalf
of personal Liberty and National Freedom and strength, the Democratic
members of the House had sat, many of them moving uneasily in their
seats, with chagrin painted in deep lines upon their faces, while others
were bolt upright, as if riveted to their chairs, looking straight
before them at the Speaker, in a vain attempt, belied by the pallid
anger of their set countenances, to appear unconscious of the storm of
popular feeling breaking around them, which they now doggedly perceived
might be but a forecast of the joyful enthusiasm which on that day, and
on the morrow, would spread from one end of the Land to the other.

Harris, of Maryland, made a sort of “Last Ditch” protest against
adjournment, by demanding the “yeas and nays” on the motion to adjourn.
The motion was, however, carried, by 121 yeas to 24 nays; and, as the
members left their places in the Hall–many of them to hurry with their
hearty congratulations to President Lincoln at the White House–the
triumph, in the Halls of our National Congress, of Freedom and Justice
and Civilization, over Slavery and Tyranny and Barbarism, was already
being saluted by the booming of one hundred guns on Capitol Hill.

How large a share was Mr. Lincoln’s, in that triumph, these pages have
already sufficiently indicated. Sweet indeed must have been the joy
that thrilled his whole being, when, sitting in the White House, he
heard the bellowing artillery attest the success of his labors in behalf
of Emancipation. Proud indeed must he have felt when, the following
night, in response to the loud and jubilant cries of “Lincoln!”
“Lincoln!” “Abe Lincoln!” “Uncle Abe!” and other affectionate calls,
from a great concourse of people who, with music, had assembled outside
the White House to give him a grand serenade and popular ovation, he
appeared at an open window, bowed to the tumult of their acclamations,
and declared that “The great Job is ended!”–adding, among other things,
that the occasion was one fit for congratulation, and, said he, “I
cannot but congratulate all present–myself, the Country, and the whole
World–upon this great moral victory. * * * This ends the Job!”

Substantially the job was ended. There was little doubt, after such a
send off, by the President and by Congress, in view of the character of
the State Legislatures, as well as the temper of the People, that the
requisite number of States would be secured to ratify the Thirteenth
Amendment. Already, on the 1st of February, that is to say, on the very
day of this popular demonstration at the Executive Mansion, the
President’s own State, Illinois, had ratified it–and this circumstance
added to the satisfaction and happiness which beamed from, and almost
made beautiful, his homely face.

Other States quickly followed; Maryland, on February 1st and 3rd; Rhode
Island and Michigan, on February 2nd; New York, February 2nd and 3rd;
West Virginia, February 3rd; Maine and Kansas, February 7th;
Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, February 8th; Virginia, February 9th;
Ohio and Missouri, February 10th; Nevada and Indiana, February 16th;
Louisiana, February 17th; Minnesota, February 8th and 23rd; Wisconsin,
March 1st; Vermont, March 9th; Tennessee, April 5th and 7th; Arkansas,
April 20th; Connecticut, May 5th; New Hampshire, July 1st; South
Carolina, November 13th; Alabama, December 2nd; North Carolina, December
4th; Georgia, December 9th; Oregon, December 11th; California, December
20th; and Florida, December 28th;–all in 1865; with New Jersey, closely
following, on January 23rd; and Iowa, January 24th;–in 1866.

Long ere this last date, however, the Secretary of State (Mr. Seward)
had been able to, and did, announce (November 18, 1865) the ratification
of the Amendment by the requisite number of States, and certified that
the same had “become, to all intents and purposes, valid as a part of
the Constitution of the United States.”

Not until then, was “the job” absolutely ended; but, as has been already
mentioned, it was, at the time Mr. Lincoln spoke, as good as ended. It
was a foregone conclusion, that the great end for which he, and so many
other great and good men of the Republic had for so many years been
earnestly striving, would be an accomplished fact. They had not failed;
they had stood firm; the victory which he had predicted six years before
had come!

[He had said in his Springfield speech, of 1858: “We
shall not fail; if we stand firm we shall not fail; wise counsels
may accelerate, or mistakes delay, but sooner or later the Victory
is sure to come.”] CHAPTER XXIX.


While the death of Slavery in America was decreed, as we have seen; yet,
the sanguine anticipations of Mr. Lincoln, and other friends of Freedom,
that such a decree, imperishably grafted into the Constitution, must at
once end the Rebellion, and bring Peace with a restored Union, were not
realized. The War went on. Grant was still holding Lee, at Petersburg,
near Richmond, while Sherman’s victorious Army was about entering upon a
campaign from Savannah, up through the Carolinas.

During the previous Summer, efforts had been made, by Horace Greeley,
and certain parties supposed to represent the Rebel authorities, to lay
the ground-work for an early Peace and adjustment of the differences
between the Government of the United States and the Rebels, but they
miscarried. They led, however, to the publication of the following
important conciliatory Presidential announcement:

“WASHINGTON, July 18, 1864.

“To whom it may concern:

“Any proposition which embraces the restoration of Peace, the integrity
of the whole Union, and the abandonment of Slavery, and which comes by
and with an authority that can control the Armies now at War against the
United States, will be received and considered by the Executive
Government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms on
substantial and collateral points; and the bearer or bearers thereof
shall have safe conduct both ways.

About the same time, other efforts were being made, with a similar
object in view, but which came to naught. The visit of Messrs. Jacques
and Gilmore to the Rebel Capital on an informal Peace-errand was, at
least, valuable in this, that it secured from the head and front of the
armed Conspiracy, Jefferson Davis himself, the following definite

“I desire Peace as much as you do; I deplore bloodshed as much as you
do; but I feel that not one drop of the blood shed in this War is on my
hands. I can look up to my God and say this. I tried all in my power
to avert this War. I saw it coming, and for twelve years I worked night
and day to prevent it; but I could not. The North was mad and blind; it
would not let us govern ourselves; and so the War came: and now it must
go on till the last man of this generation falls in his tracks, and his
children seize his musket and fight our battle, unless you acknowledge
our right to self-government. We are not fighting for Slavery. We are
fighting for INDEPENDENCE; and that, or EXTERMINATION, we WILL have.”

[The Nation, July 2, 1885, contained the following
remarks, which may be pertinently quoted in support of this
authoritative statement that the South was “not fighting for
Slavery,” but for Independence–that is to say: for Power, and what
would flow from it.] [“The Charleston News and Courier a fortnight ago remarked that
‘not more than one Southern soldier in ten or fifteen was a
Slaveholder, or had any interest in Slave Property.’ The
Laurensville Herald disputed the statement, and declared that ‘the
Southern Army was really an Army of Slaveholders and the sons of
Slaveholders.’ The Charleston paper stands by its original
position, and cites figures which are conclusive. The Military
population of the eleven States which seceded, according to the
census of 1860, was 1,064,193. The entire number of Slaveholders
in the Country at the same time was 383,637, but of these 77,335
lived in the Border States, so that the number in the Seceding
States was only 306,302. Most of the small Slaveholders, however,
were not Slave-owners, but Slave hirers, and Mr. De Bow, the
statistician who supervised the census of 1850, estimated that but
little over half the holders were actually owners. The proportion
of owners diminished between 1850 and 1860, and the News and
Courier thinks that there were not more than 150,000 Slave-owners
in the Confederate States when the War broke out. This would be
one owner to every seven White males between eighteen and forty-
five; but as many of the owners were women, and many of the men
were relieved from Military service, the Charleston paper is
confirmed in its original opinion that there were ten men in the
Southern Army who were not Slave-owners for every soldier who had
Slaves of his own.”]

«- 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.