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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Secession was not directly advocated at Hartford


The

discontent of New England is intelligible enough. No part of the Union had suffered so terribly from the war, and the suffering was the bitterer for being incurred in a contest which was none of her making, which she had desired to avoid, and which had been forced on her by other sections which had suffered far less. Her commerce, by which she largely lived, had been swept from the seas. Her people, deeply distressed, demanded an immediate peace. Taking ground as discontented sections, North and South, always did before 1864, on the doctrine of State Sovereignty, one at least, and that the greatest of the New England States, began a movement which seemed to point straight to the dilemma of surrender to the foreigner or secession and dismemberment from within.

Massachusetts invited representatives of her sister States to a Convention at Hartford. The Convention was to be consultative, but its direct and avowed aim was to force the conclusion of peace on any terms. Some of its promoters were certainly prepared, if they did not get their way, to secede and make a separate peace for their own State. The response of New England was not as unanimous as the conspirators had hoped. Vermont and New Hampshire refused to send delegates. Rhode Island consented, but qualified her consent with the phrase "consistently with her obligations"--implying that she would be no party to a separate peace or to the break-up of the Union. Connecticut alone came in without

reservation. Perhaps this partial failure led the plotters to lend a more moderate colour to their policy. At any rate, secession was not directly advocated at Hartford. It was hinted that if such evils as those of which the people of New England complained proved permanent, it might be necessary; but the members of the Convention had the grace to admit that it ought not to be attempted in the middle of a foreign war. Their good faith, however, is dubious, for they put forward a proposal so patently absurd that it could hardly have been made except for the purpose of paving the way for a separate peace. They declared that each State ought to be responsible for its own defences, and they asked that their share of the Federal taxes should be paid over to them for the purpose. With that and a resolution to meet again at Boston and consider further steps if their demands were not met, they adjourned. They never reassembled.

In the South the skies were clearing a little. Jackson of Tennessee, vigorous and rapid in movement, a master of Indian warfare, leading an army of soldiers who worshipped him as the Old Guard worshipped Napoleon, by a series of quick and deadly strokes overthrew the Creeks, followed them to their fastnesses, and broke them decisively at Tohopeka in the famous "hickory patch" which was the holy place of their nation.

He was rewarded in the way that he would have most desired: by a commission against the English, who had landed at Pensacola in Spanish territory, perhaps with the object of joining hands with their Indian allies. They found those allies crushed by Jackson's energy, but they still retained their foothold on the Florida coast, from which they could menace Georgia on the one side and New Orleans on the other. Spain was the ally of England in Europe, but in the American War she professed neutrality. As, however, she made no effort to prevent England using a Spanish port as a base of operations, she could not justly complain when Jackson seized the neighbouring port of Mobile, from which he marched against the British and dislodged them. But the hardest and most glorious part of his task was to come. The next blow was aimed at New Orleans itself. Jackson hastened to its defence. The British landed in great force at the mouth of the Mississippi and attacked the city from both sides. Jackson's little army was greatly outnumbered, but the skill with which he planned the defence and the spirit which he infused into his soldiers (the British themselves said that Jackson's men seemed of a different stuff from all other American troops they had encountered) prevailed against heavy odds. Three times Jackson's lines were attacked: in one place they were nearly carried, but his energy just repaired the disaster. At length the British retired with heavy losses and took to their ships. New Orleans was saved.


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