« PreviousContinue »
to arms of General Carrington is a memorable illustration of the public fearfulness begotten by the general suspicion. "To The Public. ""Whereas the militia of the district is not organized, and threats have been made that the President-elect shall not be inaugurated in Washington, and there is reason, therefore, to apprehend that on the 4th of March next our city may be made the scene of riot, violence, and bloodshed; and whereas the undersigned believes that the honor of the nation and our city demands that the President-elect shall be inaugurated in the national metropolis, and that the young men of Washington city are determined not to desert their homes in the hour of danger, but to maintain their ground and defend their families and friends, in the Union and on the side of the Constitution and the laws, therefore the undersigned earnestly invites all who concur with him in opinion, and who are not now connected with some military company, to join with him in forming a temporary military organization, with a view of preserving peace and order in our midst on the 4th of March next, or whenever the emergency i equires it—and for that purpose to unite with the volunteer companies of our city, which have, in a spirit of gallantry and patriotism worthy of our imitation, pledged themselves to the cause of the Union, the Constitution, and the laws. It is proper to state that I take this step after consultation with friends in whom I have the greatest confidence. It is not my object to interfere with my brolher officers of the militia;
the organization proposed is to be purely volunteer, for the purpose above stated, in which I am willing to serve in any capacity. I make the proposition, not as one of the generals of the militia, but as a citizen of Washington, who is prepared to defend his home and his honor at the peril of his life.
"Edward C. Carrington."
Lieut. General Scott, however, the venerable custodian of the Union, was on guard, and by his prompt military measures of defence soon relieved the inquietude at the capital.
Even in New York a suspicion of secret plots arose, and excited public anxiety. The entire force at the Brooklyn navy-yard was put under arms, the guns of the frigate North Carolina shotted, and the city militia mustered, in readiness to resist the rumored attack of a band of secession conspirators.
A measure of obvious duty, though perhaps not of technical right, tardily begun and but ineffectively carried out, that of seizing, by the* police of New York, arms intended for the seceded States, excited not unnaturally great indignation at the South, and some less expected disfavor even at the North. jaii, The mayor of the city of New York 24. eagerly disclaimed any responsibility for the "outrage," and declared that if he had the power, he "would summarily punish the authors of this illegal and unjustifiable seizure of private property." The Governor of Georgia retaliated by seizing some New York vessels in the harbor of Savannah, which were held until the arms claimed by him were restored.
While the feeling between the unionists and secessionists was thus becoming daily more exasperated, and threatening a collision of arms, a peace con
vention, suggested by the State of Virginia, had assembled in Washington and been organized, with ex-President Tyler to preside over it.
'lhe Meeting of the General Congress of the Seceding States at Montgomery.—Organization.—Formation of Provisional Government and Constitution.—No Conciliation or Compromise.—Nature of the New Constitution.—Its Politic Clauses.—Election of President and Vice-President.—Good Choice.—Extremists and Moderates both suited.—Life of Jefferson Davis.—His Birth.—Parentage.—Military Career.—Resignation.—Cotton Planting.—Political Career.— A Volunteer Officer in the Mexican War.—Turns the Tide of Battle at Buena Vista —Appointed Brigadier-General. —Scruples of a States Rights Man.—Senator of the United States.—Chairman of Committee on Military Affairs.— Unsuccessful Candidate for Governor.—Electioneering for Pierce.—Secretary of War, and sei vices in that office.— Personal Character and Appearance.—Elected President of the Confederate States.—Inaugural Addiess.—Biography of Alexander H. Stephens.—A poor Youth.—Educated by Charity.—Rapid eminence as a Lawyer.—Leader of the Whig Party in Congress.—Retirement from Public Life.—Disease.—Stirred by the Secession Movement.—Strong for the Union.—A sudden Conversion.—An earnest Proselyte.—Personal Appearance and Character.—A remarkable Speech.—The Cabinet of President Davis.—Robert Toombs: his Life and Character.—Churles Gustavus Memminger: his Life and Character.—Le Roy Pope Walker: his Life and Character.—Judah P. Benjamin: his Life and Character.—Stephen M. Mallory: his Life and Character. — John H. Reagan: his Life and Character.
In accordance with a proposition of Alabama, all the conventions of the seceding States sent delegates to a general congress, which met at Montgomery on the 4th of February. In a few days after its organization, the Feb« form of a provisional government 8« and a constitution were unanimously agreed upon, to take effect immediately. No suggestion was made for the restoration of harmony with the Union from which the States represented in the convention had separated. The subjects of conciliation and compromise were waived as totally obsolete. To form an independent nation and provide for its government and defence was the sole object, apparently, of the desire, as it was the motive of the action. of the members of the convention.
The constitution adopted was based on that of the United States, with modifications peculiar to the new government. The preamble dwelt especially on the separate sovereignty of the individual States of the new confederacy, and thus strove to give legal sanction to that heresy which had proved so fatal to the harmony of the Union. It declared:
"We, the deputies of the sovereign and independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, invoking the favor of Almighty God, do hereby, in behalf of these States, ordain and establish this constitution for the provisional government of the same, to continue one year from the inauguration of the President, or until a permanent constitution or confederation between the said States shall CONSTITUTION OF SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY.
be put in operation, whichsoever shall first occur."
To conciliate the governments of Europe, on whose interposition in behalf of the new confederacy great calculations were made, but whose policy of abolishing the slave-trade seemed fatal to an alliance with any state which might favor that cruel commerce, the following article was adopted:
"The importation of African negroes from nny foreign country other than the slaveholding States of the United States, is hereby forbidden, and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.''
At the same time, to give full protection to the institution as it existed in the slave States comprising the confederacy, a stringent fugitive law set forth that:
"A slave in one State escaping to another shall be delivered up on the claim of the party to whom said slave may belong, by the executive authority of the State in which such slave may be found; and in case of any abduction or forcible rescue, full compensation, including the value of the slave, and all costs and expenses, shall be made to the party by the State in which such abduction or rescue shall take place."
The following clause was ingeniously introduced as a forcible appeal to Virginia and other border States, still reluctant to leave the Union and try the hazards of the new confederacy.
"Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of this confederacy."
In the clause relating to the tariff, the favorite Southern doctrine of taxation for revenue, and not for protection, was distinctly enunciated thus:
"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises for revenue necessary to pay the debts and carry on the government of the confederacy, and all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the confederacy."
To close up all accounts with the old Union and start the new under the most favorable auspices, an ostentatious profusion of fairness of dealing was made in an article declaring that "the government hereby instituted shall take immediate steps for the settlement of all matters between the States forming it and their late confederates of the United States, in relation to the public property and public debt at the time of their withdrawal from them, these States hereby declaring it to be their wish and earnest desire to adjust everything pertaining to the common property, common liabilities, and common obligations of that union upon principles of right, justice, equity, and good faith."
After the adoption of the Constitution, the Congress proceeded at once to the election of a provisional President and and Vice-President. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, was chosen the former, and Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, the latter. No better appointments could have been made to further the purposes of the new confederacy. Both were experienced statesmen of practised executive talents. Davis, who had been long known as an advocate of State Rights, served to give assurance to the extremists of the South that their special interests were safe in his keeping, while Stephens, whose reluctant secessionism had been equally conspicuous, gave confidence to the moderate men, and encouraged them to give in their adherence to a government of which he was a prominent executive officer.
Jefferson Davis was born on the third of June, 1808, in Christian, now Todd, County, Kentucky. His father, who was a planter and an officer in the army of Revolutionary renown, removed to Mississippi while his son was yet a child. After a sound preliminary academical discipline at school and college, young Davis was admitted a cadet at West Point in 1824. In 1828 he graduated, and entered into active military service. In the Black Hawk war he earned promotion by his gallantry, and being raised to a first lieutenantcy of dragoons, served in that rank in various expeditions against the Indian tribes of the West. In 1835 he resigned his commission and took to cotton planting in Mississippi. He was, however, soon withdrawn from his retirement by the political interests of the country, and in 1844 was chosen a Presidential elector of Mississippi, to vote for Polk and Dallas, the candidates of the Democratic party, for which Davis had early shown his partiality.
In 1845, Davis was chosen a member of Congress, and a.t once assumed a prominent position, as a debater, on the
side of his political friends, the Democrats. The Mexican war having in the mean time broken out. and a Mississippi regiment having elected him its colonel, he left at once his seat in the House of Representatives, and hastened to the scene of hostilities. He was with Taylor at the storming of Monterey, and at the battle of Buena Vista came up, in the nick of time, at the head of his Mississippians, and it is said turned the tide of battle in favor of the American troops. He was wounded while pertinaciously resisting a superior force, but still remained in the saddle until the end of the battle. General Taylor complimented him highly in his dispatch. On the expiration of the term of service of his regiment he returned home, but on his way he was met with a commission of brigadier-general of volunteers from President Polk. This, however, with a scrupulous regard for the "sovereign" rights of his State, he refused to accept, on the ground that the Federal authority, in making such an appointment, was interfering with the prerogative of Mississippi.
In 1847, Davis was appointed by the Governor of Mississippi senator of the United States, to fill a casual vacancy. In the next year, however, he was unanimously elected by the Legislature to complete the term, and again in 1850 was a second time chosen. He was appointed chairman of the committee on military affairs, and took a prominent part in the debates on most important questions, but especially on those which bore upon the interests of the slave States. He proved himself a resolute defender of slavey, and became remarkable for his advocacy of State Rights as supremely sovereign to those of the Union. In 1851 he was nominated candidate for governor expressly as an exponent of these views, but was defeated by the "Union" candidate, Henry S. Foote, who, however, secured his election by the small majority only of nine hundred.
JEFFERSON DAVIS PERSONALLY.
Having resigned his seat in the Senate, on accepting the nomination for governor, he, after his defeat, remained in retirement until the Presidential canvass of 1852, when he electioneered actively for Pierce, and was rewarded, on his accession to the Presidency, by the appointment of secretary of war. In this office Davis proved himself an executive officer of great capacity and energy. He infused a new spirit into the war department, and introduced various effective reforms and improvements. The adoption of the light infantry system of tactics, the manufacture of rifled muskets, pistols, and the Minnie ball, and the increase of our coast defences are among the changes he effected.
On the accession of Buchanan to the Presidency, Davis, being deprived of his secretaryship of war, was again elected by the Legislature of Mississippi to the Senate of the United States, and there he remained until the secession of his State, when he took his farewell in the remarkable speech already recorded.
Though Davis is a man of meagre frame and delicate organization, he is possessed of great energy and powers of
endurance. His executive talents no one can question, and being ready of speech, some would claim for him the gift of eloquence. His military education and service, his experience as secretary of the war department of the United States, his familiarity with political intrigue, his dauntless spirit, and his natural capacity are what make Jefferson Davis so effective an ally and so formidable a foe.
On the 18th of February, 1861, Davis was inaugurated provisional President of the " Confederate States of America," when he delivered his inaugural.
Inaugural Of Jefferson Davis.
"Gentlemen Of The Congress Of The ConFederate States Of America, Fri^nds And Fellow-citizens:
"Called to the difficult and responsible station of Chief Executive of the Provisional Government which you have instituted, I approach the discharge of the duties assigned me with an humble distrust of my abilities, but with a sustaining confidence in the wisdom of those who are to guide and aid me in the administration of public affairs, and an abiding faith in the virtue and patriotism of the people. Looking forward to the speedy establishment of a permanent government to take the place of this, and which by its greater moral and physical power will be better able to combat with the many difficulties which arise from the conflicting interests of separate nations, I enter upon the duties of the office to which I have been chosen with the hope that the beginning of our career as a confederacy may not be ob