CHAPTER II. FIRST KNOWLEDGE OF IMPENDING CONFLICT, 1860-61.
"At a distance of three thousand miles, the Southern planters
did, indeed, bear a resemblance to the English country
gentleman which led to a feeling of kinship and sympathy with
him on the part of those in England who represented the old
traditions of landed gentility. This 'Southern gentleman'
theory, containing as it did an undeniable element of truth,
is much harped upon by certain of the reviewers, and one can
easily conceive of its popularity in the London Clubs.... The
'American,' so familiar to British readers, during the first
half of the century, through the eyes of such travellers as
Mrs. Trollope, now becomes the 'Yankee,' and is located north
of Mason and Dixon's line."
Such portrayal was not characteristic of all Reviews, rather of the Tory organs alone, and the Radical Westminster took pains to deny the truth of the picture, asserting again and again that the vital and sole cause of the conflict was slavery. Previous articles are summed up in that of October, 1863, as a profession of the Westminster's opinion throughout: "... the South are fighting for liberty to found a Slave Power. Should it prove successful, truer devil's work, if we may use the metaphor, will rarely have been done."
Fortunate would it have been for the Northern cause, if British opinion generally sympathetic at first on anti-slavery grounds, had not soon found cause to doubt the just basis of its sympathy, from the trend of events in America. Lincoln had been elected on a platform opposing the further territorial expansion of slavery. On that point the North was fairly well united. But the great majority of those who voted for Lincoln would have indignantly repudiated any purpose to take active steps toward the extinction of slavery where it already existed. Lincoln understood this perfectly, and whatever his opinion about the ultimate fate of slavery if prohibited expansion, he from the first took the ground that the terms of his election constituted a mandate limiting his action. As secession developed he rightly centred his thought and effort on the preservation of the Union, a duty imposed by his election to the Presidency.
Naturally, as the crisis developed, there were many efforts at still another great compromise. Among the friends of the outgoing President, Buchanan, whose term of office would not expire until March 4, 1861, there were still some Southern leaders, like Jefferson Davis, seeking either a complete surrender to Southern will, or advantages for Southern security in case secession was accomplished. Buchanan appealed hysterically to the old-time love of the Union and to the spirit of compromise. Great congressional committees of both Senate and House of Representatives were formed seeking a solution. Crittenden for the border states between North and South, where, more than anywhere else, there was division of opinion, proposed pledges to be given to the South. Seward, long-time champion of the anti-slavery North, was active in the Senate in suggestion and intrigue seemingly intended to conciliate by concessions. Charles Francis Adams, early a Free Soiler, in the House of Representatives Committee conducted his Republican colleagues along a path apparently leading to a guarantee of slavery as then established. A constitutional amendment was drafted to this effect and received Lincoln's preliminary approval. Finally Lincoln, in his inaugural address, March 4, 1861, declared:
"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly to interfere with
the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I
believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no
inclination to do so."