Lincoln Will Not Let His Party “become a mere sucked egg, all shell and no principle in it”
At the end of January, Lincoln and many other Republicans had grimly come to the realization that nothing short of nullifying the outcome of the November 1860 presidential election would reverse the movement toward secession.
On the floor of the Senate, Senator Ben Wade of Ohio had scornfully alluded to the Southern-leaning Buchanan administration and the long legacy of political influence exercised by pro-slavery representatives in Washington. To his Southern Senate colleagues he declared:
“You have had the legislative power of the country … You own the Cabinet, you own the Senate, and I may add, you own the President … as much as you own the servant upon your own plantation…. What have we to compromise? … [We] went to the people … and we beat you upon the plainest and most palpable issue that ever was presented to the American people.” (1)
In the House of Representatives Samuel S. Blair of Pennsylvania asked,
“Will the generations that are to succeed us believe that at such a time we sat out a whole winter with these guns still pointed at us, trying how far we might go to comply with the demands of traitors, and what new securities we might devise for the protection and spread of human bondage?” (1)
And on January 27, 1861, President-elect Lincoln weighed in. Referring to Southerners’ increasing demands, he said:
“Give them personal liberty bills, and they will pull in the slack, hold on, and insist on the border-state compromises. Give them that, they’ll again pull in the slack and demand Crittenden’s compromise. That pulled in, they will want all that South Carolina asks …By no act or complicity of mine shall the Republican party become a mere sucked egg, all shell and no principle in it… I will suffer death before I will consent or will advise my friends to consent to any concessions or compromise which looks like buying the privilege of taking possession of this government to which we have a constitutional right.” (2)
1) Maury Klein, Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War (Vintage Books, Random House 1997), 137, 233.
2) Harold Holzer, Lincoln, President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 (Simon & Schuster 2008), 240-41.