Page images
[ocr errors]

"? 1

(as modified December 10) "to inquire into the present condition of the country and report.

Resolution after resolution was offered looking to propitiation of the South, though it was very evident that no concession whatever was desired by many southern members. Senator Clingman, of North Carolina, the very day of meeting, December 3, said: "It is not . . . merely that a dangerous man has been elected. . . . We know that under our complicated system that might very well occur by accident and he be powerless; but I assert that the President elect has been elected because he was known to be a dangerous man. He avows the principle that is known as the 'irrepressible conflict.' He declares that it is the purpose of the North to make war upon my section until its social system has been destroyed and for that he was taken up and elected. That declaration of war is dangerous, because it has been endorsed by a majority of the votes of the free states in the late election. It is this great, remarkable, and dangerous fact that has filled my section with alarm and dread for the future." That this assertion of a sudden crisis, of a danger for the first time encountered, was only a pretext played upon by those in the lead of the secession movement is clear from some of the declarations made in the South Carolina convention. Said Parker there: "It is no spasmodic effort; . . . it has been gradually culminating for a long pe1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., 28. 2 Ibid., 3.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

riod of thirty years." Barnwell Rhett asserted that "The secession of South Carolina is not the event of a day. It is not anything produced by Mr. Lincoln's election or by the non-execution of the fugitive slave law. It is a matter which has been gathering head for thirty years."

There could be no mistake about the intention of southern leaders. Both South Carolina senators resigned November 9; and Iverson, of Georgia, the third day of the session, did not hesitate to announce the southern programme: "Before the 4th of March-before you inaugurate your President-there will be certainly five states, if not eight of them, that will be out of the Union, and have formed a constitution and frame of government for themselves. . . . You talk about repealing the personal liberty bills as a concession to the South. Repeal them all to-morrow, sir, and it would not stop the progress of this revolution. It is not your personal liberty bills that we dread; . if all the liberty bills were repealed to-day, the South would no more gain her fugitive slaves than if they were in existence. . . . Nor do we suppose there will be any overt act upon the part of Mr. Lincoln. . . . I do not propose to wait for them.. We intend, Mr. President, to go out peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must, but I do not believe, with the Senator from New Hampshire [Mr. Hale], that there is going to be any war." 1

1 Çong. Globe, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., II,

[ocr errors]

Such expressions were emphasized, December 14, by an address prepared at the rooms of Reuben Davis, a member from Mississippi,' and signed by twenty-three representatives and seven senators, one of whom was Jefferson Davis, saying: "The argument is exhausted. . . . In our judgment the Republicans are resolute in the purpose to grant nothing that will or ought to satisfy the South. We are satisfied the honor, safety, and independence of the Southern people require the organization of a Southern Confederacy—a result to be obtained only by separate State secession."2 This action was the outcome of the solid adverse Republican vote, December 13, in the committee of thirty-three, on a resolution offered by Dunn, a Republican member from Indiana, that whether southern "discontent and hostility are without just cause or not, any reasonable, proper and constitutional remedies and additional and more specific and effectual guarantees of their peculiar rights and interests as recognized by the Constitution necessary to preserve the peace of the country and the perpetuation of the Union, should be promptly and cheerfully granted." "

Senator Wade, of Ohio, December 17, spoke the mind of the Republican leaders, saying: "I tell you that in that platform we did lay it down that we

1 Reuben Davis, Recollections of Miss., 398.

2 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, II., 436.

3 Journal of the Committee (House Exec. Docs., 36 Cong., 2 Sess., No. 31), p. 7.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



would, if we had the power, prohibit slavery from another inch of free territory under this government. I stand on that position to-day; ... on the other hand our authoritative platform repudiates the idea that we have any right or any intention ever to invade your peculiar institutions in your own States. . . . We hold to no doctrine that can possibly work you an inconvenience. We have been faithful to the execution of all the laws. . . . It is not, then, that Mr. Lincoln is expected to do any overt act by which you may be injured; you will not wait for any; but anticipating that the Government may work an injury, you say you will put an end to it, which means simply, that you intend either to rule or ruin this Government.' Viewed in the light of to-day, this most vigorous and most aggressive opponent of the slave power in the Senate spoke the exact truth.

"' 1

December 18, after nearly two weeks desultory debate, the Senate adopted the Powell resolution, referring to it the same day the so-called Crittenden compromise, as a basis of an understanding which should obtain the hearing of Congress and of the country. The first six articles, in effect as follows, were proposed as constitutional amendments: 1. In all territory now held or to be acquired north of 36° 30′ slavery should be prohibited while under territorial government. South of said line slavery should be recognized to exist, and be 1 1 Cong. Globe, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., 102.

protected as property by the territorial government. In either case the territory, when made a state, to enter with or without slavery, as the state constitution should prescribe. (This article was indefinite as to additional territory which might be acquired south of 36° 30′.) 2. Congress to have no power to abolish slavery in places under its jurisdiction situated within the limits of a slave state. 3. Congress to have no power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia so long as it should exist in Maryland or Virginia; nor without the consent of the inhabitants, nor without just compensation to those who do not consent; members of Congress and officers of the government to be free to bring their slaves into the district during official residence. 4. The domestic slave-trade not to be interfered with. 5. The United States to pay the owner the full value of a fugitive slave when arrest should be prevented by force or rescue made. 6. No future amendment to affect the first five articles or the present paragraphs of the Constitution affecting slavery, and no amendment should be made giving Congress power to interfere with slavery in any of the states.

Four resolutions were also to be passed jointly by the Senate and House: 1. That the slave-holding states are entitled to the faithful observance and execution of an efficient fugitive-slave law. 2. That Congress recommend to the states concerned the repeal of laws in conflict with the fugi

« PreviousContinue »