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Abraham Lincoln, Volume I by John T. Morse

Davis promptly journeyed to Montgomery


Collaterally

with these congressional debates there were also proceeding in Washington the sessions of the Peace Congress, another futile effort to concoct a cure for an incurable condition. It met on February 4, 1861, but only twenty-one States out of thirty-four were represented. The seven States which had seceded said that they could not come, being "Foreign Nations." Six other States[120] held aloof. Those Northern States which sent delegates selected "their most conservative and compromising men," and so great a tendency towards concession was shown that Unionists soon condemned the scheme as merely a deceitful cover devised by the Southerners behind which they could the more securely carry on their processes of secession. These gentlemen talked a great deal and finally presented a report or plan to Congress five days before the end of the session; the House refused to receive it, the Senate rejected it by 7 ayes to 28 nays. The only usefulness of the gathering was as evidence of the unwillingness of the South to compromise. In fact the Southern leaders were entirely frank and outspoken in acknowledging their position; they had said, from the beginning, that they did not wish the Committee of Thirty-three to accomplish anything; and they had endeavored to dissuade Southerners from accepting positions upon it. Hawkins of Florida said that "the time of compromise had passed forever." South Carolina refused to share in the Peace Congress, because she did "not deem it advisable to initiate
negotiations when she had no desire or intention to promote the object in view." Governor Peters of Mississippi, in poetic language, suggested another difficulty: "When sparks cease to fly upwards," he said, "Comanches respect treaties, and wolves kill sheep no more, the oath of a Black Republican might be of some value as a protection to slave property." Jefferson Davis contemptuously stigmatized all the schemes of compromise as "quack nostrums," and he sneered justly enough at those who spun fine arguments of legal texture, and consumed time "discussing abstract questions, reading patchwork from the opinions of men now mingled with the dust."

It is not known by what logic gentlemen who held these views defended their conduct in retaining their positions in the government of the nation for the purpose of destroying it. Senator Yulee of Florida shamelessly gave his motive for staying in the Senate: "It is thought we can keep the hands of Mr. Buchanan tied and disable the Republicans from effecting any legislation which will strengthen the hands of the incoming administration." Mr. Toombs of Georgia, speaking and voting at his desk in the Senate, declared himself "as good a rebel and as good a traitor as ever descended from Revolutionary loins," and said that the Union was already dissolved,--by which assertion he made his position in the Senate absolutely indefensible. The South Carolina senators resigned before their State ordained itself a "foreign nation," and incurred censure for being so "precipitate." In a word, the general desire was to remain in office, hampering and obstructing the government, until March 4, 1861, and at a caucus of disunionists it was agreed to do so. But the pace became too rapid, and resignations followed pretty close upon the formal acts of secession.

On the same day on which the Peace Congress opened its sessions in Washington, there came together at Montgomery, in Alabama, delegates from six States for the purpose of forming a Southern Confederacy. On the third day thereafter a plan for a provisional government, substantially identical with the Constitution of the United States, was adopted. On February 9 the oath of allegiance was taken, and Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens were elected respectively President and Vice-President. On February 13 the military and naval committees were directed to report plans for organizing an army and navy. Mr. Davis promptly journeyed to Montgomery, making on the way many speeches, in which he told his hearers that no plan for a reconstruction of the old Union would be entertained; and promised that those who should interfere with the new nation would have to "smell Southern powder and to feel Southern steel." On February 18 he was inaugurated, and in his address again referred to the "arbitrament of the sword." Immediately afterward he announced his cabinet as follows:--


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