Page images
PDF
EPUB

the fugitive slave law: Third, a provision for the protection of slave owners, having slaves temporarily in any other than a slave State; Fourth, an express prohibition of laws abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, or in any federal district or reservation within a slave State; and, Fifth, that these provisions should never be changed without the consent of all the slave States. 1

These suggestions seem to indicate that Governor Harris still believed it to be possible to avert war, but farther on in the message he said, "Before your adjournment, in all human probability, the only practical question for the State to determine will be whether or not she will unite her fortunes with a Northern or Southern Confederacy; upon which question, wlien presented, I am certain there can be little or no division in sentiment, identified as we are in every respect with the South.”

On the 19th of January, 1861, an Act was passed ordering an election to be held on the 9th day of February ensuing, to determine whether or not there should be a Convention as recommended by Governor Harris, and also for the choice of delegates to the Convention which was to have 100 members.3

The last section of the Act provided that the Convention if called, should have no power to take any action changing “the position or relation of this State. to the National Union or to her sister Southern States," until the same should have been submitted to and ratified by a majority of the qualified voters of the State, taking as a basis the vote cast at the last preceeding State election. The election was held and a full vote was cast. For the Convention the vote was 57,798, against it, 69,675. In East Tennessee, the majority against the Convention was five to one. Middle Tennessee gave a majority of 1,382 against it, while West Tennessee was for it by a majority of over 15,000. The real test of public opinion, however, was in the vote for delegates. The aggregate vote for Union delegates was 88,803, and for disunion delegates 24,749.

1Governor's Message, Acts First Extra Session, 1861, page 8.

2 Acts of Tennessee, First Extra Session, 1861, page 10.

3 Acts of Tennessee, First Extra Session, 1861, chapter I, page 15.

It must be remembered that when this election was. held, seven Southern States had seceded, and the provisional government of the Southern Confederacy had been organized. No wonder then that the Union people were jubilant, and believed that secession had received its death blow in Tennessee. The situation remained practically unchanged for two months. The secessionists continued to avow their devotion to the Constitution, and the conviction that that sacred instrument had been trampled on by the North. Some of the Union leaders, recognizing the strength of the opposing faction, willing to placate it, and confident that Tennessee would not secede, imprudently de

clared what they would do in certain contingencies. which they did not expect to arise, and were consequently not a little embarrassed when unexpectedly confronted by the very conditions as to which they had so imprudently committed themselves. Fort Sumter was attacked, and on April 15, Mr. Lincoln issued a call to the Governors of the States remaining in the Union, for volunteers to suppress the insurrection. Governor Harris telegraphed an indignant refusal. Instantly the situation in Tennessee was radically changed. East Tennessee stood firm, but in the other divisions of the State there was a sweeping and irresistible change to the side of secession. The newspapers, outside East Tennessee, almost unanimously sided with the South, and many public meetings in Middle, and West Tennessee declared for secession. From the moment when the call for volunteers was received it was certain that Tennessee would secede, and it was at this crisis that the Whig leaders were called upon to make good the promises which had been imprudently made, so far, as some of them were concerned, and certain of those who had not already declared themselves felt constrained now to do so. As late as April 18, 1861, a number of Union leaders, issued an address to the people of the State in which they said, “Tennessee is called upon by the President to furnish two regiments and the State has, through her executive, refused to comply with the call. This refusal of our State we fully approve. Should a pur

pose be developed by the government of overrunning and subjugating our brethren of the seceded States, we say unequivocally, that it will be the duty of the State to resist, at all hazards, and at any cost, and by arms, any such purpose or attempt." The address further called upon the State to arm, and to maintain a position of armed neutrality.4

On the 15th of April, Governor Harris issued a call for a second extra session of the Legislature to meet on the 25th of April. In his message he explicitly advocated an ordinance by the General Assembly, "formally declaring the independence of the State of Tennessee of the Federal Union, renouncing its authority and re-assuming each and every function belonging to a separate sovereignty."

On the sixth of May the Legislature passed an Act “to submit to a vote of the people a declaration of independence, and for other purposes.

This Act directed the Governor forthwith to order an election to be held on the 8th of June, at which should be submitted to the people a declaration embodied in the Act entitled "declaration of independence and ordinance dissolving the federal relations between the State of Tennessee and the United

"6

4Greeley's American Conflict, volume I, page 481.

5Governor's Message, Acts, Second Extra Session, 1861, page 7.

6 Acts of Tennessee, Second Extra Session, 1861, chapter I, page 13.

States of America.” The purport of this declaration is sufficiently indicated by the following extract: “We, the people of the State of Tennessee, waiving any expression of opinion as to the abstract doctrine of secession, but asserting the right as a free and independent people, to alter, reform, or abolish, our form of government in such manner as we think proper, do ordain," etc.?

The Act provided that all volunteers in the service of the State should be entitled to vote in the county in which they might be stationed at the time of the election. It also embodied an ordinance for the adoption of the Constitution of the provisional government of the Confederate States of America.8

On the first day of May a joint resolution had been passed authorizing and requesting the Governor to appoint three commissioners to enter into a military league with the Confederate States.

The Governor appointed Gustavus A. Henry, A. W. O. Totten, and Washington Barrow as such commissioners, and on the 7th day of May, the agreement entered into between them and Henry W. Hilliard, the commissioner of the Confederate States, was submitted to the Legislature by the Governor,

7 Acts of Tennessee, Second Extra Session, 1861, page 16.

8 Acts of Tennessee, Second Extra Session, 1861, chapter I, page 17.

9 Acts of Tennessee, Second Extra Session, 1861, Resolution 10.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »