This aspect, however, was superficial. Under the surface, a small but determined disunion conspiracy was actively at work. It has left few historical traces; but in 1856 distinct evidence begins to crop out. There was a possibility, though not a probability, that Fremont might be elected President; and this contingency the conspirators proposed to utilize by beginning a rebellion. A letter from the Governor of Virginia to the Governors of Maryland and other States is sufficient proof of such an intent, even without the evidence of later history.
RICHMOND, VA., Sept. 15, 1856.
DEAR SIR: Events are approaching which address themselves to your responsibilities and to mine as chief Executives of slave-holding States. Contingencies may soon happen which would require preparation for the worst of evils to the people. Ought we not to admonish ourselves by joint council of the extraordinary duties which may devolve upon us from the dangers which so palpably threaten our common peace and safety? When, how, or to what extent may we act, separately or unitedly, to ward off dangers if we can, to meet them most effectually if we must?
I propose that, as early as convenient, the Governors of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee shall assemble at Raleigh, N.C., for the purpose generally of consultation upon the state of the country, upon the best means of preserving its peace, and especially of protecting the honor and interests of the slave-holding States. I have addressed the States only having Democratic Executives, for obvious reasons.
This should be done as early
as possible before the Presidential
election, and I would suggest Monday, the 13th of October next.
Will you please give me an early answer, and oblige,
Yours most truly and respectfully,
HENRY A. WISE.
His Excellency Thomas W. Ligon,
Governor of Maryland.
If any explanation were needed of the evident purpose of this letter, or of the proposed meeting, it may be found in the following from Senator Mason, of Virginia, to Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, who was at the time Secretary of War under President Pierce: