The Great North-Western Conspiracy In All Its Startling Details
By I. Windslow Ayer
Public Domain Books
FOREIGN POWERS THE ENEMIES OF REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT–THEIR PART IN THE PROGRAMME OF THE REBELLION.
The event of the American revolution burst upon the world as the most startling era in the history of nations. Monarchical Europe had long envied the proud career and inevitable destiny of these States, which had been shaken as the brightest jewels from the British Crown. Monarchs, Emperors, Queens, lords, princes and diplomats, who wield the sceptre of dominion, could not conceal the joy afforded them by a scene, which executed, promised the speedy extinguishment of the leading national power on the globe, and the final demolition of the only altar of liberty upon which the fires of freedom had continued bright.
The event created the more joy, because it was attributable partly to the efforts so strenuously put forth for many preceding years by the combined enemies of American Independence, to poison the American mind and breed disunion in the ranks of a free, industrious and honest yeomanry, with a view to the ultimate dissolution of the bonds of the Union.
These enemies, however, for some time anterior to the development of the fruit of their labors, had begun to despair of the cause in which they had engaged, and it is possible that the scheme of American wreck and ruin upon their part had been permanently abandoned, hence their immediate demonstrations of joy at the triumph of their cause of sedition.
But seeds sown, however barren the soil, seldom fail of some growth, and subsequent to the presidential election of 1860, the great American rebellion became transparent to both friend and foe. To enumerate and examine in detail the different phases of the programme of artificial causes which precipitated defiance of the General Government, and gave origin to the chronic disorder of the people of different sections upon the subject of their government, would occupy more space than has been allotted this brief narrative, which is more especially intended to embrace a readable compilation of the later movements of the enemies of the Government to crown the Confederate cause with success, through the bloody implement of Conspiracy and Revolution in the Northern States.
Having alluded to the prominent part occupied by foreign hostile powers in the general scheme of Conspiracy against the Federal Government, a brief allusion to the part executed by the native born American will not be out of place.
The cheek tingles with the blush of shame, when alas, it must be said that the pride of the American has been humbled by his too faithful adherence to the grand original compact of treason, even after the second most potent auxiliary to the plan had been tenderly touched with the wickedness of the scheme, and had withdrawn in dismay at the approach of the enactment of crime so revolting.
All things material and tangible have their bases and starting points, so too, had the Southern Rebellion its foundation stone laid deep and solid in the minds of the people by John C. Calhoun, the first great Supreme Commander of the germ from whence sprung the various elements of treason, which have entered into the composition of the powers seeking the destruction of the Federal Government. As for the doctrine of State Rights as expounded by Calhoun, it is carried beyond the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of ’98, to that point which renders it destructive of the end for which it is claimed to be enunciated.
It has been sought to carry the doctrine to that extremity beyond the exercise of its own reserved powers, which must inevitably bring it in collision with the legitimate operation of the powers delegated to the General Government.
With this extreme, hence fallacious, doctrine of State Rights thus firmly imbedded in the hearts and heads of a zealous people, rendering them, upon conscientious principles, the ready tools of ambitious leaders, filled with lust for power and place, it should not be a matter of so much surprise, that, after years of uninterrupted and persistent education and training of the generations in their order, that the year of 1860 found the continent trembling beneath the crack of musketry, the tread of horse, and the roar of cannon.
As among the more important means used by designing men in aid of the scheme of rebellion, and the ultimate establishment of a separate government in the South, the nucleus of which was to be the cotton states, secret organizations, assuming different names and traditions in different localities in the South were established, having for their special mission in the meantime the privacy of the plot, and the education of the people to that indispensable standard of treason which would eventually lead them to avow their principles at the point of the sword.
These organizations, in point of antiquity, are traced to a time not long anterior to the nullification of South Carolina in 1832, which was so promptly suppressed by General Jackson, then President of the United States. Some of them, however, claim even greater antiquity, and point with affected pride to the historical period of the American colonial revolution against the taxation and tyranny of England, as the date of their origin. Whatever may be the facts as to the precise date of the existence, respectively, of these disreputable cables, laid to undermine the greatness and glory of the National Union, cemented as it is by the blood of the sires and sages of the Revolution, is unimportant to the purpose of the author, while the great living fact that they have been the most deadly weapon in the hands of the enemy is corroborated by the eventful history of the union of these States.
Prior to the breaking out of the rebellion in 1861, these various organizations, being the van-guards in the general conspiracy against the integrity and perpetuity of the Federal Government, had not been introduced, to any great extent, in the non-slaveholding states, and in consequence thereof had little or no tangibility north of the compromise of 1820, familiarly known as Mason and Dixon’s line. South of this line, however, they had long been standing institutions in every city, town, hamlet, villa and populated district throughout all of the late so-called Confederate States of America; vying the Palmetto in rankness of growth, and rivaling the rattlesnake in deadness of poison, until at length, gorged with their own baneful offspring, and pale with the sickness of their own stomachs, the child of secession was born unto them as a curse and reproach to the Southern people and the generations to follow them forever.
On the 17th of April, 1861, the report of the gun fired upon Fort Sumter was heard by every member of these secret conclaves in the South, and was the signal for the opening of the outer gates of every temple of treason in the land.
From that inauspicious moment forward to the present, no mask has hid from the scorn of the Christian world treason’s hideous visage, but that blear-eyed monster, armed with every weapon of iniquity which devilish invention could devise, has alternately, with rage and despair, rushed to and fro across the continent, spilling the blood of innocence.
When, upon the occurrence of the Presidential election in 1860, it was found that the kernel planted by Calhoun had been fostered to maturity by secret organization, the blood and treasure of seven states was at once staked upon the fearful result, and the disruption of the Republic and the erection of a slave-driving despotism upon the ruins solemnly declared. In the outset, it was thought by leading political minds at the North, that but little sincerity could be attached to the assertion of independence by the Southern people. But as time elapsed and the contest grew more formidable and bloody, Northern men began by degrees to comprehend the magnitude of a chronic conspiracy which had cost the life-long labors of its ablest advocates to prepare. And though the hosts enlisted in the execution of this conspiracy for a time won the prestige of victors upon fields of blood, knowledge of their sincerity of purpose and the extent of their carefully collected resources at length came to every loyal man in the country, and vigorous measures, corresponding to the necessity, were at once devised, the effects of which are now seen in the capture of Richmond and the surrender of Lee.
Earlier than this date in the progress of the struggle, however, it became manifest that the wheel of fortune would eventually turn against the cause of the South in consequence of her comparative weakness to contend against a power so amply provided with the material of war as the government at Washington. Then it was that the project of enlarging the area of the rebellion, first fell upon the Southern mind as indispensable to their cause, now fast becoming desperate in the extreme. Hurried raids into border northern states gave to the prowess of southern arms but momentary eclat, and little or no enduring strength was added to the stability of the Richmond government, beyond the plunder obtained in the line of march. On the contrary, these raids, instead of being evidence of the power of the South to maintain the standard of independence, were looked upon by the military chieftains of the North, without apprehension further than the demoralization, consequent upon the particular neighborhoods and districts thus invaded. In fact each recurring raid gave additional grounds for the confident belief on the part of the North, that the downfall of the rebellion was but a question of time, much sooner to be solved than many people of both sections supposed. These symptoms of the distress of the cause meantime did not escape the sagacity of the leaders of the rebellion, and as an expedient remedy, the plan of secretly organizing traitors in the northern states was determined upon as early as 1862, by the political representatives and agents of the confederate states, the attempt, character and success of which project will be the subject of the next chapter.