1861 January 16: True and Untrue Men
This article is an editorial piece from The Hudson North Star by J.S. Elwell and S.S. Starr. Here Elwell and Starr discuss what they call “True and Untrue Men.” Men who, in their minds either helped or hurt the Union. One of the most interesting phrases used here is “the Imperial Kingdom of South Carolina.”
True and Untrue Men.
Since the veteran satesman, General Cass,1 has left Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet, Postmaster General Holt2 appears to be the truest, and best Union man connected with the Administration. He has proven himself a man of ability, patriotism, and in connection with what he has done in the War Department, a man of nerve. —Mr. Holt has intimated to the Imperial Kingdom of South Carolina, that the moment they attempt to interfere with the postal arrangements of the country, and the postmasters refuse to acknowledge their allegiance to the United States, and undertake to handle the mails as citizens of the new Royal Kingdom, he will order all postmasters not to receive, handle, or mail any letter, paper, or package directed to any part of South Carolina, and that he will immediately discontinue all post routes in the State until the rebels return to loyalty to the Government. This is as it should be, and every Union man will respond a hearty, “so mote it be.” South Carolina will not find it so pleasant and agreeable paying her own postal expenses of $240,000, while the receipts from the same arrangements fall below $50,000.
It seems to us that James Buchanan,3 the imbecile executive of this great nation, has proved the most untrue man of any one in the whole history of our country who has been honored by the people with the highest and proudest position within their gift. Instead of supporting the Constitution and the Union, as he solemnly, before high heave, swore he would, he has made war, both on the Constitution and the Union—at all events, his Administration has.
Howell Cobb4 for the last three years has been avowed, open and bitter disunionist, yet he has been kept in his high place, until the rebellion was rife and he had accomplished all that he could as one of the chief officers of this infamous Administration, when he voluntarily resigned, and goes home to his constituents to complete the traitorous scheme which he long since commenced. He sacked the treasury, cleaned out his department, not leaving a stiver behind.
Floyd,5 another disunionist has been kept in the Cabinet, until his own accord he left. It now appears that he has furnished the insurgents with abundance of arms and ammunitions to make war against the Union, and has scattered the army to the uttermost corners and wildernesses of the nation, and is connected with the big steal on the Indian bureau. There are others of the Cabinet officers, who by their acts have not proven themselves true men and patriots, but it is unnecessary for us to mention their names at this time, for they are known and held execration by every lover of the government of our Fathers.
To us, as an American citizen, it is a sad spectacle to view the rascality, treachery, imbecility and pusilanimity [sic] of James Buchanan’s administration. The toleration of such ignominity [sic] as has been heaped upon us as a nation, by the Kingdom of South Carolina, is sufficient to cause the stern old hero of New Orleans, to arouse himself and march forth in patriotic indignation, from the long silence of the tomb, and summarily rebuke the craven hearted cowards [illegible] have insulted his great memory by declaring there is no power in the Constitution or any part of the Federal Authority.
The prompt action of the gallant Major Anderson,6 in spiking the cannon, and destroying their carriages by fire, and removing his command to Fort Sumpter [sic], where they would be enabled to resist more successfully in the result of being assaulted by superior numbers has produced a profound sensation throughout the entire country, and his efficient and heroic course when the Star of the West was fired into by the South Carolina tross at Morris Island has and will excite the admiration and love of all true patriots, and defenders of the “Stars and Stripes.” All hail, say we, to this noble hero, who as the servant of his, and our country, has proven himself equal to the emergency—the right and true man for the hour and occasion.
1. Lewis Cass (1782-1866) was the 22nd U.S. Secretary of State from March 6, 1857-December 14, 1860. Cass’s biographer, Andrew Cunningham McLaughlin, states that Cass resigned in December 1860 because of Buchanan’s failure to protect federal interests in the South and his failure to mobilize the federal military, actions that might have averted the threatened secession of Southern states. (McLaughlin, Lewis Cass, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1891.)
2. Joseph Holt (1807-1894) was the 18th U.S. Postmaster General from March 9, 1859-December 31, 1860, and the 25th U.S. Secretary of War from January 18-March 5, 1861. The Buchanan administration was shaken in December 1860 and January 1861, when the Confederacy was formed and many cabinet members resigned, including John B. Floyd of Virginia who resigned as Secretary of War. But Holt was anti-slavery and a strong supporter of the Union, and Buchanan appointed him Secretary of War. He served in that capacity until the end of Buchanan’s presidency, when President Lincoln replaced him with Simon Cameron. Lincoln appointed Holt Judge Advocate General of the United State Army in 1862, and as such he was the presiding judge in the trial of the accused conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination.
3. James Buchanan (1791-1868) was the 15th President of the United States from 1857 to 1861. Buchanan was viewed by many as a compromise between the two sides of the slavery question. Buchanan’s efforts to maintain peach between the North and the South alienated both sides.
4. Howell Cobb (1815-1868) served as U.S. Congressman (1843-51; 1855-57), Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1849-51), governor of Georgia (1851-53), and as the 22nd U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (March 7, 1857-December 8, 1860). Following Georgia’s secession from the Union in 1861, he served as president of the Provisional Confederate Congress (1861-62) and a major general of the Confederate army.
5. John B. Floyd (1806-1863) was the 24th U.S. Secretary of War from March 6, 1857-December 29, 1860. (His predecessor in that position was Jefferson Davis and his successor was Joseph Holt.) President Buchanan requested his resignation on December 29, 1860. His resignation was precipitated by the refusal of Buchanan to order Major Robert Anderson to abandon Fort Sumter. On January 27, 1861, he was indicted for conspiracy and fraud. Floyd appeared in court in Washington, D.C., on March 7, 1861, to answer the charges against him, but the indictments were thrown out on a technicality.
6. Major Robert Anderson (1805-1871) was the commanding officer of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War.