Already another faction had formed around William L. Yancey of Alabama--a faction as intolerant of political evasion as the Republicans themselves, and one that was eager to match the sectional Northern party by a sectional Southern party. It had for the moment fallen into line with the Toombs faction because, like the Whigs, it had not the courage to do otherwise. The question now was whether it would continue fearful, and whether political evasion would continue to reign.
The key to the history of the next four years is in the growth of this positive Southern party, which had the inevitable result of forcing the Whig remainder to choose, not as in 1856 between a positive sectional policy and an evasive nonsectional policy, but in 1860 between two policies both of which were at once positive and sectional.
CHAPTER III. THE POLITICIANS AND THE NEW DAY
The South had thus far been kept in line with the cause of political evasion by a small group of able politicians, chief among whom were Robert Toombs, Howell Cobb, and Alexander H. Stephens. Curiously enough all three were Georgians, and this might indeed be called the day of Georgia in the history of the South.
A different type of man, however, and one significant of a divergent point of view, had long endeavored to shake the leadership of the Georgian group. Rhett in South Carolina, Jefferson Davis in Mississippi, and above all Yancey in Alabama, together with the interests and sentiment which they represented, were almost ready to contest the orthodoxy of the policy of "nothing doing." To consolidate the interests behind them, to arouse and fire the sentiment on which they relied, was now the confessed purpose of these determined men. So little attention has hitherto been given to motive in American politics that the modern student still lacks a clear-cut and intelligent perception of these various factions. In spite of this fact, however, these men may safely be regarded as being distinctly more intellectual, and as having distinctly deeper natures, than the men who came together under the leadership of Toombs and Cobb, and who had the true provincial enthusiasm for politics as the great American sport.
The factions of both Toombs and Yancey were intensely Southern and, whenever a crisis might come, neither meant to hesitate an instant over striking hard for the South. Toombs, however, wanted to prevent such a situation, while Yancey was anxious to force one. The former conceived felicity as the joy of playing politics on the biggest stage, and he therefore bent all his strength to preserving the so-called national parties; the latter, scornful of all such union, was for a separate Southern community.
Furthermore, no man could become enthusiastic about political evasion unless by nature he also took kindly to compromise. So, Toombs and his followers were for preserving the negative Democratic position of 1856. In a formal paper of great ability Stephens defended that position when he appeared for reelection to Congress in 1857. Cobb, who had entered Buchanan's Cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury, and who spoke hopefully of making Kansas a slave state, insisted nevertheless that such a change must be "brought about by the recognized principles of carrying out the will of the majority which is the great doctrine of the Kansas Bill." To Yancey, as to the Republicans, Kansas was a disputed border-land for which the so-called two nations were fighting.
The internal Southern conflict between these two factions began anew with the Congressional elections of 1857. It is worth observing that the make-up of these factions was almost a resurrection of the two groups which, in 1850, had divided the South on the question of rejecting the Compromise. In a letter to Stephens in reference to one of the Yancey men, Cobb prophesied: "McDonald will utterly fail to get up a new Southern Rights party. Burnt children dread the fire, and he cannot get up as strong an organization as he did in 1850. Still it is necessary to guard every point, as McDonald is a hard hand to deal with." For the moment, he foretold events correctly. The Southern elections of 1857 did not break the hold of the moderates.