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EFFECT OF LINCOLN'S ELECTION. 21
The Election of Lincoln a signal and pretext of Insurrection.—The news hailed with joy in South Carolina.—Secession Meetings.—Sympathy of Slave States.—Offer of Aid from Virginia.—Secession Movement in New Orleans.—A Call for an Army in South Carolina.—Resignation of the United States Senators from South Carolina.—Tendency to Rebellion in the other Slave States.—Action of the Legislature of Georgia.—Florida hails the "Gallant Palmetto Flag."—The Governor of Alabama advises to prepare for Secession.—Conventions ordered.—Increase of the Secession Mania in South Carolina.—Flying of the Palmetto Flag, and excited enthusiasm of the People.- An infectious example.—Arming of Georgia.—Commissioners from Mississippi.—Mutual Counsel and Advice.—Arming of the Southern People.—Purchases of Arms from the North.—Increased Barbarity at the South.—Feeling at the North.— Trust in the sentiment of Union.—Hope from Congress and the President.—Disappointment.—President Buchanan's Message.
The election of Lincoln was made the signal in the South. as it was the pretext, for the open defiance of the authority of the Federal Government. The intelligence of the fact was received at Charleston, S. C, with undisguised joy, and the citizens gave vent to their enthusiasm in '' long-continued cheering for a Southern confederacy." Meetings were held, where local orators delivered stirring speeches, in which they declared that Southern independence could only be secured by the secession of South Carolina, and were rapturously applauded. The conspirators of the different Southern States interchanged expressions of sympathy and offers of mutual service. From Virginia, even at that early period, came a proffer to South Carolina of a volunteer corps to aid her in her projected rebellion. In New Orleans, placards were posted on the walls of the city inviting the citizens to military organization, and soon "minute men" were mustered in every cotton State.
On the 10th of November a bill was introduced in the Legislature of South
Carolina for calling out and equipping an army of ten thousand volunteers, and on the same day was ordered an election for delegates to a convention to take action on the question of secession. This was followed by the resignation by the South Carolina senators of their seats in the Senate of the United States, which was accepted with enthusiasm. Finally, on November 13th, the Legislature adjourned sine die, when its preparatory acts of secession were honored by a torch-light procession in the capital of the State.
The other cotton States, though less precipitate than South Carolina in legislative action, gave early indications of their tendency to insurrection. The Legislature of Georgia refused to order the election of a senator to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. The Governor of Florida sent a telegraphic greeting to the Governor of South Carolina, declaring that " Florida is with the gallant Palmetto flag." The Governor of Alabama advised his fellow-citizens to prepare for secession, and gave notice of his intention to order an election of delegates to a State convention. An extra session of the Legislature of Virginia was called to "take into consideration the condition of public affairs." At the same time great meetings were held at New Orleans, Augusta, Montgomery, Vicksburg, and other Southern cities, in favor of disunion. Each day brought with it a fresh development of the secession mania. The citizens of Charleston gathered in crowds to "inaugurate the revolution." The palmetto flag, the symbol of the State, was hoisted upon tall poles of pine erected for the purpose, and flung out from every public building, hotel, and private residence. Men, women, and children flaunted secession badges, and yielded unresistingly to the common madness.
In the meanwhile the example of South Carolina was infecting her neighbors. The Legislature of Georgia voted Nov. an appropriation of a million of
18' dollars "to arm and equip the State," and ordered an election of delegates to a convention. The Legislature jj0V, of North Carolina refused to elect
W« a United States Senator. The Legislature of Mississippi authorized the Nov. governor to appoint commissioners
29« to visit the slaveholding States, to devise means in co-operation for "their common defense and safety." The LegDec, islature of Florida unanimously
1« passed the bill calling for a convention. The Legislature of Georgia again, unable to check its impatience, Dec. made a further advance toward rebellion by considering a resolution to invite a conference of the Southern
States, for mutual counsel in regard to the best means of resistance to the North.
The people of the slave States were daily arming themselves for an anticipated encounter with the Federal authorities they were provoking. Immense purchases of arms and ammunition were made at New York, Boston, and Hartford. The rage against the unsympathetic citizens of the North, who by an unhappy fate chanced to be exposed to their insults and violence, was manifested with increased barbarity.
The loyal citizens of the country, though alarmed by these rebellious indications of the slave States, yet trusted to the sentiment of union to check, and the power as well as the disposition of the Federal Government to repress them. Some looked to Congress, now in Dec. session, for a ready compliance with measures of conciliation and compromise, by which Southern discontent might be soothed by Northern concession. Others trusting in the power of Government, hoped that the chief magistrate, now that his weak will and vacillating purposes could be steadied and directed by congressional resolution, would bind with the fetters of authority the rebellion before it should be aroused in its might.
The message of Buchanan, however, soon dissipated these hopes. Instead of a dignified vindication of authority, Dec. it was an ill-concealed attempt at justification of its contemners, and an open declaration of their impunity. This remarkable document will be always considered a not inefficient promoter of rebellion, and is now recorded as an important fact in its history.
PRESIDENT BUCHANAN'S MESSAGE.
"fellow-citizens Of The Senate
And House Of Representatives:
"Throughout the year since our last meeting, the country has been eminently prosperous in all its material interests. The general health has been excellent, our harvests have been abundant, and plenty smiles throughout the land. Our commerce and manufactures have been prosecuted with energy and industry, and have yielded fair and ample returns. In short, no nation in the tide of time has ever presented a spectacle of greater material prosperity than we have done until within a very recent period.
"Why is it, then, that discontent now so extensively prevails, and the Union of the States, which is the source of all these blessings, is threatened with destruction? The long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects. The different sections of the Union are now arrayed against each other, and the time has arrived, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, when hostile geographical parties have been formed. I have long foreseen and often forewarned my countrymen of the now impending danger. This does not proceed solely from the claims on the part of Congress or the Territorial Legislature to exclude slavery from the Territories, nor from the
efforts of different States to defeat the execution of the Fugitive Slave law.
"All or any of these evils might have been endured by the South without danger to the Union (as others have been), in the hope that time and reflection might apply the remedy. The immediate peril arises not so much from these causes, as from the fact that the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century, has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves, and inspired them with vague notions of freedom. Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar. This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehensions of servile insurrection. Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and her children before the morning. Should this apprehension of domestic danger, whether real or imaginary, extend and intensify itself until it shall pervade the masses of the Southern people, then disunion will become inevitable. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest purpose; and no political union, however fraught with blessings and benefits in all other respects, can long continue, if the necessary consequence be to render the homes and the firesides of nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure. Sooner or later the bonds of such a union must be severed. It is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived; and my prayer to God is, that he would preserve the Constitution and the Union throughout all generations.
"But let us take warning in time, and remove the cause of danger. It can not be denied that for five-and-twenty years the agitation at the North against slavery in the South has been incessant. In 1835, pictorial handbills and inflammatory appeals were circulated extensively throughout the South, of a character to excite the passions of the slaves; and, in the language of Gen. Jackson, 'to stimulate them to insurrection, and produce all the horrors of a servile war.' This agitation has ever since been continued by the public press, by the proceedings of State and county conventions, and by abolition sermons and lectures. The time of Congress has been occupied in violent speeches on this never-ending subject, and appeals in pamphlet and other forms, indorsed by distinguished names, have been sent forth from this central point, and spread broadcast over the Union.
'' How easy would it be for the American people to settle the slavery question forever, and to restore peace and harmony to this distracted country!
"They, and they alone, can do it. All that is necessary to accomplish the object, and all for which the slave States have ever contended, is to be let alone and permitted to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. As sovereign States, they, and they alone, are responsible before God and the world for the slavery existing among them. For this, the people of the North are not
more responsible, and have no more right to interfere, than with similar institutions in Russia or in Brazil. Upon their good sense and patriotic forbearance I confess I still greatly rely. Without their aid, it is beyond the power of any President, no matter what may be his own political proclivities, to restore peace and harmony among the States. Wisely limited and restrained as is his power, under our Constitution and laws, he alone can accomplish but little, for good or for evil, on such a momentous question.
"And this brings me to observe that the election of any one of our fellowcitizens to the office of President does not of itself afford just cause for dissolving the Union. This is more especially true if his election has been effected by a mere plurality, and not a majority, of the people, and has resulted from transient and temporary causes, which may probably never again occur. In order to justify a resort to revolutionary resistance, the Federal Government must be guilty of 'a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise' of powers not granted by the Constitution. The late Presidential election, however, has been held in strict conformity with its express provisions. How, then, can the result justify a revolution to destroy this very Constitution? Reason, justice, a regard for the Constitution, all require that we shall wait for some overt and dangerous act on the part of the President-elect before resorting to such a remedy.
"It is said. however, that the ante25
THE SOUTH AND ITS RIGHTS.
cedents of the President-elect have been sufficient to justify the fears of the South that he will attempt to invade their constitutional rights. But are such apprehensions of contingent danger in the future sufficient to justify the immediate destruction of the noblest system of government ever devised by mortals? From the very nature of his office, and its high responsibilities, he must necessarily be conservative. The stern duty of administering the vast and complicated concerns of this Government affords in itself a guarantee that he will not attempt any violation of a clear constitutional right. After all, he is no more than the chief executive officer of the Government. His province is not to make, but to execute, the laws; and it is a remarkable fact in our history, that, notwithstanding the repeated efforts of the Anti-Slavery party, no single act has ever passed Congress, unless we may possibly except the Missouri Compromise, impairing in the slightest degree the rights of the South to their property in slaves. And it may also be observed, judging from the present indications, that no probability exists of the passage of such an act, by a majority of both Houses, either in the present or the next Congress. Surely, under these circumstances, we ought to be restrained from present action by the precept of Him who spake as never man spoke, that 'sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' The day of evil may never come, unless we shall rashly bring it upon ourselves.
"It is alleged as one cause for imme
diate secession, that the Southern States are denied equal rights with the other States in the common Territories. But by what authority are these denied? Not by Congress, which has never passed, and I believe never will pass, any act to exclude slavery from these Territories; and certainly not by the Supreme Court, which has solemnly decided that slaves are property, and, like all other property, their owners have a right to take them into the common Territories, and hold them there under the protection of the Constitution.
"So far, then, as Congress is concerned, the objection is not to anything they have already done, but to what they may do hereafter. It will surely be admitted that this apprehension of future danger is no good reason for an immediate dissolution of the Union. It is true that the Territorial Legislature of Kansas, on the 23d of February, 1860, passed in great haste an act, over the veto of the governor, declaring that slavery 'is, and shall be, forever prohibited in this Territory.' Such an act, however, plainly violating the rights of property secured by the Constitution, will surely be declared void by the judiciary whenever it shall be presented in a legal form.
"Only three days after my inauguration, the Supreme Court of the United States solemnly adjudged that the power did not exist in a Territorial Legislature. Yet such has been the factious temper of the times, that the correctness of this decision has been extensively impugned before the people, and the question has