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[201] you have expressed in the following words: “I do not come as a military man to demand the surrender of a fortress, but as the legal officer of the State—its attorney-general—to claim for the State the exercise of its undoubted right of eminent domain, and to pledge the State to make good all injury to the rights of property which arise from the exercise of the claim” And lest this explicit language should not sufficiently define your position, you add: “The proposition now is that her [South Carolina's] law officer should, under authority of the Governor and his council, distinctly pledge the faith of South Carolina to make such compensation, in regard to Fort Sumter and its appurtenances and contents, to the full extent of the money value of the property of the United States, delivered over to the authorities of South Carolina by your command.” You then adopt his Excellency's train of thought upon the subject, so far as to suggest that the possession of Fort Sumter by the United States, “if continued long enough, must lead to collision,” and that “an attack upon it would scarcely improve it as property, whatever the result; and if captured, it would no longer be the subject of account.”

The proposal, then, now presented to the President, is simply an offer on the part of South Carolina to buy Fort Sumter and contents as property of the United States, sustained by a declaration, in effect, that if she is not permitted to make the purchase she will seize the fort by force of arms. As the initiation of a negotiation for the transfer of property between friendly governments, this proposal impresses the President as having assumed a most unusual form. He has, however, investigated the claim on which it professes to be based, apart from the declaration that accompanies it. And it may be here remarked, that much stress has been laid upon the employment of the words “property” and “public property” by the President in his several messages. These are the most comprehensive terms which can be used in such a connection, and surely, when referring to a fort or any other public establishment, they embrace the entire and undivided interest of the Government therein.

The title of the United States to Fort Sumter is complete and incontestable. Were its interest in this property purely


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