Page images


But South Carolina was already out of the Union. How, in such circumstances, should she be recalled? It is, of course, not unfair to suppose that, unsupported in her withdrawal by any of the southern states, she would not have resisted the reinforcement of Sumter and thereby engaged against her the North, with the South neutralized to a great extent at least. But the old friction would have remained, accentuated by what had already occurred; the situation of slavery would not have been bettered; the slaves themselves would have. been aroused to greater efforts to freedom by the abolitionists, who would have redoubled their efforts. through a reaction which must have followed the northern concessions. The whole country by this time was aroused to the subject, and the chief element in the bitterness of the South, the feeling of isolation, of standing apart, a mark for the world to point at, would have grown greater. The only hope of saving the institution, acceptation of its existing geographical limits, and a not too rigid claim of recovery of fugitives—in one word, quietude -was impossible in the state of the southern mind. It was a question of world psychology. Civilized mankind elsewhere had gradually come to that point of moral development which made the further existence of slavery impossible. To have made the compromise finally acceptable, the South had to look forward to yielding slavery by degrees, or the North to its permanent acceptance. The


latter, driven by the world impulse towards freedom, could not accede to this; the former was equally driven by the lash of its own conditions to stand firm.

Millson, a member of Congress from Virginia, expressed the only true view of the bone of contention when he said, January 21, 1861: "This territorial question has been settled. The battle has been fought and it has been won by both parties; it has been lost by both parties. . . . You cannot [by the interpretation of the Constitution by the supreme court]... prohibit slavery in a Territory . . . but . . . there is not the least probability that slavery will ever be carried into any one of them. Thus, in all that respects practical results, you have gained the battle, and we have lost it. You have lost the principle; we the substance. You have gained the substance; we the principle." Such views apparently had weight in the acts organizing the territories of Colorado, Dakota, and Nevada. These were passed by a Republican majority in both houses, with no reference to the prohibition of slavery, thus vindicating Webster, and practically stamping the fierce agitation of the previous twelve years as a stultification."


[merged small][ocr errors]

2 Cf. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, I., 270, 271.

[ocr errors]



(OCTOBER 29, 1860-DECEMBER 20, 1860)

ENERAL SCOTT, with his memories of 1832, was one of those who appreciated the danger hanging over the country, and, October 29, 1860, he wrote from New York, where he had his headquarters, a letter of great length to the president, which in pompous phrases, conceding the right of secession, and embodying some absurd ideas, such as allowing "the fragments of the great republic to form themselves into new confederacies, probably four," as a smaller evil than war, gave it as his "solemn conviction" that there was, from his knowledge of the southern population, “some danger of an early act of rashness preliminary to secession, viz: the seizure of some or all of the following posts: Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the Mississippi; Morgan below Mobile, all without garrisons; Pickens, McKee at Pensacola, with an insufficient garrison for one; Pulaski, below Savannah, without a garrison; Moultrie and Sumter, Charleston harbor, the former with an insufficient garrison, the latter

without any; and Fort Monroe, Hampton Roads, with an insufficient garrison."

He gave it as his opinion that "all these works should be immediately so garrisoned as to make any attempt to take any one of them by surprise or coup de main, ridiculous." He did not state the number of men needed, but in a supplementary paper the next day (October 30) said, "There is one (regular) company in Boston, one here (at the Narrows), one at Pittsburg, one at Baton Rougein all five companies only within reach." These five companies, about two hundred and fifty men, were of course absurdly inadequate to garrison nine such posts, but had there been a determination in the president's mind to prevent seizures, enough men could have been brought together to hold the more important points.

For Scott's statement as to the number available was grossly inaccurate, and but serves to show the parlous state of a war department in which the general-in-chief can either be so misinformed or allow himself to remain in ignorance of vital facts. There were but five points in the farther South of primal importance: the Mississippi, Mobile, Pensacola, Savannah, and Charleston; two hundred men at each would have been ample to hold the positions for the time being, and, being held, reinforcement in any degree would later have been easy.

1 Buchanan, Administration on Eve of Rebellion, chap. v.; Ngtional Intelligencer, January 18, 1861.

There was a total of 1048 officers and men at the northern posts,' including Leavenworth, Mackinac, Plattsburg, Boston, New York, and Fort Monroe, who could have been drawn upon. There were already 250 men at Charleston, Key West, Pensacola, and Baton Rouge. It is safe to say that a thousand men were available. There were also some eight hundred marines at the navy-yards and barracks 2 who could have been used in such an emergency. The aggregate of the army, June 30, 1860, was 16,006, of which 14,926 were enlisted men; and it was in the power of the president to increase this total aggregate to 18,626.3 Recruiting was, in fact, actively going on; almost every man at the posts mentioned could even much after the date of Scott's paper have been safely withdrawn for the object mentioned and quickly replaced.

Scott's inaccurate report gave Buchanan additional reason for the inaction which was his basic thought. He says, in his apologia that "to have attempted to distribute these five companies in the eight forts of the cotton States and Fortress Monroe in Virginia, would have been a confession of weakness. It could have had no effect in preventing secession, but must have done much to provoke it. The first part of this statement would have been true


1 Secretary of war, Report, 1860, Senate Exec. Docs., 36 Cong. 2

Sess., No. 1, pp. 214, 216.

* Secretary of navy, Report, 1860, ibid., 383.

'Secretary of war, Report, 1860, ibid., 209, 213.

Buchanan, Administration on Eve of Rebellion, 104.

« PreviousContinue »