Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/452

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

influence of statesmen of the school known as the "Clay-Whig." One of the few original secessionists told me that at first there were but twenty-five members of that opinion, and that they gained no accessions, until they were given them by the usurpations of the Lincoln party. The Convention assembled with a fixed determination to preserve the Union, if forbearance and prudence could do it consistently with the rights of the States. Such, as is well known, were, in the main, Colonel Baldwin's views and purposes.

But Mr. Lincoln's inaugural, with its hints of coercion and usurpation, the utter failure of the "Peace-Congress" and the rejection of Mr. Crittenden's overtures, the refusal to hear the commissioners from Mr. Davis' Government at Montgomery, and the secret arming of the Federal Government for attack, had now produced feverish apprehensions in and out of the Convention. Colonel Baldwin considered Mr. Wm. Ballard Preston, of Montgomery county, as deservedly one of the most influential members of that body. This statesman now began to feel those sentiments, which, soon after, prompted him to move and secure the passage of the resolution to appoint a formal commission of three ambassadors from the Convention to Lincoln's Government, who should communicate the views of Virginia, and demand those of Mr. Lincoln. [That commission consisted of Wm. B. Preston, Alex. H. H. Stuart and Geo. W. Randolph. We will refer to its history in the sequel.] Meantime Mr. Preston, with other original Union men, were feeling thus: "If our voices and votes are to be exerted farther to hold Virginia in the Union, we must know what the nature of that Union is to be. We have valued Union, but we are also Virginians, and we love the Union only as it is based upon the Constitution. If the power of the United States is to be perverted to invade the rights of States and of the people, we would support the Federal Government no farther. And now that the attitude of that Government was so ominous of usurpation, we must know whither it is going, or we can go with it no farther." Mr. Preston especially declared that if he were to become an agent for holding Virginia in the Union to the destruction of her honor, and of the liberty of her people and her sister States, he would rather die than exert that agency.

Meantime Mr. Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, sent Allen B. Magruder, Esq.. as a confidential messenger to Richmond, to hold an interview with Mr. Janney (President of the Convention), Mr. Stuart, and other influential members, and to urge that one of them should come to Washington, as promptly as possible, to con-