Page images
PDF
EPUB

SECTION V

THE PERIOD OF DIVISION, OR GEORGIA IN THE ASSERTION

OF STATE RIGHTS

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER I

Two FUNDAMENTAL CAUSES OF THE CIVIL WAR IN AMERICA: THE COTTON

GIN AND THE DOCTRINE OF SECESSION—THE CONVENTION OF 1867 IN A DEADLOCK-FIVE CANDIDATES, LUMPKIN, GARDNER, LAMAR, STILES AND WARNER-JOSEPH E. BROWN A COMPROMISE CANDIDATE-AT WORK IN HIS WHEAT FIELD WHEN NOTIFIED—How Mr. ToomBS RECEIVED THE NEWS-BENJAMIN H. HILL NOMINATED BY THE OPPOSITION—CANDIDATES CONTRASTED— THE BED-QUILT EPISODE-BROWN WINS THE GOVERNORSHIP BY 10,000 VOTES—GEORGIA'S WAR GOVERNOR -His HUMBLE START IN LIFE_WITHOUT INHERITING SLAVE PROPERTY, HE BECOMES AN ARDENT CHAMPION OF THE SOUTH's PECULIAR INSTITUTION—THE CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION—THE NEW STATE LEGISLATURE-ROBERT TOOMBS RE-ELECTED UNITED STATES SENATORGOVERNOR BROWN'S INAUGURAL—THE NEW EXECUTIVE IN A CLASH WITH THE STATE BANKS-FORFEITURE OF CHARTERS THREATENED BILL TO DELAY PROCEEDINGS PASSED OVER THE GOVERNOR'S VETO -PUBLIC SENTIMENT SUSTAINS THE EXECUTIVE-GOVERNOR BROWN UPROOTS ESTABLISHED CUSTOMS, PUTTING AN END TO SOCIAL LEVEES AND OUTLAWING INTOXICANTS FROM THE MANSION.

When Eli Whitney, a New Englander, then visiting the family of Gen. Nathanael Greene, near Savannah, Georgia, invented the cotton gin in 1793, he unconsciously riveted the institution of slavery upon the South and changed the whole future course of American history. When, in 1814, the Hartford convention boldly asserted the right of secession, it spoke only for the merchants of New England whose commerce was endangered by our second war for independence. But the doctrine enunciated by the Hartford convention became a disturbing factor in American politics, destined to play the part of Banquo's ghost.*

Great events are ofttimes cradled in obscure beginnings. To find the headwaters of the Mississippi River we must follow its current back to a secluded lake, in the great heart of the Rocky Mountains; and from these two apparently unrelated facts, the invention of the cotton gin and the right of a state to secede, first boldly 'asserted in the form of a threat by the Hartford convention, we may date the beginnings of our great Civil war. Ten years in advance of Mr. Lincoln's election to the presidency, William L. Yancey, a native Georgian, led a revolt which shook the

* See “History of the Hartford Convention,” by Timothy Dwight, secretary of the convention, 1833. Schuyler's “History of United States," Vol. II, pp. 469-476. Going still further back, three states, before entering the Union, expressly reserved the right to secede. These were, Rhode Island, New York, and North Carolina. Bancroft's “History of the United States.'' Author's last revision.

New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1884, pp. 452-462. Chapter on “ The Lingering States.''

nation to its vital center and threatened a dismemberment of the Union.* But the fires of this volcanic upheaval were happily soon extinguished; and, for the purposes of this work, it will suffice to date the period of division in Georgia from the famous convention of 1857, which resulted in the nomination of Georgia's renowned war governor: Joseph E. Brown.

There were five candidates before this convention: John H. Lumpkin, of Rome, an ex-congressman; James Gardner, of Augusta, perhaps the foremost editor in the state, then editing the famous Constitutionalist; William H. Stiles, of Savannah, a diplomat, whose "History of Austria” had appeared in 1848; Henry G. Lamar, of Macon, an excongressman; and Hiram Warner, of Greeneville, a former occupant of the Supreme Bench, afterwards chief justice of the state. These men were all richly endowed and well equipped for public life. Judges Lumpkin and Lamar had won national distinction in Congress and had also made fine records as Superior Court judges. William H. Stiles was one of the most polished orators in the state, brilliant, erudite, accomplished. James Gardner was a man, small in stature but powerful in intellect and possessed of a rare quality of personal courage. Hiram Warner was one of the state's wisest oracles, a man whose great brain, like his pure life, was crystal-clear. Never perhaps in Georgia have abler men contested for the gubernatorial honors.

But scarcely less distinguished was the personnel of the convention itself, an extraordinary assemblage of men. There were nearly 400 delegates in attendance, representing 107 counties. Hon. Tennent Lomax, of Columbus, a gifted editor, then wielding a powerful pen in state politics, was made the convention's presiding officer. To mention some of the delegates, we find enrolled: Linton Stephens, Osborne A. Lochrane, John W. H. Underwood, William Phillips, George A. Gordon, Alfred Austell, Richard H. Clark, Leander N. Trammell, P. M. Russell, William Hope Hull, T. W. Thomas, E. W. Chastain, William H. Dabney, Julian Cumming, George T. Barnes, Peyton H. Colquitt, Charles J. Williams, E. W. Beck, T. L. Guerry, George Hillyer, B. D. Evans, Sr., E. H. Pottle, D. B. Harrell, Hugh Buchanan and F. H. West. One of these, Judge Lochrane, afterwards became chief justice of Georgia. Judge Linton Stephens was also destined to occupy a seat on the supreme bench. In the opinion of many, his powers of mind transcended those of his halfbrother, Alexander H. Stephens. Six of these delegates, Messrs. Chastain, Wright, Underwood, Barnes, Beck and Buchanan, afterwards became members of Congress. Perhaps at least twenty afterwards became judges of the Superior Court. Gen. William Phillips was to command a famous legion in the Civil war. Gen. Alfred Austell was to organize the first national bank in the Southern States. So much for the younger delegates; most of the older ones were seasoned veterans, rich alike in the honors and in the scars of democracy.

But to proceed. The convention assembled on June 24, 1857. Each of the candidates possessed an enthusiastic following. All were confident of success; and there was little talk of a dark horse. But the uncertainties of politics are proverbial. On the first ballot the vote stood: Lumpkin, 112; Gardner, 100; Lamar, 97; Warner, 53; and Stiles, 35. Subsequent ballots revealed a hopeless deadlock. Vote after vote was taken without success. Other candidates were named, but only to receive a minority support; and the situation remained substantially unchanged. Thereupon some of the candidates were dropped. First, the name of Stiles was withdrawn; then Warner's; and, finally, on the twentieth ballot, the vote stood: Lumpkin, 179.; Lamar, 175; Herschel V. Johnson, 11; Augustus R. Wright, 5; Hiram Warner, 1; John E. Ward, 3; and Joseph E. Brown, 3. Still there was no result. The deadlock still continued; but unconsciously, at least to most of the delegates, the name of the successful candidate had been sounded.

*“Life and Times of Wm. L. Yancey,” by John Wetherspoon Du Bose.

| Files of the Milledgeville Federal Union, June 24, 1857, et seq. Avery's “History of Georgia,'' 1850-1881, pp. 31-38.

It was in this wise that a nomination was finally made: On motion of William Hope Hull, of Athens, a committee of three from each congressional district was appointed to report a compromise candidate; and this committee, consisting of twenty-four members in all, was named as follows: 1. Randolph Spalding, George A. Gordon and William Nichols. 2. C. J. Williams, N. McBain and J. A. Tucker. 3. R. H. Clark, J. A. Ramsay and B. H. Ward. 4. Hugh Buchanan, W. T. Thurmond and William Phillips. 5. John W. H. Underwood, E. W. Chastain and Wesley Shropshire. 6. S. J. Smith, J. E. Roberts and William Hope Hull. 7. Linton Stephens, William McKinley and Jefferson M. Lamar. 8. Isaiah T. Irwin, Alex. C. Walker and E. H. Pottle. This committee immediately retired from the hall.

Credit for its effective work must be given to Col. L. N. Trammell, one of the great political Warwicks of his day in Georgia. On leaving his home in the mountains to attend the convention, Colonel Trammell was bent upon nominating his candidate, who, a mountaineer like himself, was then judge of the Blue Ridge Circuit-Joseph E. Brown. Seeing an opportunity for success in the organization of this committee, he secured the appointment of three Brown delegates as members from the Sixth District. In the committee room, Judge Linton Stephens, of Sparta, proposed Judge Brown's name, and sentiment in favor of the North Georgia jurist was so pronounced that he was presented to the convention as the committee's compromise candidate for governor. Hon. Isaiah T. Irwin, of Wilkes, presented Judge Brown's name. His nomination followed.

Like the Roman Cincinnatus, when summoned to the capital in an hour full of anxiety for Rome, Georgia's future war governor was at work in his wheat field, near Canton, engaged in binding wheat, when the news came from Milledgeville telling him of the convention's action. It was like a bolt from the blue. Judge Brown was taken wholly unawares. But not less surprised was Mr. Toombs, when he received the news, out in Texas. Leaving home early in June, Mr. Toombs on the eve of departure had conferred with the democratic leaders and had, so to speak, mapped out a program. But the political slate was broken into fragments. On hearing the result, Mr. Toombs, in an outburst of profanity, is said to have asked the question, afterwards much quoted:

"Who in the devil is Joe Brown?''*

Also Sketch on Atlanta Constitution,

*"Life of Toombs,” by P. A. Stovall. Signed “H. W. G.

« PreviousContinue »