“... The truth is that there is in the South an organized, active, and dangerous faction, embracing most of the Federal politicians, who are bent upon bringing about causes of a dissolution of the Union. They desire a united South, “but not a united country. Their hope of embodying a sectional antagonism is to secure a sectional defeat. At heart, they do not wish the Democracy to be any longer national, united, or successful. In the name of Democracy they propose to make a nomination for 1860, at Charleston; but an ultra nomination of an extremist on the slavery issue alone, to unite the South on that one idea, and on that to have it defeated by a line of sectionalism which will inevitably draw swords between fanatics on one side and fire-eaters on the other. Bear it in mind, then, that they desire to control a nomination for no other purpose than to have it defeated by a line of sections. They desire defeat, for no other end than to make a pretext for the clamor of dissolution....
“HENRY A. WISE.” MS.
 “I am a secessionist and not a revolutionist, and would not ‘precipitate,’ but carefully prepare to meet an inevitable dissolution.” —Yancey to Pryor, “Richmond South,” copied in “National Intelligencer,” September 4, 1858.
THE CABINET CABAL
Very soon after the effort to unite the Cotton-State governors in the revolutionary plot, we find the local conspiracy at Charleston in communication with the central secession cabal at Washington. James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, was still President of the United States, and his Cabinet consisted of the following members: Lewis Cass, of Michigan, Secretary of State; Howell Cobb, of Georgia, Secretary of the Treasury; John B. Floyd, of Virginia, Secretary of War; Isaac Toucey, of Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy; Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi, Secretary of the Interior; Joseph Holt, of Kentucky, Postmaster-General; and Jeremiah S. Black, of Pennsylvania, Attorney-General. It was in and about this Cabinet that the central cabal formed itself. Even if we could know in detail the successive steps that led to the establishment of this intercourse, which so quickly became “both semi-official and confidential,” it could add nothing to the force of the principal fact that the conspiracy was in its earliest stages efficient in perverting the resources and instrumentalities of the Government of the United States to its destruction. That a United States Senator, a Secretary of War, an Assistant Secretary of State, and no doubt sundry minor functionaries, were already then, from six to eight weeks before any pretense of secession, with, “malice aforethought” organizing armed resistance to the Constitution and laws they had sworn to support, stands forth in the following correspondence too plainly to be misunderstood. As a fitting preface to this correspondence, a few short paragraphs may be quoted from the private diary of the Secretary of War, from which longer and more important extracts appear in a subsequent chapter. Those at present quoted are designed more especially to show the names of the persons composing the primary group of this central cabal, and the time and place of their early consultations and activity.