Monday, January 14, 1861
The House Committee of Thirty-Three (one for each state – though a few states had left) was the counterpart to the Senate’s Committee of Thirteen. Like the Senate committee, the House committee found it impossible to come to a compromise and adjourned having solved nothing.
That left the final report in the hands of Ohio Representative Thomas Corwin, a sixty-seven year old former Ohio Governor and former Secretary of the Treasury in the Fillmore administration. He was (narrowly) voted the lucky fellow to gather as many of the ideas as possible and put them into a final compromise report.
Corwin’s compromise (and thus the Committee of Thirty-Three’s compromise) was presented to the House on this day.
This report called for a Constitutional amendment “whereby any power to interfere with Slavery in the States is forever denied to Congress, until every State of the Union, by its individual action, shall consent to its exercise.”
It also wished to allow the 36° 10′ latitude line of the Missouri Compromise to extend through the territories (today, through New Mexico and Arizona). There, “slavery shall be recognized and protected by law.” And about that, it called for New Mexico to be admitted as a slave state.
The Committee also wished to strengthen the Fugitive Slave Law, moving the enforcement of the law from the states to the Federal Government and granting the escaped slaves a trial in the state from which they ran away.
The Report was ordered to be printed and would be debated on the 21st.1
Holding the Fort in Florida
In Key West, Florida, an attack by the local citizens was expected upon the empty Fort Taylor. Captain John Brannan and the men of Battery B, 1st US Artillery stayed in the Barracks, which lay on the opposite side of the city from the fort (Fort Taylor was on the West side of town, on a small spit, while the barracks were on the west side of town – a map can be seen here).
Brannon had heard of the other Atlantic and Gulf forts falling to the rebels and decided to take action. He wrote to Washington informing them of what he would do and then did it.
Taking a roundabout route, he led his 44 men into Fort Taylor under cover of darkness. He had provisions enough to hold out for four months.2
Letters and More Cabinet Shuffling
Isaac Hayne, South Carolina’s Attorney General was to meet with President Buchanan to deliver a letter from Governor Pickens. Buchanan and his Cabinet were unsure of exactly what was in the letter, but assumed it to be a demand to surrender Fort Sumter. Hayne was contacted by Alabama Senator Clement Clay on behalf of other Southern Senators wishing him to withhold the letter until the South could form some sort of centralized confederacy.
Hayne would not meet with the President on this day, but wasn’t fully convinced that he should withhold the letter altogether.3
Also in Cabinet news, Secretary of the Treasury Philip Thomas, who had only taken the seat a month ago, resigned his position. He found that he could not agree with Buchanan “in the measures which have been adopted in reference to the present condition of things in South Carolina, nor do I think it at all probable that I shall be able to concur in the views which you entertain, so far as I understand them, touching the authority under existing laws, to enforce the collection of the customs at the port of Charleston.”4
- New York Times, January 17, 1861 has the full text of the report. Background information from Days of Defiance by Maury Klein. [↩]
- The Rebellion Record, Supplement, First Volume by Edward Everett, G. P. Putnam, 1864. [↩]
- Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America, Volume 1 by Benson John Lossing, 1866. [↩]
- Thomas’s Letter of Resignation, January 14, 1861. [↩]