Augustus Pitt Adamson, First Corporal, Co., E. Clayton County
Causes of the War
It is not the purpose of the writer in this work to go into an extended review of the causes which produced "the war between the states" from 1861 to 1865. Only a brief, cursory glance, or reference to the organization of the government and some of the chief events connected with its history will be given. Much has been said and written upon this subject, and some of the writers have gone into an elaborate discussion of the question in an impartial manner, while others have failed to do justice to the South. The South has always been willing to commit her cause to the verdict of an intelligent people who will view it from an impartial standpoint. But she is not, and ought not to be willing for the garbled and distorted views of extreme men, who will not give her people justice; to traduce her sons, who contended for what they believed was right, and make their posterity believe they were traitors. She is entitled to have accorded to her people the same honesty of purpose which actuated those who fought for the other side. Most of those who have written of that great struggle attributed the main cause to the agitation of the slavery question; but some go further and show that there were great principles involved. "The Youth's History of the War," by Rushmore G. Horton, and the comprehensive work of Hon. A. H. Stephens go back to the very foundation of the government and show conclusively that the several states which ratified the Constitution retained their, sovereignty, and there were rights and powers which they never delegated to the Federal government; that these rights had not been respected, and that there were numerous encroachments and violations of the Constitution upon the part of several Northern states. Mr. Stephens says: "The war had its origin in opposing principles." He further says: "They lay in the organic structures of the governments of the states. The conflict in principle arose from different and opposing ideas as to the nature of what is known as the general government. The contest was between those who held it to be strictly federal in its character and those who held it to be thoroughly national. It was a strife between the principles of federation on one side, and centralization on the other."
The first union between the states was formed under the Articles of Confederation in 1777, during the Revolutionary war This compact was entered into to make a closer union between the states, and for their common defense. In these Articles the states retained their sovereignty. (See Article 2nd: "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States Congress.")
After the successful termination of the Revolutionary war in 1787 a convention was called to make a more perfect union between the states. In this Convention were some of the ablest men of that day. Washington was president of the Convention; Madison, who has been called the "Father of the Constitution," was a delegate from Virginia; Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson and Ingersoll, of Pennsylvania; Alexander Hamilton, of New York; Eilsworth of Connecticut; Gerry, of Massachusetts; Luther Martin, of Maryland; Pinckney and Rutledge, of South Carolina; Baldwin and Few, of Georgia, were among the delegates. Some of the delegates, under the lead of Hamilton, favored a strong, centralized government, with monarchial tendencies, but the majority favored a government by the people and for the people--one which rested upon the consent of the governed. The Convention completed their labors on the 17th of September, 1787, and submitted the new Constitution to the several states for ratification. In this instrument the rights of the states were guaranteed as sovereign, and co-equal; each state was given an equal representation in the senate, which was strongly opposed by those who favored centralization, but time and subsequent events have shown the wisdom of giving the small states an equal voice in the senate, and hard it not been done, the Constitution would have failed of ratification. The rights of property in slaves was recognized by Article IV., Section 2, as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one state under the laws thereof, escaping into another in consequence of any law or regulation therein, shall be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered upon claim of the party to whom such service be due."
All the thirteen original states ratified this Constitution, several of them with little or no opposition; but in Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania there was strong opposition to the measure. After a protracted debate the Constitution was ratified by a vote of 89 to 79. It is noted that the Convention expressly declared and made known that the powers granted under it may be resumed by them whensoever they may be perverted to their injury. This Virginia did in 1861, by withdrawing from the Union. The other states adopted the Constitution, after being satisfied that their rights as sovereign states were guaranteed. North Carolina and Rhode Island were the last to ratify it. In 1790 the states all held slaves, although, owing to their not proving profitable, the number was small in some of them. New Hampshire had 158, Vermont 17, Massachusetts, Rhode Island 952; Connecticut 2,759. New York 21,324, New Jersey 11,423, Pennsylvania 3,737, Delaware 3,887. The Southern states had a large number. Down to the very moment when our independence was won, slavery, established by the common law of England, had become the common law of all the thirteen states. The South was not responsible for the institution of slavery; it had been handed down by the English, and existed not by their will. In fact, every effort made by the South looking to the stoppage of the slave trade and the emancipation of slaves met with violent opposition. The New England Puritans had been reaping great profits from the slave trade, and did not wish it to stop. At the time of the Revolution some of the Northern Colonies had taken incipient steps to abolish slavery, but they made their provisions perspective. It was to he abolished after a certain time in the future--just enough to give their people convenient opportunity to sell their slaves to Southern planters. It was not abolished in New York until 1826. These Northern men did not see the sin of slavery until they had been well paid for their slaves; then the agitation began. It began by a people who had been great persecutors themselves. In Pennsylvania the Quakers had been persecuted for their religious opinions. In Massachusetts Roger Williams had been banished and driven out into the wilds among the Indians, who proved to be better friends to him than those he left behind. Also in that state a religious craze prevailed. A number of people, some of them of good standing, were charged with witchcraft and arrested on frivolous pretexts, tried, condemned and executed. This, too, by a people who claim that they had to flee from Europe for conscience sake, to escape persecution, and afterwards became the worst persecutors. During the administration of John Adams, they passed alien and sedition laws, which caused great trouble, and these people were the first to ever hint secession, which they advocated in the Hartford Convention during President Jefferson's administration. When Madison was president, during the war of 1812-1815, with England, they threw many obstacles in the way of the government, and the majority of them gave little aid to that war which resulted in great benefit to their section. When Monroe was president, the slavery agitation began in a more violent manner. In 1819, Missouri applied for admission as a slave state, and was only admitted after a long and bitter struggle of two years' duration. It was at that time the famous "Missouri Compromise" was adopted, which was thought would be the means of preventing future agitation; but some of the very men who helped to enact it were among the first to violate it. The "Missouri Compromise" was the result of a conference report upon the disagreeing votes of the two houses of Congress.
It was indeed a great concession upon the part of the South, one which yielded to the North nearly all that immense territory which was obtained under President Jefferson's administration. But it did not stop the agitation of the slavery question but for a short time. Mr. Jefferson, in writing upon the ''Missouri Compromise," expressed great sorrow at its passage, and said that he regarded it as a death knell to the Union. "It is," said he, " hushed for the moment; this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence." (See Political Text Book 1858, page 336.)
Slavery was not the only question upon which the North and South differed. As far back as 1807, when Jefferson was president, the Embargo Act was passed, which so displeased the New England states that they threatened to secede. They had also opposed the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for fear it would increase the power of the South. During Madison's administration they opposed the war with Great Britain and gave very little aid to it, after being instrumental in bringing it about. In 1814 the Hartford Convention was held, and again they threatened to secede. The tariff was also a question which divided the sections. The North favored a high tariff, which suited them after they had exchanged their negro property for machinery. The protective tariff of 1815 and 1828 met with strong opposition from the South, the last being called "the black tariff," and during Jackson's administration in 1832, South Carolina threatened to secede and passed Nullification laws; but in 1833 this excessive tariff was modified and a better feeling followed. In 1846 the Walker tariff was passed, which is said to be the best tariff bill ever enacted. The national bank also caused serious differences between the sections. The Northern Whigs and Federalists, with some of the Southern Whigs, favored a national bank, while the south and the Democratic party generally was opposed to it. President Jackson opposed it, and also President Van Buren, but the question was agitated all through the administration, and in the presidential election of 1840 he was defeated for re-election by Gen. William Henry Harrison, who only lived one month after inauguration, and was succeeded by Vice President Tyler. During Tyler's administration a National Bank Bill was passed, but was vetoed by the president and failed to become a law. His administration was characterized by much bitterness, and Northern ideas mostly prevailed. Tyler was succeeded by James K. Polk, who was elected over Henry Clay, and during his administration the war with Mexico occurred, which resulted in the acquisition of the immense territory of Texas, California and New Mexico; then the slavery question again came to the front. In the election of 1848 Gen. Taylor was elected president, defeating Gen. Cass, the Democratic candidate. This result was brought about by a large element known as the Free Soil Democrats, supporting Mr. Van Buren, who had become estranged from the party for failing to nominate him in 1844. President Taylor died in 1850, and Millard Filmore became president. When Congress met in 1849 a protracted struggle ensued for the election of Speaker of the House. The Democrats supported Howell Cobb, of Georgia, and most of the Whigs voted for Robert C. Winthrop, of Massachusetts. There was a small number of Free Soilers and a few Southern Whigs, who refused to vote for either candidate, thus preventing an election by the majority rule, which was required. After three weeks' balloting the plurality rule was adopted for the first time in the history of the government, and Mr. Cobb was chosen by a vote of 102 to 99 for Winthrop, with about twenty scattering votes. For several years prior to this time a few Free Soilers, led by ex-President John Q. Adams; Mr. Slade, of Vermont; David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, and Joshua R. Giddings, of Ohio, kept up a continual agitation of the slavery question, which now threatened to disrupt the Whig and Democratic parties, and a few years later completely destroyed the Whig party. In the Thirty-first Congress both parties were about equally divided, with the Free Soilers holding the balance of power, and the whole session was characterized by stormy scenes and exciting debates, hitherto unprecedented. California applied to the Union as a free state; and while the South had little or no opposition to her admission, they determined to resist it until they could obtain satisfactory guarantees regarding the other territories. The South made known her reasonable demands and many of the ablest men who ever sat in the councils of the nation participated in the debates which followed. Mr. Stephens says they were the most interesting debates he ever heard. In the senate, Clay, Calhoun, Webster, Benton, Cass, Douglas, Hunter, William R. King and Jefferson Davis were among those who discussed these questions. In the house, Stephens and Toombs, of Georgia; Boyd, of Kentucky; Stanton, of Tennessee; McClernand and Richardson, of Illinois; Vinton, of Ohio; Gentry, of Tennessee, and many others figured conspicuously in these debates. Mr. Clay introduced his famous Compromise Bill and made one of the ablest speeches of his life upon it. Mr. Webster. in his great speech. for the first time took strong ground against restriction. Mr. Calhoun's speech, the last of his life, and one of the ablest, fully defended the rights of his section, and predicted what would follow ii the North continued to violate the Constitution. It was his last appearance in public life, and being too weak to deliver his speech, it was read by Mr. Mason, of Virginia. He died a few weeks later, after forty years in the service of his state and country, as representative, senator, vice-president and cabinet officer; he was unquestionably one of the very ablest men the country ever produced. These debates lasted several months, and finally, through the aid of Mr. Douglas, McClernand and Richardson, of Illinois, with a few more Northern Democrats, a compromise was made by the admission of California, and a satisfactory measure for the territories, and the enactment of a fugitive slave law. It was a victory for the Anti-Restrictionists, and had the compromise agreed upon been adhered to there would have been no further agitation of the slavery question. Just before the passage of this measure, President Taylor died and Millard Filmore became president in July, 1850. In party conventions of both parties in 1852, the compromise measure was indorsed. Gen. Scott was the Whig candidate, and Franklin Pierce was the Democratic candidate. Mr. Pierce was overwhelmingly elected, many of the Whigs refusing to support Scott, and the Free Soilers voting for Hale, who received a considerable vote in the North.
During President Pierce's administration, the slavery question was renewed in regard to the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, and continued through his whole term. It was during this controversy in 1854 that the Missouri Compromise line was repealed at the suggestion and move of Senator Douglas. About this time a new party known as the American, or Know Nothing party, sprung into existence, the old Whig party becoming completely disrupted. In the election for Congress in the fall of 1854 this new party, by a combination with the Free Soilers and most of the Whigs in the North, elected a number of members; and in the election of 1855 made a good showing in the Southern states. A number of leading Whigs in the South, among whom were Messrs. Stephens and Toombs, of Georgia: Jones, of Tennessee; Pearce, of Maryland, and others, united with the Democratic party. When Congress met in December, 1855, a long struggle for the Speakership took place. In the meantime the Free Soilers had taken the name of Republicans, and it was a motley crowd which met in this, the Thirty-Fourth Congress. There was from the South sixty-two Democrats, and from the North twenty-two, making eighty-four. There were from the South thirty Know Nothings, with a few from the North. Most of those from the North, who had been elected by that party, joined the Abolition, or Republican party, which, with this addition, numbered more than one hundred. Mr. N. P. Banks, who hall been elected as a Know Nothing Democrat, was made the candidate of the Republicans. The Democrats supported William A. Richardson, a conservative Democrat from Illinois, and the Americans supported Henry M. Fuller, of Pennsylvania. The Democrats and the Southern Americans combined had about half the members, and could, with the few Northern men who voted for Fuller, have elected the Speaker. In their efforts to unite on a man who was not sectional the Democrats voted at times for several men, finally uniting on Mr. Aiken, of South Carolina. After two months' balloting. the plurality rule was adopted, and a Republican was, for the first time in American history, chosen to preside over the house of representatives. The vote stood. Banks 193, Aiken 100, Fuller 6, Campbell, of Ohio, 4, Wells, of Wisconsin, 1. All the Southern Americans, except Henry Winter Davis, of Maryland, and Cullen, of Delaware, voted for Aiken. These two, with four Northern Americans, voted for Fuller. Had they voted for Aiken, as they had done on the previous day, he would have been elected. Those who voted for Campbell were called Americans, but they afterwards acted with the Republicans. The only Democrat who threw away his vote on Mr. Wells was Hickman, of Pennsylvania, who four years later became a Republican.
In the presidential election of 1856, James Buchanan was the Democratic nominee, John C. Fremont the Republican and Millard Filmore the American candidate. Buchanan was elected, receiving the vote of all the Southern states, except Maryland (which voted for Filmore), with the states of California, Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Fremont carried the other states. The electoral vote was: Buchanan 173, Fremont 113. Filmore 88. The Thirty-fifth Congress was Democratic by a considerable majority, hut the Kansas-Nebraska question caused some of the Northern Democrats to differ with Mr. Buchanan, and his whole term of office was disturbed by acrimonious discussions on the slavery question in the territories. When the Thirty-seventh Congress met in 18j'), another long struggle ensued for Speaker. The Republicans had almost a majority of the whole number, and put forward John Sherman, of Ohio, for a candidate. The Democrats at first voted for Mr. McClernand and Mr. Bocock of Virginia, and the Americans for Mr. Gilmer, of North Carolina. The final result hinged on the votes of some half-dozen Americans and two or three Anti-Lecompton Democrats. The Southern men alternated their votes between a number of men besides Mr. Bocock, and on several ballots both Democrats and Americans united. Smith, of North Carolina; Mr. Boteler, of Virginia and Mr. Maynard, of Tennessee, all Americans, received almost the entire Democratic vote on different ballots. The Southern Americans, except two or three, also voted for several Democrats. The Republicans, finding they could not elect Sherman, put forward William Pennington, of New Jersey. He was eventually elected, receiving 117 votes, one more than necessary for a choice. He received the votes of Davis and Harris, of Maryland, and the Northern Americans, and three Northern Democrats, who had become alienated from their party on the Kansas-Nebraska question. Later on all these men joined the Republican party. In October, 1859, occurred the John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry, Va.. which caused quite a sensation at that time.
Brown and several of his followers were captured, tried in the civil courts, condemned and executed. On the day of his execution bells were tolled and guns fired in many Northern cities; meetings were held, and he was extolled as a martyr and praised for his bloody deeds. Previous to this he had been a ringleader in many bloody affairs in Kansas. About this time a book called "The Impending Crisis," a very incendiary publication, was extensively circulated in the North. It had the indorsement of sixty-seven members of Congress. This book, together with "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which appeared about the same time, did much to arouse bitter feelings in the North towards the South. In April, 1860, the Democratic convention to nominate a presidential candidate assembled in Charleston. The Northern wing of the party favored the indorsement of the Cincinnati platform of 1856, and the nomination of Senator Douglas, of Illinois.
The South, with a few delegates from the North, favored an additional plank in the platform, which prevented a territorial legislature abolishing slavery until the people of such territory so voted. They also opposed the nomination of Mr. Douglas on account of his position on the Kansas Lecompton bill in 1858. After several days spent in trying to adopt a satisfactory platform, the delegates from the Southern states withdrew and agreed to meet at Richmond in June following. The Douglas wing adjourned, to meet in Baltimore on June 23, and requested the states from which delegates had withdrawn to fill the vacancies, which was done in some of the states. When they met in Baltimore Mr. Douglas was nominated, with Senator Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, for vice-president. The latter declining, Herschell V. Johnson, of Georgia, was substituted. The Southern wing of the party met in Baltimore; the place of meeting had been changed in the hope that party harmony could be restored. All the Southern states were represented, with a considerable delegation from several of the Northern states. The convention nominated John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, for president, and Joseph Lane, of Oregon, for vice-president. Stephen A. Douglas, was a man of great ability. He had long represented the state of Illinois in Congress, first in the house and then in the senate. He was one of the leaders of the Democratic party, and had on many occasions voted with the Southern members, and it was through his instrumentality that the Missouri Compromise was repealed in 1854. In 1858 he differed with most of the senators and with President Buchanan in regard to the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution. Had it not been for this difference, he would no doubt have been elected president in 1860. John C. Breckinridge was also among the ablest men of his day. He was, at the time of his nomination, vice-president of the United States. He was a man of fine personal appearance. possessed great oratorical powers, and was very popular. The American party, which hall taken the name of "The Constitutional Union'' party, met in convention in May, 1860, and nominated John Bell, of Tennessee, for president, and Edward Everett, of Massachusetts, for vice-president. Both these men had a national reputation, having long been in public life, and served in both branches of Congress. The Republicans met and nominated Abraham Lincoln. of Illinois, and Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine. Mr. Lincoln had served in Congress during the Twenty-seventh Congress, as a represetntative from an Illinois district. In 1858 he ran for United States senator, but was defeated by Senator Douglas. Hamlin, the candidate for vice-president, was at that time and hall been for several years, a senator from Maine. The campaign was very bitter in many of the states, but the final result, which was predicted by many eminent men, could be easily foreseen. With the Democracy divided, sectionalism prevailed; had they united the result would doubtless have been different.
If we view the difference which then existed from an impartial standpoint, we can now readily see how easy it would have been to reconcile matters, but intense excitement prevailed at that time, and our leading men on both sides contended for what they thought best for the party, and were doubtless actuated by honest and patriotic views. Abraham Lincoln was elected president, receiving 180 electoral votes; Breckinridge had 72 votes, Bell 39 and Douglas 12. The popular vote stood: Lincoln, 1856,352; Douglas, 1,375,157; Breckinridge, 8·15,763; Bell, 589,581. It will be seen that Lincoln failed to receive a majority of the popular vote, and could have been defeated had not the opposition been so badly divided. Notwithstanding the agitation of the slavery question, the period from 1850 to 1860 was quite prosperous all over the United States. Mr. Carlisle has truly said that it was "the golden decade of American history." This prosperity was in a great measure due to the Walker tariff of 1846, and the compromise measures of 1850, which the South and conservative people at the North hoped would settle for a long time the much vexed question which had been the source of much bitter strife. Besides this prosperous condition of the country, the most of the states were ably represented in the councils of the nation. "The great trio," Clay, Calhoun and Webster, and also Wiliiam R. King, all of whom had been conspicuous as leaders in Congress, had died in the early '50's; but many other able men were there. In the senate from the North were Douglas, Cass, Rigler and Toucy. From the South, Bayard, of Delaware; Pearce, of Maryland; Hunter and Mason, of Virginia; Butler, of South Carolina: Toombs and Iverson, of Georgia; Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi; Slidell and Benjamin, of Louisiana, all Democrats, with Crittendon, of Kentucky, Bell, of Tennessee, Americans. Seward, of New York; Wilson and Sumner, of Massachusetts; Trumbull, of Illinois; Collamer and Foot, of Vermont were prominent leaders of the Republicans. These men, with many others, made the senate of that day a very able and noted body. In the house, on the Democratic side, was our own Alexander H. Stephens, with Crawford, Cobb and Jackson as his colleagues; Bocock and Goode, of Virginia; Clingman, of North Carolina; Lamar, of Mississippi; Jones and Savage, of Tennessee; Keitt and Orr, of South Carolina; Pendleton, of Ohio; Richardson and McClernand, of Illinois, and English, of Indiana. Among the Southern Americans were Marshall, of Kentucky; Zolicoffer, of Tennessee, and Gilmer, of North Carolina, all men of prominence. At no time in the history of the country was there an abler body of men in Congress. But these men, with their transcendent abilities, love and devotion to the Constitution, their earnest appeals for equal rights to all sections, could not stem the tide of fanaticism which, like a besom of destruction, swept over the land and culminated in the election of Mr. Lincoln and the success of a party which had set at nought the constitution of the land. The party which elected Mr. Lincoln had for years advocated measures detrimental to the Southern states.
Beginning as a small band of Abolitionists, under the guise of philanthropical reform, they pursued a course of energy, boldness and unrelenting bitterness, until they had grown to such dimensions as to threaten the existence of the civil government. Nothing short of the consummation of their uncompromising- fanaticism would satisfy them. With them the rights of property were nothing; the acknowledged and incontestable powers of the state were nothing. They openly defied the Constitution and laws, and ridiculed the decisions of the highest tribunal of the country. They had carried their extreme views into the pulpit and churches, succeeding in causing a division among several of the leading denominations. One of their ministers, Rev. Henry Wright, of Massachusetts, said: "The God of humanity is not the God of slavery. If so, shame upon such a God. I scorn Him; I will never bow to His shrine; my head will go off with my hat when I take it off to such a God as that. If the Bible sanctions slavery, the Bible is a self-evident falsehood; and if God should declare it to be right, I would fasten the chain upon the heel of such a God and let the man go free; such a God is a phantom."
They had denounced the Constitution as "a league with the devil and a covenant with hell." Rooks and tracts were circulated all over the country, abounding in the grossest misrepresentations of the people of the South. In one of these, called "The Impending Crisis," by Hinton R. Helper, on page 156, is the following: "On our banner is inscribed: No co-operation with slaveholders in politics; no fellowship with them in religion; no affiliation with them in society; no recognition of pro-slavery men, except as ruffians, outlaws and criminals." This book of Helper's had the indorsement of sixty-eight members of Congress. The sayings of Wendall Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Owen Lovejoy, Senator Hale, William H. Seward, and others were equally obnoxious. Mr. Chase, of Ohio, in his speech to the Peace Congress which met soon after the election of Mr. Lincoln, in referring to the Constitution and the Fugitive Slave Law, said that his people would never fulfill their part of the compact. Mr. Lincoln said: "If I were in Congress and a bill should come up on a question prohibiting slavery in a new territory in spite of the Dred Scott decision, I would say that it should pass."
The nefarious attempt of John Brown to create an insurrection by his raid into Virginia, was endorsed by many at the North, who tolled bells for his fate on the day of his execution and held meetings in honor of his memory. This event caused many of the Southern people to believe that the ultra wing of the Republican party contemplated confiscation of their property, and the destruction of their lives. Personal liberty bills had been passed in utter defiance of the Constitution by eleven Northern states. In fact, the political course of this party had been one of constant aggression upon the South. Mr. Hindman, of Arkansas, said in a speech delivered in Congress in 1860, that "the principles, the practices, the tenets of the Republican party lead to bloodshed, murder and rapine. This is shown by John Brown's raid into Virginia, and the slaughter of her peaceful citizens. The Republican party may disclaim all sympathy with that old traitor, but until they have abandoned the Republican party and repented their connection with it, a discerning and intelligent public will spurn and deride all such protestations."
The election of Mr. Lincoln caused intense excitement throughout the South. Men who had always been strongly attached to the Union were alarmed for the safety of the country. The more conservative men endeavored to do something which would be the means of allaying the threatened conflict; and for this purpose a Peace Congress was called to meet in Washington to consider the situation, which was attended by a number of able and influential statesmen from several of the states, but no satisfactory adjustment of the differences could be agreed upon. Several compromise measures were rejected by Congress, the house being controlled by a sectional party. Many of the debates were exciting, and the voice of reason and justice seemed to be quelled. In the meantime South Carolina passed the ordinance of secession on the 20th of December, 1860, and was followed by Mississippi on the 9th of January, 1861, Florida January 10, and Alabama January 11. In Georgia an election of delegates to the State Convention was held on the first Monday in January, 1861, and the convention met on the 16th. This convention was composed in part of many of the ablest men of the state, including A. M. Stephens, H. V. Johnson, Robert Toombs, Benjamin H. Hill, Hiram Warner, E. A. Nisbett and George W. Crawford. While nearly every man in the convention believed the state had a right to secede, there were many who debated the policy of secession and favored co-operation. Messrs. Stephens, Johnson and Hill were the leaders of those who favored co-operation with all the Southern states. On the second day of the session of the convention Hen. E. A. Nisbett introduced two resolutions, the first declaring that the state had a right to secede and ought to do so; the second authorizing the appointment of a committee to draft an ordinance of secession. Ex-Governor Johnson offered as a substitute a series of resolutions inviting all the Southern states to a convention to be held in the month of February to consider the situation and bring about a co-operation of all these states. This substitute was the first test vote in the convention and was defeated by, yeas 133, nays 164, thus showing a majority in favor of immediate secession. The resolutions of Mr. Nisbett were then adopted by a vote of 208 to 89, and a committee of seventeen appointed to draft the proposed ordinance. This ordinance was signed by every member of the convention except six, who declined to sign it. The signing of the ordinance by those who opposed immediate secession was done in accordance with a resolution almost unanimously adopted as a pledge of the determination of the convention to stand by and defend the action of the state, regardless of past differences and views. Mr. Stephens says in his work: "Thus the convention became unanimously committed to the maintenance of the severeignty of the state of Georgia; however much they had disagreed on the policy of the expediency of her thus resuming the full exercise of her sovereign powers under the circumstances." Men rose to the greatness of the occasion, and were willing to yield their individual views and present a united front to the world for the policy adopted. They well knew that differences and distractions among themselves would be the worst calamity that could befall them. There was a universal determination to stand by the state. Subsequent events demonstrated how well and how loyally this pledge was carried out. Mr. Stephens became vice-president of the Confederate government, which was soon after organized. Later on Gov. Johnson and Mr. Hill served in the Confederate senate, and hundreds and thousands who doubted the policy of secession enlisted early in the service and heroicallv illustrated Georgia's valor on the battlefield.
Georgia was the fifth state to secede, and was soon followed by Louisiana, on the 26th of January, and Texas on the 1st of February. These states met in convention at Montgomery, Ala., February 4, and organized the Confederate States government. The seven seceded states were represented in this convention by fifty delegates, and Mr. Stephens, in referring to these delegates says that they were as able a body of men as he was ever associated with in his long public life, all being men of more than average ability. Howell Cobb, of Georgia, was president of the convention; he was considered one of the ablest men of his day. He had been governor of Georgia and a representative in Congress for several terms, and was Speaker of the house of representatives for two years. He was secretary of the treasury under Mr. Buchanan's administration, which position he resigned a short time previous to the secession of his state. This convention, on February 9, elected Jefferson Davis as president, and A. H. Stephens vice-president. Davis had been in public life for a number of years, serving his state in the United States senate with great ability. He had been secretary of war during the administration of President Pierce. At the time of his election he was at his home in Mississippi, having only a short time before resigned his seat in the senate upon the secession of his state. Perhaps no man has been more misrepresented than Mr. Davis. Instead of advocating immediate secession, he adhered to the Union as long as he saw there was any chance to obtain satisfactory guarantees of the rights of the South. His attachment to the Union, and his earnest advocacy of pacific measures, which would prevent the withdrawal of the Southern states from the Union, is fully proven by his speeches and efforts in the senate to accomplish this purpose after the election of Mr. Lincoln.
Mr. Stephens was a man of great ability, having in early life served his people in the Georgia Legislature for a number of years, and as representative in Congress from 1843 to 1859. He was strongly attached to the Union under the Constitution, but at the same time a strong believer in State Rights, and when his state seceded he cheerfully espoused the cause of the South.
A Constitution was adopted by the convention for the permanent government of the Southern Confederacy, and submitted to the several states for ratification, which was promptly done. In the meantime, most of the forts and public property in the seceded states had been taken possession of by the states in which they were located. Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor, remained in the possession of the United States government, and was occupied by a garrison under command of Maj. Robert Anderson. Mr. Buchanan, as president at the time, took no steps to reinforce the fort; in fact, he was opposed to using force to coerce the seceded states. Soon after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln on March 4, the Confederate government sent three commissioners, to-wit: Ex-Governor Romaro, of Louisiana; Hon. Martin J. Crawford, of Georgia, and Mr. Forsyth, to Washington to confer with the Federal government in relation to Fort Sumter, and other forts occupied by United States troops. They addressed a communication to Mr. Seward, secretary of state, in which they set forth the state of affairs and made known their desire for a peaceable evacuation of the places then held. Mr. Seward avoided a direct answer at first, but a few days after gave an assurance that no attempt would be made to reinforce Fort Sumter, and no steps taken in regard to Fort Pickens without notice. The commissioners waited a few days, and in the meantime they were informed by Gen. Beauregard that Maj. Anderson was strengthening the fort and that reinforcements were on the way from New York. They again asked Mr. Seward as to the intention of his government, and he replied that faith would be kept, as he had before said. But the commissioners had been deceived, and finding that nothing could be done and that further delay would result in a strong reinforcement reaching the fort, Gen. Beauregard was ordered to possess himself of it.
He did as ordered, and captured the fort after a bombardment which, fortunately, resulted in no casualties. It has frequently been said that the South began the war by firing on Fort Sumter, but certainly they were justified in doing so, on account of the deception used by the Federal government and their secret efforts to reinforce it by sending a vessel with troops and provisions for that purpose. Mr. Stephens says their action in that respect was a declaration of war against the South. Fort Sumter was surrendered on the 15th of April. Mr. Lincoln issued his proclamation calling for 75,000 troops to quell the so-called rebellion and repossess the fort which had been taken. A requisition was made upon all of the states for their quota of troops. The Northern states responded to the call, but the border states refused to comply and the governors of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Delaware and Maryland informed Mr. Lincoln that their states would furnish no troops for the purpose of coercing their Southern sister states. Up to this time there were many who hoped for a peaceable solution of the troubles, and that the Union might still be preserved on a basis of just principles; but this class now lost all hope of such being done. The Virginia convention, then in session, immediately passed an ordinance of secession, an April 17; Arkansas followed on May 6; North Carolina May 26; Tennessee June 8, 1861. These states joined the Confederacy and the seat of government was removed from Montgomery to Richmond. Later Kentucky and Missouri joined the new government, but their act was informal. While these things were going on, the Southern people were not idle, but were preparing for the struggle which was impending. Military companies were organized all over the country which tendered their services to the government.
War for Southern Independence Page