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A Constitutional History of the United States
Chapter XLIII - The Eve of the Civil War
by McLaughlin, Andrew C.


The Democratic party met in convention at Charleston, April 23, 1860. It was a momentous and dramatic meeting. Was it still possible to hold the party together and present a united front to the enemy at the north? Could some kind of a makeshift arrangement be devised capable of carrying the party through another election? Both portions, north and south alike, must have seen that the break-up of the party might or would mean the dissolution of the union or a serious attempt at dissolution. The southerners, many of them, were not without patriotism, and their devotion to the party had aided in the maintenance of the union; in fact, there were two patriotisms — a lingering affection for the old union and a devotion to the old party — and of the two, party patriotism was by this time probably the stronger.

The northerners believed that no southerner could carry the north and be elected, for the southern defense of slaveholding interests was too extreme and the Republicans were strong and determined. The average southerner had lost patience with Douglas, and indeed the center of the strife was the hard-fighting leader who could count upon northern adherents still faithful and still clamorous. The Anti-Douglas delegates desired a positive statement in the platform to the effect that neither Congress nor a territorial legislature could destroy or impair the rights of persons or property in the territories. And another critical question, as it appeared in the convention's debates, was whether the party platform should explicitly declare it to be the duty of the federal government in all its departments to protect, when necessary, the rights of persons and property in the territories; and that meant the duty to protect slavery by affirmative legislation. The Douglas Democrats desired a more equivocal statement; they did not wish to go to the northern voters with a positive platform in defense of slavery-expansion. A gentle declaration to abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court appeared to the Douglas men quite enough. Just what the abiding would consist of could be left to the imagination of the voters.[1]

In the midst of the dispute, Yancey of Alabama, a silver-tongued orator, made a speech which warmed the hearts of the southern auditors; he spoke of the decision of the venerable justice "clothed in the supreme ermine" who "had made an exposition of constitutional law, which had rolled in silvery cadence from the dark forests of the North to the glittering waters of the Gulf." [2] "He charged that the defeats of the Democracy in the North were to be traced to the pandering by the party in the free States to anti-slavery sentiments; they had not come up to the high ground which must be taken on the subject, in order to defend the South — namely, that slavery was right." [3] The speech of the fire-consuming orator was scarcely finished when Senator Pugh of Ohio, a stalwart supporter of Douglas, "in a condition of considerable warmth" thanked God "that a bold and honest man from the South had at last spoken, and told the whole truth of the demands of the South." "He then traced the downfall of the Northern Democracy, and the causes of that fall, charging the South with it. And now the Northern Democracy were taunted by the South with weakness. And here, it seemed, the Northern Democracy, because they were in the minority, were thrust back and told in effect they must put their hands on their mouths, and their mouths in the dust. 'Gentlemen of the South,' " he exclaimed, " 'you mistake us — you mistake us — we will not do it.' " [4] Whatever the ambiguity of cleverly-woven platforms, here was an issue, the real issue, clearly presented. Irritated by threats and denunciations of the southern delegates, those Douglas men, who had for years been called "doughfaces" at the north and charged with meek subservience to the slavocracy, were now prepared to speak boldly; they would go no further.[5] Yancey was right; the only road to harmony was in the acknowledgment of the morality of slavery.

Amidst the excitement and brilliance of blazing oratory, when there appeared no chance for an acceptance of a platform announcing the duty of protecting slavery in the territories, delegates from the southern south began to withdraw, Alabama leading the secession. The step was taken with full realization that the next move would probably be a dissolution of the union.[6] But after the withdrawal, it was still impossible to nominate Douglas, because under the rules a two-thirds vote of the full convention was required. After vain trials to select a nominee, the convention adjourned to meet in Baltimore in June. Ten days had been passed in the proceedings of the most momentous and fateful party gathering in American history. Meanwhile, the seceding delegates, meeting during the first days of May at Charleston, adopted resolutions, one of them of course declaring it to be the duty of the government in all its departments to protect slavery in the territories. They issued a call for a convention to meet in Richmond the following month. The meeting was held, but, pending the meeting at Baltimore, the convention did nothing of importance.

The Baltimore convention — the adjourned meeting of the regular convention at Charleston — was not a scene of tranquillity, though a decided majority were in favor of Douglas. In the course of the discussion Douglas dispatched a message beseeching his friends to save "the party and the country" without regard to his individual interests; but the dispatch was not made public.[7] When harmony proved unattainable, another secession of certain southern delegates took place. Douglas and Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama were nominated by the regular convention; the latter withdrew his name, and in his place Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia was nominated by the national committee. The seceders nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky and Joseph Lane of Oregon.[8] To the convention at Richmond the platform and the candidate were acceptable.

The platform adopted by the Douglas Democrats at Baltimore contained the statement already referred to: inasmuch as there were differences of opinion in the party concerning the powers of a territorial legislature and the powers and duties of Congress, the party would abide by the decision of the Supreme Court "upon the questions of Constitutional law." Just before adjourning, a supplementary resolution was adopted to the effect that the measure of restriction on a territorial legislature, "as the same has been or shall hereafter be finally determined by the Supreme Court ... , should be respected by all good citizens and enforced with promptness and fidelity by every branch of the General Government." Here was apparently a recognition of the duty of Congress to protect slavery in the territories as long as the Dred Scott case should stand unaltered; and it is difficult to find in the words a basis for the legality of "unfriendly legislation". The Breckinridge platform in plain terms announced that neither Congress nor a territorial legislature could destroy or impair the rights of persons or property in the territory, and that it was the duty of the federal government in all its departments to protect these rights when necessary. How do the two statements of the two platforms differ?

The Breckinridge platform was more plain and emphatic in its declaration in favor of territorial slavery; the Douglas platform offered more room for dodging the supreme issue. And still, only an astute practitioner in the art of politics could without considerable difficulty find any difference between them.

If the real issue did not appear quite plainly in the Democratic platforms, the issue was made plain by the discussions at Charleston: the northern Democrats could no longer play the role of Sancho Panza to the south's Don Quixote. But above all, there stood Douglas. In southern eyes he had proved himself unworthy of the support of honest men. Certainly he had shown that he could not be relied upon to foster slaveholding interests. The fact of the matter is that the Douglas Democrats, paying lip service to the principle of the Dred Scott decision, had no intention of making it effective; the southerners demanded a recognition of congressional obligation to carry out the principle, but many of them must have known they could not get it, and some of them admitted that there was no pressing need of affirmative legislation for the protection of territorial slavery.[9] No student of history, however, is likely to go so far as to expect men to be consistent after they have reached a state of emotional fervor.

But perhaps platforms are taken too seriously. "I have a declining respect for platforms," said Davis in the Senate, May 17, 1860. "I would sooner have an honest man on any sort of a rickety platform you could construct, than to have a man I did not trust on the best platform which could be made." To this Douglas replied with one of his skillful thrusts, characteristic of the born debater: "If the platform is not a matter of much consequence, why press that question to the disruption of the party? Why did you not tell us in the beginning of this debate that the whole fight was against the man, and not upon the platform?" [10] Douglas pointed out to Davis that the platform, not the candidate, was the bone of dispute at Charleston; but that was in truth only the superficial fact.

At that moment when the two Senators were glowering at each other in the Senate chamber, certain essentials of the dominating controversy of sections and social systems seemed to be shown by the personalities, and even by the outward appearance, of the two men. The contrast was almost grotesque: Douglas, short, rotund, confident in manner and carriage, his hair long and thrown back in waves from a broad and powerful forehead, his whole being radiating animal and intellectual vigor which was increased rather than diminished in its effect by his air of rough abandon verging at times on uncouthness, appeared to disclose the possibilities, to incarnate the strength and possibly the vulgarity of a vital self-confident democracy. Davis in his look and manner embodied what, one might think, a slave-master should be and was: tall, slender, erect, sinewy, with a certain look of breeding, of refinement, and almost of frailty, with something of arrogance or superciliousness in manner and bearing, possessed of forensic ability of a high order, but not satisfying the appetites of those southerners who liked an interminable flux of words and flowery periods — his very presence filled the common men of the north with dislike of what they deemed the assumed superiority of a man who thought he was better than other folks because he owned black men.

The Republican convention at Chicago was no less exciting and no less noisy than the Charleston meeting of the Democrats; but its troubles were soon over. There was no serious conflict over the platform, for on the main principle all were in substantial agreement. The contest centered upon the choice of candidates. Seward, the natural leader of the party, as far as there was any leadership, led on the first two ballots. But it is often more difficult to nominate a person who has long been prominent than to name one less well-known; for though the experienced leader may have gained adherents, he has likewise created opposition. Lincoln had the advantage of local support and was believed by many able to carry certain doubtful states. So on the third ballot he was chosen as the "available" candidate. The result is profoundly interesting, the product of political forces which were intangible and now not easily appreciated; and yet upon the vote turned the history of the next few years; it gave a statesman to the world; it lifted a man whose powers were not fully known, and indeed not as yet fully developed, into a position from which he emerged the most conspicuous, powerful, and influential statesman of the nineteenth century.

The platform was explicit on the subject of slavery in the territories: "That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy.... That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom ... and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individual, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States." This was the old Free Soil doctrine of 1848: Congress had no more power to make a slave than to make a king. It was not in harmony with Curtis's opinion in the Dred Scott case, declaring Congress possessed of full power over slavery in the territories.[11]

Candidates — John Bell of Tennessee and Edward Everett of Massachusetts — were also put in the field by a Constitutional Union convention. Its platform was of no great consequence since it simply discussed sectional and geographical parties, and proclaimed it the part of patriotism to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution, the union, and the enforcement of the laws — all well enough, if there had been no dispute concerning what the Constitution was and what was law, or if the people had been in a mood to sweep aside all question of right and wrong, all question of constitutional principle and morality. The supporters of these mild gentlemen who were content with covering a controversy with sonorous phrases cast less than 600,000 votes in the election — about one-eighth of the total.

The result of the campaign was fairly well assured from the beginning. Douglas fought valiantly, but he knew full well that every vote he received made more probable the election of Lincoln; and yet he seemed to hope that the party might still be saved; he battled the disunionist faction; his words were of great consequence in the darker days that were just ahead. Asked at Norfolk, Virginia, if he would advise or vindicate resistance to a decision of the south to secede in the event of Lincoln's election, he replied, "I answer emphatically, that it is the duty of the President of the United States and of all others in authority under him, to enforce the laws of the United States, passed by Congress and as the Courts expound them; and I, as in duty bound by my oath of fidelity to the Constitution, would do all in my power to aid the government of the United States in maintaining the supremacy of the laws against all resistance to them, come from whatever quarter it might...." [12] The influence of Douglas, still the skillful and admired party leader, was of immense influence; he had battled long for party success; he did not care whether slavery was voted up or down; but one sentiment he cherished: he was devoted to the union and to his country. Without the tradition which he left behind him (he died in June, 1861) — a tradition, permeating if not saturating the northern Democracy, of devotion to an integral union — , Lincoln, we may well surmise, could not have saved the nation from dismemberment.

On the main constitutional obligation, the attitudes were as follows: Lincoln denied the principle laid down in the Supreme Court's decision, if it were a decision and not a mere obiter dictum; he considered it the duty of everyone to accept the decision as determining the status of Dred Scott; he believed Congress and the people should not be bound by the principle announced by the Court. Davis upheld the principle; it announced the rights of southerners and slave owners in the territories; he asserted the duty of Congress to act accordingly, if such action were needed. Just what the main body of Douglas Democrats believed is not quite entirely plain, but it appears that they believed they could, like their leader, accept the principle but refuse to acknowledge that the principle placed obligation on Congress to act for the maintenance of the principle. Obviously either Lincoln or Davis was right; Douglas's position was untenable in frank party strife.

No congressman is under constitutional obligation to carry out in legislation the principle of a judicial decision; but no politician, however clever he may be, is justified in going before the country and announcing his adherence to the principle of a judicial decision, and at the same time declaring his opposition to the passage of an act for carrying the principle into operation. There were only two alternatives open to a frank party warrior: one was to denounce the Dred Scott case and refuse to participate in carrying out its principle; the other was to accept the principle and to insist upon the duty of Congress to make the principle effective. And still, we must not be intent upon a ruthless condemnation of Douglas or charge him with conscious deceit. The ways of politicians are their own. Douglas, moreover, was fighting for a let-alone policy, a plan of shutting one's eyes to the obvious, that the union might still be saved.

Lincoln was elected, receiving 180 electoral votes out of a total of 303. From a total of somewhat more than 4,600,000 popular votes, he received about 1,866,000. In other words, he received nearly 500,000 less than one-half of the total. With an electoral majority, he was a minority president; his total popular vote was over 900,000 less than that received by his opponents — and this does not include, of course, the vote of South Carolina where the electors were chosen by the legislature. The condition is, however, further illuminated by the fact that the southern states — not including South Carolina — , which were soon to enter upon the task of dissolving the union, cast about 850,000 votes and chose eighty electors, while the five states of the old northwest cast half a million more votes than the whole secession south and chose only fifty-eight electors; Ohio, with half as many votes as were cast in the south, chose twenty-three electors. The three-fifths compromise of the Constitution allowing the enumeration of three-fifths of the slaves, who were the personal property of the white owners, helped to provide this marked deviation from the principles of popular government.

When Congress met in December, 1860, it faced the danger of immediate secession. In neither house did the Republicans have a majority.[13] Buchanan's message is a famous document. In the President's opinion the northern states, by their ill-timed and illegal acts, especially by passage of acts to defeat the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, had done great wrong. Furthermore, those who had appealed from the decision "of our highest constitutional tribunal to popular assemblies would, if they could, invest a Territorial legislature with power to annul the sacred rights of property. This power", the President declared, "Congress is expressly forbidden by the Federal Constitution to exercise." (To this position had the doctrine of popular sovereignty declined!) The election of any one of our fellow citizens to the presidency was not a just cause for the dissolution of the union, especially when he had been chosen by a minority of the people. He expressed the hope that the northern states would repeal their "obnoxious enactments...." "The Southern States, standing on the basis of the Constitution, have a right to demand this act of justice from the States of the North. Should it be refused, then the Constitution, to which all the States are parties, will have been willfully violated by one portion of them in a provision essential to the domestic security and happiness of the remainder. In that event the injured States, after having first used all peaceful and constitutional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the Government of the Union." [14]

The President, it will be noticed, spoke of "revolutionary resistance", for he repudiated the right of legal secession. "The right of resistance on the part of the governed against the oppression of their government can not be denied.... But the distinction must ever be observed that this is revolution against an established government, and not a voluntary secession from it by virtue of an inherent constitutional right. In short, let us look the danger fairly in the face. Secession is neither more nor less than revolution. It may or it may not be a justifiable revolution, but still it is revolution."

He was greatly troubled. "Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State into submission which is attempting to withdraw or has actually withdrawn from the Confederacy?" He denied the possession of such power. The upshot of his rumination, therefore, was that a state could engage in revolution; a revolution in this instance was or might be justified; a state could not legally secede, and the government could not coerce it into submission. He quoted Madison's words in the Convention opposing the idea of using force against a state. If the President had looked into the debates of 1787 more closely, he would have found that coercion of a state as a body politic was abandoned, not in order that a state could do as it wished, but because the very principle of a confederation of sovereignties was to be abandoned.[15] If, as has been asserted, President Buchanan made a distinction between coercing states and enforcing the execution of the laws on persons, he succeeded in clothing his utterances with obscurity.[16]

A further question began to trouble Buchanan — could he call forth the militia or summon the army to protect property and overcome resistance to authority? Jeremiah S. Black, the Attorney-General, had given Buchanan an opinion on the subject. A complete analysis of this opinion cannot be given here; the argument is full of difficult problems; we must content ourselves with a few words. "There was," he declared, "undoubtedly a strong and universal conviction among the men who framed and ratified the Constitution, that military force would not only be useless, but pernicious, as a means of holding the States together." [17] He announced the "right of the General Government to preserve itself in its whole constitutional vigor, by repelling a direct and positive aggression upon its property or its officers...." The government has the right to protect its property; but in general it must act on the defensive. It has the right to collect the revenue as provided by law. "You can use force only to repel an assault on the public property, and aid the courts in the performance of their duty." The statutes of 1795 and 1807 he considered briefly; these acts, he maintained, gave the President authority to use the troops when the courts and federal marshals were defied; in case there were no officers, because all had resigned, troops would be "out of place, and their use wholly illegal. If they are sent to aid the courts and marshals, there must be courts and marshals to be aided." This opinion is echoed by Buchanan in his message. All this seems to mean that a little insurrection may be put down, and a big one must not be.[18] And yet the statutes themselves, if reasonably construed, appear to declare that, when an insurrection has arisen so great that the ordinary federal civil officers cannot overcome it, the president may take steps to suppress it; and surely an insurrection so extended that there are no officers would justify the use of the president's authority.

That Buchanan declared openly against the legality of secession perhaps had some effect in winning his party to the forcible support of the union when the die was cast. But the more eager defenders of the union and the more ardent opponents of the southern cause found in the message little to encourage them or to fire their hearts. In one respect, it may be noticed, Buchanan cogently and correctly put forth an argument against the constitutional right of secession: "In that mighty struggle between the first intellects of this or any other country it never occurred to any individual, either among its opponents or advocates, to assert or even to intimate that their efforts were all vain labor, because the moment that any state felt herself aggrieved she might secede from the Union. What a crushing argument would this have proved against those who dreaded that the rights of the States would be endangered by the Constitution!" We do not, it is true, know what might have occurred to any individual; but we do know the absence of any such pronouncement.

Speaking of the power given to Congress by the Constitution, Black mentioned a portion of Article I, section 8, of the Constitution; but he strangely interpreted it. The power to "provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions" he declared, with other provisions, was made "to protect the States, not to authorize an attack by one part of the country upon another...." He does not admit that there may be an insurrection against the United States!

The illegality of coercing states troubled the dreams of unionists and brightened the visions of secessionists. The most essential feature of our constitutional system — the existence of two governments over every individual, each government having compulsive authority in its own sphere — was not plain even to those who ought to have known. Men occupying the positions of statesmen were free from the encumbrance of information concerning elementary principles of law and history. But the Republicans, as the days wore by, came to see and grasp the essentially sound principle and did not surrender it during the war that followed. Everything done in violation of legal national authority was illegal; the war was an insurrection; the government had no intention of coercing a state, but it did propose to enforce its laws against its own citizens and to break up any combinations engaged in essentially illegal and disloyal acts.

In the Senate, Lyman Trumbull, December 20, 1860, made the situation plain: "One of the Senators speaks of declaring war against a State. If there is anybody in this Senate, or in this country, who ever talked of the United States declaring war against one of its States, or of coercing one of its States, or ever entertained such a notion, I know not who it is. I have never seen him. This phrase, 'coerce a State,' is a phrase calculated to mislead the public mind.... Nobody proposes to declare war against a State. That would admit at once that the State was out of the Union — a foreign Government. Of course, we cannot declare war against a State. Nobody proposes to coerce a State, or to convict a State of treason. You cannot arraign a State for trial; you cannot convict it or punish it; but you can punish individuals.... The Government has power to coerce and to punish individuals who violate its laws." [19] "Do you mean by that you are going to march an army to coerce a State?" Trumbull at a later time (March 2, 1861) asked this question only to answer it. "No, sir; and I do not mean the people of this country to be misled by this confusion of terms about coercing a State. The Constitution of the United States operates upon individuals; the laws operate upon individuals; and wherever individuals make themselves amenable to the laws, I would punish them according to the laws.... So far as it can be done, I am for executing the laws; and I am for coercion." [20] This was, of course, absolutely sound legal doctrine.[21]

Andrew Johnson, later elected to the vice-presidency of the United States, said in the Senate in December, 1860: "As a State, the Federal Government has no power to coerce it; but it is a member of the compact to which it agreed in common with the other States, and this Government has the right to pass laws, and to enforce those laws upon individuals within the limits of each State. While the one proposition is clear, the other is equally so. This Government can, by the Constitution of the country and by the laws enacted in conformity with the Constitution, operate upon individuals, and has the right and the power, not to coerce a State, but to enforce and execute the law upon individuals within the limits of a State."

To many persons one thing seems to have been unnecessarily obscure. They did not see that state officers, pseudo state governments, and state armies, opposing the Constitution and laws of the United States, were in consequence acting illegally; they were not, technically and in the eyes of the law, legal authorities, the coercion of which could properly be called coercion of the state. This may appear to be a fine-drawn distinction; but we are here discussing fine-drawn distinctions. If the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof are supreme law, then no person or set of persons, even though pretending to act in virtue of state authority, can rely on the sanctity of their offices, if they act in contravention of the law. Even if all the people of a single state should assume the authority to do illegal things and attempt to support a state government doing unconstitutional and hence illegal acts, such conduct would, technically speaking, not be the action of a state, for a state in the union is a state when performing its functions as a state in the union and acting within its legal field.

In South Carolina, there had been for twenty years and more an active sentiment for disunion; for ten years that sentiment had been strong and aggressive. A fascinating story is unfolded, as we see that little state cherishing the principles of Calhoun and gradually extending her theories of independence, her political and social philosophy, and her devotion to. slavery as a sacred institution, until the south had in large measure accepted them and was prepared to act. As soon as the news of Lincoln's election reached the legislature, a state convention was summoned, to meet on December 17. On the twentieth of that month the convention issued "AN ORDINANCE to dissolve the union between the State of South Carolina and the other States united with her under the compact entitled 'The Constitution of the United States of America' ". The Mississippi legislature, November 30, denounced the people of the northern states who had "assumed a revolutionary position towards the Southern States", and declared "The secession of each aggrieved State is the proper remedy...." A convention adopted an ordinance of secession on January 9; and thus, as might have been expected, Mississippi was the first to follow South Carolina in the effort to dissolve the union.[22]

Delegates from six states of the farther south — South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana — met at Montgomery, Alabama, February 4. They adopted a provisional constitution to continue for one year from the inauguration of the president or until a permanent constitution was formed and put into operation. The Constitution of the United States was followed in most particulars, but only one legislative house was provided for, inasmuch as all legislative power was to remain in "this Congress now assembled until otherwise ordained." The government of the Confederacy continued under this provisional system for about a year. The new Congress met February 18, and Jefferson Davis was inaugurated under the new constitution February 22, 1862. Before this Congress adjourned, it drew up a constitution intended to be permanent and submitted it to the seceding states for adoption. It was speedily accepted by the six states mentioned above and by Texas. The provisional constitution provided for the election of the president and vice-president by the Congress, each state having one vote. In the exercise of legislative power every state was entitled to one vote and was "represented by any one or more of its deputies who may be present."

Four other states soon joined the Confederacy. Virginia — the Old Dominion and the Mother of Presidents — passed an ordinance of secession April 17 which was submitted to popular vote and accepted by the people late in May. The roll of the discontented and unfortunate was thus complete. Western Virginians were not satisfied, however, and a movement was soon on foot to separate from the eastern portion — to secede from Virginia — and to set up a new state in the region beyond the Shenandoah.

Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens were chosen by the Congress at Montgomery to be the President and Vice-President of the new system. Stephens was a conservative, believing until almost the last minute that secession was unwise and might, if wisdom prevailed, be avoided.[23] Davis himself, though ready for the great adventure, was considered comparatively conservative and less tempestuous than some of the radical secessionists. In midsummer the Confederate Congress met at Richmond, which had been chosen as the capital of the Confederacy.

The permanent constitution which went, into effect the following year (1862) was in most respects a copy of the Constitution of the United States.[24] The preamble, "invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God", indicated that the constitution was established by the "People of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character...." In nearly the same terms as those given in the provisional constitution, the permanent constitution forbade the importation of slaves from any foreign country, except from slaveholding states or territories of the United States, and Congress was given power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any state or territory not a member of the Confederacy. The citizens of each state were to have the right of transit and sojourn in any state of the Confederacy, with slaves and other property, and the right of property in such slaves was not to be impaired thereby. Congress was forbidden to pass any law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves. Provision was explicitly made for the acquiring of new territory, and in all such territory the institution of slavery, as it existed in the south, was to be recognized and protected by Congress and by the territorial government; the inhabitants of the Confederate States and territories were assured of the right to take to the territory any slaves lawfully held by them. The constitution did not, though it would have been logical, perhaps, to do so, provide for voting by states in both branches of the legislature. Congress was empowered to grant a seat upon the floor of either house to heads of executive departments, with the privilege of discussing any measures appertaining to their departments.

In December, Buchanan's cabinet began to dissolve. Cass, the Secretary of State, resigned because he believed immediate steps should be taken to defend the forts in Charleston harbor and to provide for the collection of the revenue. He was succeeded by Jeremiah S. Black, who had held the office of Attorney-General. Black was succeeded in the latter office by Edwin M. Stanton, who seems to have supplied Buchanan with some degree of much-needed decisiveness.[25] Cobb of Georgia, the Secretary of the Treasury, resigned a few days before Cass did. He was followed soon by Floyd of Virginia and Thompson of Mississippi.

It is wise to refrain from criticism of Buchanan's failure to threaten the south and his refusal to do anything that would precipitate war. To take the responsibility of initiating open warfare is much to expect of any man. The President's most emphatic action was to send a ship to Charleston harbor with provisions for Major Anderson in command of Fort Sumter; the ship was driven back by the South Carolina batteries. That the President had legal authority to defend the fort and to provision its garrison is beyond question, but that he should have done more than he did may well be doubted. For some weeks after the November election, there were various evidences that the north had suffered a temporary reaction, and there were doubtless many persons who were inclined to agree with Horace Greeley that you could not pin the sections together by bayonets. This reaction, it is true, gradually evaporated after the first of the new year; men were beginning to realize what secession meant; it meant dismemberment of the union and a mutilated country. But the firing on the Star of the West, though an act of war, was received at the north almost with indifference. When the issue became clear, however, the possession of the lower regions of the Mississippi River by a foreign and presumably unfriendly nation did not appeal to the thoughtful men of the old northwest. It would have been folly to take positive action and call out the troops while plans for conciliation were being debated in Congress. Only the firing on Sumter, after Buchanan had gone, convinced the north that war was not a matter of debate but a fact.

Soon after the opening of Congress in December, proposals for compromise and conciliation were taken up. Discussion went on during the whole of that tragic winter. One by one, senators and representatives from the south bade their colleagues adieu and hurried away to join their fellow citizens in the coming conflict; but the debates went on and hopes for settlement were not entirely abandoned.

John J. Crittenden of Kentucky offered a joint resolution in the Senate (December 18, 1860) for amendments to the Constitution, and, in addition, for declarations to be made by Congress. The amendments declared that there should be no slavery in the territory north of the Missouri Compromise line, and that south of that line slavery should be protected; any territory, either north or south, should be admitted into the union with or without slavery as its constitution should provide. Congress should have no power (1} to abolish slavery in places subject to its jurisdiction within slaveholding states, (2) or in the District of Columbia as long as either Maryland or Virginia retained slavery, or in the District without the consent of the inhabitants and compensation to the owners objecting to emancipation, (3) or to abolish the interstate slave trade. Congress should be under obligation to provide for compensation to the owners of fugitive slaves, if the capture and removal of the slaves were prevented by force, and the government should have the right to sue the county where such violence occurred. Finally, the articles of amendment, thus proposed, provided that other portions of the Constitution (the section providing for counting three-fifths of the slaves and the fugitive slave section) should not be affected by any subsequent amendment and no amendment should be made giving any power to interfere with slavery in any state by whose laws it was permitted. The resolutions which were to be passed by Congress as declaratory of its opinion were chiefly directed against the Personal Liberty Laws. One thing is plain in these Crittenden proposals: slavery was to be protected as securely as laws and the Constitution could protect it, and no future developments could by constitutional means alter that protection; and furthermore, all additions, if any were made, to the national territory south of the boundary should, apparently, be dedicated to slavery.[26] A committee of thirteen appointed in the Senate (December 20) was hopelessly divided and reached no affirmative results.[27]

The House proceeded in somewhat similar fashion. A committee of thirty-three reached certain recommendations; but recommendations were in vain. After the report had been under consideration for weeks, an amendment to the Constitution was adopted by the House (February 28, 1861) by the narrow margin of 133 votes to 65: "No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State." [28] The amendment was passed by the Senate without delay and was submitted to the states. It appears to have been ratified legally by two states, Ohio and Maryland.[29] This was the proposed thirteenth amendment — quite different from the one which five years later was added to the Constitution (December, 1865).

A peace conference, called at the suggestion of Virginia, met in Washington on February 4, and continued in session for over three weeks. It proved to be utterly futile and is chiefly noteworthy as representing the interest of the border states in compromise and conciliation. Delegations from twenty-one states were in attendance;[30] some of the delegates were appointed by state legislatures, others by governors; Maine and Iowa were represented by their congressional delegations. The convention succeeded in drawing up a constitutional amendment containing seven sections, which Congress was asked to submit to state conventions. The proposals were similar in various ways to those which had already been debated. There was, however, one especially significant provision: no territory should be acquired, except by discovery and for naval and commercial stations and transit routes, without the consent of a majority of all the senators from the slave states and a majority of all the senators from the free.[31] But the convention's work went for naught.

Hopes of conciliation were dying. Congress could do nothing and was daily losing patience with vain efforts at compromise and concession while the Confederate Government at Montgomery was entering upon its task, and when the dissolution of the union was declared by secessionists and their sympathizers in Congress to be a fact and not a debatable theory. There were northerners in Congress who believed the time had come for decision, a decision, if need be, reached by war. Senator Zachariah Chandler, one of those men of iron — stern and vehement — whom the crisis had brought into the foreground, a fit match for the Toombses and the Rhetts of the south, had telegraphed the Governor of Michigan "at the request of Massachusetts and New York" to send delegates to the peace conference. "Ohio, Indiana, and Rhode Island", he said, "are caving in, and there is danger of Illinois.... I hope you will send stiff-backed men, or none.... Without a little blood-letting this Union will not, in my estimation, be worth a rush." [32]

To state definitely and accurately the central points of difficulty and disagreement during those trying months is a task beyond the author's power. But this seems fairly clear: the northerners were willing to provide absolutely against the interference with slavery within the states where it then existed; they were willing, if not desirous, to have the Liberty Laws repealed so far as they placed illegal barriers against the reclamation of fugitives; they were even willing, at least the leaders were, to allow the continuance of slavery in New Mexico; they appeared to be ready to acquiesce in the continuance of the interstate slave trade and not to insist upon the abolition of slavery in the District. But the nub of the difficulty was this: they could not rest if slavery was to be protected in regions subsequently annexed, and if it was to be thus extended and fortified. That the fears of antislavery men were not baseless is to-day perfectly obvious.[33] How far some of the abler men were willing to go, and how much farther they refused to go, can be seen from the letters of Lincoln and from the speeches of Thomas Corwin and Charles Francis Adams in Congress. While it may be folly to engage in an analysis of a confused situation where passion and suspicion were masterful, we can be fairly certain that if the danger of slavery-extension into regions to be acquired later could have been disposed of, every other demand of the south might have been agreed to as a temporary compromise — but, of course, congressional pronouncements, laws, and constitutional amendments could not permanently unite the divided house.

On one point — and that point was the heart of the Republican position, the one thing for which Lincoln had positively and openly stood — Lincoln was unchanging: "I say now, however," he wrote to Seward, February 1, 1861, "as I have all the while said, that on the territorial question — that is, the question of extending slavery under the national auspices — I am inflexible. I am for no compromise which assists or permits the extension of the institution on soil owned by the nation. And any trick by which the nation is to acquire territory, and then allow some local authority to spread slavery over it, is as obnoxious as any other. I take it that to effect some such result as this, and to put us again on the highroad to a slave empire, is the object of all these proposed compromises. I am against it. As to fugitive slaves, District of Columbia, slave-trade among the slave States, and whatever springs of necessity from the fact that the institution is amongst us, I care but little, so that what is done is comely and not altogether outrageous. Nor do I care much about New Mexico, if further extension were hedged against." [34]

A brief discussion of the causes and motives which prompted the southern people to break up the union is certain to be unsatisfactory to the reader — and a long discussion is not likely to be more acceptable. The reader has already been warned that dispute had reached a stage where calm reasoning had been displaced by enthusiasm and passion. In the writer's judgment, the slave-owners were especially galled by the assumption of the northern enthusiasts that they represented a superior morality and were on the crest of civilization. The southerners were shocked by the conditions of northern factory workers; the northerners looked upon the slave-owners as aristocrats flaunting their pride in the face of hardy artisans and plain men. The differences between the sections were real and not imaginary; and probably little variations were quite as significant in awakening resentment as were large ones. The south, we are told, was essentially a nation; but the word involves too much to be easily analyzed. That there were and had been from the beginning industrial and social differences between the sections is of course obvious; and that the south had developed a measure of sectional solidarity is equally plain. But of course, fundamentally, the trouble was the "house divided". Despite protestations from the northern political leaders that there was no intention of interfering with slavery in the states, the southerners believed that secession alone could save them from the woe consequent upon emancipation and perhaps even from the horror of black domination.

And still, as far as certain very practical matters went, secession offered no remedy. It did not provide a means of getting back the runaway slave; it isolated the south among the nations of the world; it did not open the territories to the slave-owner. Only one thing could assure the south of development, if it retained its form of labor, viz., expansion, the absorption of more territory. And even then, could the south actually prosper without the slave trade? [35]

It is sometimes said that the southern people would not have fought for slavery. Perhaps not; it is reasonable to assume that the slavery cause as a merely moral or abstract matter was not enough, without the passion begotten by the past two decades, without personal pride and resentment, without sectional sentiment, without the ignorance which each section had of the other, and without a sense of injury nourished by politicians. But withal, the south did not condemn slavery; leaders pictured it as a positive moral good; they conscientiously believed they were called upon by the highest sense of duty to protect themselves and even the well-being of the blacks by keeping them in bondage. No one can wonder or accuse. It is foolish in us not to comprehend or attempt to comprehend the pressure of a social system to which men were tied and on which the very foundation of society appeared to rest. How could it be otherwise?

The attempt to show that the south had suffered continuously from the imposition of northern interests, and that the revolt was due to unremitting injustice — an attempt which is especially prominent in Jefferson Davis's Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government — has some ground to stand upon; for the tariff was not directly, perhaps not indirectly, helpful to agriculture. But if there is anything to be said for this thesis, it was comparatively inappropriate in 1860. "As a matter of fact," says Rhodes, "both the senators and all the representatives from South Carolina had voted for the existing tariff of 1857; and since 1846 the United States had practically enjoyed a revenue tariff and one of a lower scale of duties than had been in force since 1816." [36] And the notion that the south had been brazenly victimized during two generations will not withstand serious examination.

The truth is, we must go back to slavery and the cause of the slave-owner. The announcement of Stephens cannot be disregarded. Commenting on the position of Thomas Jefferson and "most of the leading statesmen" of an earlier day who believed the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature and was wrong, Stephens declared, "Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition." [37] Why should we shut our eyes to the solemnity and the tragedy of the whole controversy and not see that perennial question which reaches back into the ages of the past — and indeed appears not as yet banished from the horizon — the question not alone of white and black equality, but the question of whether the strong shall inherit the earth and rule it with their strength. All this is more important than the question whether the south or any other region should be politically separate; constitutional history in the ordinary sense falls into the background of obscurity.

No discussion of the cause of the secession is complete without reference to John Brown's raid; that assault upon the safety and peace of the countryside exasperated the southerners from one end of the land to the other. The conservatives who had held back, believing there was no immediate need of breaking the union, and hoping that all might yet be well, could now be taunted by the advocates of secession, who in season and out of season had asserted that lives and property were endangered by fanatics and that further association with Yankees was impossible. Naturally men could not come to the council table in Washington in a mood to consider plans of adjustment in a calm and conciliatory spirit.

It is almost as difficult to say why the north was ready to fly to arms. Why were the people not willing to allow the south to establish a new nation? We can look back now and see what a misfortune it would have been had the north been ready to yield. To-day across three thousand miles of territory from ocean to ocean there is one nation traversed by laws and not by armies. The people of the north were not willing at the beginning to fight for the overthrow of slavery; they were willing to fight with passion for the union, for their country as one unmutilated whole.[38] They were not willing, when the emergency arose, to accept as wise the plaintive refrain, "Erring sisters, go in peace!" Patriotism, emotion, and indignation pronounced a different decision. A recognition of the southern position as right was a recognition of the fact that there was no "country", north or south.[39]

Though occasionally a northern state had indulged in angry exclamation and appeared to speak in the terms of state sovereignty or of something like state sovereignty,[40] the average northerner did not look upon his state as his country. In the old northwest were many men of southern antecedents who sympathized with the south; but no man could have held that sense of the reality of his state which was so conspicuous in South Carolina and only less so in Virginia. Such thinking was foreign to them, it had no basis in tradition.

What part did party zeal or the folly and ambition of politicians play in the whole sorrowful drama? No one can answer. Both before and after the war, Stephens, whom no one will accuse of dishonest intentions, spoke with some bitterness of the machinations of men who thought they were statesmen. The right and the truth, he said, were not what "secessionists and revolutionists" were after. "Their object is to hide the truth. Personal spite is their aim, and not the public good. They rely upon misleading the people by appeals to their passions and prejudices." [41] The southern people, he maintained, were devoted to principles of self-government established by their ancestors: "It was through their devotion to these principles that the Southern masses were precipitated into the fatal step they took." "The Southern mind was influenced and misguided by a class of public men, politicians not statesmen, newspaper editors, and preachers, who possessed far more ambition and zeal than wisdom and knowledge." [42] If it be true that northern politicians and preachers were equally blind leaders of the blind, there is no use in entering now upon a debate on the subject. A spirit of brotherly love might conceivably have settled the problem without war, but no dove of peace was hovering over the troubled waters of passion.


[1] The first resolution favored by the Douglas delegates declared that questions of the rights of property in states or territories "are judicial in their character" and that the party "is pledged to abide by and faithfully carry out such determination of these questions as has been or may be made by the Supreme Court of the United States." The "may be" might well indicate an obligation to abide by a decision of later years reversing the Dred Scott decision. The later Douglas resolutions simply declared that the party would abide by the decisions of the Court on questions of constitutional law. The opposition resolutions proclaimed distinctly that neither Congress nor a territorial legislature had power to abolish slavery in the territories; that the territorial legislature had no power to prohibit introduction of slaves, to exclude slavery, or to "impair the right of property in slaves by any legislation whatever", and that it was the duty of the federal government to protect, when necessary, property on the high seas and in the territories.

[2] Murat Halstead, A History of the National Political Conventions of the Current Presidential Campaign (1860), p. 49. Halstead was present and wrote highly entertaining accounts of the proceedings.

[3] Ibid., p. 48.

[4] Ibid., pp. 49-50.

[5] Halstead, writing of what he heard after the split in the party at Baltimore in June, says, "The North-western delegates, on their return home, congratulated themselves upon the presumption, that if they had ripped up the Democratic party, they had shown the Republicans that they, as Democrats, were not doughfaces. The reflection that they were no more to be reproached as serfs of the South seemed sweet and ample consolation for all the struggles and perils through which they had passed, and the pangs they had suffered in the dissolution of the party.... The fact is the South was never before quite so well matched in her own game of brag and intolerable arrogance." Ibid., p. 230.

[6] See speeches of the seceding delegates and other quoted remarks in Ibid. "Yancey said that, perhaps even now, the pen of the historian was nibbed to write the story of a new Revolution. At this, some one of the crowd cried 'three cheers for the Independent Southern Republic.' They were given with a will." Ibid., p. 75, giving an account of a public gathering on the evening of April 30. On the other side, the rancor against the seceders was bitter. "I never heard", said Halstead, "Abolitionists talk more uncharitably and rancorously of the people of the South, than the Douglas men here. Our North-western friends use language about the South, her institutions, and particularly her politicians, that is not fit for publication, and my scruples in that respect are not remarkably tender. A good many of them will eventually become the most intolerant Republican partisans." Ibid., p. 87.

[7] Ibid., pp. 194-195.

[8] It is worth noticing that the seceding convention at Charleston, in May, was made up almost entirely of delegates from the farther south; the seceding convention at Baltimore contained delegates from the border states. An indication of the difficulties which Douglas was to meet in the coming months was the presence at the Baltimore seceding convention of representatives from New York, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Vermont. See Ibid., pp. 218, 221-222. Douglas's strength as a candidate in the older west may be seen from the fact that in the election he received about forty-four per cent. of the popular vote from the five states of the old northwest, Lincoln about fifty-two per cent. In New England Douglas received twenty-seven per cent., Lincoln sixty-two per cent. The figures are necessarily only approximate; but they show the hold of Douglas upon his section. In Illinois, Lincoln received only 12,000 more votes than Douglas and only 2,300 more than a moiety of all the votes cast.

[9] Speaking, apparently, of Kansas, Jefferson Davis said, "He [Douglas] can have no apprehension that in that country to which they never would be carried except from necessity, and for domestic purposes, they could ever so accumulate as to constitute a great political element." Congressional Globe, 36 Cong., 1 sess., p. 2150. This is an illustration, not a demonstration, of the assertion made in the text. There is other evidence that would seem to make it plain that he was after the acknowledgment of a naked right. See also, A. H. Stephens to J. H. Smith, September 16, 1860, The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, Am. Hist. Asso. Report for 1911, II, p. 498.

[10] Congressional Globe, 36 Cong., 1 sess., pp. 2155-2156.

[11] Quoting the clause of the Constitution giving Congress power to make "all needful rules and regulations", Curtis said, "The purpose and object of the clause being to enable Congress to provide a body of municipal law for the government of the settlers, the allowance or the prohibition of slavery comes within the known and recognised scope of that purpose and object." 19 Howard 393, 615-616.

[12] Quoted in Allen Johnson, Stephen A. Douglas, p. 433.

[13] In the Senate there were thirty-six Democrats, two Anti-Lecompton Democrats, two Americans, and twenty-six Republicans. In the House there were ninety-two Democrats, seven Anti-Lecompton Democrats, twenty-four Americans, and one hundred and fourteen Republicans. See T. C. Smith, "Political Parties in Congress of the United States," Cyclopedia of American Government, I, p. 391.

[14] Buchanan said that it was a well-known historical fact that the Constitution could never have been adopted by the Convention without the fugitive slave provision. This is possible, but the real controversy in the Convention arose over the proposed prohibition of the slave trade. A full knowledge of constitutional history would have been beneficial to Buchanan. The statement had however been made before and he is entitled to that excuse.

[15] Buchanan might well have quoted Randolph who opposed the small-state party plan. That plan provided for the continuance of the principle of a confederation of sovereign states and relied on using force against a delinquent state. "The true question is whether we shall adhere to the federal plan, or introduce the national plan.... There are but two modes, by which the end of a Genl . Govt . can be attained: the 1st . is by coercion as proposed by Mr P.s plan [the small-state party or confederation plan] 2. by real legislation as prop? by the other plan. Coercion he pronounced to be impracticable, expensive, cruel to individuals.... We must resort therefore to a National Legislation over individuals, for which Congs are unfit." The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 ... Reported by James Madison, June 16. By "Congs " he probably meant the Congress of the Confederation or any similar body. The confederation or small-state party plan proposed coercion; the national plan and the national leaders opposed the coercion of states. See the chapter on the Federal Convention.

[16] Notice G. T. Curtis's defense of the message. Life of James Buchanan, II, pp. 327-328. Buchanan quoted Madison as saying in the Convention, "Any government for the United States formed on the supposed practicability of using force against the unconstitutional proceedings of the States would prove as visionary and fallacious as the government of Congress." It is interesting to notice that Farrand (Records, I, p. 165) tells us that "unconstitutional proceedings" appeared in the original notes as "misdeeds". This discloses the real situation, because the question in 1787 was whether in every case of delinquency the state should be proceeded against with arms.

[17] Official Opinions of the Attorneys General, IX, p. 525. "If it be true that war cannot be declared, nor a system of general hostilities carried on by the Central Government against a State, then it seems to follow that an attempt to do so would be ipso facto an expulsion of such State from the Union." Ibid.

[18] Black, it will be noticed, took for granted that the President had no independent power, either as executive or as commander-in-chief of the army, to use the army to protect the property and execute the laws. Such power must be bestowed by Congress. His interpretation of the acts of 1795 and 1807 was, to say the least, narrow in the extreme. The act of 1795 provided "That whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed, or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by this act, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, to call forth the militia of such state, or of any other state or states, as may be necessary to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed; and the use of militia so to be called forth may be continued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the then next session of Congress." The act of 1807 provided for the use of the army, as well as the militia, under like conditions. I am utterly unable to understand the statement of Curtis to the effect that there was no law under which the President could call out the militia to suppress insurrections against the United States. See James Buchanan, Works (J. B. Moore, ed.), XI, p. 48.

[19] Congressional Globe, 36 Cong., 2 sess., p. 136. Italics mine.

[20] Ibid., p. 1382.

[21] Notice the passages on coercion in the chapter on the Constitutional Convention, ante.

[22] The following dates for the ordinances of secession of the other states may be useful for reference: Florida, January 10; Alabama, January 11; Georgia, January 19; Louisiana, January 24; Texas, February 1, ratified by the people, February 23; Virginia, April 17, ratified May 23; Arkansas, May 6; North Carolina, May 20; Tennessee, May 7, by the legislature, ratified June 8. See Ames, State Documents, no. VI, p. 77.

[23] J. F. Rhodes says, "As early as 1834 Stephens had arrived at the conviction of the sovereignty of the States and the right of secession." History of the United States, III, p. 209. It is hard to reconcile that belief with Stephens's letter to Cobb, June 23, 1851, already quoted. The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, Am. Hist. Asso. Report for 1911, II, p. 238.

[24] Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, I, p. 648 ff., gives the constitution and the Constitution of the United States in parallel columns.

[25] "Old Buck, at heart, is right and with us, but after Stanton came in, I have seen him gradually giving way...." Jacob Thompson, Secretary of Interior in Buchanan's cabinet, to Howell Cobb, January 16, 1861. The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, Am. Hist. Asso Report for 1911, I, p. 532.

[26] In the committee appointed to consider the subject, Davis and Toombs and five Republicans voted against the article drawing the Missouri Compromise line. It is not entirely plain that the Republicans realized at this juncture, quite so clearly as they did later, that the game was lost if they allowed extension of slavery into regions that might be later acquired.

[27] The committee reported its inability to agree upon any general plan of adjustment, December 31, 1860.

[28] See Congressional Globe, 36 Cong., 2 sess., pp. 1284-1285.

[29] A constitutional convention of Illinois ratified it, but this ratification was probably illegal, because Congress had specified ratification by legislatures. See H. V. Ames, The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution, Am. Hist. Asso. Report for 1896, II, p. 196, note 8; pp. 286, 363. See also Hawke v. Smith, 253 U. S. 221 (1920).

[30] For some reason the report of the convention to Congress gives the name of Wisconsin as one of the states represented. But see L. E. Chittenden, A Report of the ... Conference Convention, pp. 465-466, and Doolittle's statement, Congressional Globe, 36 Cong., 2 sess., p. 1270.

[31] The report was offered February 27. Congressional Globe, 36 Cong., 2 sess., pp. 1254-1255.

[32] Chittenden, op. cit., pp. 468-469.

[33] Notice, for example, the Democratic platforms of 1860 favoring the acquisition of Cuba, Buchanan's advocacy of its annexation, and his proposal for moving troops into Mexico. See Richardson, Messages, V, pp. 510-511, 561, 642; H. L. Wilson, "President Buchanan's Proposed Intervention in Mexico," Am. Hist. Rev., V, p. 687 ff. Buchanan believed or said he believed that the acquisition of Cuba would kill the foreign slave traffic. Sometimes he was too na´ve to be funny.

[34] Abraham Lincoln, Complete Works (J. G. Nicolay and John Hay, editors), I, pp. 668-669. Charles Francis Adams said in the House, January 31, 1861, "I have now considered all the alleged grievances which have thus far been brought to our attention. I. The personal liberty laws, which never freed a slave. 2. Exclusion from a Territory which slaveholders will never desire to occupy. 3. Apprehension of an event which will never take place. For the sake of these three causes of complaint, all of them utterly without practical result, the slaveholding States, unquestionably the weakest section of this great Confederacy, are voluntarily and precipitately surrendering the realities of solid power woven into the very texture of a Government that now keeps nineteen million freemen, willing to tolerate, and, in one sense, to shelter, institutions which, but for that, would meet with no more sympathy among them than they now do in the remainder of the civilized world."

He pointed out that New Mexico then had twenty-two slaves. "I say, then, in answer to the demand of a constitutional guarantee of protection to slavery in New Mexico, that you are asking for what in substance you enjoy already, and what is good for nothing to you if you get it." "We are called not only to guaranty slavery within our own Territories, but we must provide for it in those of our neighbors, before we get them." Corwin spoke of the region which, southerners claimed, "it would be well to devote to slave labor. You want New Mexico, which lies south of this line 36░ 30'. New Mexico, you say, belongs to you. Take it! Take it!" January 21. Congressional Globe, 36 Cong., 2 sess., appendix, p. 75.

[35] The constitution of the Confederacy declared against the slave trade, and I am not asserting that the south was intent upon opening it. Alexander H. Stephens wrote in 1859, "I have been struck with the various comments that have been made on my speech and the sensation it seems to have produced. On the slave trade question I certainly meant to say nothing except what is clearly expressed — that was that unless we get immigration from abroad we shall have but few more slave states. This great truth seems to take the people by surprise. Some shrink from it as they would from death. Still it is as true as death. On the policy of opening the trade I said nothing, and meant to say nothing. The people must consider that for themselves." Stephens to J. H. Smith, July 29, 1859, The Corespondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, Am. Hist. Asso. Report for 1911, II, pp. 446-447. Professor Boucher points out that while there were strong advocates of reopening the slave trade, "this question served not to unite the South, but to cause bitter controversy in the southern press and the South Carolina legislature." C. S. Boucher, "South Carolina and the South on the Eve of Secession, 1852 to 1860," Washington University Studies (Humanistic Series), VI, p. 92.

[36] Rhodes, History of the United States, III, p. 204.

[37] Speech at Savannah, Georgia, March 21, 1861. Frank Moore, The Rebellion Record, I, doc. 48, p. 45. Italics of the original omitted. Could Jefferson Davis have forgotten the declaration of the Mississippi legislature, November 30, 1860, and of the Mississippi state convention of January 26, 1861? "Our position", says the latter, "is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest in the world." "... a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization." Ames, State Documents, no. VI, pp. 71-73, 78-80. Interesting material is in P. M. Hamer, The Secession Movement in South Carolina, 1847-1852. "There is Union and Abolition on one hand, and Disunion and Slavery on the other.... Give us SLAVERY or give us death," E. B. Bryan, "The Rightful Remedy" (1850), quoted in Ibid., p. 67.

[38] The significance of the Civil War and the position of Lincoln I have tried to present briefly in a paper entitled "Lincoln as a World Figure," Lincoln Association Papers (1924).

[39] If the doctrine of state sovereignty as a practical fact should be accepted, "The United States could no longer be considered a nation.... The 'country,' hitherto, throughout the North at any rate [and till a few years before throughout the south, on the whole], regarded as unquestionably extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, was, so it now appeared, a dream. It had never really existed. The patriotism directed towards it was in fact nothing but a strong desire for the continuance of an advantageous treaty between the various nations situated within the above-described territory. The great nation, free in its laws and traditions ... had suddenly disappeared, so it was said, from the face of the earth. What wonder that the Northern people revolted at such conclusions, refused to tolerate the arguments by which they were supported, and determined to put forth all their strength, to crush all opposition, and to re-establish the unquestioned sovereignty of the one only nation throughout the length and breadth of the land?" J. C. Ropes, The Story of the Civil War, I, p. 7.

[40] I have in mind the resolutions of Wisconsin referred to in a previous chapter at the time of the Ableman-Booth affair.

[41] Stephens to J. H. Smith, September 16, 1860, The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, Am. Hist. Asso. Report for 1911, II, p. 498.

[42] A. H. Stephens, Recollections, pp. 326-327.

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