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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 286 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume I.
more improbable by the symptoms of the times.[127] Indeed, Mr. Seward had said, in famous words, that his section would not play this unworthy part; he had proclaimed already the existence of an “irrepressible conflict;” and therefore the South had the word of the Republican leader that, in spite of the Republican respect for the law, an anti-slavery crusade was already in existence.  The Southern chiefs distinctly recognized and accepted this situation.[128] There was an avowed Northern condemnation of their institution; there was an acknowledged “conflict.”  Such being the case, it was the opinion of the chief men at the South that the position taken by the North, of strict performance of clear constitutional duties concerning an odious institution, would not suffice for the safe perpetuation of that institution.[129] This, their judgment, appeared to be in a certain way also the judgment of Mr. Lincoln; for he also conceived that to put slavery where the “fathers” had left it was to put it “in the way of ultimate extinction;” and he had, in the most famous utterance of his life, given his forecast of the future to the effect that the country would in time be “all free.”  The only logical deduction was that he, and the Republican party which had agreed with him sufficiently to make him president, believed that the South had no lawful recourse by which this result, however unwelcome or ruinous, could in the long run and the fullness of time be escaped.  Under such circumstances Southern political leaders now decided that the time for separation had come.  In speaking of their scheme they called it “secession,” and said that secession was a lawful act because the Constitution was a compact revocable by any of the parties.  They might have called it “revolution,"[130] and have defended it upon the general right of any large body of people, dissatisfied with the government under which they find themselves, to cast it off.  But, if the step was revolution, then the burden of proof was upon them; whereas they said that secession was their lawful right, without any regard whatsoever to the motive which induced them to exercise it.[131] Such was the character of the issue between the North and the South prior to the first ordinance of secession.  The action of South Carolina, followed by the other Gulf States, at once changed that issue, shifting it from pro-slavery versus anti-slavery to union versus disunion.  This alteration quickly compelled great numbers of men, both at the North and at the South, to reconsider and, upon a new issue, to place themselves also anew.

It has been said by all writers that in the seven seceding States there was, in the four months following the election, a very large proportion of “Union men.”  The name only signified that these men did not think that the present inducements to disunion were sufficient to render it a wise measure.  It did not signify that they thought disunion unlawful, unconstitutional, and treasonable.  When, however,

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