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President declined to receive them officially. South Carolina denied that her action in withdrawing from the Union was revolutionary or rebellious, but claimed that the right to secede ($ 355) was “an essential part of State sovereignty," and that it was in no sense a violation of the Constitution. 1145
The Convention declared that South Carolina seceded for two reasons: first, because fourteen of the Northern States had
deliberately refused to fulfill their constitutional obligations" by enacting “ Personal Liberty Laws” ($ 416), which nullified the Fugitive-Slave Act ($ 414) or rendered it useless to the South; secondly, because a geographical or sectional party had been formed at the North, which had elected a President “ whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery,” and ho had publicly said ($ 439): the “national Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free.” 1146
The South Carolina secessionists proclaimed that their object was to establish" a great slave-holding Confederacy stretching its arms over a Territory larger than any power in Europe possesses.
By the first of February (1861) the six States of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had followed the example of South Carolina, and had declared themselves out of the Union. The Mississippi Convention frankly avowed that the object of secession was to save “slavery — the greatest material interest in the world.” Georgia went reluctantly, apparently expecting to soon return. Stephens said she was induced to go by the argument: “We can make better terms out of the Union than in it." 1148 The truth was that many of her citizens, and of the other cotton States, loved the old flag, and left it only because they were overcome by the secession movement and had no choice. These States seized the forts and other property of the United States within their limits so far as they could lay hands on them. In Texas, General Twiggs turned over about a million dollars' worth of national military stores to the secessionists.
Meanwhile President Buchanan had sent a merchant vessel, the “Star of the West," with reinforcements and supplies for Major Anderson, who held Fort Sumter for the Union. The people of Charleston fired on the vessel and compelled her to turn back. Wigfall of Texas, who still retained his seat in the United States Senate, jeered at the Government, saying: “Your flag has been insulted, redress it if you dare.” 1149
445. The “ Confederate States of America"; their flag; their constitution; the Peace Convention. In February (1861) delegates from all of the seceded States met at Montgomery, Alabama, and framed a provisional Government. They took the name of the “Confederate States of America,” and made Montgomery the capital of the new slave-holding Republic. Pollard believes that they represented the “politicians," not the "people," of the South.1180 Jefferson Davis ($ 413) of Mississippi was elected President for six years, with Alexander H. Stephens (8 411) of Georgia for Vice-President.
In the Georgia State Convention, Stephens had declared that the South had always had “the control” of the general Government, and could show no cause for withdrawing from the Union ($ 443).
He then denounced secession as “the height of madness, folly, and wickedness"; 1161 but, unlike Henry Clay at an earlier period, he declared that he would go with his State. He said that the “corner-stone" of the Confederacy rested on slavery as its foundation; and he boasted that the Confederacy, if true to itself, would become “the controlling power on this continent.” 1162
In March (1861) the Confederate States adopted the “stars and bars” as their national flag, and ratified a permanent constitution. It differed from that of the United States in two very important points: first, it expressly prohibited protective duties and bounties; secondly, it nationalized slavery, and provided not only for its perpetual maintenance, but for its extension to all Territory the new Government might acquire. 1158
On the very day on which the secession delegates met at
From the Rev. Morgan Dix's "Memoirs of John A. Dix,” by permission of the Author.
NOTE.- Captain Breshwood of New Orleans refused to take any steps toward saving the revenue cutter McClelland from falling into the hands of the Secessionists, who were seizing such vessels for the use of the Southern States. The letter of Secretary Dix on this point explains itself.