The question, he said, to be considered and discussed, was as to the course the Administration should advise him to pursue in relation to the threatening aspect of affairs in the South, and most particularly in South Carolina. After a considerable amount of desultory conversation, he asked the opinions of each member of the Cabinet as to what should be done or said relative to a suggestion which he threw out. His suggestion was that a proposition should be made for a general convention of the States as provided for under the Constitution, and to propose some plan of compromising the angry disputes between the North and the South. He said if this were done, and the North or non-slaveholding States should refuse it, the South would stand justified before the whole world for refusing longer to remain in a confederacy where her rights were so shamefully violated. He said he was compelled to notice at length the alarming condition of the country, and that he would not shrink from the duty.
General Cass spoke with earnestness and much feeling about the impending crisis—admitted fully all the great wrongs and outrages which had been committed against the South by Northern fanaticism, and deplored it. But he was emphatic in his condemnation of the doctrine of secession by any State from the Union. He doubted the efficacy of the appeal for a convention, but seemed to think it might do well enough to try it. He spoke warmly in favor of using force to coerce a State that attempted to secede.
Judge Black, the Attorney-General, was emphatic in his advocacy of coercion, and advocated earnestly the propriety of sending at once a strong force into the forts in Charleston harbor, enough to deter, if possible, the people from, any attempt at disunion. He seemed to favor the idea of an appeal for a general convention of all the States.
Governor Cobb, the Secretary of the Treasury, declared his very decided approbation of the proposition for two reasons—first, that it afforded the President a great opportunity for a high and statesmanlike treatment of the whole subject of agitation, and the proper remedies to prevent it; secondly, because, in his judgment, the failure to procure that redress which the South would be entitled to and would demand (and that failure he thought certain), would tend to unite the entire South in a decided disunion movement. He thought disunion inevitable, and under present circumstances most desirable.
Mr. Holt, the Postmaster-General, thought the proposition for the convention dangerous, for the reason that if the call should be made and it should fail to procure redress, those States which now are opposed to secession might find themselves inclined, from a feeling of honor, to back the States resolving on disunion. Without this common demand and common failure he thought there would be no such danger of united action, and therefore