« PreviousContinue »
THE POWERS OF THE PEOPLE USURPED).
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Texas, and their preparations for a convention of delegates, to be held, by common consent, at the city of Montgomery, Alabama, on the 4th of February, 1861, for the purpose of forming a confederacy of Slave-labor States. We have seen how, in these States, the serpent of Treason was hatched from the egg of Secession. We have seen how absolutely the secession movement was the work of ambitious politicians, evidently in opposition to the feelings of the great majority of the people, and how carefully they excluded the people from any participation in the matter, after they had used them in putting the revolutionary machinery in motion. Only in Texas did they ask them to sanction their acts, and the concession in that case, as we have observed, was a most transparent fraud, to cheat the world into a belief that secession was accomplished by the legally expressed will of the people. Each convention unwarrantably stretched the powers given it, by choosing from among its own class of partisans, without the consent of the people, delegates to a General Convention to form a confederacy independent of the old Union; and in order to carry out the bold design of the conspirators, of having that confederacy consist of the fifteen Slave-labor States, four of the conventions appointed. commissioners to go to these several States as seductive missionaries in the bad cause.' We have had glimpses of these Commissioners at several conventions.
Let us now observe relative events in the other States of the Union.
1 The names and destination of these Commissioners were as follows:
South Carolina.-To Alabama, A. P. Calhoun; to Georgia James L. Orr; to Florida, L. W. Spratt; to Mississippi, M. L. Bonham; to Louisiana, J. L. Manning; to Arkansas, A. C. Spain; to Texas, J. B. Kershaw.
Alabama.-To North Carolina, Isham W Garrett; to Mississippi, E. W. Pettus; to South Carolina, J. A. Elmore; to Maryland, A. F. Hopkins; to Virginia Frank Gilmer; to Tennessee, L. Pope Walker; to Kentucky, Stephen F. Hale to Arkansas, John A. Winston.
Georgia-To Missouri, Luther J. Glenn; to Virginia, Henry L. Benning.
Mississippi.-To South Carolina, C. E. Hooker; to Alabama, Joseph W. Matthews; to Georgia, William L. Harris; to Louisiana, Wirt Adams; to Texas, H. H. Miller; to Arkansas, Geo. R. Fall; to Florida, E. M. Yerger; to Tennessee, T. J. Wharton; to Kentucky, W. S. Featherstone; to North Carolina, Jacob Thompson; to Virginia, Fulton Anderson; to Maryland, A. H. Handy; to Delaware, Henry Dickinson; to Missouri, Bassell-McPherson's Political History of the Great Rebellion, page 11.
POSITION OF THE VIRGINIANS.
ATTITUDE OF THE BORDER SLAVE-LABOR STATES, AND OF THE FREE-LABOR STATES.
HILST the politicians of the Gulf States were perfecting their scheme for forming a confederacy, there was universal agitation on the subject all over the Union, and especially in the Border Slave-labor States, where there were bonds of interest, and association, and consanguinity with both sections. Emissaries of the conspirators, resident and itinerant, were in those States, working assiduously for the corruption of public sentiment concerning nationality, and for the seduction of leading and influential men into ways of treasonable transgression. They were specially active in Maryland and Virginia, because the co-operation of the people of those States would be vitally important, in efforts to seize and hold Washington City in the interest of the conspirators. That city lay in the District of Columbia, contiguous to and between Maryland and Virginia, and was completely surrounded and filled with a Slave-holding population.
In Virginia, where disunion sentiments had been uttered and fostered, and from which they had been widely disseminated ever since the birth of the nation, the conspirators and politicians were anxious, at first, not so much for secession by States, or the formation of a new confederacy, as for a combined effort to seize the Capital and national archives, and establish an aristocratic government, with Slavery for its corner-stone, on the ruins of the Republic. In the day-dreams of the politicians, Washington City appeared as a deserted capital (for the seat of government was to be nearer the Gulf), and its magnificent buildings were to be "consecrated to the genius of Southern Institutions." At the same time, the great majority of the people in those States were loyal to the Constitution, and willing to be obedient to the laws; and those of the western section of Virginia-the mountain region-as we! shall observe hereafter, remained so, and
were spared much of the misery inflicted by civil war.
John Letcher, formerly a member of Congress, and a willing instrument of the conspirators, was then Governor of Virginia. He and his associates
THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA CAUTIOUS.
watched the course of public events with great interest, for it was difficult for them to choose the most expedient course of action. While the authorities were cautious, the press was loud in its demands for revolutionary action.
Thoughtful men clearly discerned portents of a desolating storm, and, on the solicitation of many citizens, Governor Letcher called the Legislature to meet in extraordinary session on the 7th of January. In his • 1861. message, he renewed a proposition previously made by himself,
for a convention of all the States; and, with a seeming desire to save the Republic, he proposed that all constitutional remedies should be exhausted before withdrawing from the Union, saying:—“Is it not monstrous to see a Government like ours destroyed, merely because men cannot agree about a domestic institution which existed at the formation of the Government, and which is now recognized by fifteen out of the thirty-three States comprising the Union?" At the same time, he instituted inquiries concerning the strength and garrison of Fortress Monroe, within the limits of his State, and the probability of success, should available Virginia troops attempt to seize it. He was advised, by a competent judge, that the attempt would fail, and he abandoned the contemplated scheme.
Letcher, no doubt, knew the plans of the conspirators of his section, and counseled inaction for the moment, until the revolutionary movements in the Gulf region should be more fully developed. "A disruption is inevitable," he said, “and if new confederations are formed, we must have the best guaranties before we can attach Virginia to either." His counsel was denounced by the more Southern leaders, as selfish and unpatriotic. Yet they applauded his declaration, that he should regard any attempt of the National troops to pass through Virginia, " for the purpose of coercing any Southern State, as an act of invasion, which would be repelled." In support of this assertion, the Legislature passed resolutions, declaring that "any attempt to coerce a State" would be resisted by Virginia.
Governor Letcher was at first opposed to a State Convention, but the Legislature authorized the assembling of one on the 15th of February, and appointed the 4th of that month as the day on which the delegates should be elected. It also decreed that, at the same election, the question whether the acts of the Convention on the subject of secession should be submitted to the people for ratification or rejection, should be decided by the popular vote. The secessionists denounced this decree as an emasculation of the Convention Bill, and subjecting to imminent peril "all that the people of Virginia hold most sacred and dear, both as to the Federal Constitution and the honor of the State"-in other words, imperiling the scheme of the conspirators to drag the people of Virginia into revolution. The decree delighted the loyal people of the State, and numerous Union meetings were held in Western Virginia.
While the Legislature seemed to be thoroughly inoculated with the revolutionary virus, it felt the restraints of the popular sentiment too forcibly to allow it to disregard the popular will, and several measures looking to a
1 Richmond Enquirer.
A PEACE CONVENTION PROPOSED.
settlement of existing difficulties were proposed in that body. Finally, on the 19th of January, a series of resolutions were adopted, recommending a National Convention to be held in the City of Washington on the 4th day of February, for the alleged purpose of effecting a general and permanent pacification; commending the "Crittenden Compromise," as a just basis of settlement; and appointing two commissioners, one to go to the President of the United States, and the other to the Governors of the "Seceding States," to ask them to abstain from all hostile action, pending the proceedings of the proposed Convention. Copies of these resolutions were sent by telegraph to the President and to the Governors of all the States, North and South.
The proposition for a Peace Convention was received with great favor. President Buchanan laid the matter before Congress, with a commendatory Message, in which he said:-" If the seceding States abstain from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of arms, then the danger so much deprecated will no longer exist. Defense, and not aggression, has been the policy of the Administration from the beginning."
The Virginians accompanied their propositions for securing peace with a On the same day they resolved, "That if all efforts to reconcile the unhappy differences between the sections of our country shall prove abortive, then every consideration of honor and interest demands that Virginia shall unite her destinies with her sister Slaveholding States." Virginia was made to say to the North, substantially in the words of an epigrammatist of the time:
"FIRST.-Move not a finger; 'tis coercion,
"SECOND.-Wait, till I speak my full decision,
"THIRD.-If I declare my ultimatum,
Accept my terms as I shall state 'em.
The Virginia Legislature appropriated one million of dollars for the defense of the State, and made other hostile preparations; and
⚫ January 28. the conspirators were so alarmed by the Peace Congress proposition, and by the waning hope of seizing Washington, that they took measures to precipitate the people of that Commonwealth into revolution. In order to stir up the smoldering fires of enmity against the people of the
1 See page 89.
2 Already a joint resolution had been introduced, to appoint a commission to represent to the President that, "in the judgment of the General Assembly of Virginia, any additional display of military power in the North will jeopardize the tranquillity of the Republic; and that the evacuation of Fort Sumter is the first step that should be taken to restore harmony and peace."
For the purpose of procuring abstinence from hostile action, pending the proceedings of the proposed Peace Congress, ex-President John Tyler was sent to President Buchanan, and Judge John Robertson to Governor Pickens, and the Governors of "other seceding States." The President informed Mr. Tyler that he had no power to make snch agreement; and the Legislature of South Carolina said haughtily, by resolution. “The separation of this State from the Federal Union is final, and we have no further interest in the Constitution of the United States. The only appropriate negotiations between South Carolina and the Federal Government are as to their mutual relations as foreign States."
New York Commercial Advertiser, March 1, 1961.
VIRGINIANS COUNSELED TO REBEL.
North, created by John Brown's raid, representatives of Virginia in Congress issued a manifesto, nine days before the election of delegates to the State Convention. After mentioning proceedings in Con- January 26, gress looking toward "guaranties for the South," they said :-"It is our duty to warn you that it is in vain to hope for any measure of conciliation or adjustment which you could accept. We are also satisfied that the Republican party designs, by civil war alone, to coerce the Southern States, under the pretext of enforcing the laws, unless it shall become speedily apparent that the seceding States are so numerous, determined, and united, as to make such an attempt hopeless. . . . There is nothing to be hoped from Congress. The remedy is with you alone, when you assemble in Sovereign convention. . . . We conclude by expressing our solemn conviction that prompt and decided action, by the people of Virginia, in convention, will afford the surest means, under the providence of God, of averting an impending civil war, and preserving the hope of reconstructing a 'Union already dissolved." This manifesto was signed by R. M. T. Hunter and nine others. Hunter was the ablest man among them, and one of the most dangerous of the chief conspirators against the Government.
The election was held on the appointed day, and of the one hundred and fifty-two delegates chosen, a large majority were opposed to secession. Concealing this fact, and using the other fact, that the unconditional Unionists were few, the newspapers in the interest of the conspirators declared that "not twenty submissionist Union men" had been chosen. "Virginia," said the leading organ of the secessionists in that State, "will, before the 4th of March, declare herself absolved from all further obligation to the Federal Government. eminently proper that the State which was the leader in the Revolution, and the first to proclaim the great doctrine of State Rights in 1799, should lead the column of the Border States.""
We will consider the proceedings of the Virginia Convention hereafter. The conspirators felt great anxiety and doubt concerning the position of MARYLAND. To the disloyalists of that State, with those of Virginia, they had looked for the most efficient aid in the work of seizing the National Capital. Maryland lay between the Free-labor States and that capital, and might be a barrier against Northern troops sent to protect it. Emissaries and commissioners from the Cotton-growing States were early within its borders plying their seductive arts, and they found so many sympathizers among the slaveholders, and a large class in Baltimore, connected by blood, affection, and commerce with the South, that they entertained, for a while,
1 The following are the names attached to the document:-James M. Mason, R. M. T. Hunter, D. C. De Jarnette, M. R. H. Garnett, Shelton F. Leake, E. S. Martin, H. A. Edmonston, Roger A. Pryor, Thomas S. Bocock, A. G. Jenkins.
2 Richmond Enquirer, February 5, 1861.