Page images
PDF
EPUB

the amendment was disagreed to. . .

Mr. WICKLIFFE: - I hope now that we may be permitted to take

the vote at once upon the report of the majority.

Mr. REID:- Before this vote is taken, I deem it my duty to myself and my State to make a remark.

I came here disposed to agree upon terms that would be mutually satisfactory to both sections of the Union. I would agree to any fair terms now, but the propositions contained in the report of the majority, as that report now stands, can never receive my assent. I cannot recommend them to Congress or to the people of my own State. They do not settle the material questions involved; they contain no sufficient guarantees for the rights of the South. Therefore, in good faith to the Conference and to the country, I here state that I cannot and will not agree to them.

[ocr errors]

Mr. CLEVELAND: - If the gentlemen from the South, after we have yielded so much as we have, assert that these propositions will not be satisfactory to the slave States, I, for one, will not degrade myself by voting for them.

Mr. BARRINGER . . . I know the people of the South, and I tell you this hollow compromise will never satisfy them, nor will it bring back the seceded States. We are acting for the people who are not here. We are their delegates that have come here, not to demand indemnity for the past, but security for the future. . . .

Mr. STOCKTON . . . I have heard these discussions with pain from the commencement. Shall we deliberate over any proposition which shall save the Union? The country is in jeopardy. We are called upon to save it. New Jersey and Delaware came here for that purpose, and no other. They have laid aside every other motive; they have yielded every thing to the general good of the country.

The report of the majority of the committee meets their concurrence. Republicans and Democrats alike, have dropped their opinions, for politics should always disappear in the presence of a great question like this. Politics should not be thought of in view of the question of disunion. By what measure of execration will posterity judge a man who contributed toward the dissolution of the Union? Shall we stand here and higgle about terms when the roar of the tornado is heard that threatens to sweep our Government from the face of the earth? Believe me, sir, this is a question of peace or war.

...

The PRESIDENT . . . the question will be taken on the motion of

...

the gentleman from Kentucky for the adoption of the first section, which the Secretary will now read.

SECTION 1. In all the present territory of the United States north of the parallel of 36° 30' of north latitude, involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, is prohibited. In all the present territory south of that line, the status of persons held to involuntary service or labor, as it now exists, shall not be changed; nor shall any law be passed by Congress or the Territorial Legislature to hinder or prevent the taking of such persons from any of the States of this Union to said territory, nor to impair the rights arising from said relation; but the same shall be subject to judicial cognizance in the Federal courts, according to the course of the common law. When any Territory north or south of said line, within such boundary as Congress may prescribe, shall contain a population equal to that required for a member of Congress, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, with or without involuntary servitude, as the Constitution of such State may provide.

The question on agreeing to said section resulted as follows — Indiana declining to vote :

AYES. Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee-8.

NOES.-Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Virginia-II.

And the section was not agreed to. . .

The vote was taken in the midst of much partially suppressed excitement, and the announcement of the vote of different States occasioned many sharp remarks of dissent or approval. After the vote was announced, for some minutes no motion was made, and the delegates engaged in an informal conversation.

Mr. TURNER finally moved a reconsideration of the vote.

Mr. GRANGER:-To say that I am disappointed by the result of this vote, would fail to do justice to my feelings. I move that the Conference adjourn until half-past seven o'clock this evening. I think it well for those gentlemen from the slave States especially, who have by their votes defeated the compromise we have labored so long and so earnestly to secure, to take a little time for consideration. Gentlemen we have yielded much to your fears, much to your apprehensions; we have gone to the very verge of propriety in giving our assent to the committee's report. We have incurred the censure of some of our own people, but we were willing to take the risk of all this censure in order to allay your apprehensions. We expected you to meet us in the path of compromise. Instead of that you reject and spurn our propositions. Take time, gentlemen, for reflection. Beware how you spurn this report, and incur the awful responsibility which will follow. Reject it, and if the

country is plunged in war, and the Union endangered, you are the men who will be held responsible. . . .

The motion to reconsider was then adopted by a vote of 14 ayes to 5 noes, and the Conference adjourned to seven o'clock and thirty minutes this evening.

L. E. Chittenden, A Report of the Debates and Proceedings in the Secret Sessions of the Conference Convention, for proposing Amendments to the Constitution of the United States (New York, 1864), 398–439 passim.

69. Explanation of the Crittenden Compromise

(1861)

BY SENATOR JOHN JORDAN CRITTENDEN

Crittenden sat for many years in the Senate as a Whig, and was attorney-general in the cabinets of Harrison and Fillmore. As he came from Kentucky and shared most of Henry Clay's political beliefs, his love for the Union suggested compromises; when that hope failed, he adhered loyally to the Union. He supported Lincoln's administration, and did much to keep Kentucky in the Union; but his was a "house divided against itself," for one son served in the Union army and another in the Confederate army. This is an extract from a letter to Larz Anderson, of Cincinnati, March 29. For Crittenden, see Ann M. Coleman, Life of John J. Crittenden. – Bibliography as in No. 63 above.

TH

HE resolutions were proposed in the pure spirit of compromise, and with the hopes of preserving or restoring to the country peace and union. They were the result of the joint labors of, and consultation with, friends having the same object in view; and I believe if those measures thus offered had been at a suitable time promptly adopted by the Congress of the United States, it would have checked the progress of the rebellion and revolution, and saved the Union.

For myself, I had no objection to including in their scope all afteracquired territory, because that made a final settlement of the distracting question of slavery in all time to come, and because I hoped that such a provision by prohibiting slavery in all the acquired territory north of the line of 36° 30' of north latitude, and allowing it in all south of that line would have the effect of preventing any further acquisition of territory, as the Northern States would be unwilling to make any southern acquisitions, on which slavery was to be allowed, and the Southern States would not be inclined to increase the preponderance of the North by

P

[ocr errors]

northern acquisitions. And thus I hoped that the provision respecting future territory would prevent any further acquisitions of territory, and I did not desire that any more should be made.

These were my reasons for submitting the proposition in relation to future acquired territory. But my great object was compromise, -compromise on terms satisfactory, as far as possible, to all parties and all sections; and when I found that this provision in my resolutions was much and particularly objected to, and might prove an obstacle to their adoption, I determined, in my anxiety for compromise, that I would not insist upon it, but would consent to have it stricken out.

To accomplish the great object I had in view, the peace and union of the country, I would, rather than have witnessed their total failure, have yielded to any modification of my resolutions that would not, in my judgment, have destroyed their essential character and their pacifying effect. Indeed, I intended, if opportunity had been afforded me, to make several amendments in the phraseology of those resolutions, in order to render their language as little offensive as possible.

I wish to see reconciliation and union established. It was of no importance by whose resolutions or by whose measures it was brought about, so that the great end was accomplished.

It was in that spirit, that when the Peace Conference or Convention, that met at Washington upon the invitation of the State of Virginia, made a report to Congress of the resolutions or measures recommended by them for the restoration of peace and union, I at once determined to support their measures rather than those I had before proposed. I did this, not only because their propositions contained, as I thought, the substance of my own, but because they came with the high sanction of a convention of twenty-one States, and would, therefore, be more likely to be acceptable to Congress and the country. Besides that, I felt myself somewhat bound to act with this deference to a convention so distinguished. I had ascertained to my satisfaction that the resolutions would not be adopted in the Senate.

Mrs. Chapman [Ann M.] Coleman, The Life of John J. Crittenden, with Selections from his Correspondence and Speeches (Philadelphia, 1871), II, 296-297.

CHAPTER XII-CRISIS OF FORT SUMTER

70. Shall Sumter be Relieved? (1861)

BY THE MEMBERS OF THE CABINET

On March 16 President Lincoln obtained written opinions from every member of his cabinet, and found that only two favored an attempt to relieve Fort Sumter. On March 29 he obtained a second set of opinions, which are printed in this extract. The question was complicated, depending upon both military and political considerations. On April 4 the President finally decided to send provisions to Anderson, and the Confederacy thereupon cut the Gordian knot by firing upon Sumter. - Bibliography: Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IV, ch. ii; Channing and Hart, Guide, § 208.

[blocks in formation]

First. The despatch of an expedition to supply or reinforce Sumter would provoke an attack, and so involve a war at that point.

The fact of preparation for such an expedition would inevitably transpire, and would therefore precipitate the war, and probably defeat the object. I do not think it wise to provoke a civil war beginning at Charleston, and in rescue of an untenable position.

Therefore I advise against the expedition in every view.

Second. I would call in Captain M. C. Meigs forthwith. Aided by his counsel, I would at once, and at every cost, prepare for a war at Pensacola and Texas: to be taken, however, only as a consequence of maintaining the possessions and authority of the United States.

Third. I would instruct Major Anderson to retire from Sumter forthwith.

Mr. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, wrote:

If war is to be the consequence of an attempt to provision Fort Sumter, war will just as certainly result from the attempt to maintain possession of Fort Pickens.

I am clearly in favor of maintaining Fort Pickens, and just as clearly in favor of provisioning Fort Sumter.

If that attempt be resisted by military force, Fort Sumter should, in my judgment, be reinforced.

If war is to be the result, I perceive no reason why it may not be best begun in consequence of military resistance to the efforts of the administration to sustain troops of the Union, stationed under the authority of the government, in a fort of the Union, in the ordinary course of service.

Mr. Welles, Secretary of the Navy, wrote:

I concur in the proposition to send an armed force off Charleston with supplies of provisions and reinforcements for the garrison at Fort Sumter, and of communicating at the proper time the intentions of the government to provision the fort peaceably if

« PreviousContinue »