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THE LAST TEAR OP BUCHANAN'S ADMINISTRATION.
The gTeat political struggle for the presidency—The election in November, 1860 — Abraham Litcoln and Hannibal Hamlin chosen president and vice-president of the United States — Excitement and violent denunciations of the Southern leaders — South Carolina takes the lead in the mad outbreak — Secession ordinance of the Palmetto State — Address, Declaration, etc — Congress meets for the second session — Mr. Buchanan's message — Difficulties- of his position —Condemns secession, but thought there was no power of coercion to prevent it — Suggests an explanatory amendment of the Constitution — The House and Senate committees — The Crittenden " Compromise measures " — The "peace propositions " — President's special messages — Peace conference at Washington — Secession convention at Montgomery, Alabama — Davis and Stephens at head of new Confederacy — Dishonest course of the South — Charleston harbor, forts, etc — Proceedings of the Charlestonians — Major Anderson—Resignations of members of the Cabinet — Resignations of Congressmen, speeches, etc — End of the session and result — Review of James Buchanan's administration—Appendix To Chapter XI. — I. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. II. South Carolina's Address to the Slave-holding States. III. South Carolina's Declaration as to Secession.
The several distinguished gentlemen named on a preceding page, accepted the nominations for president and vicepresident, and each party had strong hopes of success. The republicans expected to carry the North and West without difficulty, while the democrats, although weakened by the divisions in their ranks, still believed themselves able to defeat Mr. Lincoln. The union party also persuaded themselves that it was quite possible to secure the election of their candidates. The canvass was vigorously prosecuted; speeches were made in all directions by Messrs. Douglas, Seward, Lincoln, and other prominent men; the press entered as usual most warmly into the contest; and the people were roused to the consideration of the important issues depending on the election.
On the whole, the canvass Vas conduct ed with as much moderation and fairness as is usual; although, at the South, there was no disguise of the hatred to wards the republicans and their principles, and no hesitation in avowing a settled purpose never to submit to the government, if placed in Mi Lincoln's hands. These bitter de nunciations and threatenings were, at the time, looked upon as only the ordis ary effervescence of polit'cal excitement, but subsequent events showed that the Southern disunionist's were in earnest in their fell designs against the integrity and honor of the country.
The election took place, Tuesday, November 6th, and by means of the telegraph, was immediately made known. Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States, and
"became governor, and zealously urged forward extreme measuies; on the 17th, the convention assembled at Columbia, but as the small pox was prevail
ing there, it met at Charleston the next day; on the 20th, the ordinance of secession was reported and adopted in the following words:—" We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained.that the ordinance adopted by us in Convention on the 23d day of May, in the year of our Lord 1788, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also all acts or parts of acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying the amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed, and that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved."
The convention also put forth an "Address to the People of the Slaveholding States," and a " Declaration of the Causes which justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union."* After a good deal of debate both these papers were adopted, December 24th. The address was an attempt to justify the course which had been taken, on the ground mainly of northern aggression, and urged especially upon the neighboring states to unite with South Carolina and form " a great slave-holding confederacy." The declaration re-affirmed the state rights theory in its most stringent form; and asserted that fifteen of the states in the
* For some extracts from these papers, see Appendix II. at the end of the present chapter
Union had refused to fulfil their constitutional obligations; that the North hated and reviled slavery; that a man had been elected president whose whole soul was hostile to slavery; that negroes, in some states, had been allowed even to become citizens; and such like. Governor Pickens, the same day, issued a proclamation, asserting, among other things, "that the State of South Carolina had resumed her position among the nations of the world as a free, sovereign, and independent state f and the legislature, after the various acts called for by the anomalous condition of affairs, and the need of getting ready to resist any movements on the part of the government to enforce the laws, adjourned on the 5th of January, 1861.* While South Carolina was thus taking the lead in rebellion, aided and encouraged by other violent pro-slavery portions of the South, the national legislature was just entering upon its momentous work. On Monday, December 3d, the Thirty-sixth Congress met for its second session. The next day Mr. Buchanan sent in his message, in which he entered into an elaborate discussion of the state of the country, and made various recom mendations requiring special attention. He evidently felt himself to be in a very difficult and uncomfortable position. All his political life had been marked by partiality for the southern views of
* The headlong precipitancy and folly of South Carolina 'were gladly and skilfully used by secession leaders in other states. Ordinances, similar to that above quoted, were passed by Mississippi, January 9th, 1861; by Alabama and Florida, January 11th ; by Georgia, January 18th • by Louisiana, January 28th and by Texas, February 1st
the great questions at issue, and by a spirit of unmanly subserviency, and so he condemned the North, without scruple, as the authors of the trouble now existing ;* at the same time he could hardly venture to stultify himself by justifying the course of the hotheaded politicians who were inaugurating armed insurrection, and so he took occasion to set forth very plainly the folly and impudence of the claim on the part of any state to secede and break up the Union, whenever it saw fit to make the attempt.
Having—strangely enough—declared that Mr. Lincoln's election to the presidency "does not, of itself, afford just cause for dissolving the Union;" Mr. Buchanan went on to say: "in order to justify secession as a constitutional remedy, it must be on the principle, that the federal government is a mere voluntary association of states, to be dissolved at pleasure by any one of the contracting parties. If this be so, the confederacy is a rope of sand, to be penetrated and dissolved by the first adverse wave of public opinion in any of the states. In this manner our thirty-three states may resolve them
* Mr. Giddinga, in his "History of the Rebellion," p. 449, denounces in no measured terms, "the mendacious effrontery " of Mr. Buchanan in asserting " the long continued and intemperate interference of the northern people with the question of slavery in the southern states." On the other hand, Mr. George Lunt, of Massachusetts, a gentleman of years and experience in public affairs, published a volume of some 500 pp. to set forth " The Origin of the Late War, traced from the beginning of the Constitution to the Revolt of the southern states." (New York, 1866.) Mr. Lunt's views are of the old-fashioned, pro-slavery sort, so that, of course, he charges upon the North aggression upon the rights of the South, and justifies the secession leaders in seeking redress by seceding and thus compelling the North to yield to their demands.
selves into as many petty, jarring, and hostile republics, each one retiring from the Union without responsibility whenever any sudden excitement might impel them to such a course. By this process a Union might be entirely broken into fragments in a few weeks which cost our forefathers many years of toil, privation, and blood to establish.
It (the Constitution)
was intended to be perpetual, and not to be annulled at the pleasure of any one of the contracting parties. . . . . . To the extent of the delegated powers, the Constitution of the United States is as much a part of the Constitution of each state, and is as binding upon its people, as though it had been textually inserted therein. This government, therefore, is a great and powerful government, invested with all the attributes of sovereignty over the special subjects to which its authority extends. Its framers never intended to implant in its bosom the seeds of its own destruction, nor were they at its creation guilty of the absurdity of providing for its own dissolution. It was not intended by its framers to be the baseless fabric of a vision, which, attho touch of the enchanter, would vanish into thin air, but a substantial and mighty fabric, capable of resisting the slow decay of time, and of defying the storms of ages." The right to resist oppression could not of course be denied. "It exists independently of all constitutions, and has been exercised at all periods of the world's history. Under it old governments have been destroyed, and new ones have taken their place. It is embodied in strong and
MR. BUCHANAN'S MESSAGE.