Изображения страниц

CH. XVIII. had a public reception before the Legislature, and reT. L. Cling- turned to his position in the Cabinet is known, but this incident serves to recall it.



and Writings," pp. 526, 527

"Rise and
Fall of the


ate Govern

ment," Vol.

I., pp. 57, 58,


To this sketch of the Cabinet cabal it is necessary to add the testimony of his participation, by one who, from first to last, was a principal and controlling actor. Jefferson Davis records that:

In November, 1860, after the result of the Presidential election was known, the Governor of Mississippi, having issued his proclamation convoking a special session of the Legislature to consider the propriety of calling a convention, invited the Senators and Representatives of the State in Congress to meet him for consultation as to the character of the message he should send to the Legislature when assembled. . . While engaged in the consultation with the Governor just referred to, a telegraphic message was handed to me from two members of Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet, urging me to proceed "immediately" to Washington. This dispatch was laid before the Governor and the members of Congress from the State who were in conference with him, and it was decided that I should comply with the summons. . . On arrival at Washington, I found, as had been anticipated, that my presence there was desired on account of the influence which it was supposed I might exercise with the President (Mr. Buchanan) in relation to his forthcoming message to Congress. On paying my respects to the President, he told me that he had finished the rough draft of his message, but that it was still open to revision and amendment, and that he would like to read it to me. He did so and very kindly accepted all the modifications which I suggested. The message was, however, afterwards somewhat changed.

In the documents we have presented, though they manifestly form but the merest fragment of the secret correspondence which passed between the chief conspirators, and of the written evidence recorded by them in various forms, then and afterwards, we have a substantial unmasking of the

combined occult influences which presided over CH. XVIII. the initiatory steps of the great American Rebellion-its central council- the master wheel of its

[ocr errors]

machinery and the connecting relation which caused all its subordinate parts to move in harmonious accord.

With the same mind to dictate a secession message to a Legislature and a non-coercion message to Congress-to assemble insurrectionary troops to seize Federal forts and withhold Government troops from their protection-to incite governors to rebellion and overawe a weak President to a virtual abdication of his rightful authority, history need not wonder at the surprising unity and early success of the conspiracy against the Union.





THE secret circular of Governor Gist, of South Carolina, heretofore quoted, inaugurated the great American Rebellion a full month before a single ballot had been cast for Abraham Lincoln. This was but repeating in a bolder form the action taken by Governor Wise, of Virginia, during the Frémont campaign four years before. But, instead, as in that case, of confining himself to a proposed consultation among slave-State executives, Governor Gist proceeded almost immediately to a public and official revolutionary act.

On the 12th of October, 1860, he issued his proclamation convening the Legislature of South Carolina in extra session, "to appoint electors of President and Vice-President . . . and also that they may, if advisable, take action for the safety and protection of the State." There was no external peril menacing either the commonwealth or its humblest citizen; but the significance of the phrase was soon apparent.

A caucus of prominent South Carolina leaders is said to have been held on October 25, at the residence of Senator Hammond. Their deliberations remained secret, but the determination arrived at

appears clearly enough in the official action of Gov- CHAP. XIX. ernor Gist, who was present, and who doubtless carried out the plans of the assemblage. When the Legislature met on November 5 (the day before the Presidential election) the Governor sent them his opening message, advocating both secession and insurrection, in direct and undisguised language. He recommended that in the event of Lincoln's election, a convention should be immediately called; that the State should secede from the Federal Union; and "if in the exercise of arbitrary power and forgetful of the lessons of history, the Government of the United States should attempt coercion, it will be our solemn duty to meet force by force." To this end he recommended a reorganization of the militia and the raising and drilling an army of ten thousand volunteers. He placed the prospects of such a revolution in a most hopeful and encouraging light. "The indications from many of the Southern States," said he, "justify the conclusion that the secession of South Carolina will be immediately followed, if not adopted simultaneously, by them, and ultimately by the entire South. The long-desired coöperation of the other States having similar institutions, for which the State has been waiting, seems to be near at hand; and, if we are true to ourselves, will soon be Journal," realized."

Governor Gist's justification of this movement as attempted was (in his own language) "the strong probability of the election to the Presidency of a sectional candidate by a party committed to the support of measures, which if carried out will inevitably destroy our equality in the Union, and

South Carolina "House

Called Session, 1860, pp. 10, 11.

CHAP. XIX. ultimately reduce the Southern States to mere provinces of a consolidated despotism to be governed by a fixed majority in Congress hostile to our institutions."

This campaign declamation, used throughout the whole South with great skill and success, to "fire the Southern heart," was wholly defective as a serious argument.

As to the alleged destruction of equality, the North proposed to deny to the slave States no single right claimed by the free States: The talk about "provinces of a consolidated despotism to be governed by a fixed majority" was, in itself an absurd contradiction in terms, which repudiated the fundamental idea of republican government. The acknowledgment that any danger from antislavery "measures" was only in the future, negatived its validity as a present grievance. Hostility to "our institutions" was expressly disavowed by full constitutional recognition of slavery under State authority. The charge of "sectionalism" came with a bad grace from a State whose newspapers boasted that none but the Breckinridge ticket was tolerated within her borders, and whose elsewhere obsolete "institution " of choosing Presidential electors by the Legislature instead of by the people, combined with such a dwarfed and crippled public sentiment, made it practically impossible for a single vote to be cast for either Lincoln or Douglas or Bell-a condition mathematically four times as "sectional" as that of any State of the North.

Finally, the avowed determination to secede because a Presidential election was about to be legally

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »