« PreviousContinue »
of adjustment is passed ; if you propose to make one now, you are too late. And now, senators, within a very few weeks we part, to meet again in one common councilchamber of the nation no more, forever. We desire, we beseech you, to let this parting be in peace. I conjure you to indulge in no vain delusions that duty, or conscience, or interest, or honor, impose on you the necessity of invading our States, and shedding the blood of our people. You have no possible justification for it. I trust it is from no craven spirit, or any sacrifice of the dignity or honor of my own State, that I make this last appeal, but from far higher and holier motives. If, however, it shall prove vain, if you are resolute to pervert the government, framed by the fathers for the protection of our rights, into an instrument for subjugating and enslaving us, then, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the universe for the rectitude of our intentions, we must meet the issue as best becomes freemen defending all that is dear to man. What may be the fate of this horrible contest, none can foretell. The fortunes of war may be adverse to our arms; you may carry desolation into our peaceful land, and with torch and firebrand may set our cities in flames; you may even emulate the atrocities of those who, in the days of the Revolution, hounded on the blood-thirsty savage; you may give the protection of your advancing armies to the furious fanatics who desire nothing more than to add the horrors of servile insurrection to civil war; you may do all this, and more, but you never can subjugate the free sons of the soil into vassals, paying tribute to your power; you can never degrade them to a servile and inferior race,
never, never." In the House, Mr. Stevens, of Pennsylvania, offered a resolution calling on the President to state to Congress the exact condition of the public forts and arsenals in South Carolina, and an account of all the arms distributed during the year, etc. etc. This was rejected, and a
substitute by Mr. Stanton, of Ohio, adopted, directing the military committee to inquire and report how, to whom, and for what price, arms had been distributed and sold during the year; also the condition of the forts and arsenals.
January 2d. Senator Baker, of Oregon, proceeded to address the Senate, on the crisis, referring first to Mr. Benjamin's speech as the best he had heard; but it reminded him of what had been said of a certain book that had been written, that it would have been best if it had never been written at all.
He said the government was a substantial power; its Constitution a perpetuity, and its power capable of exercise against domestic treason or foreign foes; and referred to some authorities quoted by Mr. Benjamin, disproving the latter's arguments. He acknowledged that “personal liberty bills," if they hindered the operation of the fugitive slave law, ought to be repealed.
January 2d. Governor Morgan, of New York, in his message, delivered at the convening of the legislature of his State, recommended the repeal of the personal liberty bill, and, also, recommended other States to do the same.
Captain Charles Stone was appointed Inspector General of Militia in the district of Columbia, at the recommendation of General Scott.
A hundred guns were fired in the Park, at New York, in honor of the action of Major Anderson. Salutes of thirty-three guns were fired, in honor of the gallant conduct of Major Anderson, in Boston, Burlington, Vt., Philadelphia, Trenton, N. J., Auburn, Schenectady, and Utica, N. Y.
3d. The demands of the South Carolina commissioners were refused by the President.
4th. The national fast day was generally observed throughout the States.
Governor Sprague, of Rhode Island, in his proclama
tion, seconds Mr. Buchanan's idea that we ought to fast and pray, and proposes to supplicate Almighty God for deliverance from corrupt rulers ; " imploring that “our
be faithfully and fearlessly executed; our Constitution and Union may be preserved, in their original strength and purity; and those who have charge of our national affairs be imbued with sufficient patriotism and courage to maintain the government inviolate, and to uphold the constitutional rights of the people in every section of the country. January 5th.
Steamship Star of the West left New York, with two hundred and fifty artillerists and marines.
8th. Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior, resigned. Thus we receive, in the short space of one month, the resignation of four of the highest officials of the government, and those to whom our country should look in her hours of darkness and peril. General Cass retired disgusted and aggrieved at the inactivity of the President.
Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury, maintained his position until the treasury became bankrupt; then, feeling that the North “violated all her pledges," and that every hour he remained only served to “degrade him," he “conscientiously” resigned and left for the South.
John B. Floyd was content with his position, as Secretary of War, until the principal guns and munitions of war had been transferred South, from Northern arsenals, navy yards, etc., a large amount of government property seized, and the South armed and prepared for war; then he “ very conscientiously” resigned.
Jacob Thompson remained Secretary of the Interior until the poor "Indian " had been robbed of all his funds, then his “sense of honor" compelled him to resign.
Such shapes of earth and time have I not watched
We give here a little circumstance which goes to show the excitable state of the public mind at that time, and, particularly, in the border States. At Harper's Ferry, Jefferson County, Va., the spot made ever memorable by the bloody John Brown raid, the 7th of January was characterized by the greatest excitement, and warlike preparations were made on a large scale to meet what proved to be only an imaginary foe.
It seems that, from some quarter or other, news had come to the Ferry that the government had dispatched a force of United States troops to take possession of the arsenal at the Ferry, and hold it, - its arms, stores, and munitions of war,- in view of the reported march that was to be made by insurgents in the border States on the capitol at Washington. This report threw the Harper's Ferry people, especially the employees at the arsenal, of whom there were between three and four hundred, into a state of the wildest excitement; and straightway the cry arose, “ To arms! To arms !” Accordingly, when the express train, which left Baltimore at four in the evening, and arrived at the Ferry about eight, had crossed the Long Bridge and reached the latter place, the passengers were astonished to find some three or four hundred armed men drawn up in battle array, ready to welcome the United States soldiers “ with bloody hands to hospitable graves ;” or, in other words, waiting to enact a scene
before which all the high extravaganzas thus far played off by South Carolina should pale into utter insignificance. Fortunately for the peace and the ever after reputation of that part of the country, - and fortunately, perhaps, for the three hundred men in arms, - there were no United States troops aboard. None had been sent, -- none, that any one on the train knew of, were expected to be sent. Some were pleased, and others were petulant and irritable that they had no chance to show their valor and courage in opposition to the government, and their devotion to secessiondom; and, after discussing their deeds of “chivalry” which might have been enacted had the troops arrived, they began to dwindle away, one by one, till finally all were gone, and peace and order reigned.
January 9. The “Star of the West," an unarmed steamer bearing re-enforcements to Major Anderson, in endeavoring to enter the harbor of Charleston, about daylight in the morning, was fired into by the garrison on Morris Island, and also by Fort Moultrie, then in command of Major Ripley. The steamer put about and went to sea, Morris Island battery still firing upon them until they were out of reach of their guns. Fort Sumter did not respond.
As this intelligence spread on the wings of the telegraph throughout the country, the effect produced upon the public mind in all quarters was that we were on the eve of war. The first gun had been fired, and the end of the struggle no man could foresee. During the forenoon of the same day, Major Anderson dispatched Lieutenant Hall with a flag of truce to Charleston, where he delivered a communication from the Major to Governor Pickens, wherein he recapitulates the facts concerning the Star of the West, and requests to know if the action of the State troops is authorized; and says that if such action is not disclaimed by the South Carolina authori