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66. No Extension of Slavery (1860-1861)


After his election in November, 1860, Lincoln had to be consulted by those who were to be the Republican leaders in the next cabinet and Congress; and he repeatedly gave such cautions as appear in this piece. His influence probably prevented the adoption of the Crittenden Compromise, which he opposed because he thought it an unreasonable concession which could not permanently reconcile the two sections. For Lincoln, see No. 44 above. — Bibliography: Channing and Hart, Guide, §§ 207, 208.


[December 11, 1860.] E promise in regard to the extension of

NTERTAIN no for a com

slavery. The instant you do they have us under again: all our labor is lost, and sooner or later must be done over. Douglas is sure to be again trying to bring in his "popular sovereignty." Have none of it. The tug has to come, and better now than later. You know I think the fugitive-slave clause of the Constitution ought to be enforced — to put it in its mildest form, ought not to be resisted.



[December 28, 1860.] My dear Sir: I do not desire any

amendment of the Constitution. Recognizing, however, that questions of such amendment rightfully belong to the American people, I should not feel justified nor inclined to withhold from them, if I could, a fair opportunity of expressing their will thereon through either of the modes prescribed in the instrument.

In addition I declare that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and I denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as the gravest of crimes.

I am greatly averse to writing anything for the public at this time; and I consent to the publication of this only upon the condition that six of the twelve United States senators for the States of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Texas shall sign their names

to what is written on this sheet below my name, and allow the whole to be published together.

Yours truly,


We recommend to the people of the States we represent respectively, to suspend all action for dismemberment of the Union, at least until some act deemed to be violative of our rights shall be done by the incoming administration.


N the 21st ult. Hon. W. Kellogg, a [February 1, 1861.]. . . member of Congress of this State, whom you probably know, was here in a good deal of anxiety seeking to ascertain to what extent I would be consenting for our friends to go in the way of compromise on the now vexed question. While he was with me I received a despatch from Senator Trumbull, at Washington, alluding to the same question and telling me to await, letters. I therefore told Mr. Kellogg that when I should receive these letters posting me as to the state of affairs at Washington, I would write to you, requesting you to let him see my letter. To my surprise, when the letters mentioned by Judge Trumbull came they made no allusion to the "vexed question." This baffled me so much that I was near not writing you at all, in compliance to what I have said to Judge Kellogg. I say now, however, 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 be comely and not altogether outrageous. Nor do I care much about New Mexico, if further extension were hedged against.

Abraham Lincoln, Complete Works (edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay, New York, 1894), 1, 657-669 passim.

67. "If Any One Attempts to Haul down the American Flag" (1861)


Dix began his career as a young army officer in the War of 1812. Later he entered politics and became a member of the Albany Regency. For four years he held a seat in the United States Senate as a Democrat. When Buchanan's cabinet broke up in January, 1861, Dix became secretary of the treasury as a Union Democrat, and he sent this memorable telegram for the benefit of the captain of a revenue cutter who refused to obey his orders. When the war broke out, Dix accepted a major-general's commission and did good service. - For Dix, see Morgan Dix, Memoirs of J. A. Dix. — Bibliography as in No. 63 above.

ELL Lieutenant

Treasury Department, January 29, 1861. Caldwell to arrest Captain Breshwood, assume of cutter, and obey the order I gave through you. If Captain Breshwood, after arrest, undertakes to interfere with the com

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and of the cutter, tell Lieutenant Caldwell to consider him as a mutim accordingly. If any one attempts to haul down the oot him on the spot. JOHN A. DIX, Secretary of the Treasury. Morgan Dix, Memoirs of John Adams Dix (New York, 1883), I, 371.


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68. Last Effort at Compromise (1861)


Chittenden was a delegate from Vermont to the peace conference, called by Virginia and attended by delegates from twenty-one states, including all the border states. This was a last attempt by the border states to recall the seceded states and restore the Union with slavery. An amendment on the slavery question, a proposed modification of which is described in the extract, was adopted by the convention by a narrow and inconclusive majority; it differed little from Crittenden's Compromise, and was not accepted by Congress. Bibliography as in No. 63 above.



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I will modify my motion, and state it in this


"It is declared to be the true intent and meaning of the present Constitution, that the Union of the States under it is indissoluble.".

Mr. COALTER: - We have not met here for any such purpose as that indicated in the present amendment. We are not here to discuss the question of secession. We are here because the Border States are alarmed for their own safety. We wish them to remain in the Union.

The purpose of our consultations is to make an arrangement under which they can stay in the Union. If we do not confine ourselves to that purpose, and leave these questions alone, our differences may be submitted to a greater than any human judge. I hope, in Heaven's name, they will not be submitted to the arbitrament of battle. . . .

Mr. PRICE . . . I believe in the doctrine of the gentleman from New York. That is the doctrine of my State; but I believe in a great many other things which it is not necessary to insert in the Constitution. We came here to treat a fact, a great fact. There is a Southern Confederacy — there is a President DAVIS-there is a Government organized within the Union hostile to the United States. . . .


. . . Shall we sit here debating abstract questions when State after State is seceding? I hope not. We all agree to the principle contained in this amendment; but if we adopt it and make it a part of the Constitution, we could never, under it, bring back the seceded States. They will not admit the principle. What is to be gained, then, by adopting it? . .

[Mr. KING.] Myself and the majority of my colleagues differ from the majority of the Conference. . . . We do not intend to be driven from our position by threats or by intimidation. We believe that it is eminently proper for this Conference to express its decided convictions upon the question of secession. We are told here that secession is a fact. Then let us deal with it as such. I go for the enforcement of the laws passed in pursuance of the Constitution. I will never give up the idea that this is a Government of the people, and possessing within itself the power of enforcing its own decrees. This I shall never do. This Conference could perform no nobler act than that of sending to the country the announcement that the union of the States under the Constitution is indissoluble, and that secession is but another term for rebellion. . . .

I will occupy no farther time. I wish to live in peace and harmony with our brethren in the slave States. But I wish to put upon the record here a statement of the fact that this is a Government of the people, and not a compact of States.

Mr. PALMER . . . Are we to be gravely told that secession and treason are not proper subjects for our consideration? To be told this when every mail that comes to us from the South is loaded with both these crimes? Sir, we have commenced wrong. The first thing we ought to have done was to declare that these were crimes, and that we

would not negotiate with those who denied the authority of the Government, and claimed to have thrown off their allegiance to it. Far better would it be for the country if, instead of debating the question of slavery in reference to our Territories, we had set to work to strengthen the hands of the Government, and to put down the treason which threatens its existence.

You, gentlemen of the slave States, say that we of the North use fair words, that we promise fairly, but you insist that you will not rely upon our promises, and you demand our bond as security that we will keep them. I return the statement to you with interest. You, gentlemen, talk fairly also give us your bond! You have been talking fairly for the last dozen or twenty years, and yet this treason, black as night, has been plotted among you, and twelve years ago one of your statesmen predicted the very state of things which now exists. I am willing to give bonds, but I want our action in this respect to be reciprocal. I want your bond against secession, and I ask it because seven States in sympathy with you have undertaken to set up an independent Govhave placed over it a military chieftain who asserts that we, the people of the United States, are foreigners, and must be treated with as a foreign nation.


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Will you, gentlemen of the South, declare that you will stand by the Union, and brand secession as treasonable? If you will, you must vote for this amendment.


Mr. HOWARD:- I am sure no member of this Conference could have listened to the remarks of the two gentlemen who have last spoken without the deepest regret. It has been intimated here that Maryland will secede unless she secures these guarantees. I do not know whether she will or not. I know there is danger that she will. . . .

Yes, gentlemen, we are all in danger. The storm is raging; Virginia has hung her flag at half-mast as a signal of distress. If Virginia secedes our State will go with her, hand in hand, with Providence as our guide. This is not intended as a threat. GOD forbid! It is a truth which we cannot and ought not to conceal.

Why will not New York and Massachusetts for once be magnanimous ? Why will they not follow the glorious example of Rhode Island? If they will, I should still have hope. But if those two great States are against us, I can see nothing but gloom in the future. . .

The PRESIDENT:- The question now recurs on the amendment: offered by the gentleman from New York- Mr. FIELD.

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