March 4, 1861, a State convention assembled in Little Rock. The election of delegates was on February 18, preceding. The convention met the day Abraham Lincoln was inducted into office as president of the United States. The people of Arkansas were deeply concerned. The conservative minds of the State loved the Union as sincerely as they regretted the wanton assaults that had been made upon them by the extremists of the North. The members of that convention had been elected with a view to the consideration of those matters already visible in the dark war-clouds lowering upon the country. The test of the union and disunion sentiment of that body was the election of president of the convention. Judge David Walker (Union) received forty votes against thirty-five votes for Judge B. C. Totten. Hon. Henry F. Thomasson introduced a series of conservative resolutions, condemning disunion and looking to a convention of all the States to “settle the slavery question” and secure the perpetuation of the Union. The resolutions were passed, and the convention adjourned to meet again in May following. This filled the wise and conservative men of the State with great hopes for the future. But, most unfortunately, when the convention again met war was already upon the country, and the ordinance of secession was passed, with but one negative vote. The few days between the adjournment and re-assembling of the convention had not made traitors of this majority that had so recently condemned disunion. The swift-moving events, everywhere producing consternation and alarm, called out determined men, and excitement ruled the hour.
The conventions of 1861 and 1868 – secession and reconstruction! When the long-gathering cloud-burst of civil war had passed, it left a century’s trail of broken hearts, desolated homes, ruined lives, and a stream of demoralization over-flowing the beautiful valleys of the land to the mountain tops. The innocent and unfortunate slave was the stumbling-block at all times. The convention of 1861 would have founded an empire of freedom, buttressed in the slavery of the black man; the convention of 1868 preferred to rear its great column of liberty upon the ashes of the unfortunate past; in every era the wise, conservative and patriotic sentiment of the land was chained and bound to the chariot-wheels of rejoicing emotion. Prudence and an intelligent insight into the future alone could prevent men from “losing their reason.”