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too, they had found that a majority of the legislature was also in sympathy with them, and would vote according to their dictation, could they be convened. The plan was, therefore, to induce the governor, Thomas H. Hicks, to convene that body for the purpose of calling a convention, as it alone had the authority to do it. With such a call issued, they felt that the same system of cajolery, violence, and fraud upon which they had relied and were still relying in the other States would avail here.
They accordingly approached Governor Hicks with their demands, and urged him to call a session of the legislature. But, though a slaveholder, pecuniarily interested in the slavesystem, and in sympathy with those who were defending it and what they called Southern rights, he was opposed to the policy of secession, distrusted its leaders, and refused. Thus providentially he held the key of the situation, and it depended very much, if not entirely, on his decision whether or not Maryland should join or oppose disunion. Omniscience alone knows how much really depended upon him,-how much the Union is indebted to him for its preservation, as well as how much was due to the Divine guidance, restraint, and support for that firmness and wisdom which enabled him to resist the fearful pressure to which he was subjected. How much was expected by the conspirators, and how confident were their expectations, from the strategy that would thus bar the way from the North to the capital, may be gathered from many of their utterances, and the record of those days. "I do not care," said a speaker at a public meeting in Baltimore, the day before the butchery of Massachusetts soldiers in her streets, "how many Federal troops are sent to Washington, they will soon find themselves surrounded by such an army from Virginia and Maryland that escape to their homes will be impossible; and when the seventy-five thousand who are intended to invade the South shall have polluted that soil with their touch, the South will exterminate and sweep them from the earth." "A gentleman of high position and good judgment," said a Philadelphia paper of later date, "who has taken a very prominent part in public affairs ever since the
inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, recently declared, that the small band of Pennsylvania troops who arrived at Washington on the 18th of April saved the capital from seizure by the conspirators. In his judgment, if their response to the call of the President had been less prompt, the traitors would inevitably have gained possession of the archives and public buildings of the nation, and probably of the highest officers of the government."
Congress itself showed its appreciation of the danger to which the capital had been exposed, by a resolution thanking "the five hundred and thirty soldiers from Pennsylvania who passed through the mob at Baltimore and reached Washington on the 18th day of April last, for the defence of the national capital." On the next evening (of the day of the assault) Marshal Kane, who was an active secessionist, having received assurances of support, thus telegraphed to the gentleman offering: "Thank you for your offer. Bring your men by the first train, and we will arrange with the railroad afterward. Streets red with Maryland blood! Send expresses over the mountains and valleys of Maryland and Virginia for the riflemen to come without delay. Further hordes [meaning loyal volunteers] will be down upon us to-morrow. We will fight them, and whip them, or die." Nor did the Southern press leave it doubtful how it viewed the matter. glorious conduct of Maryland," said the "Richmond Enquirer," "decides the contest at hand. With a generous brav ery, worthy of her ancient renown, she has thrown herself into the pathway of the enemy, and made of her body a shield for the South. She stands forth, in our day, the leader of the Southern cause. . . . . The heart of all Maryland responds to the action of Baltimore, and that nursery of fine regiments, instead of being the camping-ground of the enemy, preparing to rush upon the South, will speedily become the camping-ground of the South preparing to cross the line of Mason and Dixon. ... To have gained Maryland is to have gained a host. It insures Washington City, and the ignominious expulsion of Lincoln from the White House. It transfers the line of battle from the Potomac to the Pennsylvania
"Lincoln," said Mr. Stephens, "may bring his seventy-five thousand soldiers against us; but seven times seventy-five thousand men can never conquer us. We have now Maryland, and Virginia, and all the border States with
The question, then, that Governor Hicks was called to answer was among the most important and crucial questions of the Rebellion. On the answer given depended largely the fortunes, if not the final issue, of the strife. There have been what are called "the decisive battles" of the world's history. Doubtless the late civil war had its decisive battle, though men may differ as to what should have that distinction. There are those, however, who incline to the belief that that battle was mental and moral rather than material and military, and that it had for its field of action the mind of Governor Hicks, beleaguered by the appeals and assaults of the friends and foes. of the government, the scene of a conflict between sentiments and motives the most diverse and antagonistic. Shall the Maryland legislature be convened? was the simple question on which hung momentous results. The nature of the conflict, the danger of an adverse decision, with the magnitude and mercy of the victory finally vouchsafed, cannot be duly estimated without some knowledge of the man, his antecedents, surroundings, as well as of the nature of the pressure to which he was subjected.
Governor Hicks was a country gentleman, a slaveholder, and a faithful representative of the slaveholding régime. In hearty sympathy with the South in its conflict with the North on the slavery issue, he took no pains to conceal either his preferences or his prejudices. To a memorial, addressed to him and headed by the signature of ex-Governor Pratt, urging him to convene the legislature, he replied on the 27th of November, 1860. In his reply he spoke of himself as "identified by birth and every other tie with the South, a slaveholder, and feeling as warmly for my native State as any man can do." He spoke of some of the acts of Northern legislatures, “virtually nullifying the positive provisions of the Constitution in reference to fugitive slaves" as "outrageous," and concerning
which "there can be no two opinions in Maryland." In his address to the people of his State, on the 3d of January, he gave the unequivocal expression of his own position and of what he regarded the true position of Maryland on the question that so generally divided the two sections. In assigning his reasons for not convening the legislature, he made it sufficiently clear that it was from no lack of sympathy with his section and its peculiar interests and institutions. "I have been told," he said, "that the position of Maryland should be defined, so that both sections can understand it. Do any really misunderstand her position? Who that wishes to understand it can fail to do so? If the action of the legislature would be simply to declare that Maryland is with the South in sympathy and feeling,- that she demands from the North the repeal of offensive, unconstitutional statutes, and appeals to it for new guaranties, that she will wait a reasonable time for the North to purge her statute-books, so as to do justice to her Southern brethren, and, if appeals are vain, will make her common cause with her sister border States in resistance to tyranny if need be,—it would only be saying what the whole country well knows, and what may be said much more effectually by her people themselves, in their meetings, than by the legislature, chosen eighteen months since, when none of these questions were raised before them. That Maryland is a conservative Southern State all know who know anything of her people or her history." In a letter he subsequently wrote to the President he reminded him that, though he had done all he could properly to prevent his election, he should support his administration, because of his confidence in his honesty, patriotism, and love of the Union. He expressed, too, his regret that he did not veto the District emancipation bill, besought him to prevent, as far as he could, "the mad doings of Sumner, Wilson, Lovejoy, &c.," and informed him that he had "asseverated to our people that you will not interfere with slavery in the States." And yet he was unquestionably patriotic, was opposed to the policy of disunion, and most thoroughly distrusted South Carolina and the secession leaders. He loved both slavery and the Union, was
anxious to save both, and honestly and sensibly believed that · the surest way to save the one was to preserve the other. Such was the man, such were his antecedents and surroundings, sympathies and sentiments, on whom rested the responsibility of conducting affairs at that critical juncture; of navigating the bark freighted with the priceless interests and hopes of his beloved Commonwealth over the tempestuous sea that surged around him.
It should be borne in mind, in estimating the nature and magnitude of this struggle, and the greatness of the deliverance involved in the fact that Maryland was prevented from seceding, that she was essentially a Southern State, as claimed by her governor, with its usual characteristics, impulsiveness, prejudices, and attachment to slavery, even its Unionism being largely alloyed with State-rights theories, and greatly, if not entirely, dependent upon the conservation of the peculiar institution. Indeed, the whole social atmosphere seemed surcharged, if not with actual rebellion, with what required little change to make it treason. For weeks and months the cloud, like a man's hand, hung in the horizon, presaging storm. Whether that cloud should increase, gather blackness, until it covered the heavens and poured out its deluge of destruction, or be dispersed, seemed a question that depended for its answer more upon adventitious circumstances than upon anything intrinsic in the State, more, in fact, upon the firmness of the governor than upon the decision of the people.
It is to be remembered, too, that the measures relied on by the secession leaders were the same that were sweeping the seceding States from their moorings, and engulfing them in the Rebellion. Doubtless they embraced the usual slaveholding arguments, the same very probably that Governor Hicks had often used himself in his advocacy of Southern rights against what he stigmatized as Northern fanaticism and aggression. But in addition there were those less legitimate and more violent, appeals to sectional prejudices, to State pride, with reproachful charges, or insinuations of recreancy thereto, the pressure of social hate and ostracism, the threats and almost actual infliction of personal violence. Governor Hicks