written two years before: "Organize committees all over the Cotton States fire the Southern heart instruct the Southern mind give courage to each other and at the proper moment, by one organized, concerted action, precipitate the Cotton States into revolution."
The "proper moment" was near at hand. Mr. Lincoln was elected by a large majority over each candidate, and was chosen in accordance with the letter and spirit of the National Constitution yet, because he received nearly a million of votes less than did all of his opponents combined, the cry was raised by the Southern politicians, that he would be a usurper when in office because he had not received a majority of the aggregate votes of his antecedents, the principles of the people, the Republican platform, the fanaticism of his party and his own utterances, all pledged him to wage an unrelenting warfare upon the system of slavery and rights of the slave labor States, with all the powers of the National Government at his command. They said, in effect, to the people, through public oratory, the pulpit, and the press, "Your rights and liberties are in imminent danger, to your tents, 0 Israel!" While these alarming assertions were fearfully stirring the inhabitants of the Southern States, the politicians were rejoicing because their plans were working so admirably, and they immediately set about the execution of their long-cherished scheme for the dissolution of the Union. All active loyalty to the Government was speedily suppressed by an organized system and the promise of a North Carolina Senator (Clingman), that Union men should be hushed by "the swift attention of Vigilance Committees," was speedily fulfilled. In this work the Press and the Pulpit were powerful auxiliaries and by these accepted oracles of wisdom and truth, thousands of men and women were led into an attitude of rebellion against their government. To quiet their scruples the doctrine of "State Supremacy" had been, for a long time, vehemently preached by the politicians and their allies, and the people were made to believe that their allegiance was primarily due to their respective States, and not to the National Government. "Perhaps there never was a people," wrote a resident of a slave-labor State in the third year of the Civil War that ensued, "more bewitched, beguiled and befoolled, than we were when we drifted into this rebellion."
The Pretext for Disunion - True Reasons - State - Rights Associations - Desires for a Royal Government and Aristocratic PrivilegesEarly Preparations for Disunion - Secret Conferences - Sentiments of Virginians - Congratulatory Despatches on Lincoln's Election - Excitement in Charleston - Public Offices Abdicated - A State Convention Authorized - Secret Doings of Secessionists - Movements in South Carolina - State Supremacy and Its Effects - Events in Georgia - Toombs and Stephens - Movements toward Secession in Various States - Southern Methodists - Initial Steps for Disunion in South Carolina - Dishonorable Propositions Vigilance Committees - Secession Assured.
There is direct evidence to prove that the politicians of South Carolina and elsewhere had been making preparations for revolt many years, and that the alleged violations of the Fugitive-Slave Act and the election of Mr. Lincoln were made only pretexts for stirring up "the common people" to support and do the fighting for them. The testimony of speakers in the Convention at Charleston that declared the secession of that State from the Union was clear and explicit." It is not an event of a day," said Robert Barnwell Rhett, one of the most violent declaimers of his class "it is not anything produced by Mr. Lincoln's election, or by the non-execution of the Fugitive-Slave Law. It is a matter which has been gathering head for thirty years. . . . In regard to the Fugitive-Slave Law, I myself doubted its constitutionality, and doubted it on the floor of the Senate when I was a member of that body. The States, acting in their sovereign capacity, should be responsible for the rendition of slaves. This was our best security. Another member of the Convention (Francis S. Parker) said: "It is no spasmodic effort that has come suddenly upon us it has been gradually culminating for a long period of thirty years." John A. Inglis, the chairman of the committee that drew up the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession,