155 Years Ago: Thursday, February 14, 1861

The Provisional Confederate Congress meets again today in their capital of Montgomery, Alabama. Today they address the issue of U.S. employed customs officials at customs houses that are now in Confederate territory due to secession. Customs is crucial in both the North and South; international trade brings much needed supplies, as well as money through customs collection of duties, fees and penalties on the imported goods. The South needs to set up their own customs houses, as goods and money will be needed in order for their newly formed government to survive.  They pass a bill which will now employ these once-U.S. custom officials as part of the Confederate Department of Treasury.

Source: Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

President-Elect Abraham Lincoln and his family leave Columbus, Ohio at 8am by train; it is Day 4 of their journey. A pelting rainstorm lingers the entire day, but it doesn’t have much affect as large crowds continue to await him at every stop. Lincoln gives mostly short speeches at the various stops, as his voice continues to grow more hoarse. Throughout the day, members of the party break into song to kill time. It is a long journey of twelve hours, four hours which are spent delayed on the tracks due to a freight train which had broken down. By the time they arrive at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, everyone is cold and tired. Lincoln makes only a few remarks at the Monongahela House, where he is spending the night. He tells the crowds that he will give a longer, better speech tomorrow.

As Lincoln slowly makes his way to Washington, the current President occupying the White House, James Buchanan, is not doing anything when it comes to the secession and the newly formed Confederate States of America. He insists that he lacks power to do anything, but many question whether this is a tactic to simply help the South. President Buchanan’s inaction has been extremely useful to the Confederacy, who are use this time to get things in place when it comes to their government and military. Today in the Chicago Tribune newspaper, there appears a scathing column that likely echoes the sentiments of many in the North:

James Buchanan

Eighteen mortal days remain to be darkened in history by the Administration of James Buchanan. As we look in vain for his parallel in past ages, so let us trust we may wait in vain for his similitude in the future. There have been as bad men in high places before, and there may have been as weak ones whom the destinies of nations have been committed. But there have been none in whom depravity has so struggled with indecision, whose imbecility has so striven with ingrained wickedness, whose cowardice has so thwarted the courage of his ministers, whose better instincts have so stumbled over bad passions, and whose bad passions have been so stultified by gibbering irresolution. Charles I. was a bad prince, but has was a man of energy in the council, and bravery in the field. He lied and fought and hewed his way to the felon’s block with much admirable spirit, and while we agree that his doom was just, we wish in the same breath that his coolness and force of character had found some other channel. Our Mr. Oldbuck is as bad as Charles, but he has no wits. James II (of England), it is true, was distinguished for both depravity and indecision, but through his dreary career of sin and blunders, all readers and all historians agree that there was one thing to which he remained faithful. Whether in power or in banishment, in his Cabinet or among his paramours, on the eve of battle of in the fight which he preferred to any battle – he was a zealous Catholic, and he did all things in his feeble way for the glory of the Pope. Our Public Functionary has been faithful to nothing since he arrived at the age of puberty. Gaston, Duke of Orleans, has been aptly characterized as one who “waged war in spite of Mars and negotiated in spite of Minerva.” During the wars of the Fronde he was noted for going to bed on the eve of every important action and for rushing to the arms at the heels of every important treaty. But Gaston, Duke of Orleans, had a good heart in his coward’s breast, under his fool’s cap. Our J.B. has no heart at all. In the catalogue of Caesars who played such pranks in Rome after the mightiest Julius fell, there was hardly a single scoundrel of them who had not the courage to commit suicide. Our President is only deterred, this day, from surrendering the government to traitors and the desperadoes by the fear of death!

It is whispered at Washington by the knowing ones, how Cabinet Ministers who love their country are obliged to sleep in the White House, to keep out villains steeped in treason – villains who undo in half an hour the patriotic labors of a week. It is whispered how, when the arguments of common patriotism and common decency fail, the argument of the gallows alone constrains the aged infidel to his duty. Oh, what a spectacle for the sun of this century to shine upon!

Original article: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1861/02/14/page/2/article/james-buchanan

About thecivilwarproject

Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.


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