Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/160

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

ideas and ability as will justify the hope of success, I will take it,' said he, 'But on no other conditions.'

"Mr. Keitt left satisfied, and Mr. Toombs was jubilant. When I returned to the room Mr. Stephens was smoking.

"At the time Montgomery was full to overflowing. Besides the accredited delegates from the six seceding States, there were many politicians and delegates—unofficial, of course—from Virginia, from Maryland, from North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas.

"All represented the radical secessionists of their States, and all were rabid for war. We knew what work had to be done, but Mr. Stephens never opened his lips. Never once was the matter mentioned between us.

"On the evening of February 8th, after the adoption of the Constitution, a motion was made to go into the election of the chief officers. Somebody, I forget who, moved that the election should take place the next day at 12 o'clock, and in the meantime the delegations should consult separately. That was decided on and the meeting adjourned.

"We had hardly reached our hotel when in walked Toombs and Keitt, followed by Judge Chilton, Willy Harris, General Sparrow and Henry Marshall, of Louisiana; Morton and Owen, of Florida, and the whole Georgia delegation. Toombs was the spokesman, and I never saw him in a better humor or looking handsomer.

" 'Alec,' said he, 'you are the choice of every man in Congress, and all of us are ready to pledge ourselves to help you form your cabinet. There is only one point—those fellows from Virginia and the border States want you to promise to strike the first blow.'

"For a moment there was perfect silence. I believe every man in the room held his breath. Mr. Stephens made no reply and Mr. Toombs went on.

" 'Those fellows say their States are hanging in the balance, ready to turn with the first blow. They know Buchanan will never dare to strike us; they believe Lincoln will be as cowardly.

" 'Now they want the question settled in their States, and they want you to promise when the first opportunity offers, say if