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LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
States, then a nation of over 30,000,000. That party, though it denounced John Brown's attempt (§ 314) as "lawless and unjustifiable," pledged itself to shut out slavery from the territories.
The people of South Carolina believed that the election of Mr. Lincoln meant that the great majority of the North was determined to bring about the liberation of the negroes. That was a great mistake; but the Carolinians could not then be convinced to the contrary. They furthermore saw that they could no longer hope to maintain the power they once possessed in Congress, for the free states now had six more senators and fifty-seven more representatives than the slave states had.1
On December 20, 1860, a convention met in "Secession Hall," in Charleston, and unanimously voted "that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved." Those who thus voted said that it was no hasty resolution on their part, but
destination, in what was then an almost unsettled country, the father and son set to work to build the log cabin which was to be their home; and when that was finished, young Lincoln split the rails to fence in their farm of ten acres.
Such work was play to him. He was now twenty-one; he stood six feet three and a half inches, barefooted; he was in perfect health; could outrun, outjump, outwrestle, and, if necessary, outfight any one of his age in that part of the country, and "his grip was like the grip of Hercules." Without this rugged strength he could never have endured the strain that the nation later put upon him.
In 1834 he resolved to begin the study of law. A friend in Springfield offered to lend him some books; Lincoln walked there, twenty-two miles from New Salem (where he then lived), and, it is said, brought back with him four heavy volumes of Blackstone, at the end of the same day.
A few years later he opened a law office in Springfield. In 1846 "Honest Abe," as his neighbors and friends called him, was elected to Congress; and in 1860, to the presidency of the United States, by the Republican party (Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, Vice President). The Democratic party had split into a Northern and a Southern party. The former had nominated Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, and the latter John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky. The former American (or "Know Nothing") party, which now called itself the "Constitutional Union Party," had nominated John Bell of Tennessee. Lincoln received nearly half a million more votes than Douglas, and more than a million in excess of those cast for either of the other candidates.
1 In 1790, just after the foundation of the government, the free states (that is, the northern states; they had comparatively few slaves) had 14 senators and 35 representatives in Congress; the slave states, 12 senators and 30 representatives. From 1796 to 1812, inclusive, the free states and the slave states had an equal number in the Senate, but the free states had a majority in the House. After 1848 the free states had a majority in both Senate and House, and in the latter this majority was constantly increasing. That fact meant that the South had lost its political power, partly because slavery had failed to get a foothold in the Far West, but mainly because the North had outgrown the South in population.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
that it had been under consideration for many years. The declaration of secession was welcomed in the streets of Charleston with the firing of cannon and the ringing of bells. The citizens believed that they had broken up the Union, and that South Carolina had now, as its governor said, become a "free and independent state."
316. Secession of Six Other Southern States; Formation of the "Confederate States of America." By the first of February (1861) the states of Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas -- making seven in all -- had likewise withdrawn from the Union. A seceding senator rashly declared that they had left the national government "a corpse lying in state in Washington." Delegates from these states met at Montgomery, Alabama. They framed a government (1861) and took the name of the "Confederate States of America," with Montgomery as the capital; then they elected Jefferson Davis1 of Mississippi, President of the Confederacy, and Alexander H. Stephens2 of Georgia, Vice President.
1 Jefferson Davis was born in Kentucky in 1808; died, 1889. He graduated at West Point Military Academy in 1828. In 1845 he was elected to Congress by the Democrats in Mississippi, of which state he had become a resident. He served with distinction in the Mexican War. In 1847 he entered the United States Senate, where, like Calhoun, he advocated "State Sovereignty" (§ 269) and the extension of slavery. President Pierce made him Secretary of War. He was United States senator under Buchanan. His state (Mississippi) seceded on January 9, 1861. Mr. Davis kept his seat in the Senate until January 21, and then, with a speech asserting the right of secession, he withdrew to join the Southern Confederacy.
2 Alexander H. Stephens was born in Georgia in 1812; died, 1883. He was in Congress as a representative of the Whigs from 1843 to 1859. He afterwards joined the Democrats. He at first opposed secession, and said that it was "the height of madness, folly, and wickedness"; but when Georgia seceded, he decided that it was his duty to stand by his state. After the Civil War he again entered Congress, and in 1882 he was elected governor of Georgia. He was a man who had the entire respect of those who knew him.
WHY THE SOUTH SECEDED
The Confederate States now cast aside the Stars and Stripes, and hoisted a new flag,--the Stars and Bars, in its place.
317. Why the South seceded; Seizure of National Property; the Star of the West fired on. What took these seven states -- soon to be followed by four more -- out of the Union? The answer is, It was first their conviction that slavery would thrive better by being separated from the influence of the North and, secondly, it was their belief in "State Rights," or, better, State Sovereignty" (§ 269), upheld by South Carolina as far back as Jackson's presidency. According to that idea, any state was justified in separating itself from the United States whenever it became convinced that it was for its interest to withdraw.
In this act of secession many of the people of the South took no direct part, -- a large number being, in fact, utterly opposed to it, -- but the political leaders were fully determined on separation. Their aim was to establish a great slaveholding republic of which they should be head.1
President Buchanan made no attempt to prevent the states from seceding; part of his cabinet were Southern men, who were in full sympathy with the Southern leaders, and the President did not see how to act.
The seceded states seized the forts, arsenals, and other national property within their limits, so far as they could do so. Fort Sumter, commanded by Major Anderson of the United States army, in Charleston harbor, was one of the few where the Stars and Stripes remained flying. President Buchanan had made an effort to send men and supplies to Major Anderson by the merchant steamer Star of the West (January 9, 1861); but the people of Charleston fired upon the steamer, and compelled her to go back.
1 Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, said, in a speech at Savannah, March 21, 1861: "The prevailing idea entertained by him [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution [the Constitution of the United States] was that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle -- socially, morally, and politically.... Our new government [the Southern Confederacy] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition." --MCPHERSON'S Political History of the Rebellion, p. 103
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
All eyes were now turned toward Abraham Lincoln. The great question was, What will he do when he becomes President?
318. General Summary from Washington to Buchanan (1789-1861); Growth of the West; Secession. Looking back to the beginning of the presidency of Washington (1789), we see that over seventy years had elapsed since the formation of the Union. We then had a population of less than 4,000,000; at the outbreak of secession (1860) we had eight times that number, and much more than eight times the wealth possessed by us in 1789. Thus, from a small and poor nation we had grown to be great and prosperous.
In 1789 our western boundary was the Mississippi, and there seemed no prospect that we should extend beyond it. Long before 1861 we had reached the Pacific. Our original 800,000 square miles had increased to over 3,000,000; and the original thirteen states had added to themselves twenty-one more, besides immense territories. (Map, p. 284.)
In 1789 we had but five cities, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston, -- and they were so small that they were hardly worthy of the name. By 1861 five of these places had grown enormously in population and wealth; furthermore, Brooklyn, Detroit, Cincinnati, and St. Louis had become large and flourishing cities, and we had added to them Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis,1 Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Galveston, Kansas City, and Salt Lake City, besides Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco in the Far West; all but the last six were connected with one another by railways and lines of telegraph.
In fact, the western and northwestern parts of the country had advanced "by leaps and bounds," so that every year beheld it
1 The eastern part of what is now Minneapolis was incorporated as a city, under the name of St. Anthony, in 1860. The west side, named Minneapolis, was incorporated as a city in 1867; in 1872 the two were united under that name.
coming more and more to the front. Emigrants, miners, and other pioneers of civilization were constantly pushing forward into the vast region beyond the Mississippi. There they were building the first rude shanties of settlements which were to become known as Omaha (1854) and Denver (1858), and they were laying the foundations of the twelve great states1 which, with West Virginia, have since joined the Union.
But between 1789 and 1861 there was this sad difference: Washington had found and left us a united people; Buchanan, a divided people. Seven of our states had seceded; four more would go. For many years we had been brothers; now we were fast becoming enemies. Only let the word be spoken, and our swords would leap from their scabbards, and we would fly at each other's throats.
What had brought about this deplorable change? Time. Time had strengthened slavery at the South and freedom at the North. It was no longer possible for both to dwell together in peace under the same flag. Either the Union must be dissolved, or those who loved the Union must fight to save it; and, before the war should end, must fight to make it wholly free. If freedom should triumph, then lasting peace would be restored; for then the North and the South -- no longer separated by slavery -- would again become one great, prosperous, and united people.
1 The twelve states are Kansas, Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Oklahoma. They entered the Union between January, 1861, and November, 1907.