Everyone sensed that it was coming. Oh, yeah! It was coming just like a plague of locusts or grasshoppers eating their way across the prairies. It was inevitable, just as it was inevitable that some fool would propose a plan to prevent it.
Prominent politicians authored two of the schemes that circulated early in 1861. The first, the Crittenden Compromise, was the brainchild of Kentucky Congressman John T. Crittenden. Former President John Tyler promoted the second one, known today as the Washington Peace Conference.
The Crittenden Compromise was a little too much for most Northerners. In essence, it guaranteed the rights of the slave states to continue owning slaves in perpetuity, to extend slavery into the territories north of latitude 36° 30’, and it ensured the enforcement of the fugitive slave laws. If the states thwarted slave owners in restoring their property, it provided for the Federal Government to reimburse them. The Crittenden Compromise contained more provisions, but none that the Union men could stomach.
It contradicted the entire Chicago Platform of the Republican Party. If adopted, it would reverse the course of the election and the will of the people. At least, that was the way Abraham Lincoln and his supporters viewed the Crittenden Compromise.
The House and Senate quickly rejected it.
Another plan that initially showed great promise was the Washington Peace Conference. Former President John Tyler conceived the Peace Conference as a last-ditch effort to prevent the impending crisis. Fourteen free states and seven slave states attended. None of the seven states that had seceded attended.
The Conference convened in the meeting hall of Willard’s Hotel in Washington, DC on February 1, 1861. Most of the participants, like John Tyler, were members of the old guard. They were old men and proven politicians. Of the 132 Peace Commissioners, the majority of them were over fifty years of age. Many of them were in their sixties and seventies.