Monthly Record of Current Events, January 7.
The Mississippi Convention met at Jackson on the 7th of January. A Committee was appointed, with instructions to prepare and report as speedily as possible an ordinance providing for the immediate withdrawal of the State from the Federal Union, with a view of establishing a new Confederacy, to be composed of the seceding States. The ordinance passed on the 9th, by a vote of 84 to 15. The first section, which is substantially the form adopted by all the other seceding States, is as follows:
"The people of Mississippi, in Convention assembled, do ordain and declare, and it is hereby ordained and declared, as follows, to wit:
"That all the laws and ordinances by which the said State of Mississippi became a member of the Federal Union of the United States of America be, and the same are hereby repealed; and that all obligations on the part of said State or the people thereof to observe the same be withdrawn, and that the said State shall hereby resume the rights, functions, and powers which by any of said laws and ordinances were conveyed to the Government of the said United States, and is dissolved from all the obligations, restraints, and duties incurred to the said Federal Union, and shall henceforth be a free, sovereign, and independent State."
The second section abrogates the Article in the State Constitution requiring all public officers to swear to support the Constitution of the United States. The third section continues in force all State and Federal laws not inconsistent with the ordinance. the fourth section is as follows:
"The people of the State of Mississippi hereby consent to form a Federal Union with such of the States as have seceded or may secede from the Union of the United States of America, upon the basis of the present Constitution of the said United States, except such parts thereof as embrace other portions than such seceding States."
The Florida Convention met at Tallahassee on the 3d of January. Some days were occupied in preliminary arrangements. On the 7th resolutions were adopted, by a vote, of 62 to 5, declaring that,
"Whereas all hope of preserving the Union upon terms consistent with the safety and honor of the slaveholding States has been finally dissipated, by the recent indications of the strength of the anti-slavery sentiment of the free States; therefore,
"Be it resolved by the people of Florida, in Convention assembled, that it is undoubtedly the right of the several States of the Union to withdraw from the said Union at such time and for such cause as, in the opinion of the people of each State, acting in their sovereign capacity, may be just and proper; and, in the opinion of this Convention, the existing causes are such as to compel Florida to proceed to exercise that right."
The ordinance of secession was passed, on the 11th, by a vote of 62 to 7.
The Alabama Convention met at Montgomery on the 7th of January. Resolutions were defeated deprecating separate State action, and recommending a Convention of the Southern States to frame a statement of grievances and consider "the manner of obtaining redress, whether in the Union or out of it." The ordinance of secession was passed, on the 11th by a vote of 61 to 11. The preamble states that,
"The election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the offices of President and Vice-President of the United States of America, by a sectional party, avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions and peace and security of the State of Alabama, following upon the heels of many and dangerous infractions of the Constitution of the United States by many of the States and people of the Northern section, is a political wrong of so insulting and menacing a character as to justify the people of the State of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security."
Then follow sections withdrawing the State from the Union, and vesting all the powers heretofore delegated to the Federal Government in the people of the State; and a resolution declaring it to be the wish of the people of Alabama to "meet the other slaveholding States of the South who approve of such a purpose, in order to frame a permanent Government upon the principles of the Government of the United States." These States are, accordingly, invited to send delegates to a Convention to meet at Montgomery on the 4th of February.
The Georgia Convention met at Milledgeville on the 16th of January. A resolution to appoint a Committee to draft an ordinance of secession was passed by a vote of 165 to 130. The ordinance was passed, on the 19th, by a vote of 208 to 89. A motion to postpone the operation of the ordinance to the 8d of March was lost by about 80 majority. A resolution prepared by Hon.Alexander H. Stephens, who voted against the ordinance, was passed, stating that the difference of opinion in the Convention related, not to the rights of Georgia or the wrongs of which she complains, but to the application of the remedy before resorting to other means of redress; and that as it was proper to sustain the State in the course she had taken, the ordinance should be signed by all the members, without regard to their individual approval or disapproval of the adoption of the ordinance. The ordinance was then signed by nearly all the members.
The Louisiana Convention met at Baton Rouge on the 23d of January. An Ordinance of Secession was presented on the following day by a Committee appointed for that purpose. It was passed on the 25th almost unanimously. It concludes by declaring that
"We, the people of Louisiana, recognize the right of free navigation of the Mississippi River and tributaries by all friendly States bordering thereon; we also recognize the right of the ingress and egress of the mouths of the Mississippi by all friendly States and Powers, and hereby declare our willingness to enter into stipulations to guarantee the exercise of those rights."
Nearly all of the fortifications lying within the seceding States, which had been left almost without garrisons, have been seized by the State authorities. The mint at New Orleans, which contained a considerable amount of public money, was seized on the 1st of February. The principal fortifications in the seceding States remaining in the possession of the General Government on the 1st of February were Fort Sumter, near Charleston, still held by Major Anderson, and Fort Pickens, near Pensacola, Florida, commanded by Lieutenant Slemmer. Large bodies of State troops were concentrated near these fortresses, and an assault upon them was threatened unless they were surrendered peaceably. On the 10th of January the steamer Star of the West, which had been dispatched from New York with reinforcements for Fort Sumter, appeared off the harbor of Charleston. The steamer was fired upon from batteries erected to command the entrance of the harbor. Little damage was done, but the steamer returned to New York without landing her reinforcements. — Major Anderson wrote to the Governor of South Carolina, asking him if this firing was done by his orders, and notifying him that, unless it was disclaimed, he should consider it an act of war, and
547should not thereafter permit any vessel to pass the guns of Fort Sumter. Governor Pickens replied, justifying the act. Major Andersen replied that, after consideration, he had decided to refer the whole matter to the Government, and should defer stopping vessels until he received instructions from Washington. — These instructions, subsequently received, ordered him to undertake no hostile measures except for the absolute defense of the fort. — — Forts in North Carolina were occupied by the State militia without direction of the Governor, who at once ordered them to be given up to the United States officers.
Various propositions for an adjustment of the pending questions have been offered. The essential points of these are embodied in the resolutions presented to the Senate by Mr. Crittenden. These provide for immediate measures being taken to submit to the people the following amendments to the Constitution: (1.) Slavery to be prohibited in all Territories north of 36 degrees and thirty minutes, but to be recognized and protected in all Territories south of that line; any Territory, when it has the requisite population, to be admitted as a State, either with or without slavery, as its Constitution may provide. (2.) Congress to have no power to abolish slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction within slaveholding States. (3.) Congress to have no power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, while it exists in Virginia or Maryland, nor without making just compensation to owners. (4.) Congress to have no power to hinder the transportation of slaves from one slave State to another. (5.) Congress to have power to provide that the United States shall pay the value of fugitive slaves, when their return is prevented by violence; the United States to recover the amount from the county where the violence, was committed, and the county to recover it from the wrong-doers. (6.) No future amendment of the Constitution to affect the foregoing articles, nor to authorize Congress to interfere with slavery in States where it is permitted by law. Besides these amendments to the Constitution, resolutions are proposed to the effect that no change should be made in the Fugitive Slave Law which shall impair its efficiency; that it should be faithfully carried out and those punished who attempt to hinder its execution. — That all State laws which conflict with this law are null and void, and should be repealed. — That the Fugitive Slave Law should be so amended as to make the Commissioner's fee the same, whether he decides in favor of the fugitive or of the claimant; and the person who holds a warrant for the arrest of a fugitive can call in the posse comitatus only when there is actual or threatened resistance. — That effectual laws should be passed for the suppression of the African slave-trade. — — A proposition framed by a Committee of the Border States, including Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and North Carolina, from the South; and New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, from the North, contains essentially the foregoing suggestions, with the addition of an amendment to the Constitution that "No Territory shall be acquired by the United States without the consent of three-fourths of the members of the Senate;" and a resolution that " an act be passed directing that the demand for the surrender of fugitives from justice or from service or labor be made to the United States District Judge of the State or District in which such fugitive may be found, thereby to make the right of surrender, in every case, a judicial question, and thus secure justice and uniformity of decision." — This Border State Proposition was adopted by a large meeting in the city of New York, and a petition for its adoption was circulated, which was signed by nearly 40,000 voters, and was taken to Washington by a special committee of the most prominent citizens.
On the 8th of January the President sent to Congress a special Message upon the state of the country, reiterating the opinions expressed in his Message at the opening of the session against the right of secession, and reaffirming his opinions as to his own duty and that of Congress. He says: "The greatest aggravation of the evil, and that which would place us in the most unfavorable light, both before the world and posterity, is, as I am firmly convinced, that the secession movement has been chiefly based upon misapprehension at the South of the sentiments of the majority in several of the Northern States. Let the question be removed from the political assemblies to the ballot-box, and the people themselves would speedily redress the serious grievances which the South have suffered. But, in Heaven's name, let the trial be made before we plunge into an armed conflict upon the mere assumption that there is no other alternative. Time is a great conservative power. Let us pause at the momentous point, and afford the people, both of the North and South, an opportunity for reflection. Prompt action is required. A delay in Congress to prescribe or recommend a distinct and practical proposition for conciliation may drive us to a point from which it will be almost impossible to recede. A common ground on which conciliation and harmony may be produced is surely not unattainable. The proposition to compromise by letting the North have exclusive control of the territory above a certain line, and to give Southern institutions protection below that line, ought to receive universal approbation. In itself, indeed, it may not be entirely satisfactory; but when the alternative is between reasonable concession on both sides and destruction of the Union, it is an imputation on the patriotism of Congress to assert that its members will hesitate a moment." — He also furnished copies of the correspondence between himself and the South Carolina Commissioners. It consists of three letters, the first dated December 29, from the Commissioners to the President, in which they demand, as a preliminary to all negotiations, a disapproval by the President of the act of Major Anderson in seizing Fort Sumter; the second, dated December 30, from the President, in which, while admitting that Major Anderson acted without express orders, he yet refuses to repudiate the act; and the third, dated January 3, in which the Commmissioners attempt to refute the allegations of the President's letter in which he justifies Major Andersen's conduct. This last letter the President returned to the Commissioners with the following indorsement on its back: "This paper, just presented to the President, is of such a character that he declines to receive it." — On the 28th of January the President sent another special Message, inclosing resolutions passed by the Virginia Legislature on the 17th, expressing a determination on the part of that State to "make a final effort to restore the Union and the Constitution in the spirit in which they were established by the Fathers of the Republic." These resolutions invite all States, "whether slaveholding or non-slaveholding, who are willing to unite with Virginia in an earnest I effort to adjust the present unhappy controversies,"
548to appoint Commissioners to meet at Washington on the 4th of February. If these Commissioners agree upon any plan of adjustment requiring amendments to the Federal Constitution, they are requested to communicate the proposed amendments to Congress, for the purpose of having the same submitted by that body, according to the forms of the Constitution, to the several States of the Union. They say that "in the opinion of the General Assembly of Virginia, the propositions embraced in the resolutions presented to the Senate of the United States by the Hon.John J. Crittenden embrace the basis of such an adjustment as would be accepted by the people of this Commonwealth." — Ex-President Tyler was appointed by Virginia to act as a Commissioner to the President, and Judge John Robertson to South Carolina and other seceding States, with instructions to request both parties to abstain from all acts calculated to produce a collision while the proceedings of the proposed Convention are pending. The President hails this movement of Virginia with great satisfaction. It is not in his power to enter into any such agreement, that belonging wholly to Congress. He urges upon Congress to abstain from passing any law which shall tend to produce actual hostilities, and adds: "If the seceding States abstain from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of arms, then the danger so much to be deprecated will no longer exist. I am one of those who will never despair of the republic. I yet cherish the belief that the American people will perpetuate the Union of the States on some terms just and honorable for all sections of the country. I trust that the mediation of Virginia may be the destined moans, under the providence of God, of accomplishing this inestimable benefit. Glorious as are the memories of her past history, such an achievement, both in relation to her own fame and welfare of the whole country, would surpass them all." — Commissioners to this Convention have been appointed by at least eighteen, and probably more, States. — The Legislature of South Carolina unanimously passed resolutions declaring that the "separation of South Carolina from the Federal Government is final, and that she has no further interests in the Constitution of the United States; and that the only appropriate negotiations between her and the Federal Government are as to their mutual relations as foreign States;" that it is "unadvisable to initiate negotiations when South Carolina has no desire or intention to promote the ultimate object in view;" and that she declines entering into the negotiations proposed by the Virginia Legislature.
On the 28th of January the bill for the admission of Kansas, as amended by the Senate, was passed in the House; and on the 30th it received the signature of the President. Sir. Conway, the representative elected to Congress, thereupon was admitted to a seat in the House. The following are the State officers of Kansas: Governor, Charles Robinson, formerly of Massachusetts; Lieutenant-Governor, J. P. Root, formerly of Connecticut; Secretary of State, J. W. Robinson, formerly of Maine; Treasurer, William Tholen, formerly of New York; Auditor, George W. Hillyer, formerly of Ohio; Superintendent of Public Instruction, W. E. Griffith, formerly of Illinois; Chief Justice, Thomas Ewing, Jun., formerly of Ohio; Associate Justices, Samuel D. Kingman, formerly of Kentucky, and Lawrence Bailey, formerly of New Hampshire.
Apart from financial measures — among which a bill passed in the House authorizing the President to borrow, at any time before the 1st of July, the sum of twenty-five millions of dollars, to meet the accruing wants of the Government, and the draft of a new Tariff bill, which is under consideration; and the final passage in the Senate of the Pacific Railroad bill — the attention of Congress has been mainly devoted to discussions upon the present national crisis. The Committees appointed by both Houses arrived at no practical results. That of the Senate were unable to agree upon a report. Most of the Southern members belonging to the House Committee gradually withdrew from participation in its proceedings; majority and minority reports from those who remained were presented, but they afforded no ground for ultimate action. The delegations in both Houses from the seceding States, with one or two exceptions, formally withdrew from Congress upon being officially advised of the action of the Conventions of their States. This has given to the Republican party a clear majority in the House, and almost an equality in the Senate. — On the 24th of January Mr. Seward made an elaborate speech in the Senate. This was considered of special importance from the fact that it is understood that the Senator from New York will be the Secretary of State under the new Administration; his speech, therefore, was looked upon as the exponent of the policy of Mr. Lincoln's Government. After expatiating upon the benefits which the Union had conferred upon every section of the country, and detailing the evils which its dissolution would inflict, he said that he was prepared to admit concessions, which are in substance that each State should have the right to decide for itself upon the condition of those whom its laws made bondsmen; that all laws of any State which contravene the Constitution ought to be repealed; that while he held tliat Congress had the right to legislate for the Territories, and while he would not vote to sanction or establish slavery therein, he would vote for the formation of the Territories into two new States, with the ultimate power of subdividing them into other States, as should be advisable, without restrictions prohibiting slavery; that an amendment should be made to the Constitution providing that Congress should have no power to abolish or interfere with slavery in any State; that he would vote for any properly guarded laws which should be deemed necessary to prevent invasions of States by citizens of other States, and to punish those who may aid or abet them. He was also willing, after the disunion movement liad come to an end — say in two or three years — to vote for a Convention to revise the Constitution, on the general principle that its excellence depends on its being a true embodiment of the sentiments and wishes of the people, and that amendments naturally become necessary from time to time for this purpose. He would, moreover, secure, if possible, the construction of two railways to the Pacific, one of which should connect the ports around the mouths of the Mississippi, and the other the towns on the Missouri and the lakes, with the harbors on our Western coasts. — In the House a resolution was passed, by a vote of 124 to 56, approving "the bold and patriotic act of Major Anderson in withdrawing from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, and the determination of the President to maintain that fearless officer in his present condition, and we will support the President in all constitutional measures to enforce the laws and preserve the Union."
Mr. Thompson, Secretary of the Interior, resigned on the 8th of January, in consequence of the action
549of the President in attempting to reinforce Fort Sumter. His place has not been filled. — Mr. Thomas, who was appointed Secretary of the Treasury upon the resignation of Mr. Cobb, resigned on the 11th, because he disagreed with the Administration in reference to the measures to be adopted in regard to the condition of things in South Carolina; his place is supplied by Hon.John A. Dix, of New York. — Mr. Holt, late Postmaster-General, has been appointed Secretary of War, in place of Mr. Floyd, who had resigned. — Hon.Horatio King has been appointed Postmaster-General.
Judge Smalley, of New York, charged the Grand Jury of that city that it was an act of treason to supply arms and munitions of war to the seceding States; several shipments of arms, with that destination, have accordingly been seized by the police. — The commercial and postal status of the seceding States excites some inquiry. The British Minister, Lord Lyons, and other foreign ministers, having written to the State Department to inquire whether duties can be paid to, and clearances issued by, the Government of South Carolina, Mr. Black replied that he had laid Lord Lyons's communication before the President, who would deeply regret that any injury should happen to the commerce of foreign or friendly nations, and especially that the British subjects at Charleston should suffer by the anomalous state of things existing there. Secretary Black quotes from the law to show that the jurisdiction of the Federal Government to impose duties on goods imported into the United States and collect the duties is exclusive. Whether the state of things now existing at Charleston will or will not be regarded as a sufficient reason for not executing the penalties incurred by the British subjects, is a question Lord Lyons will see no necessity for raising until it practically arises. Each case will no doubt have its peculiarities. Secretary Black regrets that this consideration compels him to decline giving any assurances on the point presented. The Treasury Department, he says, will give public information as to the condition in which South Carolina has put the coast. — Mr. Ashmore, a member of Congress from South Carolina, inquired of the Post-office Department whether he had still a right to frank public documents in his possession. Mr. King replied that, according to the theory of the Administration, South Carolina was still in the Union, and hence he has a right to frank until the first Monday in December next. If, however, he regards South Carolina as out of the Union, it is a question with himself whether he can consistently exercise that privilege, the use of which would be an admission that lie is still a member of the Congress of the United States.