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[16] United States, we would observe: 1. That even if this were so, it does not avail you for defence, for the opportunity for decision was afforded you before these facts occurred. We arrived in Washington on Wednesday; the news from Major Anderson reached here early on Thursday, and was immediately communicated to you. All that day men of the highest consideration — men who had striven successfully to lift you to your great office — who had been your tried and true friends through the troubles of your administration, sought you and entreated you to act — to act at once. They told you that every hour complicated your position. They only asked you to give the assurance that if the facts were so — that if the commander had acted without and against your orders, and in violation of your pledges — that you would restore the status you bad pledged your honor to maintain. You refused to decide. Your Secretary at War, your immediate and proper adviser in this whole matter, waited anxiously for your decision, until he felt that delay was becoming dishonor. More than twelve hours passed, and two Cabinet meetings had adjourned, before you knew what the authorities of South Carolina had done; and your prompt decision at any moment of that time would have avoided the subsequent complications. But, if you had known the acts of the authorities of South Carolina, should that have prevented your keeping your faith? What was the condition of things? For the last sixty days you have had in Charleston harbor, not force enough to hold the forts against an equal enemy. Two of them were empty--one of those two the most important in the harbor. It could have been taken at any time. You ought to know better than any man that it would have been taken, but for the efforts of those who put their trust in your honor. Believing that they were threatened by Fort Sumter especially, the people were with difficulty restrained from securing, without blood, the possession of this important fortress. After many and reiterated assurances, given on your behalf, which we cannot believe unauthorized, they determined to forbear, and in good faith sent on their Commissioners to negotiate with you. They meant you no harm — wished you no ill. They thought of you kindly, believed you true, and were willing, as far as was consistent with duty, to spare you unnecessary and hostile collision. Scarcely had these Commissioners left than Major Anderson waged war. No other words will describe his action. It was not a peaceful change from one fort to another; it was a hostile act in the highest sense, and only justified in the presence of a superior enemy, and in imminent peril. He abandoned his position, spiked his guns, burned his gun-carriages, made preparations for the destruction of his post, and withdrew, under cover of the night, to a safer position. This was war. No man could have believed (without your assurance) that any officer could have taken such a step, “not only without orders, but against orders.” What the State did was in simple self-defence; for this act, with all its attending circumstances, was as much war as firing a volley; and war being thus begun, until those commencing it explained their action and disavowed their intention, there was no room for delay; and even at this moment while we are writing, it is more than probable, from the tenor of your letter, that reinforcements are hurrying on to the conflict, so that when the first gun shall be fired, there will have been on your part one continuous, consistent series of actions, commencing in a demonstration essentially warlike, supported by regular reinforcements and terminating in defeat or victory. And all this without the slightest provocation; for, among the many things which you have said, there is one thing you cannot say — you have waited anxiously for news from the seat of war, in hopes that delay would furnish some excuse for this precipitation. But this “tangible evidence of a design to proceed to a hostile act, on the part of the authorities of South Carolina,” which is the only justification of Major Anderson you are forced to admit, “has not yet been alleged.” But you have decided, you have resolved to hold, by force, what you have obtained through our misplaced confidence; and by refusing to disavow the action of Major Anderson, have converted his violation of orders into a legitimate act of your executive authority. Be the issue what it may, of this we are assured, that, if Fort Moultrie has been recorded in history as a memorial of Carolina gallantry, Fort Sumter will live upon the succeeding page as an imperishable testimony of Carolina faith.

By your course, you have probably rendered civil war inevitable. Be it so. If you choose to force this issue upon us, the State of South Carolina will accept it, and, relying upon Him who is the God of Justice as well as the God of Hosts, will endeavor to perform the great duty which lies before her hopefully, bravely, and thoroughly.

Our mission being one for negotiation and peace, and your note leaving us without hope of a withdrawal of the troops from Fort Sumter, or of the restoration of the status quo existing at the time of our arrival, and intimating, as we think, your determination to reinforce the garrison in the harbor of Charleston, we respectfully inform you that we purpose returning to Charleston to-morrow afternoon.

We have the honor to be, Sir, very respectfully your obedient servants.

R. W. Barnwell, Commissioners. J. H. Adams, Commissioners. James L. Orr, Commissioners. To His Excellency the President of the United States.

The following is the indorsement upon the document:

Executive mansion, 3 1/2 o'clock, Wednesday.
This paper, just presented to the President, is of such a character that he declines to receive it.

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