Douglas, Deadlock, & Disunion

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The arrival at the Charleston Hotel today is that of the Hon. W. L. Yancey of Alabama, the prince of the fire-eaters. He is the man said to be charged with a three days’ speech against Douglas. He is a compact, middle-sized man, straight limbed, with a square built head and face, and an eye full of expression. He is mild and bland in manner … and has an air of perfect sincerity.... No one would be likely to point him out in a group of gentlemen as the redoubtable Yancey, who proposes, according to common report, to precipitate the Cotton States into a revolution, dissolve the Union and build up a Southern empire. The strong point made against him by the Douglasites is that he is a disunionist. It will not frighten him nor his Southern friends, however, to apply that epithet to him. I very much doubt whether the Douglas men have a leader competent to cope with him in the coming fight. It is quite clear that while the North may be strongest in votes here, and the most noisy, the South will have the intellect and the pluck to make its points. …

The Douglas men came down here from their headquarters in Washington, where whiskey flows like a river.

Like some vast river of unfailing sources;/ Rapid, exhaustless deep …

—They were full of enthusiasm—rampant and riotous—“hot as monkeys”—and proclaim that the universal world is for the Little Giant. They have a desperate fight before them and are brim full of the sound and fury of boastfulness. …

April 22

Excitement in the city tonight is higher than heretofore. The politicians are in full blast. I think Douglas stock, which went up a little this morning, is now drooping. …

Mills House, where Douglas “men most do congregate,” is as lively as a molasses barrel with flies. Here is where the outside pressure is brought to bear. It is here that “public opinion” is represented according to Douglas. Here they tell you Douglas must be the nominee—all that is to be done is to ratify the voice of the people.” There is nothing but a few ballots, and all is over—Douglas the nominee—South will come down—certain to be elected. The country sale—the party safe. They only want a “chance to raise the warwhoop for Douglas in the Northwest—that’s all. Carry every State Northwest—carry Ohio? Lord, yes! Carry Ohio by twenty thousand.” If somebody suggests, but where are your figures? How can you obtain the two-thirds vote requisite to nominate? And half a dozen of the makers of public opinion tell you all about it. Everything North is claimed, of course, and you hear that on certain ballots Kentucky, Missouri, and Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, California and Oregon are coming into line. “And suppose Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana, with scattering delegates in other States, go out—what then?” “What? why tremendous gains in the North, to be sure, just the thing we want.” But if you suggest, “Douglas stock is drooping a little this evening. It is not at the high mark it was this morning. You have enthusiasm enough, but you have not the votes.” You are told, “Not a bit of it. Douglas stock down—not possible. It can’t go down.” …

At the Charleston House we find another atmosphere. Here are the fire-eaters in full force. We miss … Yancey of Alabama. He is not a man to talk confidentially in crowds. He doesn’t talk politics with or like the common herd. He may be found in the private parlor of the Alabama delegation. And there is William Barksdale, the congressman of Mississippi, with his hat pulled down over his right eye. He has a way of throwing his head on one side, turning up his chin, and talking in a short sharp way, like a New York B’hoy. He is thick set, broad-shouldered and short-legged. His eye is small and fierce. The whole country knows that he wears a wig—for Potter of Wisconsin knocked it off once upon a time. But as for a duel, beware of meeting Barksdale with bowie-knives! He knows how to handle the implement and has handled it. The fire-eaters are talking about principle. A Douglas man or two have strayed down here, and are trying to explain that Douglas doesn’t really mean anything by popular sovereignty [ i.e., local determination of the status of slavery in the territories.—Ed.]. “He had to talk that pretty strong to get back to the Senate.” The people must be talked to violently about something—might as well say popular sovereignty to them as anything else. “Douglas would leave it all to the Courts at last. The Courts will fix it all right. Let us drop this immaterial issue and go in for the strongest man—and his name is Stephen A. Douglas.” The South listens and commences—“What, and we must throw a bone to the Abolitionists, must we, eh? We must compromise with Abolitionism in order to carry the North—must we? No, sir. We have had too much of this. It is time the Democratic party took up sound men, and fought on principle. It is the best policy to fight on principle. … I tell you we can succeed without Douglas. He is the weakest man out. But if he was strongest, I would not give a damn for a victory with him. I want the party destroyed it it is a one-man party. I want defeat if we can’t have honest victory. No unfriendly legislation shall exclude our property [ i.e., slaves—Ed.] from the Territories. We must have our property protected.”…