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  • General Scott's ‘views’ of the 29th and 30th of October, 1860, published by his authority in the ‘National Intelligenoer’ of the 18th of January, 1861.

Views suggested by the imminent danger (October 29, 1860) of a disruption of the Union by the Secession of one or more of the Southern States.

To save time the right of secession may be conceded, and instantly balanced by the correlative right, on the part of the Federal Government, against an interior State or States, to reestablish by force, if necessary, its former continuity of territory—Paley's Moral and Political Philosophy, last chapter.

But break this glorious Union by whatever line or lines that political madness may contrive, and there would be no hope of reuniting the fragments except by the laceration and despotism of the sword. To effect such result the intestine wars of our Mexican neighbors would, in comparison with ours, sink into mere child's play.

A smaller evil would be to allow the fragments of the great Republic to form themselves into new Confederacies, probably four.

All the lines of demarcation between the new Unions cannot be accurately drawn in advance, but many of them approximately may. Thus, looking to natural boundaries and commercial affinities, some of the following frontiers, after many waverings and conflicts, might perhaps become acknowledged and fixed:

1. The Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic. 2. From Maryland, along the crest of the Alleghany (perhaps the [288] Blue Ridge) range of mountains, to some point on the coast of Florida. 3. The line from say the head of the Potomac to the west or northwest, which it will be most difficult to settle. 4. The crest of the Rocky Mountains.

The Southeast Confederacy would, in all human probability, in less than five years after the rupture, find itself bounded by the first and second lines indicated above, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, with its capital at say Columbia, South Carolina. The country between the second, third, and fourth of those lines would, beyond a doubt, in about the same time, constitute another Confederacy, with its capital at probably Alton or Quincy, Illinois. The boundaries of the Pacific Union are the most definite of all, and the remaining States would constitute the Northeast Confederacy, with its capital at Albany.

It, at the first thought, will be considered strange that seven slaveholding States and parts of Virginia and Florida should be placed (above) in a new Confederacy with Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, etc. But when the overwhelming weight of the great Northwest is taken in connection with the laws of trade, contiguity of territory, and the comparative indifference to free soil doctrines on the part of Western Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, it is evident that but little if any coercion, beyond moral force, would be needed to embrace them; and I have omitted the temptation of the unwasted public lands which would fall entire to this Confederacy—an apanage (well husbanded) sufficient for many generations. As to Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi, they would not stand out a month. Louisiana would coalesce without much solicitation, and Alabama, with West Florida, would be conquered the first winter from the absolute need of Pensacola for a naval depot.

If I might presume to address the South, and particularly dear Virginia—being ‘native here and to the manor born’— would affectionately ask, Will not your slaves be less secure and their labor less profitable under the new order of things than under the old? Could you employ profitably two hundred slaves in all Nebraska, or five hundred in all New Mexico? The right, then, to take them thither would be a barren right. And is it not wise to

Rather bear the ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

The Declaration of Independence proclaims and consecrates the same maxim: ‘Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.’ [289] And Paley, too, lays down as a fundamental maxim of statesmanship, ‘never to pursue national honor as distinct from national interest;’ but adds: ‘This rule acknowledges that it is often necessary to assert the honor of a nation for the sake of its interests.’

The excitement that threatens secession is caused by the near prospect of a Republican's election to the Presidency. From a sense of propriety, as a soldier, I have taken no part in the pending canvass, and, as always heretofore, mean to stay away from the polls. My sympathies, however, are with the Bell and Everett ticket. With Mr. Lincoln I have had no communication whatever, direct or indirect, and have no recollection of ever having seen his person; but cannot believe any unconstitutional violence, or breach of law, is to be apprehended from his administration of the Federal Government.

From a knowledge of our Southern population it is my solemn conviction that there is some danger of an early act of rashness preliminary to secession, viz., the seizure of some or all of the following posts: Forts Jackson and St. Philip, in the Mississippi, below New Orleans, both without garrisons; Fort Morgan, below Mobile, without a garrison; Forts Pickens and McRee, Pensacola harbor, with an insufficient garrison for one; Fort Pulaski, below Savannah, without a garrison; Forts Moultrie and Sumter, Charleston harbor, the former with an insufficient garrison, and the latter without any; and Fort Monroe, Hampton Roads, without a sufficient garrison. In my opinion all these works should be immediately so garrisoned as to make any attempt to take any one of them, by surprise or coup de main, ridiculous.

With the army faithful to its allegiance, and the navy probably equally so, and with a Federal Executive, for the next twelve months, of firmness and moderation, which the country has a right to expect —moderation being an element of power not less than firmness—there is good reason to hope that the danger of secession may be made to pass away without one conflict of arms, one execution, or one arrest for treason.

In the mean time it is suggested that exports should remain as free as at present; all duties, however, on imports, collected (outside of the cities1) as such receipts would be needed for the national debt, invalid pensions, &c., and only articles contraband of war be refused [290] admittance. But even this refusal would be unnecessary, as the foregoing views eschew the idea of invading a seceded State.

Winfield Scott. October 29th, 1860.

Lieut.-General Scott's respects to the Secretary of War to say—

That a copy of his ‘Views, &c.’ was despatched to the President yesterday, in great haste; but the copy intended for the Secretary, better transcribed (herewith), was not in time for the mail. General Scott would be happy if the latter could be substituted for the former.

It will be seen that the ‘Views’ only apply to a case of secession that makes a gap in the present Union. The falling off (say) of Texas, or of all the Atlantic States, from the Potomac south, was not within the scope of General Scott's provisional remedies.

It is his opinion that instructions should be given, at once, to the commanders of the Barancas, Forts Moultrie and Monroe, to be on their guard against surprises and coups de main. As to regular approaches nothing can be said or done, at this time, without volunteers.

There is one (regular) company at Boston, one here (at the Narrows), one at Pittsburg, one at Augusta, Ga., and one at Baton Rouge—in all five companies only, within reach, to garrison or reenforce the forts mentioned in the ‘Views.’

General Scott is all solicitude for the safety of the Union. He is, however, not without hope that all dangers and difficulties will pass away without leaving a scar or painful recollection behind. The Secretary's most obedient servant,

Winfield Scott. October 30th, 1860.

1 In forts or on board ships-of-war. The great aim and object of this plan was to gain time—say eight or ten months—to await expected measures of conciliation on the part of the North, and the subsidence of angry feelings in the opposite quarter.

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