Doc. 51.--Confederate Commissioners final letter to Secretary Seward.
Washuington, April 9, 1801.The “memorandum” 1 dated Department of State, Washington, March 15, 1861, has been received through the hands of Mr. J. T. Pickett, Secretary to this Commission, who, by the instructions of the undersigned, called for it on yesterday at the Department. In that memorandum you correctly state the purport of the official note addressed to you by the undersigned on the 12th ult. Without repeating the contents of that note in fill, it is enough to say here that its object was to invite the Government of the United States to a friendly consideration of the relation between the United States and the seven States lately of the Federal Union, but now separated from it by the sovereign will of their people, growing out of the pregnant and undeniable fact that those people have rejected the authority of the United States and established a Government of their own. Those relations had to be friendly or hostile. The people of the old and new Governments, occupying contiguous territories, had to stand to each  other in the relation of good neighbors, each seeking their happiness and pursuing their national destinies in their own way, without interference with the other, or they bad to be rival and hostile nations. The Government of the Confederate States had no hesitation in electing its choice in this alternative. Frankly and unreserved, seeking the good of the people who had intrusted them with power, in the spirit of humanity, of the Christian civilization of the age, and of that Americanism which regards the true welfare and happiness of the people, the Government of the Confederate States, among its first acts, commissioned the undersigned to approach the Government of the United States with the olive branch of peace, and to offer to adjust the great questions pending between them in the only way to be justified by the consciences and common sense of good men who had nothing but the welfare of the people of the two Confederacies at heart. Your Government has not chosen to meet the undersigned in the conciliatory and peaceful spirit in which they are commissioned. Persistently wedded to those fatal theories of construction of the Federal Constitution always rejected by the statesmen of the South, and adhered to by those of the Administration school, until they have produced their natural and often predicted result of the destruction of the Union, under which we might have continued to live happily and gloriously together, had the spirit of the ancestry who framed the common Constitution, animated the hearts of all their sons, you now, with a persistence untaught and uncured by the ruin which has been wrought, refuse to recognize the great fact presented to you of a complete and successful revolution; you close your eyes to the existence of the Government founded upon it, and ignore the high duties of moderation and humanity which attach to you in dealing with this great fact. Had you met these issues with the frankness and manliness with which the undersigned were instructed to present them to you and treat them, the undersigned had not now the melancholy duty to return home and tell their Government and their countrymen, that their earnest and ceaseless efforts in behalf of peace had been futile, and that the Government of the United States meant to subjugate them by force of arms. Whatever may be the result, impartial history will record the innocence of the Government of the Confederate States, and place the responsibility of the blood and mourning that may ensue upon those who have denied the great fundamental doctrine of American liberty, that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and who have set naval and land armaments in motion to subject the people of one portion of the land to the will of another portion. That that can never be done while a freeman survives in the Confederate States to wield a weapon, the undersigned appeal to past history to prove. These military demonstrations against the people of the seceded States are certainly far from being in keeping and consistency with the theory of the Secretary of State, maintained in his memorandum, that these States are still component parts of the late American Union, as the undersigned are not aware of any constitutional power in the President of the United States to levy war without the consent of Congress, upon a foreign people, much less upon any portion of the people of the United States. The undersigned, like the Secretary of State, have no purpose to “invite or engage in discussion” of the subject on which their two Governments are so irreconcilably at variance. It is this variance that has broken up the old Union, the disintegration of which has only begun. It is proper, however, to advise you that it were well to dismiss the hopes you seem to entertain that, by any of the modes indicated, the people of the Confederate States will ever be brought to submit to the authority of the Government of the United States. You are dealing with delusions, too, when you seek to separate our people from our Government and to characterize the deliberate, sovereign act of the people as a “perversion of a temporary and partisan excitement.” If you cherish these dreams you will be awakened from them and find them as unreal and unsubstantial, as others in which you have recently indulged. The undersigned would omit the performance of an obvious duty were they to fail to make known to the Government of the United States that the people of the Confederate States have declared their independence with a full knowledge of all the responsibilities of that act, and with as firm a determination to maintain it by all the means with which nature has endowed them as that which sustained their fathers when they threw off the authority of the British crown. The undersigned clearly understand that you have declined to appoint a day to enable them to lay the objects of the mission with which they are charged, before the President of the United States, because so to do would be to recognize the independence and separate nationality of the Confederate States. This is the vein of thought that pervades the memorandum before us. The truth of history requires that it should distinctly appear upon the record that the undersigned did not ask the Government of the United States to recognize the independence of the Confederate States. They only asked audience to adjust, in a spirit of amity and peace, the new relations springing from a manifest and accomplished revolution in the Government of the late Federal Union. Your refusal to entertain these overtures for a peaceful solution, the active naval and military preparation of this Government, and a formal notice to the commanding general of the Confederate forces in the harbor of Charleston, that the President intends to provision Fort Sumter by forcible means, if necessary, are viewed by the undersigned, and can only be received by the world, as a declaration of war against the Confederate States; for the President of the United States knows that Fort Sumter cannot be provisioned without the effusion of blood. The undersigned, in behalf of their Government and people, accept the gage of battle thus thrown down to them; and appealing to God and the judgment of mankind for the righteousness of their cause, the people of the Confederate States will defend their liberties to the last against this flagrant and open attempt at their subjugation to sectional power. This communication cannot be properly closed without adverting to the date of your memorandum. The official note of the undersigned, of the 12th March, was delivered to the Assistant Secretary of State on the 13th of that month, the gentleman who delivered it, informing him that the Secretary of this Commission would call at 12 o'clock, noon, on the next day, for an answer. At the appointed hour, Mr. Pickett did call, and was informed by the  Assistant Secretary of State that the engagements of the Secretary of State, had prevented him from giving the note his attention. The Assistant Secretary of State then asked for the address of Messrs. Crawford and Forsyth, the members of the Commission then present in this city, took note of the address on a card, and engaged to send whatever reply might be made to their lodgings. Why this was not done it is proper should be here explained. The memorandum is dated March 15, and was not delivered until April 8. Why was it withheld during the intervening twenty-three days? In the postscript to your memorandum you say it “was delayed, as was understood, with their (Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford's) consent.” This is true; but it is also true that on the 15th of March Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford were assured by a person occupying a high official position in the Government, and who, as they believed, was speaking by authority, that Fort Sumter would be evacuated within a very few days, and that no measure changing the existing status prejudicially to the Confederate States, as respects Fort Pickens, was then contemplated, and these assurances were subsequently repeated, with the addition that any contemplated change as respects Pickens, would be notified to us. On the 1st of April we were again informed that there might be an attempt to supply Fort Sumter with provisions, but that Gov. Pickens should have previous notice of this attempt. There was no suggestion of any reenforcements. The undersigned did not hesitate to believe that these assurances expressed the intentions of the Administration at the time, or at all events of prominent members of that Administration. This delay was assented to, for the express purpose of attaining the great end of the mission of the undersigned, to wit: A pacific solution of existing complications. The inference deducible from the date of your memorandum, that the tindersigned had, of their own volition and without cause, consented to this long hiatus in the grave duties with which they were charged, is therefore not consistent with a just exposition of the facts of the case. The intervening twenty-three days were employed in active unofficial efforts, the object of which was to smooth the path to a pacific solution, the distinguished personage alluded to cooperating with the undersigned; and every step of that effort is recorded in writing, and now in possession of the undersigned and of their Government. It was only when all these anxious efforts for peace had been exhausted, and it became clear that Mr. Lincoln had determined to appeal to the sword to reduce the people of the Confederate States to the will of the section or party whose President he is, that the undersigned resumed the official negotiation temporarily suspended, and sent their Secretary for a reply to their official note of March 12. It is proper to add that, during these twenty-three days, two gentlemen of official distinction as high as that of the personage hitherto alluded to aided the undersigned as intermediaries in these unofficial negotiations for peace. The undersigned, Commissioners of the Confederate States of America, having thus made answer to all they deem material in the memorandum filed in the Department on the 15th of March last, have the honor to be, Mr. F. W. Seward, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, at 8 o'clock in the evening of April 9, 1861. Attest,
Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, Washington.
Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, Washington.
J. T. Pickett, Secretary, &c., &c.
Mr. Seward in reply to the Commissioners, acknowledges the receipt of their letter, but declines to answer it.
Department of State, Wasuington, April 10, 1861.Messrs. Forsyth, Crawford, and Roman, having been apprised by a memorandum which has been delivered to them, that the Secretary of State is not at liberty to hold official intercourse with them, will, it is presumed, expect no notice from him of the new communication which they have addressed to him under date of the 9th inst., beyond the simple acknowledgment of the receipt thereof, which he hereby very cheerfully gives. A true copy of the original received by the Commissioners of the Confederate States, this 10th day of April, 1861. Attest,
J. T. Pickett, Secretary &c., &c.
--Tribune, April 19.