Page images

a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the Southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures were devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves; fanatical organizations, supplied with money by voluntary subscriptions, were assiduously engaged in exciting among the slaves a spirit of discontent and revolt; means were furnished for their escape from their owners, and agents secretly employed to entice them to abscond; the constitutional provision for their relation to their owners was first evaded, then openly announced as a conscientious violation of obligation and religious duty; men were taught that it was a merit to elude, disobey, and violently oppose the execution of the laws enacted to secure the performance of the promise in the constitutional compact; owners of slaves were mobbed and even murdered in open day, solely for applying to a magistrate for the arrest of a fugitive slave ; the dogmas of these voluntary organizations soon obtained control of the legislatures of many of the Northern States, and laws were passed providing for the punishment, by ruinous fines and long-continued imprisonment in gaols and penitentiaries, of citizens of the Southern States who should dare to ask aid of the officers of the law for the recovery of their property. Emboldened by success, the theatre of agitation and aggression against the clearly-expressed constitutional rights of the Southern States was tranferred to the Congress; se

nators and representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra-fanaticism, and whose business was not ‘to promote the general welfare or insure domestic tranquillity, but to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States by violent denunciations of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of impairing the security of property in slaves, and reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority. Finally, a great party was organized for the purpose of obtaining the administration of the Government with the avowed object of using its power for the total exclusion of the Slave States from all participation in the benefits of the public domain, acquired by all the States in common, whether by conquest or purchase; of surrounding them entirely by States in which slavery should be prohibited ; of thus rendering the property in slaves so insecure as to be comparatively worthless, and thereby annihilating in effect property worth thousands of millions of dollars. This party, thus organized, succeeded, in the month of November last, in the election of its candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

“In the meantime, under the mild and genial climate of the Southern States, and the increasing care and attention for the well-being and comfort of the labouring class, dictated alike by interest and humanity, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upwards of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural labourers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts, but with careful religious instruction. Under the supervision of a superior race, their labour had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands, covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population, under the social system of the South; the white population of the Southern slave-holding States had augmented from about 1,250,000, at the date of the adoption of the Constitution, to more than 8,500,000 in 1860; and the productions of the South in cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labour of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States, and become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man.” The Message then detailed the events which led to the capture of Fort Sumpter by the Confederates, and proceeded:— “Scarcely had the President of the United States received intelligence of the failure of the scheme which he had devised for the reinforcement of Fort Sumpter,

when he issued the declaration of war against this Confederacy which has prompted me to convoke you. In this extraordinary production, that high functionary affects total ignorance of the existence of an independent Government, which, possessing the entire and enthusiastic devotion of its people, is exercising its functions without question over seven sovereign States, over more than 5,000,000 of people, and over a territory whose area exceeds half a million of square miles. He terms sovereign States ‘combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law.” He calls for an army of 75,000 men to act as a posse comitatus in aid of the process of the courts of justice in States where no courts exist whose mandates and decrees are not cheerfully obeyed and respected by a willing people. He avows, that “the first service to be assigned to the forces called out' will be, not to execute the process of courts, but to capture forts and strongholds situated within the admitted limits of this Confederacy, and garrisoned by its troops; and declares that “this effort' is intended “to maintain the perpetuity of popular government.’ He concludes by commanding ‘the persons composing the combinations aforesaid’—to wit, the 5,000,000 inhabitants of these States— to retire peaceably to their respective abodes within 20 days.' “Apparently contradictory as are the terms of this singular document, one point was unmistakably evident. The President of the United States called for an army of 75,000 men, whose first service was to be to capture our forts. It was a plain declaration of war, which I was not at liberty to disregard, because of my knowledge that, under the Constitution of the United States, the President was usurping a power granted exclusively to the Congress. He is the sole organ of communication between that country and foreign Powers. The law of nations did not permit me to question the authority of the Executive of a foreign nation to declare war against this Confederacy. Although I might have refrained from taking active measures for our defence, if the States of the Union had all imitated the action of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tenessee, and Missouri, by denouncing the call for troops as a constitutional usurpation of power to which they refused to respond, I was not at liberty to disregard the fact, that many of the States seemed quite content to submit to the exercise of the power assumed by the President of the United States, and were actively engaged in levying troops, to be used for the purpose indicated in the proclamation. “Deprived of the aid of Congress at the moment, I was under the necessity of confining my action to a call on the States for volunteers for the common defence, in accordance with the authority you had confided to me before your adjournment. I deemed it proper, further, to issue proclamation inviting application from persons disposed to aid our defence in private armed vessels on the high seas, to the end that preparations might be made for the immediate

[ocr errors]

issue of letters of marque and reprisal, which you alone under the Constitution have power to grant. I entertain no doubt you will concur with me in the opinion that, in the absence of a fleet of public vessels, it will be eminently expedient to supply their place by private armed vessels, so happily styled by the publicists of the United States “the militia of the sea,' and so often and justly relied on by them as an efficient and admirable instrument of defensive warfare. I earnestly recommend the immediate passage of a law authorizing me to accept the numerous proposals already received. “In conclusion, I congratulate you on the fact, that in every portion of our country there has been exhibited the most patriotic devotion to our common cause. Transportation companies have freely tendered the use of their lines for troops and supplies. The presidents of the railroads of the Confederacy, in company with others who control lines of communication with States that we hope soon to greet as sisters, assembled in convention in this city, and not only reduced largely the rates heretofore demanded for mail service and conveyance of troops and munitions, but voluntarily proffered to receive their compensations at these reduced rates in the bonds of the Confederacy, for the purpose of leaving all the resources of the Government at its disposal for common defence. Requisitions for troops have been met with such alacrity, that the numbers tendering their services have in every instance greatly exceeded the demand. Men of the highest official and social position are serving as volunteers in the ranks. The gravity of age and the zeal of youth rival each other in the desire to be foremost in the public defence; and, though at no other point than the one heretofore noticed have they been stimulated by the excitement incident to actual engagement, and the hope of distinction for individual achievement, they have borne what for new troops is the most severe ordeal—patient toil and constant vigil, and all the exposure and discomfort of active service-—with a resolution and fortitude such as to command approbation and justify the highest expectation of their conduct, when active valour shall be required in place of steady endurance. “A people thus united and resolved cannot shrink from any sacrifice which they may be called on to make; nor can there be a reasonable doubt of their final success, however long and severe may be the test of their determination to maintain their birthright of freedom and equality, as a trust which it is their first duty to transmit undiminished to their posterity. “A bounteous Providence cheers us with the promise of abundant crops. The fields of grain, which will within a few weeks be ready for the sickle, give assurance of the amplest supply of food for man; while the corn, cotton, and other staple productions of our soil afford abundant proof that up to this period the season has been propitious. “We feel that our cause is just and holy; we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacri

fice save that of honour and independence. We seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us should not now attempt our subjugation by arms. This we will, this we must, resist, to the direst extremity. The moment that this pretension is abandoned, the sword will dro from our grasp, and we shall be ready to enter into treaties of amity and commerce that cannot but be mutually beneficial. So long as this pretension is maintained, with a firm reliance on that Divine Power which covers with its protection the just cause, we will continue to struggle for our inherent right to freedom, independence, and self-government.” On the 3rd of May, President Lincoln issued a proclamation, calling into the service of the United States 42,034 volunteers, and directing that the regular army should be increased by 22,714 officers and men, and the navy by 18,000 seamen. In a dispatch addressed by Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, to the American Minister at Paris, on the 4th of May, he thus spoke of the determination of his Government to maintain the Union:— “The United States waited patiently while their authority was defied in turbulent assemblies and insidious preparations, willing to hope that mediation of fered on all sides would conciliate and induce the disaffected parties to return to a better mind. But the case is now altogether changed. The insurgents have instituted revolution with open, flagrant, deadly war, to compel the United States to acquiesce in the dismemberment of the Union. The United States have accepted this civil war as an inevitable necessity. The constitutional remedies of all the complaints of the insurgents are still open to them, and will remain so. But, on the other hand, the land and naval forces of the Union have been put into activity to restore the Federal authority and to save the Union from danger. “You cannot be too decided or too explicit in making known to the French Government that there is not now, nor has there been, nor will there be any—the least—idea existing in this Government of suffering a dissolution of this Union to take place in any way whatever. There will be here only one nation and one Government, and there will be the same republic and the same constitutional Union that have already survived a dozen national changes and changes of Government in almost every other country. These will stand hereafter, as they are now, objects of human wonder and human affection. You have seen, on the eve of your departure, the elasticity of the national spirit, the vigour of the national Government, and the lavish devotion of the national treasures to this great cause.” On the appearance of the foregoing proclamation, the Confederate Congress immediately passed an Act “recognizing the existence of war between the United States and the Confederate States”; and authorizing the President to use the whole land and naval forces of the Confederate States, and to issue commissions to privateers.

The preamble of the Act thus described the position of the Seceding States:— “Whereas the State of Virginia has seceded from the Federal Union, and entered into a Convention of alliance, offensive and defensive, with the Confederate States, and has adopted the provisional Constitution of the said States, and the States of Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri have refused, and it is believed that the State of Delaware, and the inhabitants of the territories of Arizona and New Mexico, and the Indian territory south of Kanzas will refuse to co-operate with the Government of the United States in these acts of hostilities and wanton aggression, which are plainly intended to overawe, oppress, and finally subjugate the people of the Confederate States; and whereas, by the acts and means aforesaid, war exists between the Confederate States and the Government of the United States and the States and territories thereof, except the States . of Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, and Delaware, and the territories of Arizona and New Mexico, and the Indian territories south of Kanzas.” Kentucky, at the time, had declared for neutrality, and no attempt was made by the United States Government to treat this as an act of treason, which it certainly was, if secession was an act of rebellion. The Governor of Kentucky, in a proclamation he issued in May, said:— “I hereby notify and warn all other States, separate or united, especially the United and Confederate States, that I solemnly

« PreviousContinue »