Jeremiah S. Black and Edwin M. Stanton
A FEW days after the death of Mr. Stanton, at the request of the publishers of “ The Atlantic ” I prepared an article on some of the characteristics of the great Secretary as they revealed themselves to me in the varying phases of the Rebellion. It was not history or biography, nor was it intended to be. It spoke of his tireless industry, indomitable courage, promptness of decision, readiness to assume responsibilities, intense patriotism, and a selfsacrificing devotion to his imperilled country. In illustration of these characteristics, I cited a few of the many facts that had come to my knowledge, either by personal observation or the authentic testimony of others.
Mr. Jeremiah S. Black does not like my portraiture of Mr. Stanton, or my statement of facts. He appears in the June number of “ The Galaxy ” in a communication addressed to myself, in which my statements are questioned and my conclusions are denied. The article is characteristic of the man ; and I am not surprised at the manner or the matter of it. Mr. Black seems to belong to a class of public men who are lingering behind their age, soured, disappointed, and vindictive. He seems specially conscious, — and his consciousness is apparently strengthening with time, —that there are few lawyers, fewer statesmen, and no patriots, who this day approve the advice he gave the President, on the 20th of November, 1860, in the only act which will carry his name to posterity. Contemporaneous history has already pronounced that “ his argument gave much aid and comfort to the conspirators,” that he “ virtually counselled the President to suffer this glorious concrete Republic to become disintegrated by the fires of faction or the blows of actual rebellion, rather than use the force legitimately at his service for the preservation of its integrity.” Nor is posterity likely to reverse this judgment. Loyal men, whose words and acts are instinct with patriotism, may perhaps afford to pardon the utterance of one who is passing into history under the irreversible condemnation already pronounced of a people saved in spite of his imbecile counsels and perilous theories.
As vulgar as vituperative, as ill-mannered as ill-tempered, with an effrontery as strange and fatuous as it was brazen, his article falsifies history and defames the dead, though the writer must have known that both the living witnesses and the documentary evidence are at hand to rectify the one and vindicate the other. It is not now my purpose to reply to his laudation of President Buchanan; or to his denial that Howell Cobb, while Secretary of the Treasury, by his treasonable utterances at Washington and among the money-lenders of Wall Street, deranged the finances and sunk the national credit; or to his denial that John B. Floyd while Secretary of War, sent muskets where they could be “ clutched ” by the rising conspirators ; or to Ins apology for Toucey ; or to his canonization of Jacob Thompson, the smallest and basest of the Cabinet conspirators. I am mindful that Mr. Black was a mere lawyer when he entered the Cabinet, that he had little association or acquaintance with statesmen. Of course his associates in the Cabinet, who had some experience in public affairs, although they have left little evidence in the records of their country of learning, eloquence, or statesmanship, towered up before his inexperienced eyes. No wonder that to this political neophyte Jacob Thompson seemed a great and illustrious statesman, “ so immeasurably far above ” the range of ordinary mortals, that they “ will never in this life be able to get a horizontal view of his character.” My object now is to defend Mr. Stanton from his treacherous friendship and vindicate the truthfulness of my statements, so recklessly assailed, by testimonies which cannot be gainsaid, and which are beyond the reach of cavil and successful contradiction.
In portraying the signal services rendered his country by Mr. Stanton, I referred to the fact that on entering Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet he put himself in communication with leading Republicans in Congress ; that so anxious was he for the safety of the Republic, he visited by appointment Mr. Sumner at his lodgings after midnight, to impress upon him the danger which menaced the nation. These facts were stated to illustrate Mr. Stanton’s exalted patriotism, which prompted him to rise above the claims and clamors of mere partisanship, and to invoke the aid of loyal men beyond the lines of his own party and outside of the administration of which he was a member, to serve his imperilled country menaced by a foul and wicked revolt. Such patriotism, however, Mr. Jeremiah S. Black does not comprehend. Such action he cannot applaud. He sees in it nothing but “ overt acts of treachery.” He doubts, questions, denies, and exclaims with holy horror: “ Into what unfathomed gulfs of moral degradation must the man have fallen who could have been guilty of this ! ”
Notwithstanding these doubts, denials, and exclamations, Mr. Stanton, nevertheless, did put himself in communication, while in Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet, with leading Republicans. Of this fact there is no lack of competent testimony. Mr. Seward, — certainly not a biassed witness, — under date of June 6th writes: —
“ You recall the memories of 1860 and 1861 ; our anxieties for the 4th of March then to come ; the conferences we had, and the efforts we made. You ask me to give you my understanding of the position of the lamented Mr. Stanton at that time.
“ When the election of 1860 closed, it left in the Executive Department President Buchanan, a Democrat, with an entire Democratic Cabinet, to remain in office until the 4th of March, when Abraham Lincoln was to be inaugurated President with a Republican Cabinet.
“ Some of the then members of Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet were known to be disloyal. General Cass, eminently loyal, was understood to be dissatisfied with the President.
“ The Democratic party had a majority in Congress, and that majority, like the President’s Cabinet, included a number of persons who avowed themselves disloyal, and who ultimately joined the seceders in rebellion.
“ Many disloyal persons held executive and judicial offices throughout the country, and many of the ministers who represented the United States in foreign countries were disloyal. The Rebels speedily effected an organization, and the administration was known to be holding conferences with their agents with regard to measures bearing upon disaffected States.
“ I was, with you, a member of the Senate, and it early became understood that I was to be appointed Secretary of State by Mr. Lincoln. In this manner it happened that I came to be regarded somewhat extensively as a person representing the incoming administration and the Republican party, upon which the preservation of the Union was so soon to be devolved. We apprehended the danger of a factious resistance by the Rebels at the seat of government, and an outbreak of the revolution in Congress ; probably on the occasion of counting the electoral votes, or at the inauguration. We were alarmed by plots for the assassination of the President on his way from Illinois.
“ There were many suspected officers in the army and the navy; and both those arms of the executive power seemed inadequate to the crisis.
“ I arrived in Washington and took up my residence there immediately after the election, and devoted myself thenceforth exclusively to the public service.
“ If my memory serves me, I did not personally know Edwin M. Stanton until after he was appointed AttorneyGeneral, in place of Hon. Jeremiah S. Black, who became Secretary of State on the resignation of General Cass.
“ Mr. Peter H. Watson, who during Mr. Lincoln’s administration became a very devoted and efficient Assistant Secretary of War, was an intimate personal friend of Mr. Stanton as well as of myself. Immediately after Mr. Stanton took office, he put himself into indirect communication with me at my house, employing Mr. Watson for that purpose. Every day thereafter, until the inauguration had passed, I conferred either in the morning or in the evening or both with Mr. Stanton through the same agency, and the question what either of us could or ought to do at the time for the public welfare was discussed and settled. Mr. Watson often brought with him suggestions in writing from Mr. Stanton and returned to Mr. Stanton with mine.
“ During all that time I was not in social relations with President Buchanan, and I took care for that and other reasons not to compromise Mr. Stanton, or other loyal members of his Cabinet, by making public the conferences which were held between any of them and myself. In some cases peculiarly perplexing I had Mr. Stanton’s permission to refer to him as authority for information I gave some of my Union associates. The holding of the consultations was made known by me, with Mr. Stanton’s consent, to President Lincoln and some other political friends. With these exceptions, the consultations between Mr. Stanton and myself were kept by me in entire confidence, and they have remained so.
“ One day, as I was riding through F Street from the Capitol, I met Mr. Stanton on foot. We recognized each other, and a hurried explanation concerning our relations, as they were being conducted through the agency of Mr. Watson, took place. We separated quickly, from the motive on my part, and I supposed on his, of avoiding public observation. This was the only occasion, as I remember, on which I met Mr. Stanton until after the expiration of Mr. Buchanan’s Presidential term.”
While Mr. Seward forbears giving details of the consultations held with Mr. Stanton, he states that whenever they had occasion “ to discuss measures it was only the right, fitness, expediency, and sufficiency of these measures that came in question ” ; and that Mr. Stanton expressed “ entire confidence in the loyalty of the President and of the heads of the departments who remained in association with him until the close of that administration.”
Concerning the midnight visit which so excites the incredulity and indignation of Mr. Black Mr. Sumner himself writes :—
“ My acquaintance with Mr. Stanton goes back to my first entrance into the Senate, as long ago as 1851, when Mr. Chase said to me one day, ‘ There is an Ohio friend of mine here who will be glad to know you,’ and he introduced me to Mr. Stanton. I was busy in the Senate and he was busy in court, so that we saw little of each other, but whenever we met it was as friends. I remember well how much he was excited, when, in the debate on the Boston petition for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Bill, immediately after the surrender of Anthony Burns, June, 1854, I was set upon by the slavemasters of the Senate, Mr. Mason and Mr. Butler leading in the assault. Mr. Stanton was on the floor of the Senate while I was speaking, and afterwards spoke of the incident with much sympathy for me. On the evening of this debate he was at the house of our excellent friend Dr. Bailey, who did so much against slavery, and there dwelt on the conduct of certain Senators.
“ I always understood that Mr. Stanton was a Democrat who hated slavery ; and when he went into the Cabinet of Mr. Buchanan, I felt that the national cause must derive strength from his presence there. You do not forget those anxious days. At last, in the month of January, 1861, while our troops were left to starve in Fort Sumter, I called on him at the AttorneyGeneral’s office, relying on his patriotism for information and counsel with regard to the state of the country. He was in the inner room, where he received me kindly, seeming glad to see me. Looking about and seeing somebody in the room, he whispered that we must be alone, and then passed into the anteroom, where was also somebody, and then into the next room, and then into the next, when, finding somebody in each room, he opened the door into the corridor, where he began an earnest conversation, saying that he must see me alone, — that this was impossible at his office, — that he was watched by the traitors of the South, — that my visit would be made known to them at once, — and he concluded by proposing to call on me at my lodgings at one o’clock that night, when he would tell me of the fearful condition of affairs as he saw them. I said in reply that I would expect him at the time named by him. ,
“ He came at one o'clock that night, and was alone with me for an hour. During this time he described to me the determination of the Southern leaders, and developed particularly their plan to obtain possession of the national capital and the national archives, so that they might substitute themselves for the existing government. I was struck, not only by the knowledge he showed of hostile movements, but by his instinctive insight into men and things. His particular object was to make us all watchful and prepared for the traitors. I saw nobody at the time who had so strong a grasp of the whole terrible case. The energies which he displayed afterwards as Secretary of War, and which wore him to death, were already conspicuous ; nor can I doubt that, had his spirit prevailed in the beginning, the Rebellion would have been strangled at its birth.
“ In the summer that followed, especially during the July session of Congress, I was in the habit of seeing Mr, Stanton at his house in the evening, and conferring with him freely. His standard was high, and he constantly spoke with all his accustomed power of our duties in the suppression of the Rebellion. Nobody was more earnest than himself. Compared with him the President and Congress seemed slow.
“ It was his burning patriotism and remarkable vigor of character which determined his selection as Secretary of War ; but at this time he was very little known to Senators personally. You may remember that, on the receipt of his nomination by the Senate, I rose at once, and, after stating my acquaintance with him, declared that within my knowledge he was one of us.” This testimony of Mr. Sumner may satisfy Mr. Black that Mr. Stanton’s midnight visit was actually made, and may give him some insight into that gentleman’s associations and antislavery proclivities. It may perhaps lead him to modify somewhat his bald and unsupported declaration that “ he had no affinities whatever with men of your [my] school in morals or politics,” and that “ his condemnations of the Abolitionists were unsparing for their hypocrisy, their corruption, their enmity to the Constitution, and their lawless disregard for the rights of States and individuals.”
Mr. William A. Howard, of Michigan, was for several years a member of the House, and a gentleman of large and commanding influence. In a letter to Attorney-General Hoar, under date of the 7th of February, from which I am permitted to quote, he says : —
“ And now commenced a series of efforts most strange, that lasted through two long and fearful months, — so fearful, indeed, that even now at this late day, and when the Republic is safe, I shudder to think of them. If you will refer to the resolutions of the House early in January, 1861, under which the special committee, of which I was chairman, was appointed, you will see that the committee was clothed with very ample powers. That committee was raised at the request of loyal members of the Cabinet. The resolutions came from them and were placed in my hands with a request that I would offer them, and thus become, if they should pass, chairman of the committee. At first I refused to assume so fearful a responsibility. But being urged to do so by members and Senators, I at last consented to do so, on condition that the Speaker would allow me to nominate two members of the committee. I selected Mr. Dawes of Massachusetts and Mr. Reynolds of New York. Mr. Reynolds was elected as a Democrat, but he was true as steel and a good lawyer.
“ I do not know that Mr. Stanton wrote the resolutions creating the committee. I did not see him write them. I never heard him say he wrote them. It would be easier, however, to persuade me that Mr. Jefferson did not write the Declaration of Independence than that Mr. Stanton did not write those resolutions. If he did write them, they are a sufficient answer to all that Mr. Black has said or can say. Whoever wrote them and requested the House of Representatives to adopt them would not have occupied any doubtful position. I do not think I saw Mr. Stanton at any time between the 1st of January and the 4th of March, 1861 ; but I think I heard from him more times than there were days in those two months. The clearest statements of legal rights, defining the boundaries of treason, the most startling facts, when the evidences of treachery could be found, were furnished.
“ One of the secretaries had accepted the resignation of officers who had joined the Rebellion, and had dated back the resignations, in one case two days, for the avowed purpose of protecting the scoundrel from trial by naval or military law, for leading the attack on the Pensacola Navy-Yard on the 12th day of January, 1861, while he still held his commission. The letter covering the resignation stated that the resignation was written on the 13th, but dated back to the 11th, the day before the attack, and he wanted the acceptance to be dated from that day, so as to save him from military law. It boasted that they had smashed the civil courts in Florida. The resignation was received at the department on the 22d day of January at eight o'clock in the afternoon ; but the acceptance was dated on the 11th as requested. I state dates from memory, and may not be entirely accurate. We were put upon this inquiry by information brought to us by a ‘bird’ which flew directly from some Cabinet minister to the committee-room. I never suspected Mr. Black or Mr. Toucey of this ‘ impropriety.’ If I suspected Mr. Stanton or Mr. Dix or Mr. Holt, it was because they were ‘suspicious characters.’
“ We were more than once told it would probably be necessary to arrest a certain member of the Cabinet for treason. Once we were told it would probably have to be within an hour, but to wait until we could hear a second time. Word came to hold on. Those messages certainly came from some member of the Cabinet. I always supposed something was going on there about that time. It so, probably Mr. Black did not know anything about it ; and most likely Mr. Stanton’s great modesty prevented his doing or saying anything about it. Mr. Black informs us, too, that Mr. Stanton was at that time a ‘ Democrat ’ : perhaps that prevented his doing anything about these matters. For obvious reasons personal interview’s with Cabinet ministers were avoided during the labors of the committee ; but I do know I many times sent inquiries, and always received answers with great promptness, conveying information of great importance. But these communications were indirect and anonymous.”
Equally explicit is the testimony of Mr. Dawes, another member of that committee. In an article written immediately after the death of Mr. Stanton and published in the “ Congregationalist ” of Boston, he stated that some of the most important and secret plans of the conspirators became known and were thwarted by means of communications from Mr. Stanton to the committee. “ Once a member of that committee,” said Mr. Dawes in this article, “ read by the light of the street lamps these words : ‘ Secretary —— is a traitor, depend upon it. He declared in Cabinet to-day that he did not want to deliver this government intact into the hands of the black Republicans. Arrest him instantly, or all will be lost.’ The paper went back to its hiding-place, but the Secretary, though he walked the streets unmolested, was watched from that hour.”
Who can question the truthfulness of these testimonies ? Who can doubt the fact that Mr. Stanton, in the extraordinary emergencies of that dark winter, did put himself in communication with Republican members of Congress ? Who can resist the belief that the motives which then actuated him were as pure and lofty as ever glowed in a patriot’s bosom ? Will the naked and unsupported assertions and imputations of Mr. Black, however vehemently and persistently made, shake the faith and confidence of the American people in the loyalty and honor of Edwin M. Stanton ?
In my article, I stated, on what I deemed unquestionable authority, that Mr. Stanton had, before entering the Cabinet, advised Mr. Buchanan to incorporate into his message the doctrine that the Federal government had the power, and that it was its duty, to coerce seceding States. Mr. Black positively declares that Mr. Stanton never was consulted on that subject by the President, and that he never gave such advice. Mr. Dawes, in his article in the “ Congregationalist,” makes this statement in clear and emphatic language.
“ It was,” he says, “ while these plans for a coup d'état before the 4th of March were being matured in the very Cabinet itself, and in the presence of a President too feeble to resist them and too blind even to see them, that Mr. Stanton was sent for by Mr. Buchanan, to answer the question, ‘ Can a State be coerced ?’ For two hours he battled, and finally scattered for the time being the heresies with which secession had filled the head of that old broken-down man. He was requested to prepare an argument in support of the power, to be inserted in the forthcoming message. He did it in language that neither time nor argument has improved upon, and his statement of the power was adopted by the President and inserted in the message. Had it remained as the doctrine of the administration, its whole attitude towards the Rebellion would have been changed, and the result no one can now state.
“ Mr. Stanton left the city immediately, for the trial of an important cause in Pittsburg, and saw no more of the President or men in Washington, until summoned by telegraph to a place in the crumbling Cabinet in the last days of December. Meantime the traitors had overborne the President, and events were rapidly culminating. Two days before the meeting of Congress they had frightened him into expunging from his message the assertion of the power to coerce a State in rebellion, and to insert in its place the contrary doctrine.”
This statement was made on the authority of Mr. Stanton himself. In a letter written to me a few weeks since Mr. Dawes says : “ When Mr. Washburn and I lived together on Fourteenth Street, near Mr. Stanton’s, he used to call and see us occasionally. He stayed very late one night, telling us all about his connections with Mr. Buchanan’s administration and the war. At that time he told us the story of Mr. Buchanan’s sending for him before his last regular message, as I related it in the ‘ Congregationalist.’ ” Perhaps this positive assertion of Mr. Stanton himself to Mr. Dawes and Mr. Washburn will weigh quite as much with the American people as the merely negative statement of Mr. Black.
While admitting that Mr. Stanton had always been a Democrat till he took his place in the Republican party during the war, I stated in my article in “ The Atlantic ” that he had “ early imbibed antislavery sentiments.” I referred to his Quaker descent; to his grandfather’s emancipation of his slaves; to the fact, which he frequently referred to, that Benjamin Lundy was wont to visit his father’s house, and that he had often sat upon his knee and listened to his antislavery teachings ; to the statement made me by Mr. Chase himself, that Mr. Stanton accosted him in the streets, nearly thirty years before, and said that he was in entire accord with the antislavery sentiments he had just put forth ; and to the well-known fact that he was a frequent guest at Dr. Bailey’s house, where he often met and associated with antislavery men. Mr. Black seems shocked at this statement. He emphatically declares that the Democrats gave Mr. Stanton “ office, honor, and fortune ” ; that if my statement be true, “ he was the most marvellous impostor that ever lived or died.” Perhaps a liberty-loving people will be more charitable towards Mr. Stanton than Mr. Black is. They will hardly join him in declaring it “ cold-blooded and deliberate treachery ” simply because, though a Democrat, he faintly cherished the antislavery teachings of his youth. They will rather respond to the words recently written to me by the veteran Abolitionists Theodore D. Weld and Samuel May.
“ In the early spring of 1835,” writes Mr. Weld, “ I gave a course of lectures upon slavery in Steubenville, Ohio. In the announcement of the course objections and discussion were invited. Before going to the first lecture I was told that a young lawyer was to reply to me ; at the close I called for objections. None were made, and the audience dispersed. At the next there was the same invitation and the same result. On the morning after, a young man, whom I had observed taking notes at the lectures, sought me at my lodgings and introduced himself as Mr. Stanton, saying in substance, ‘ I meant to fight you, but my guns are spiked, and I have come to say that I see, with you, that all men hold their rights by the same title-deed, that the slaveholder in picking flaws in the slave’s title-deed picks the same in his own and in every man’s.’ A conversation of half an hour followed, during which he greatly impressed me with his hearty frankness, independence, moral insight, and keen mental force. God be thanked that, a quarter of a century later, the nation had such a man to lead its forlorn hope triumphant through its darkest hour.”
Mr. May, in a letter recently received, asks : “ Did you ever hear Mr. Stanton speak of B. Lundy ? Do you remember taking me to his room when I went to Washington to get signatures to the testimonial circular letter for Garrison, and introducing me to him with some words as to my errand ? After getting through with three or four persons who had precedence, he, still standing behind his ‘ standing desk,’ after a few words and inquiries about Mr. Garrison, began to speak of visits which Lundy made to his father’s house when he (E. M. S.) was a boy ; of the long talks always on slavery which Mr. Lundy and his father had together, and of the silent interest he took in them. He had, evidently, grown up with a great reverence for Mr. Lundy. Who can tell how far these repeated talks of Lundy in the humble farm-house in Ohio, so long ago, were a power in preparing the future Secretary of War, who was to grasp the entire strength and resources of the nation in his hand, and wield them for slavery’s final destruction ? For myself, I was perfectly convinced, from the deep and earnest tone in which he spoke of Lundy, that he recognized a spirit which had controlled and shaped his own. And when in another (briefer) interview, two or three days later, I found him again leading the conversation to Lundy and those early visits to his father’s house, I was made sure of my first impression, and I rejoiced in the Providential arrangement which had caused that early seed, sown in simple faith, to find a soil suited to it when, ‘ though buried long,’ it should not ‘ deceive the hope.’ Benjamin Lundy’s ‘ soul was marching on,’ when Stanton planned and directed the gigantic measures, before which even the seemingly unconquerable monster slavery was compelled to yield and die.”
And here I notice Mr. Black’s denial that Mr. Stanton indorsed Mr. Cameron’s proposition to arm the negroes. He alarms with great positiveness that it was “ morally impossible ” that Mr. Stanton should have done so, for the reason that “he was at that time a white man, every inch of him, proud of the great race he sprung from, and full of faith in its capacity to fight its own battles and govern itself ”; and that “ nothing would have humiliated him more than to see the American people relinquish their rightful place in the front rank of the world, surrender their inheritance of free government, and sneak back behind the African for protection in war or in peace.” This base utterance sufficiently reveals the animus of Jeremiah S. Black, but it does not prove that Edwin M. Stanton was not early in favor of arming black men for the defence of the imperilled nation. That it does not prove it, is rendered certain by the testimony of Mr. Cameron himself. In a note recently received by me he says: “ I submitted my report, when Secretary of War in 1861, to several gentlemen, chiefly from my own State, and many of them opposed it. Wearied with objections to a measure on the adoption of which I was convinced the existence of the nation might ultimately depend, I sought out another counsellor, — one of broad views, great courage, and of tremendous earnestness. It was Edwin M. Stanton. He read the report carefully, and after suggesting a few verbal alterations, calculated to make it stronger, he gave it his unequivocal and hearty support.”
By the act of July, 1862, the President was authorized to receive for military purposes persons of African descent. Some time afterwards Mr. Stanton referred to General Holt the question of the right and duty of the government to employ persons of African descent as soldiers. That gentleman made an elaborate, vigorous, and eloquent report in favor of receiving into the armies persons irrespective of creed or color. Mr. Holt, in; a note addressed to me under date of 18th of June, says: “ Soon after this report had been received and read by Mr. Stanton, he warmly thanked me for it, and left the impression on my mind of his entire concurrence in its views. Some time afterwards, in one of those unreserved conversations which we occasionally had upon the absorbing questions of the day, he declared substantially, and with the vehemence which often characterized him in the discussion of such topics, that the war could never be successfully closed for the government, without the employment of colored troops in the field. The importance of this declaration at that juncture, added to the solemn earnestness with which it was uttered, fixed it indelibly upon my memory. I could not have been mistaken in then regarding him as the decided and persistent advocate of this policy.”
Mr. Black, with reckless audacity, declares too that the scene in the Cabinet, when the intelligence was received that Colonel Anderson had removed from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, “ is a pure and perfectly baseless fabrication,” “ completely exploded by the record, which shows that Colonel Anderson’s transfer of his force from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter was in literal obedience to orders from the President, which Floyd himself had drawn up, signed, and transmitted.” This assertion is made in the face of their despatches, now on file in the War Department, as certified to by AdjutantGeneral Townsend, under date of 19th of July.
WAR DEPARTMENT, December 27, 1860. To MAJOR R. ANDERSON, U. S. A., FORT MOULTRIE, CHARLESTON, S, C.
Intelligence has reached here this morning that you have abandoned Fort Moultrie, spiked your guns, burnt the carriages, and gone to Fort Sumter. It is not believed,because there is no order for any such movement Explain the meaning of this report.
J. B. FLOYD,
Secretary of I War.
This declaration of Floyd to Anderson, that “ there is no order for any such movement,” conclusively shows the construction he put upon previous orders, and is a complete refutation of Black’s assumptions and assertions. The following despatch of Colonel Anderson shows, too, that he did not act upon any previous order, but upon his own responsibility: —
CHARLESTON, December 27, 1860. To HON. J. B. FLOYD, Secretary of War.
The telegram is correct. I abandoned Fort Moultrie because I was certain that, if attacked, my men must have been sacrificed and the command of the harbor lost. I spiked the guns and destroyed the carriages to keep the guns from being used against us. If attacked, the garrison would never have surrendered without a fight.
Major First Artillery.
That Floyd was disappointed and exasperated beyond all bounds by the movement of Colonel Anderson is abundantly proven. General Holt, at that time member of Buchanan’s Cabinet, in his brilliant speech at the banquet in Charleston, on the evening of the 14th of April, 1865, after the flag-raising at Fort Sumter, thus referred to the mortification, anguish, and fury of the baffled traitor. “ When intelligence reached the capital,” says Mr. Holt, and it will be remembered that he spoke from personal knowledge, “ that by a bold and dexterous movement this command had been transferred from Moultrie to Sumter, and was safe from the disabled guns left behind, the emotions of Floyd were absolutely uncontrollable,—emotions of mingled mortification and anguish and rage and panic. His fury seemed that of some baffled fiend, who discovers suddenly opening at his own feet the gulf of ruin which he had been preparing for another. Over all the details of this passionate outburst of a conspirator, caught and entangled in his own toils, the veil of official secrecy still hangs, and it may be that history will never be privileged to transfer this memorable scene to its pages. There is one, however, whose absence to-day we have all deplored, and to whom the nation is grateful for the masterly ability and lion-like courage with which he has fought this Rebellion in all the vicissitudes of its career, — your Secretary of War, who, were he here, could bear testimony to the truthfulness of my words. He looked upon that scene, and the country needs not now to be told that he looked upon it with scorn and defiance.”
This speech made the tour of the country, was published in pamphlet form, and Mr. Black must have seen it. He, however, uttered no denial, and demanded no explanation, while Mr. Stanton lived. Now that the great Secretary’s lips are closed in death, his for the first time are opened. But though Mr. Stanton shall never bear testimony again upon the point, there are those, now living, of unquestioned probity, who remember his descriptions of the scene. Mr. Dawes, in the letter already quoted, states, in corroboration of his own and Mr. Washburn’s recollections, that “ Mrs. Dawes distinctly remembers hearing Mr. Stanton tell at our house the story of that terrible conflict in the Cabinet.”
Mr. Black’s denial of that Cabinet scene is rather the argument of a tricky advocate than the unbiassed testimony of an honest witness. His argument is that, because Mr. Stanton, when the eyes of traitorous spies were upon him, sought an interview with Mr. Sumner in the darkness of night, he was such “ a dastard,” “ crawling sycophant,” and “ stealthy spy,” that he “ must have been wholly unfitted to play the part of Jupiter Tonans in a square and open conflict,” and that it was “ not possible that the fearless Stanton of your ‘ Cabinet scene’ could be the same Stanton who, at one o’clock, was ‘ squat like a toad ’ at the ear of Sumner.” Is such a shuffling and skulking mode of denial, made by one who manifestly feels himself to be on the defensive, to outweigh the declarations of Mr. Stanton made to credible witnesses, and the positive averments of Joseph Holt ? Mr. Black, having denied, after a manner, that there was such a Cabinet controversy, in which Mr. Floyd and Mr. Stanton were actors, adds in a semi-heroic style : “ I take it upon me to deny most emphatically that Mr. Stanton ever ‘ wrote a full and detailed account of that Cabinet scene.’ ” “ I can show that your assertion is incredible.” He then proceeds to make an argument in support of his denial. But the testimony of Judge Holt is conclusive. He writes:—
“ Several years ago, Mr. Stanton read to me, in the War Department, a letter addressed by him to Mr. Schell, of New York, in answer to one from that gentleman, wherein he set forth quite in detail what was said and done at the meeting of Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet, which was followed at once, as I now remember it, by Mr. Floyd’s resignation. The deliberations and discussions of that, as of other Cabinet meetings, being then and still held under the seals of official confidence, I cannot, of course, repeat what the statements of this letter were, but can only affirm that they accorded with my own recollection of the facts. I requested of Mr. Stanton a copy of this letter, which he promised to furnish me, but under the pressure of his official labors and engagements the matter was probably lost sight of, as the copy never reached me. Subsequently he informed me that the letter had never been sent, he having, as I understood it, come to the conclusion that such disclosures would not be justified, unless made with the consent of the parties to the Cabinet meeting, and to the deliberations referred to.”
With his usual audacity and utter obliviousness of facts Mr. Black denies my statement that Floyd, while Secretary of War, sent arms “ where they could be clutched by conspirators.” This direct denial of a statement founded on documentary evidence is amazing. While sitting in the Cabinet, Floyd was in sympathy and co-operation with Southern leaders who were preparing for secession and rebellion. Arms by his orders were sent from Northern armories and arsenals to arsenals in the South. Benjamin Stanton of Ohio, chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs of the House of Representatives, asked of the Secretary of War a statement, showing the number of arms sent from the armories and arsenals at the North to those at the South. In compliance with directions of General Holt, Secretary of War, Colonel H. K. Craig, of the ordinance office, reported on the 15th of January, 1861, that “ on the 30th day of December, 1859, an order was received from the War Department, directing the transfer of 115,000 arms from the Springfield Armory and the Watertown and Watervliet Arsenals to different arsenals at the South. Orders were given in obedience to those instructions on the 30th day of January, 1860, and the arms were removed during the past spring.” He also added that these arms, which had been sent to South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, numbering 63,000, had already been seized by the Rebels.
Colonel Magnadin, of the Ordnance office, was examined by the House Committee on Military Affairs, and stated that, in obedience to the “ naked order ” of Secretary Floyd, he ordered from Pittsburg “ forty columbiads and four 32-pounders to the fort on Ship Island, and seventy columbiads and seven 32-pounders to the fort at Galveston.” These heavy guns were ordered to be sent to forts where not one could be mounted. General Patten, in areport made to General Holt, Secretary of War, under date of 8th of January, 1861, stated that not a gun could be mounted at Ship Island, that only eighty thousand dollars had been appropriated to the fort at Galveston, which would cost nearly half a million ; that ground was not broken, and the foundation walls were not laid, and it would take five years to finish it. The patriotic people of Pittsburg protested against the removal of these guns ; and when General Holt entered the War Office he at once countermanded Floyd’s treasonable order. Notwithstanding these facts, which are matters of record and within reach of all, Mr. Black interposes his astounding denial. If, when verification is at hand, he is so reckless in his statements, what confidence can be placed upon his otherwise unsupported assertions ?
In my article I incidentally referred to what I had understood to be the fact, that Mr. Cameron had proposed to resign his commission as Secretary of War, provided a successor could be appointed not unfriendly to him, and that he had suggested Mr. Stanton. Mr. Black avers that this was not so, that Mr. Cameron did not resign, was in fact removed, and had no part in naming a successor. I am content to rest the case upon the following testimonies. Mr. Cameron, in a recent note to me, writes :—
“ I called on Mr. Lincoln, and suggested Edwin M. Stanton to him as my successor. He hesitated; but after listening to me for a time, he yielded, and sent me to offer the place of Secretary of War to him, and added : ‘ Tell him, Cameron, if he accepts, I will send his nomination as Secretary, and yours as Minister to Russia, to the Senate together.’
Senator Chandler, in a recent note, writes : “ Before Cameron resigned, he invited me to breakfast at his house to meet Edwin M. Stanton, whom I had then never met, and told me that the gentleman I was to meet had been nominated for Secretary of War, at his request. At the breakfast, the fact of Cameron’s having recommended Mr. Stanton as his successor was not only mentioned, but the meeting was expressly for the purpose of enabling some one whose friendship Mr. Cameron placed reliance to judge of the wisdom of his course, by actual contact with the coming Secretary.”
This statement of Mr. Chandler, concerning the meeting at the house of Mr. Cameron, is corroborated by the following extract from a letter addressed to me by Mr. Wade. “ I recollect, ” he says, “ very well, that Mr. Cameron made known to Mr. Chandler and myself his determination to resign his position as Secretary of War, and recommend to Mr. Lincoln Mr, Stanton as his successor in that department. From my long acquaintance with Mr. Stanton, and my confidence in his ability, integrity, and fitness for the place, as well as his determined antislavery principles, I was much pleased with the suggestion, as was Mr. Chandler. Shortly after this we were invited to breakfast at Mr. Cameron’s, to meet Mr. Stanton, at which meeting Mr. Cameron mentioned to Mr. Stanton the resolution he had come to, and that gentleman reluctantly, gave us to understand that, if he was offered the appointment, he would accept.”
From Senator Ramsey I have received a note, in which he says : “ I desire to relate a circumstance which carries with it the best attainable evidence of the truth of your statement — the words of Mr. Stanton himself. I met Senator Cameron and Mr. Stanton at Mr. Chandler’s house, in Washington, during the impeachment of President Johnson. In conversation, Mr. Stanton, referring to the unpleasant and delicate situation in which he was placed, in seeming to cling to an office which the President was determined to drive him from, said, half playfully, pointing to General Cameron : ‘ This gentleman is the man who has brought all this trouble upon me, by recommending me to Mr. Lincoln for Secretary or War, and then urging me to accept the place.’ ”
Chief Justice Chase, in a letter written to Mr. Cameron, from which I am permitted to quote, is still more explicit and conclusive on the point at issue : “ Senator Wilson is quite right in his statement that you resigned the post of Secretary of War, and that you indicated Mr. Stanton as your successor. I supposed myself at the time, and still suppose, that I was well informed as to the circumstances. Some time before you resigned, you expressed to me your preference for the position of Minister to St. Petersburg, and I conversed with Mr. Lincoln on the subject under your sanction. No intimation of a thought on Mr. Lincoln’s part that the resignation of the one post, and the acceptance of the other, were not purely voluntary acts on your part, was received by me. Nor have I now any belief that it was not at the time wholly at your option to remain in the Cabinet, or to leave it for the honorable and important position offered to you.”
In illustration of Mr. Stanton’s readiness, in great emergencies, to take responsibilities, I cited the fact that he placed in the hands of Governor Morton, of Indiana, a quarter of a million of dollars, out of an unexpended appropriation, made nearly two years before, for raising troops in States in insurrection. Mr. Black takes up this simple statement of a fact, criticises it at great length, declares that “ the whole story is bogus,” pronounces it untrue in the aggregate and in detail, in the sum-total, and in every item.” He declared Governor Morton’s purpose in going to Washington to be “ to demand payment of a debt due, and acknowledged to be due, from the United States to the State of Indiana ” ; that “ the money had been appropriated by Congress to pay it, and it was paid according to law.” His whole statement touching this point is full of unconcealed, not to say ostentatious, malignity, and betrays either a reckless disregard of truth or an inexcusable ignorance.
The simple facts arc these. The Democratic party in 1862 carried Indiana. At once its presses announced that the military power would be taken from the Governor, and the Indiana Legion would be disbanded. The Legislature was opened by violent and inflammatory speeches. The House of Representatives returned Governor Morton’s message to him, and passed a resolution accepting the message of Governor Seymour of New York. The threatened military measures were introduced, taking from the Governor all military power, and conferring it upon the State Auditor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Attorney-General. To defeat such unconstitutional and revolutionary measures, the Republican members of the House withdrew from the Legislature, and it adjourned without the necessary legislation to defray the ordinary expenses of the State. Governor Morton, believing it would be madness to do so, refused to call an extra session, appealed to the loyal people to stand by him ; and counties, banks, railroad companies, and private individuals promptly came forward and supplied him with money to meet pressing demands upon the treasury.
In that emergency Governor Morton went to Washington, not, as Black falsely says, to demand payment of a debt due, and acknowledged to be due, from the United States to Indiana, but, in the Governor’s own words, to apply “ for an advance under an appropriation made by Congress, July 31, 1861.” That act appropriated two million dollars to be expended under the direction of the President in supplying and defraying the expenses of transporting and delivering such arms and munitions of war as in his judgment might be expedient “ to place in the hands of any of the loyal citizens residing in any of the States of which the inhabitants are in rebellion against the government of the United States, or in which rebellion is or may be threatened,” That appropriation most clearly had been made to supply arms and defray expenses only in States where the inhabitants were in rebellion, or where rebellion was or might be threatened. Were the inhabitants of Indiana in rebellion ? Did rebellion exist in that State ? Was rebellion “ threatened ”? These were the questions to be answered. After full consideration of the condition of affairs in that State, the menaced action of the dominant party in the Legislature, and the lawless conduct of “ The Knights of the Golden Circle ” and “ The Sons of Liberty,” Mr. Stanton took the responsibility, decided that Indiana was “ threatened ” with rebellion, and intrusted to Governor Morton, as disbursing officer, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars out of that appropriation. And in so doing, instead of deserving the objurgatory epithets applied to him by Black, he merits and will ever receive the grateful admiration of his loyal countrymen.
In his message to the Legislature, in January, 1865, Governor Morton, in giving an account of this proceeding, said: “ It will be perceived that this money was not paid to me as a loan to the State or an advance to the State upon debts due to her by the general government, and creates no debt against the State whatever, but that in theory it is an expenditure made by the President through me as his disbursing agent.” And yet, in face of this official declaration, Mr. Black has the effrontery to assert that this money, so placed in the Governor’s hands, was in “ payment of a debt due, and acknowledged to be due, from the United States to the State of Indiana,” and that “ the money had been appropriated by Congress to pay it, and it was paid according to law.”
I have thus noticed the assumptions and assertions of Mr. Black in the arraignment and criticisms of his article in “ The Galaxy.” In the light of this review an intelligent public will not be slow to note the wide discrepancies between his statements and the authentic facts as they now appear, on the authority of official records and the testimonies of unimpeachable witnesses. Nor will they fail to come to the conclusion that, either through lack of intelligence and needful research, or through natural perversities of mind or heart, he is eminently untrustworthy, and wholly unfitted to examine, criticise, or review the labors of others relating to the historic events of our times.