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the war, urged that Maryland and Virginia should organize a force to seize Washington, Old Point, Gosport navy-yard, and Harper's Ferry. Mr. Handy, the Mississippi commissioner, had visited Maryland in behalf of the scheme for seizing Washington, and for preventing the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln. General Duff Green, who had been the friend and confidant of Calhoun, and ever the unwavering champion of the slaveholding interest, stated to Joseph C. Lewis, in Washington, in the winter of 1861, that the secessionists intended "to take possession of the army and navy, and of the archives of the government; not to allow the electoral votes to be counted; to proclaim Buchanan provisional President if he will do as we wish, and, if not, choose another; seize the Harper's Ferry arsenal and the Norfolk navy-yard simultaneously, and send armed men down from the former, and armed vessels up from the latter, to take possession of Washington and establish a new government."
As, however, the capture of Washington involved the necessity of preventing the arrival of reinforcements for its protection, every movement in Maryland, and especially in Baltimore, hostile to the Union, was naturally, if not necessarily, prompted by, if it did not inure to, this ulterior design on the national capital. Illustrative of this purpose, and indicative of the measures employed for its accomplishment, are the facts stated in the following letter from a gentleman of Baltimore to Governor Hicks, apprising him of "a secret plot in progress in this city." In it he writes: "In conversation yesterday with men of rank secession proclivities, and who have heretofore stood high in the estimation of our citizens, I was informed that secret meetings are held and largely attended for the purpose of arranging for an insurrection in this city. The police and other functionaries are with them in their conspiracy; their intention is to rise at a certain day, and all who oppose them are to be thrown into jail or butchered as best suits their purpose. This is to take place as soon as the first blow is struck between the Rebel and United States forces; the bridges are to be burned again, so as to allow no troops to advance or escape, and the Rebel troops are to be
cognizant of all, so as to march on the city without obstruction." That the governor deemed himself cognizant of evidence sufficient to justify a similar belief appeared in both his refusal to convene the legislature and the reasons assigned therefor. In his address to the people of Maryland on the 3d of January, explaining his course, he said: "The men who have embarked in this scheme to convene the legislature will spare no pains to carry their point. The whole plan of operations, in the event of the assembling of the legislature, is, as I have been informed, already marked out; the list of ambassadors who are to visit the other States is agreed upon, and the resolutions which they hope will be passed by the legislature fully committing this State to secession are said to be already prepared."
The matter was also introduced into Congress and made the subject of discussion, the appointment of a committee, report, debate, and action. On the 26th of January, 1861, Mr. Grow of Pennsylvania introduced a resolution, "That the select committee of five be instructed to inquire whether any secret organization hostile to the government of the United States exists in the District of Columbia, and, if so, whether any official or employé of the city of Washington, or any employés or officers of the Federal government in the executive or judicial departments, are members thereof." It led to a brief and sharp debate, in which Burnett of Kentucky and Kunkel of Maryland expressed their conviction that there was no cause of alarm, and that, in the words of the former, it was not only "a direct reflection upon the patriotism and faithfulness of the government of the people of this District," but "a most miserable, contemptible mode of engendering bad feeling and making excitement throughout the country worse than it is." In the course of the debate, Craige of North Carolina expressed the wish "to have the committee instructed to inquire by what authority troops are now stationed immediately to the east of the capitol." "Is this Congress," he inquired, " to act hereafter at the point of the bayonet without protest and in silence?"
The resolution was referred to Mr. Holt, Secretary of War,
who made an elaborate report, in which he expressed the opinion that there was cause for alarm, and that precautionary measures had been demanded and wisely made. "At what time," he said, "armed occupation of Washington City became a part of the revolutionary programme is not certainly known. More than six weeks ago the impression had already extensively obtained that a conspiracy for the accomplishment of this guilty purpose was in process of formation, if not fully matured. The earnest endeavors made by men known to be devoted to the revolution, to hurry Virginia and Maryland out of the Union, were regarded as preparatory steps for the subjugation of Washington. This plan was in entire harmony with the aim and spirit of those seeking the subversion of the government, since no more fatal blow at its existence could be struck than the permanent and hostile possession of the seat of its power. It was in harmony, too, with the avowed designs of the revolutionists, which looked to the formation of a confederacy of all the slave States, and necessarily to the conquest of the capital within their limits. . . In view of the violence and turbulent disorders already exhibited in the South, the public mind could not reject such a scheme as at all improbable. That a belief in its existence was entertained by multitudes there can be no doubt, and this belief I fully shared. My conviction rested not only on the facts already alluded to, but upon information, some of which was of a most conclusive character, that reached the government from many parts of the country, not merely expressing the prevalence of the opinion that such an organization had been formed, but also often furnishing the plausible grounds on which the opinion was based. Superadded to these proofs were the oft-repeated declarations of men in high political positions here, and who were known to have intimate affiliations with the revolution, if, indeed, they did not hold its reins in their hands, to the effect that Mr. Lincoln would not, or should not, be inaugurated at Washington. Such declarations from such men could not be treated as empty bluster."
On the 14th of February the committee made report. It alluded to "the intrinsic difficulty of the inquiry," and said
that "from the very nature of the case" it would be difficult to prove it, "if such an organization really existed"; as it would be, when "the very air is filled with rumors and individuals are indulging in the most extravagant expressions of fears and threats," to "pronounce authoritatively that no such organization existed." It reached the conclusion, however, that "the testimony adduced does not prove the existence of a secret organization here or elsewhere." The committee, notwithstanding this conclusion, admitted that, in consequence of "extraordinary excitement existing prior to the late presidential election," disaffected persons, of high and low position, had discussed informally "various modes of resistance." "But too much diversity of opinion," it added, "seems to have existed to admit of the adoption of any well-organized plan, until some of the States commenced to reduce their theories of se cession to practice. Since then persons thus disaffected seem to have adopted the idea that all resistance to the government, if there is to be any, should have at least the color of State authority." Mr. Branch of North Carolina, a member of the committee, while indorsing the report, contended that it did not go far enough. Alluding to the fact that seven companies of artillery and one company of sappers and miners of the regular army had been ordered to and quartered in this city, in close vicinity to the capitol, he offered a resolution, "That the quartering of troops of the regular army in this District and around the capitol, when not necessary for their protec tion from a hostile enemy, and during the session of Congress, is impolitic and offensive, and, if permitted, may be destructive of civil liberty; and, in the opinion of this House, the regular troops now in this city ought to be forthwith removed therefrom." But the House laid the resolution on the table by the decisive vote of one hundred and twenty-four to thirty-five.
In the debate on the resolution, Mr. Cochrane of New York, alluding to it and the remarks of Mr. Branch, said: "I dislike, quite as much as he does, the spectacle of a regular army environing this city, and giving the impression that Congress is legislating under the dictation of myrmidons of a despotic captain. I not only deprecate, but I reprobate it. But, sir,
the circumstances are not such as justly to allow the conclusion he has drawn. The evidence presented by the chairman of the committee is conclusive on this point, if it be conclusive on anything, that although there may now be no vestige of an organization threatening the District of Columbia and the Federal power here, yet, at no remote period of time, there were rumors and reports attracting the attention of all, of the active existence of such organizations." Mr. Kunkel of Maryland, in reply, revealed the spirit that animated the opposition in that State and the rancor of those whom its governor was compelled to encounter and contend with. Denouncing the appointment of the committee as an inquisition "originating with the War Department or the lieutenant-general of the army," or else "with the governor of Maryland or his emissaries about this capital," he said: "The governor of Maryland is the only respectable man in the State who has had the audacity to libel and calumniate his fellow-citizens by his published proclamation on the 3d of January last. He has proclaimed that he was in the possession of information not accessible to the legislature or to people of the State, and that there did exist in the State an organization of his fellow-citizens, armed and prepared to invade the District of Columbia." The message of President Buchanan, in reply to the resolution sent in on the 2d of March, communicated the facts asked for. He said there had been ordered there "six hundred and fifty-three men exclusive of marines"; but they had been ordered "to act as a posse comitatus in strict subordination to the civil authorities, for the purpose of preserving peace and order in the city of Washington, should this be necessary before or at the period of the inauguration of the President elect." He then alluded to the conclusion of the committee, that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the existence of secret organizations. He reminded Congress, however, that the House had laid on the table, by a very large majority, a resolution requiring the removal of these troops. He then expressed the opinion that it would not have been right for him to "wait for proof" before taking those precautionary measures. "The safety," he said, "of the immense amount