The Age of Hate: Andrew Johnson and the Radicals

By George Fort Milton | Go to book overview

VT. "IN THE FURNACE OF TREASON"

IN December, 1860, when the Senate reconvened, Andrew Johnson was in his seat to do battle for "the sacred cause of the Union." It was a time that tried men's souls. Immediately upon Lincoln's election, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama had dispatched agents to the North to purchase arms "without regard to expense."1 It was South Carolina's mission to sever "the accursed Union," Mr. Rhett told the Palmetto State's legislators. Jefferson Davis, addressing the people of Vicksburg, termed "submission to the rule of the arrogant and sectional North infamy and degradation" and urged an appeal to the God of Battles.

President Buchanan, in his message on December 4, took the position that, while South Carolina's grievances justified secession, yet she had no right to secede, and that the Federal Government had neither right nor power to coerce her. Four days later, Howell Cobb of Georgia resigned as Secretary of the Treasury, assigning as his reason his duty to his State. On the 14th, the venerable Lewis Cass gave up the Secretaryship of State; he could not remain in a Cabinet "that confesses that the General Government is subordinate to the State."

On this same day appeared an address to the People of the South, signed by Senators and Congressmen from that section. "All hope of relief in the Union is extinguished," declared such men as Davis and Brown of Mississippi, Benjamin and Slidell of Louisiana, Hemphill and Wigfall of Texas and Iverson of Georgia. "The honor, safety and independence of the Southern people require the organization of a Southern Confederacy." On December 17, South Carolina's Constitutional Convention assembled and speedily adopted its Secession Ordinance. On Christmas Eve, Governor Pickens proclaimed South Carolina a "Separate, Sovereign, Free, and Independent State."

During these fevered days the Senate was in continual debate. The Southerners were either delivering their Union swan songs or hurling maledictions at the Federal compact. In this last, they were aided by several doughfaces--"Northern men with Southern principles"--and by none more offensively than

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