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CHAPTER XX

MAJOR ANDERSON

CHAP. XX.

PRESIDE

RESIDENT BUCHANAN and his Administration could not, if they would, shut their eyes to the treasonable utterances and preparations at Charleston and elsewhere in the South; but so far neither the speeches nor bonfires nor palmetto flags, nor even the secession message of Governor Gist or the Convention bill of the South Carolina Legislature, constituted a statutory offense. For twelve years the threat of disunion had been in the mouths of the Southern slavery extremists and their Northern allies the most potent and formidable weapon of national politics. It was declaimed on the stump, elaborated in Congressional speeches, set out in national platforms, and paraded as a solemn warning in executive messages.

Mr. Buchanan had profited by the disunion cry both as politician and functionary; and now when disunion came in a practical and undisguised shape he was to a degree powerless to oppose it, because he was disarmed by his own words and his own acts. The disunionists were his partisans, his friends, and confidential counselors; they constituted a remnant of the once proud and successful party which, by his compliance and coöperation in

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their interest, he had disrupted and defeated. Their CHAP. XX. programme hitherto had been the policy upon which he had staked the success or failure of his Administration, so that in addition to every other tie he was bound to them by the common sorrow of political disaster.

Being in such intimate relations and intercourse with the leaders of the Breckinridge wing of the Democratic party during the progress of the Presidential canvass, and that party being made up so exclusively of the extreme Southern Democrats, the President must have had constant information of the progress and development of the disunion sentiment and purpose in the South. He was not restricted as the other parties and the general public were to imperfect reports and doubtful rumors current in the newspapers.

But in addition there now came to him an official warning which it was a grave error to disregard. On October 29, one week before the election, the veteran Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief of the Army, communicated to him in writing his serious apprehensions of coming danger, and suggested such precautions as were then in the power of the Administration. Beginning life as a farmer's boy, collegian, and law student, General Scott from choice became a soldier, devoting himself to the higher aims of the profession of arms, and in a brilliant career of half a century had achieved world-wide renown as a great military captain. In the United States, however, the military is subordinated to the civic ambition, and Scott all his life retained a strong leaning to diplomacy and statesmanship, and on several important VOL. II.-22

CHAP. XX. Occasions gave his country valuable service in essentially civic functions. He had been the unsuccessful Presidential candidate of the Whig party in 1852, a circumstance which no doubt greatly increased his personal attention to current politics, then and afterwards. As the first military officer of the nation, he was also the watchful guardian of the public peace.

eral Win

field Scott,

"Autobiography," Vol. I., p.

234.

The impending rebellion was not to him, as it was to the nation at large, a new event in politics. Many men were indeed aware, through tradition and history, that it was but the Calhoun nullification treason revived and pushed to a bolder extreme. To General Scott it was almost literally the repetition of an old experience. A generation before, Lieut.-Gen- he was himself a prominent actor in opposing the nullification plot. About the 4th of November, 1832, upon special summons, he was taken into a confidential interview by President Jackson, who, after asking Scott's military views upon the threatened rebellion of the nullifiers in Charleston harbor, by oral orders charged him with the duty of enforcing the laws and maintaining the supremacy of the Union; the President placing at his orders the troops and vessels necessary for this purpose. Scott accepted the trust and went to Charleston, and while humoring the nullification Quixotism existing there, he executed the purpose of his mission, by strengthening the defenses and reënforcing the Federal forts. His task was ac

1 His policy, frankly written in the arrival of two or three coma friendly letter to a prominent panies at Charleston in the last nullifier, could scarcely provoke six weeks, and you may hear the most captious criticism: that as many more have fol"You have probably heard of lowed. There is nothing incon

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