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Montgomery (February 4, 1861), a “ Peace Convention" called at the request of Virginia, assembled at Washington. Twentyone States were represented, but none of the seven seceded States sent delegates. The purpose of the Convention was to effect a compromise and “save the Union," but nothing came of the attempt. While the men of peace were in session, the people of Charleston were building batteries to bombard Sumter. They only waited for the order from Jefferson Davis to open fire and begin the civil war.
446. What made secession possible. — Slavery was the primary cause of secession. Madison, “ the Father of the Constitution,” was convinced that it threatened sooner or later to split the Republic. Jefferson held the same conviction. 1154 Directly or indirectly it had threatened to destroy the Union from the outset ($ 257); yet considered purely from an economic and industrial point of view, there was a period in our history when slavery was an apparent advantage. Its introduction into Virginia ($ 44) stimulated the settlement of that colony - the mother-colony of the American commonwealth — and established a lucrative commerce in tobacco.
Later ($ 259), the same system of labor made the raising of cotton enormously profitable, not only to the South, but to the whole country
But these temporary material benefits were offset by the fact that slave labor was necessarily opposed to progress beyond a certain point. It was adapted to a simple uniform routine system of agriculture, and to nothing more. It exhausted the soil; it discouraged free labor; it shut the South against immigration ; it refused to establish common
It concentrated the capital, the intelligence, the political power, and the social influence of the South in the hands of a small per cent of the population. It left the great mass of the people in poverty and ignorance, and without real legislative representation. It was the slave-holder, and, as a rule, the slave-holder only, who went to Congress, or was elected
to any State office. 1156
The men who did not possess slaves were branded as poor white trash,” and the very negroes looked down upon them in contempt. These Poor Whites were the victims of the slave system; as a recent Southern writer acknowledges, they withered under its overshadowing influence as shrubs wither beneath a wide-spreading oak. 1157
So far as progress was concerned in 1860, slavery was a spent force. It was a system of labor which the civilized world generally had outgrown and cast aside. More than that, it was a stumbling-block to the very people who cherished it, and who were ready to fight for it. It was the misfortune, not the crime of the Southern people ($ 352), that they could not see this then. They had been reared among slaves, and Calhoun had educated them to believe that African servitude was “a positive good” to both black and white ($ 354). Hence, as a representative of South Carolina has said, slavery kept the South stationary “in government, in society, in employments, in labor," so that it had not moved for half a century. 1158 It was a case of what physiologists call “arrested development,” and the best powers of our Southern brothers lay concealed and dormant, waiting for the great day of emancipation and resurrection.
At the North everything had changed; slavery had disappeared, free labor prospered, education was open to all, millions of sturdy immigrants had settled in the West, and planted civilization in the wilderness. Patriotism — thanks, in no small measure, to Webster's efforts ($ 351)— had outgrown the narrow crippling theory of State-sovereignty, and had broadened into a genuine devotion to the Union. For many years no man, or set of men, possessed of political influence had so much as hinted at the possibility of Northern secession (S$ 310, 382).
On the other hand, the Southern people had been taught by Calhoun * and his school that the American Republic, however dear it might be to them, was not a nation, but simply a part
* See Calhoun's Works, vi, 169 and 194 et seq. Calhoun's love of the Union was over-balanced by his conviction of the right of nullification and, if need be, of secession in the interest of State-sovereignty and of slavery.
nership of independent States which had the Constitutional right to withdraw when they saw fit. Misled by slavery, they had come to believe that their welfare depended on holding the negro in bondage. Notwithstanding the protests of the Republican Party to the contrary, they conceived that the election of Lincoln showed that the free States were resolved to destroy the system of property in man throughout the South; in order to perpetuate and extend that system, they now determined to pull down the pillars of the Republic and to build up a new commonwealth “ separated,” as an able Southern writer has said, “from the rest of the world in sympathy and feeling,” opposed to progress, and with its face turned from the light and toward the past. 1159 Thus slavery bred sectionalism, and sectionalism bred secession and civil war.
447. Summary.— The chief events of Buchanan's administration were: (1) the Dred Scott decision, opening the Territories to slavery; (2) the panic of 1857; (3) the discovery of the “ Bonanza” silver mines, and the development of our petroleum deposits; (4) the Mormon rebellion ; (5) the John Brown raid; (6) the secession of South Carolina, followed by six other States, and the formation of the Southern Confederacy.
Map of Charleston Harbor.
(See $ 444.)
THE WAR OF SECESSION.
For Authorities for this Chapter, see Appendix, page xxiv. The small figures in the
text refer to Authorities cited on page w of the Appendix.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN (REPUBLICAN), TWO TERMS, 1861-1869.
448. Lincoln's journey to Washington and inaugural address. - In his farewell speech at Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln said to his friends : “I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon Washington. Unless the great God, who assisted him, shall be with and aid me, I must fail.” To avoid the danger of threatened assassination at Baltimore, the President-elect, acting on the advice of General Scott and Secretary Seward, * made the last part of his journey to Washington secretly, by night train.
In his inaugural address ($ 442), the President said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no intention to do so." He even favored an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting such interference.
* President Lincoln's Cabinet. - Secretary of State, William H. Seward; Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase (succeeded July 5, 1864, by Wm. P. Fessenden) ; Secretary of War, Simon Cameron (succeeded Jan. 11, 1862, by Edwin M. Stanton); Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles; Secretary of the Interior, C. B. Smith (succeeded Jan. 8, 1863, by J. P. Usher); Attorney-General, Edward Bates (succeeded Dec. 14, 1864, by James Speed) ; Postmaster-General, Montgomery Blair (succeeded Oct. 1, 1864, by Wm. Dennison). Second Term. Cabinet changes : Secretary of the Treasury, Hugh McCulloch ; Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan.