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The Border States' Response.
Course of Virginian
which Texas had been joined about the time of the inauguration, gave no troops to the cause of the Union. The Border States, so called, were not uniform in their action, some of them being almost for the Union, while in others, as in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas, the Union sentiment was nearly repressed and silenced. The course taken in Virginia was the most remarkable, perhaps the most important. A Convention, elected by the people of that State to consider this very question of disrupting the Federal Union, was in session at the capitol of Virginia when Fort Sumter fell.
“To this body the people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men. Almost immediately after the fall of Sumter many members of that majority went over to the original disunion minority, and with them adopted an ordinance for withdrawing the State from the Union. Whether this change was wrought by their great approval of the assault upon Sumter, or their great resentment at the Government's resistance to that assault, is not definitely known. Although they submitted the ordinance for ratification to a vote of the people, to be taken on a day then somewhat more than a month distant, the Convention, and the Legislature, which was also in session at the same time and place, with leading men of the State, not members of either, immediately commenced acting as if the State was already out of the Union. They pushed military preparations vigorously forward all over the State. They seized the United States Armory at Harper's Ferry, and the Navy Yard at Gosport, near Norfolk. They received, perhaps invited into their State, large bodies of troops, with their warlike appointments, from the so-called seceded States.
“They formally entered into a treaty of temporary alliance with the so-called Confederate States, and sent members to their Congress at Montgomery, and finally they permitted the insurrectionary Government to be transferred to their
Action of Government.
capitol at Richmond. The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to make its nest within her borders, and this Government has no choice left but to deal with it where it finds it, and it has the less to regret as the loyal citizens have, in due form, claimed its protection. Those loyal citizens this Government is bound to recognize and protect as being in Virginia. In the Border States, so called, in fact the Middle States, there are those who favor a policy which they call armed neutrality, that is, an arming of those States to prevent the Union forces passing one way or the disunion forces the other, over their soil. This would be disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it would be the building of an impassable wall along the line of separation, and yet not quite an impassable one, for under the guise of neutrality it would tie the hands of the Union men, and freely pass supplies from among them to the insurrectionists, which it could not do as an open enemy. At a stroke it would take all the trouble off the hands of secession, except only what proceeds from the external blockade. It would do for the disunionists that which of all things they most desire, feed them well, and give them disunion, without a struggle of their own. It recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to maintain the Union, and while very many who have favored it are doubtless loyal citizens, it is, nevertheless, very injurious in effect.
Recurring to the action of the Government, it may be stated that at first a call was made for seventy-five thousand militia, and rapidly following this, a proclamation was issued for closing the ports of the insurrectionary districts by proceedings in the nature of a blockade. So far all was believed to be strictly legal.
“At this point the insurrectionists announced their purpose to enter upon the practice of privateering.
“ Other calls were made for volunteers, to serve three years, unless sooner discharged, and also for large additions to
No Violation of Law.
the regular army and navy. These measures, whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon under what appeared to be a popular demand and a public necessity, trusting then, as now, that Congress would ratify them.
" It is believed that nothing has been done beyond the constitutional competency of Congress. Soon after the first call for militia it was considered a duty to authorize the commanding general, in proper cases, according to his discretion, to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus; or, in other words, to arrest and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety. This authority has purposely been exercised, but very sparingly. Nevertheless, the legality and propriety of what has been done under it are questioned, and the attention of the country has been called to the proposition, that one who is sworn to take care that the laws be faithfully executed should not himself violate them. Of course some consideration was given to the questions of power and propriety before this matter was acted upon. The whole of the laws, which were required to be faithfully executed, were being resisted, and failing of execution in nearly one-third of the States. Must they be allowed to finally fail of execution, even had it been perfectly clear that, by use of the means necessary to their execution, some single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citizen's liberty that practically it relieves more of the guilty than the innocent, should, to a very great extent, be violated ? To state the question more directly, are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself to go to pieces, lest that one be violated ? Even in such a case would not the official oath be broken, if the Government should be overthrown when it was believed that disregarding the single law would tend to preserve it ?
"But it was not believed that this question was presented. It was not believed that any law was violated. The pro
Reports of Departments.
vision of the Constitution, that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it, is equivalent to a provision that such privilege may be suspended when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety does require it. It was decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the privilege of the writ, which was authorized to be made. Now, it is insisted that Congress, and not the Executive, is vested with this power. But the Constitution itself is silent as to which or who is to exercise the power; and as the provision was plainly made for a dangerous emergency, it cannot be believed that the framers of the instrument intended that in every case the danger should run its course until Congress could be called together, the very assembling of which might be prevented, as was intended in this case by the rebellion. No more extended argument is now afforded, as an opinion at some length will probably be presented by the Attorney-General. Whether there shall be any legislation on the subject, and if so, what;: is subject entirely to the better judgment of Congress. The forbearance of this Government had been so extraordinary, and so long continued, as to lead some foreign nations to shape their action as if they supposed the early destruction of our National Union was probable. While this, on discovery, gave the Executive some concern, he is now happy to say that the sovereignty and rights of the United States are now everywhere practically respected by foreign powers, and a general sympathy with the country is manifested throughout the world.
“The reports of the Secretaries of the Treasury, War, and the Navy, will give the information, in detail, deemed necessary and convenient for your deliberation and action, while the Executive and all the Departments will stand ready
Men and Money.
to supply omissions or to communicate new facts considered important for you to know.
“ It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making this contest a short and decisive one; that you place at the control of the Government for the work, at least 400,000 men and $400,000,000; that number of men is about one-tenth of those of proper ages within the regions where apparently all are willing to engage, and the sum is less than a twenty-third part of the money value owned by the men who seem ready to devote the whole. A debt of $600,000,000 now is a less sum per head than was the debt of our Revolution when we came out of that struggle, and the money value in the country bears even a greater proportion to what it was then than does the population. Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties, as each had then to establish them.
"A right result at this time will be worth more to the world than ten times the men and ten times the
The evidence reaching us from the country, leaves no doubt that the material for the work is abundant, and that it needs only the hand of legislation to give it legal sanction, and the hand of the Executive to give it practical shape and efficiency. One of the greatest perplexities of the Government is to avoid receiving troops faster than it can provide for them; in a word, the people will save their Government if the Government will do its part only indifferently well. It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called secession or rebellion. The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew that they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law; they knew their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in its reverence for the history and government of their common country, as any other civilized