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success of Lincoln was due entirely to the fact of CHAP. XVI. there having been three opposing candidates in the field; or, in other words, to the dissensions in the Democratic party, which divided its vote between Breckinridge and Douglas. What merely moral strength the Democratic party would have gained had it remained united, it is impossible to estimate. Such a supposition can only be based on the absence of the extreme Southern doctrines concerning slavery. Given the presence of those doctrines in the canvass, no hypothesis can furnish a result different from that which occurred. In the contest upon the questions as they existed, the victory of Lincoln was certain. If all the votes given to all the opposing candidates had been concentrated and cast for a "fusion ticket," as was wholly or partly done in five States, the result would have been changed nowhere except in New Jersey, California, and Oregon; Lincoln would still have received but 11 fewer, or 169 electoral votes a majority of 35 in the entire electoral college. It was a contest of ideas, not of persons or parties. The choice was not only free, but distinct and definite. The voter was not, as sometimes happens, compelled to an imperfect or partial expression of his will. The four platforms and candidates offered him an unusual variety of modes of political action. Among them the voters by undisputed constitutional majorities, in orderly, legal, and unquestioned proceedings, chose the candidate whose platform pronounced the final popular verdict that slavery should not be extended, and whose election unchangeably transferred the balance of power to the free States.

CHAPTER XVII

BEGINNINGS OF REBELLION

CH. XVII.

ISUNION was not a fungus of recent growth

DIS

in American politics. Talk of disunion, threats of disunion, accusations of intentions of disunion, lie scattered rather plentifully through the political literature of the country from the very formation of the Government. In fact, the present Constitution of the United States was strenuously opposed by large political factions, and, it may almost be said, succeeded by only a hair's-breadth. That original opposition perpetuated itself in some degree in the form of doubts of its duration and prophecies of its failure. The same dissatisfaction and restlessness resulted in early and important amendments, but these did not satisfy all dissenters and doubters. Immediate and profound conflict of opinion sprang up over the administration and policy of the new Government; active political parties and hot discussion arose, the one side proclaiming that it was too strong, the other asserting that it was too weak, to endure.

Before public opinion was well consolidated, the war of 1812 produced new complaints and new opposition, out of which grew the famous Hartford Convention. It has been charged and denied that

this was a movement of disunion and rebellion. CH. XVII. The exact fact is not important in our day; it is enough that it was a sign of deep political unrest and of shallow public faith. Passing by lesser manifestations of the same character, we come to the eventful nullification proceeding in South Carolina in the year 1832. Here was a formal legislative repudiation of Federal authority with a reserved threat of forcible resistance. At this point disunion was in full flower, and the terms nullification, secession, treason, rebellion, revolution, coercion, constitute the current political vocabulary. Take up a political speech of that period, change the names and dates, and the reader can easily imagine himself among the angry controversies of the winter of 1860.

Nullification was half-throttled by Jackson's proclamation, half-quieted by Clay's compromise. But from that time forward the phraseology and the spirit of disunion became constant factors in Congressional debate and legislation. In 1850,

it broke out to an extent and with an intensity never before reached. This time it enveloped the whole country, and many of the wisest and best statesmen believed civil war at hand. The compromise measures of 1850 finally subdued the storm; but not till the serious beginning of a secession movement had been developed and put down, both by the general condemnation of the whole country, and the direct vote of a union majority in the localities where it took its rise.

Among these compromise acts of 1850 was the admission of California as a free State. The gold discoveries had suddenly filled it with population,

CH. XVII. making the usual probation as a Territory altogether needless. A considerable part of the State lay south of the line of 36°, 30', and the proslavery extremists had demanded that it should be divided into two States-one to be a free and the other to be a slave State-in order to preserve the political balance between the sections, in the United States Senate. This being refused, they not only violently opposed the compromise measures, but organized a movement for resistance in South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi, demanding redress, and threatening secession if it were not accorded. A popular contest on this issue followed in 1851 in these States, in which the ultra-secession party was signally overthrown. It submitted sullenly to its defeat; leaving, as always before, a considerable faction unsatisfied and implacable, only awaiting a new opportunity to start a new disturbance. This new opportunity arose in the slavery agitation, beginning with the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854, and ending with the election of Lincoln. During this six years' controversy, disunion was kept in the background because the pro-slavery party had continual and sanguine hope of ultimate triumph. It did not despair of success until the actual election of Lincoln, on the 6th of November, 1860; consequently, even in the Southern States, as a rule, disunion was frowned upon till near the end of the Presidential campaign, and only paraded as an evil to be feared, not as a thing to be desired.

This aspect, however, was superficial. Under the surface, a small but determined disunion conspiracy was actively at work. It has left few histor

ical traces; but in 1856 distinct evidence begins CH. XVII. to crop out. There was a possibility, though not a probability, that Frémont might be elected President; and this contingency the conspirators proposed to utilize by beginning a rebellion. A letter from the Governor of Virginia to the Governors of Maryland and other States is sufficient proof of such an intent, even without the evidence of later history.

RICHMOND, VA., Sept. 15, 1856.

DEAR SIR: Events are approaching which address themselves to your responsibilities and to mine as chief Executives of slave-holding States. Contingencies may soon happen which would require preparation for the worst of evils to the people. Ought we not to admonish ourselves by joint council of the extraordinary duties which may devolve upon us from the dangers which so palpably threaten our common peace and safety? When, how, or to what extent may we act, separately or unitedly, to ward off dangers if we can, to meet them most effectually if we must?

I propose that, as early as convenient, the Governors of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee shall assemble at Raleigh, N. C., for the purpose generally of consultation upon the state of the country, upon the best means of preserving its peace, and especially of protecting the honor and interests of the slave-holding States. I have addressed the States only having Democratic Executives, for obvious reasons.

This should be done as early as possible before the Presidential election, and I would suggest Monday, the 13th of October next. Will you please give me an early answer, and oblige,

Yours most truly and respectfully,
HENRY A. WISE.

His Excellency Thomas W. Ligon,

Governor of Maryland.

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