Chapter 12: the inauguration of President Lincoln, and the Ideas and policy of the Government.
- Military preparations for the inauguration, 287.
-- the inauguration, 289.
-- Lincoln's Inaugural Address, 290.
-- the inauguration Ball, 294.
-- Cabinet ministers appointed, 295.
-- opinions of the President's Inaugural Address, 296.
-- financial condition of the Government, 297.
-- the Army
-- forts and arsenals seized by the insurgents, 298.
-- the Navy, 299.
-- Purging of the public offices of disloyal men--“Confederate” Commissioners at Washington, 300.
-- the Secretary of State refuses to acknowledge them
-- his “Memorandum.”
-- the theory of the Government and, the insurrection
-- a go-between, 302.
-- the “Commissioners” final letter, 303.
-- Judge Campbell's letter, 304.
-- its use and effect, 305.
-- secret history concerning the attempt to re-enforce and relieve the garrison in Fort Sumter, 306.
Monday, the 4th of March, 1861, will ever be a memorable day in the annals of the Republic
On that day a Chief Magistrate
was installed who represented the loyal and free spirit of the nation, which had found potential expression in a popular election.
That election proclaimed, in the soft whispers of the ballot, an unchangeable decree, that slave labor should cultivate no more of the free land of the Republic
Professedly on account of that decree, the advocates of such labor commenced a revolt; and it was in the midst of the turmoil caused by the mad cry of insurgents, that Abraham Lincoln
went up to the National Capital
, and was inaugurated the Sixteenth President
of the United States of America
The inaugural ceremonies were performed quietly and orderly, at the usual place, over the broad staircase at the eastern front of the Capitol
, whose magnificent dome was only half finished.
In order to insure quiet and safety, and the performance of the ceremony in the usual peaceful form, General Scott
had collected about six hundred regular troops in the city, but they were so scattered that their presence was scarcely perceptible.
They had been making their way to the capital in small numbers from different points for several weeks, and the conspirators were so impressed with the belief that the total force was enormous in strength — that a vast number of troops were hidden all about the city — that they abandoned the scheme of seizing Washington
, preventing the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln
, and placing one of their number in the Executive Chair
They were undeceived, four days before the inauguration, by a Message of the President
in response to an inquiry by Congress concerning the number of troops in the city.2
It was then too late for them to organize
the “Minute-men” of Maryland
This condition, and the natural belief that many of the thousands of the loyal people who were pouring into the Capital
to participate in the ceremonies were well armed, kept the enemies of the Republic
in perfect restraint.
The dawn of the 4th of March was pleasant, and the day was a bright one. Washington City
was crowded by more than twenty-five thousand strangers, a large portion of them the political friends of the President elect
The streets around Willard's Hotel were densely packed, at an early hour, with eager watchers for the appearance of Mr. Lincoln
The forenoon wore away, and he was yet invisible to the public eye. He was waiting for Mr. Buchanan
, who was engaged almost up to twelve o'clock, the appointed hour for the inaugural ceremonies, in signing bills at his room in the Capitol
Then he was conveyed rapidly to the White House
, where he entered a barouche, waited upon by servants in livery, and hastened to Willard
's. The President elect
, with the late Senators Pearce
, there entered
Scene of the inauguration. |
the carriage, and at a little before one o'clock the procession, under the direction of Chief Marshal Major French
, moved along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol
Mounted troops, under the direction of General Scott
, moved on the flanks on parallel streets,
ready for action at a concerted signal.4
They were not needed.
The pro, cession passed on without interruption, excepting by the enormous crowd.
At half-past 1 the two Presidents
left the carriage, went into the Capitol
, and, preceded by Major French
, entered the Senate Chamber
arm in arm. Mr. Buchanan
was pale and nervous; Mr. Lincoln
's face was slightly flushed with emotion, but he was a model of self-possession.
They sat waiting a few minutes before the desk of the President
of the Senate.
,” an eye-witness said, “sighed audibly and frequently.
was grave and impassive as an Indian martyr.”
The party soon proceeded to the platform over the ascent to the eastern portico, where the Supreme Court, the Senate and House of Representatives, Foreign Ministers, and other privileged persons were assembled, while an immense congregation of citizens filled the space below.
was introduced to the people by Senator Baker
, of Oregon
; and as he stepped forward, his head towering above most of those around him (for his hight was six feet and four inches),5
he was greeted with vehement applause.
Then, with a clear, strong voice, be read his Inaugural Address, during which service Senator Douglas
, lately his competitor for the honors and duties he was now assuming, held the hat of the new President
At the close of the reading, the late Chief-Justice Taney
administered the oath of office to him, when the President
and ex-President re-entered the Capitol
, and the former proceeded immediately to the White House
. Mr. Buchanan
drove to the house of District-Attorney Ould
and on the following day left for his beautiful seat of “Wheatland
,” near Lancaster, in Pennsylvania
, which he reached on the 6th.8
There he was received by a large concourse of his fellow-citizens, with a fine display of military, and civic societies.
He was welcomed home by an address; and, in response, he congratulated himself on his retirement from public life, and announced his intention to pass the remainder of his existence as a “good citizen, a faithful friend, an adviser of those who needed advice, and a benefactor of the widows and the fatherless.”
He alluded to public affairs only to express a hope that the Constitution
and the Union
might be preserved.
's Inaugural Address was waited for with intense interest and anxiety throughout the Republic
At no period in its wonderful career had the nation been in so great peril as at that time.
Already a rebellion had been allowed to acquire formidable moral and physical proportions, and republican institutions and a republican form of government, against which its deadly blows were to be aimed, were now put upon their trial before the bar of the great powers of the earth.
was their chosen counsel and defender; and he now entered upon the momentous task of vindicating their might and invincible vitality, with no precedents to guide him, and no statutes for support other than the opinions and theories of the fathers, sometimes only dimly shadowed, and the plain letter of the National Constitution
With these helps, the exercise of sound judgment, abounding common sense, an honest purpose, patriotism without alloy, and with the illumination that comes down to the earnest seeker for Divine light and assistance, Mr. Lincoln
stood up bravely before that bar with his brief, and entered upon the cause.
“ Apprehensions,” said Mr. Lincoln
in his Inaugural,
seem to exist among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered.
There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension.
Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection.
It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of these speeches, when I declare that “I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of Slavery in the States where it exists.
I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”
Those who nominated and elected me, did so with full knowledge that I had made this ind similar declarations, and had never recanted them.
And, more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read :--
“Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic
institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to the balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend;9 and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.”
I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration.
I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States, when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause — as cheerfully to one section as to another.
The President referred to the Fugitive Slave Act
as constitutional, but suggested that it should have provisions that would throw around it “all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence,” so that “a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave.”
He also suggested that it might be well to provide by law “for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution
which guaranties that ‘ the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.’
” These “privileges and immunities” had not been fully enjoyed by citizens of the Free-labor States while in the Slave-labor States, for many years.
The President then spoke of the political construction and character of the Republic
“I hold,” he said,
that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments.
It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.
Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever — it being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.
If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of a contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it?
One party to a contract may violate it-break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?
Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself.
The Union is much older than the Constitution.
It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association, in 1774.
It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence, in 1776.
It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation, in 1778.
And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was, “to form a more perfect Union.”
But if the destruction of the Union, by one or by a part only of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before, the Constitution having lost the vital element of perpetuity.10
It follows, from these views, that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union ; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.
I, therefore, consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken, and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States.
Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it, so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary.
I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union, that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.
In doing this, there need be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the National authority.
The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be but necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.
Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object.
While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable withal, I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.
The President then declared that he should endeavor, by justice, to reconcile all discontents, with a hope of bringing about a “peaceful solution of the National
If there were any who sought to destroy the Union
in any event, to those he need “address no word.”
To those who really loved the Union
, he spoke in terms of zealous and earnest pleading, asking them to consider well so “grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes,” before undertaking it. He asked the malcontents to point to a single instance where “any right, plainly written in the Constitution
,” had been denied.
He declared that if, “by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution-certainly would if such right were a vital one.
But such is not our case,” he said.
“All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them, by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions in the Constitution
, that controversies never arise concerning them.”
The President then spoke of the necessity of acquiescence of either minorities or majorities in the decisions of questions.
Without such acquiescence, the Government
could not exist.
“If a minority in such case,” he said, “will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which, in turn, will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority.
For instance, why may not any portion of a new Confederacy, a year or two hence, arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? . . . Plainly, the central idea of secession is anarchy.
A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.
Whoever rejects it, does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism.”
The President referred to the binding character of the decisions of the Supreme Court in all special cases; but he said, evidently with the action of Chief-Justice Taney
in the Dred Scott
case in his mind,11
“The candid citizen must confess, that if the policy of the Government
upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”
He referred to the impossibility of a dissolution of the Union
, physically speaking.
The people of the respective sections, who differed widely in opinions, might, like a divorced husband and wife, separate absolutely, by going out of the reach of each other, but the territory of the respective sections must remain “face to face,” and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them.
The question then arises, whether that intercourse would be more agreeable after separation.
“Can aliens,” asked the President
, “make treaties easier than friends can make laws?
Can treaties be more faithfully enforced among aliens than laws can among friends?
Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you.”
The President recognized the right of the people to change their existing form of government when they should become weary of it, either by amending the Constitution
or by revolution; and, in view of present difficulties, he expressed his concurrence in the proposition for a Convention of Representatives
of all the States, to deliberate on constitutional amendments; and he went so far as to say, that he had no objections to any amendment which should, by an express and irrevocable decree, provide that the National Government
should never interfere with Slavery in the States where it existed.
The Chief Magistrate
, he said, had no power to fix any terms for a separation of States.
That was for the people to do. His business was only to execute the laws.
He believed in the ultimate wisdom and justice of the American
“Why not have a patient confidence in that justice?”
“Is there any better or equal hope in the world?
In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right?
If the Almighty Ruler
of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North
, or on yours of the South
, that truth and that justice will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American
He concluded by an earnest exhortation to his countrymen to think calmly and well upon the whole subject.
He begged them to take time for serious deliberation.
“Such of you,” he said, “as are now dissatisfied, still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. ... In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.
You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government
; whilst I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.’
I am loth to close.
We are not enemies, but friends.
We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union
, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Long before sunset on that beautiful 4th of March, the brilliant pageant of the inauguration of a President had dissolved, and thousands of citizens, breathing more freely now that the first and important chapter in the history of the new Administration was closed without a tragic scene, were hastening homeward.
But Washington City
was to be the theater of another brilliant display the same evening, in the character of an Inauguration Ball.
Notwithstanding a pall of gloom and dark forebodings overspread the land, and the demon of Discord, with his torch and blade, was visibly on the wing, expediency seemed to declare that none of the usual concomitants of the inauguration ceremonies should be omitted on this occasion, but that every thing should move on after the old fashion, as if the Government
were per, fectly undisturbed by the stormy passions of the time.
The preparations for the ball had been made in the usual manner.
A large temporary building had been erected for the purpose near the City Hall, whose council-chamber and committee-rooms were used as dressing-rooms for the guests.
The hall, a parallelogram in shape, was decorated with red
muslin, and many shields bearing National and State arms.
Several foreign ministers and their families, and heads of departments and their families, were present.
The dancing commenced at eleven o'clock. Ten minutes later the music and the motion ceased, for it was announced that Mr.Lincoln
and Mrs. Lincoln
, in whose honor the ball was given, were about to enter the room.
The President appeared first, accompanied by Mayor Berret
, of Washington
, and Senator Anthony
, of Rhode Island
Immediately behind him came Mrs. Lincoln
, wearing a rich watered silk dress, an elegant point-lace shawl, deeply bordered, with camelias in her hair and pearl ornaments.
She was leaning on the arm of Senator Douglas
, the President
's late political rival.
The incident was accepted as a proclamation of peace and friendship between the champions.
, the Vice-President
, was already there; and the room was crowded with many distinguished
men and beautiful and elegantly dressed women.
The utmost gayety and hilarity prevailed; and every face but one was continually radiant with the unmixed joy of the hour.
That face was Abraham Lincoln
's. The perennial good-humor of his nature could not, at all times, banish from his countenance
Costumes worn at the inauguration Ball.12 |
that almost painfully sad thoughtfulness of expression, more frequently seen afterward, when the cares of State had marred his brow with deeper furrows.
Of all that company, he was the most honored and the most burdened; and with the pageantry of that Inauguration Day and that Inauguration Ball, ended, for him, the poetry of his Administration.
Thereafter his life was spent in the sober prose of dutiful endeavor to save and redeem the nation.
On the day after Mr. Lincoln
's inauguration, the Senate, in extraordinary session, confirmed his appointments of Cabinet ministers.
He had chosen for Secretary of State
, William H. Seward
, of New York; for Secretary of the Treasury
, Salmon P. Chase
, of Ohio
; for Secretary of War
, Simon Cameron
, of Pennsylvania
; for Secretary of the Navy
, Gideon Welles
, of Connecticut
; for Secretary of the Interior
, Caleb Smith
, of Indiana
; for Postmaster-General
, Montgomery Blair
, of Maryland
; and for Attorney-General
, Edward Bates
, of Missouri
.13 Mr. Seward
had been a prominent candidate for a nomination for the Presidency, at Chicago
On that account,
and because of his known eminent ability, and unswerving fidelity to his country and the principles of justice and right, his appointment was acceptable to all loyal people, and especially to his political friends.
How well he performed the very important and delicate duties of prime minister during the four succeeding years, let the recorded diplomacy of the Republic
for that time answer.
The ship of State was now fairly launched upon the tide under the guidance of the new pilot.
It was evident that terribly stormy seas were before it. Premonitions of tempests were darkening the air, alarming the timid, and filling the hearts of the brave with anxiety.
There was peril on every side.
The President's Inaugural Address, calm, dignified, conciliatory even to pathos in tone, clear in its enunciation of the great truths concerning the political construction and character of the nation, and as clear in its annunciation of the duties and determination of the Chief Magistrate
, satisfied the loyal people of the country everywhere.
It promised peace, security, and justice to every law-abiding citizen and community.
It was a pledge that the integrity of the territory of the Republic
should be maintained, and its laws executed.
It denied the existence of State supremacy
, but not of State rights
. It denied the right of secession, and plainly told the advocates of such pretended right that to attempt it would be an essay at criminal revolution, that would be resisted with all the powers of the Government
It was denounced by the conspirators and their partisans, South and North, as belligerent — as threatening war, because it contemplated the “coercion” of law-breakers into submission.14
It was mutilated and interpolated while passing through the newspapers in the interest of the conspirators; and the
misled and excited people were made to believe that a war for subjugation was about to be waged against them.
“It is our wisest policy,” said the satanic Charleston Mercury
, “to accept it as a declaration of war;” and urged its readers not to waste time in thinking, but to raise the arm of resistance immediately.
The conspirators were most afraid of deliberation.
They would not allow the people to reflect, but hurried them on, willing or unwilling, into open armed rebellion.
“To carry out his threats,” they said, “not only on the forts now in possession of the Federal Government
to be held, but fortresses along the coast, and owned [by virtue of unlawful seizure] by the Confederate States
Government, are to be ‘possessed’ and ‘held’ by the United States Government.
This warns us that our course now must be entirely one of policy and war strategy.”
A member (Mr. Harvie
, of Amelia
) of the politicians' convention in Virginia
, then in session in Richmond
, introduced a resolution declaring that it was Mr. Lincoln
's purpose to plunge the country into civil war by “coercive policy,” and asked the Legislature to take measures for resistance; and some were so indiscreet as to rejoice because the Inaugural seemed to give a pretext for rebellion.
Every thing that unholy ambition and malice could devise was used to distort the plain meaning of the address, and inflame the passions of the people against those of the Free-labor States.16
It was falsely asserted that it breathed hostility to the people
of the Slave-labor States, when it was only hostile to the conspirators and their friends.
For that reason they sought to blind and mislead the people; and they illustrated the truth, that
No rogue e'er felt the halter draw
With good opinion of the law.
The first business of the President
and his Cabinet was to inform themselves about the condition of public affairs, the resources of the Government
, and the powers at its command.
They first turned to the Treasury Department, and there found, under the skillful management of Secretary Dix
, cheerful promises, because of evidences of renewed public confidence.
The national debt was something more than sixty millions of dollars, and was slowly increasing, because of the necessity for loans.
After the Presidential election, in November, 1860, as we have seen, the public inquietude and the dishonest operations of Secretary Cobb
caused much distrust among capitalists, and they were loth to buy Government stocks.
Of a loan of twenty millions of dollars, authorized by Congress in June,
one-half of it was asked for in October.
It was readily subscribed for, but only a little more than seven millions of dollars were paid in. A few days after Cobb
left the Treasury, Congress authorized the issue of treasury notes
to the amount of ten millions of dollars, payable in one year, at the lowest rates of interest offered.
Of these, five millions of dollars were offered on the 28th of December.
The buoyancy of feeling in financial circles, after the retirement of Cobb
, had now given way to temporary despondency because of a want of confidence in Thomas
, his immediate successor, and the robbery of the Indian Trust-Fund.17
There were bids for only five hundred thousand dollars. The semi-annual interest on the national debt would be due on the first of January, and the Government
would be greatly embarrassed.
Loyal bankers, stepped forward, and took a sufficient quantity of the treasury notes to relieve the pressing wants of the Government
Nothing was now needed to inspire capitalists with confidence but the appointment of General Dix
to the head of the Treasury, which was made soon afterward.
When he offered the remaining five millions of dollars of the authorized loan, it was readily taken, but at the high average rate of interest of ten and five-eighths per centum.
Congress perceived the necessity for making provision for strengthening the Government
By far the larger proportion of all the expenses of the Government
, from its foundation, had been paid from customs' revenue.
To this source of supply the National Legislature now directed their.
attention, and the tariff was revised so that it would produce a much larger revenue.
An act passed Congress on the 2d of March, to go into effect on the 1st of April, which restored the highest protective character to the tariff.
A bill was also passed on the 8th of February, authorizing a loan of twenty-five millions of dollars, to bear six per cent. interest, to run not less than ten, nor more than twenty years, the stock to be sold to the highest bidder.
offered eight millions of dollars of this stock on the 27th of February, when there were bids to the amount of fourteen millions three hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars, ranging from seventy-five to ninety-six.
All bids below ninety were refused.
The new tariff bill, and the faith in the Government
shown by the eagerness to lend money on its securities, were the cheerful promises found in the Treasury Department.
The President and his Cabinet turned to the Army and Navy, and saw little in that direction to encourage them.
The total regular force was sixteen thousand men, and these were principally in the Western States
, guarding the frontier settlers against the Indians.
The forts and arsenals on the seaboard, especially those within the Slave-labor States, were so weakly manned, or really not manned at all, that they became an easy prey to the insurgents.
The consequence was, that they were seized; and when the new Administration came into power, of all the fortifications within the Slave-labor States, only Fortress Monroe
, and Forts Jefferson
, and Pickens
, remained in possession of the Government
The seized forts were sixteen in number.18
They had cost the Government
about seven millions of dollars, and bore an aggregate of one thousand two hundred and twenty-six guns.
All the arsenals in the Cotton-growing States had been seized.
That at Little Rock
, the capital of the State
, was taken possession of by the militia of that State, under the direction of the disloyal Governor Rector
, on the 5th of February.
They came from Helena
, and readily obtained the Governor
's sanction to the movement.
Far-off Fort Kearney, on Grand Island
, in the Platte River
Arsenal at little Rook. |
was also seized on the 19th of February, and a Palmetto flag was raised over it. It was soon retaken by the Union
The little Navy of the United States
, like the Army, had been placed far beyond the reach of the Government
for immediate use. The total number of vessels of all classes belonging to the Navy was ninety, carrying or designed to carry two thousand four hundred and fifteen guns.
Of this number, only forty-two were in commission.
Twenty-eight ships, bearing in the aggregate eight hundred and seventy-four guns, were lying in ports, dismantled, and none of them could be made ready for sea in less than several weeks' time; some of them would require at least six months. The most of those in commission had been sent to distant seas; and the entire available force for the defense of the whole Atlantic coast of the Republic
was the Brooklyn
, of twenty-five guns, and the store-ship Relief
, of two guns.
drew too much water to enter Charleston harbor
, where war had been commenced, with safety; and the Relief
had been ordered to the coast of Africa
with stores for the squadron there.
Many of the officers of the Navy were born in Slave-labor States, and a large number of them abandoned their flag at this critical moment.
No less than sixty of them, including eleven at the Naval Academy at Annapolis
, had resigned their commissions.
Such was the utterly powerless condition of the Navy to assist in the preservation of the life of the Republic
, when Isaac Toucey
, of Connecticut
, for four years at the head of the Navy Department, handed the seals of his office to his successor, Gideon Welles
, of the same State.
The amazing fact stands upon official record, that Mr. Buchanan
's Secretaries of War
and of the Navy had so disposed the available military forces of the Republic
that it could not command their services at the critical moment when the assassin was preparing to strike it a deadly blow.
The public offices were found to be swarming with disloyal men. It was difficult to decide as to who were or were not trustworthy.
It was necessary for the President
to have proper instruments to work with; and
for a month after his inauguration, he was busily engaged in relieving the Government
of unfaithful servants, and supplying their places with true men. So intent was he upon the thorough performance of this work before he should put forth the arm of power to maintain the laws and keep down rising rebellion, that many of his best friends were filled with apprehensions.
They thought they discovered signs of that weakness which had characterized the late Administration, and began to seriously doubt the ability of the Republic
to preserve its own life.
They did not know the man. Like a prudent warrior of old, he was unwilling to go out to battle before he should prove his armor.
He would be sure of the temper of his blade before he unsheathed it. Mr. Lincoln
wisely strengthened the Executive
calling to its aid loyal men, before he ventured to speak out with authority.
The rebellion could not be put down by proclamations, unless the insurgents saw behind them the invincible power of the State
, ready to be wielded by the President
with trusty instrumentalities.
The firmness of the new Administration was soon put upon its trial.
We have already observed that three Commissioners were appointed by the confederated conspirators at Montgomery
to proceed to Washington
, for the alleged purpose of treating with the National Government
upon various topics of mutual interest, that there might be a “settlement of all questions of disagreement between the Government
of the United States
and that of the Confederate States
, upon principles of right, justice, equity, and good faith.”
Two of these Commissioners (John Forsyth
, of Alabama
, who had been a Minister of the United States
a few years before, and Martin J. Crawford
, of Georgia
, a member of Congress from that State) arrived in Washington
on the 5th of March.
On the 11th they made a formal application, through “a distinguished Senator
,” for an unofficial interview
with the Secretary of State
It was declined, and on the 13th they sent to the Secretary
a sealed communication, in which they set forth the object of their mission, and asked the appointment of an early day on which to present their credentials to the President
This first attempt of the conspirators adroitly to win for the so-called government of the Confederated States
the solid advantage of a recognition of inherent sovereignty, was met by Mr. Seward
with his accustomed suavity of manner and unanswerable logic.
He told them, not in a letter, for he would hold no such communication with them, but in a Memorandum, in pleasant phrases and explanatory sentences, that he was not at liberty to know them in any other character than that of citizens of the Republic
The Commissioners had said: “Seven States of the late Federal Union having, in the exercise of the inherent right of every free people to change or reform their political institutions, and through conventions of their people, with-drawn from the United States
, and resumed the attributes of sovereign power delegated to it, have formed a government of their own. The Confederate States
constitute an independent nation de facto
and de jure
, and possess a government perfect in all its parts, and endowed with all the means of self-support.”
“The Secretary of State
,” Mr. Seward
replied in his Memorandum,
“frankly confesses that he understands the events which have recently occurred, and the condition of public affairs which actually exists in the part of the Union
to which his attention has thus been directed, very differently from the aspect in which they are presented by Messrs. Forsyth
He sees in them, not a rightful and accomplished revolution, and an independent nation, with an established government, but rather a perversion of a temporary and partisan excitement to the inconsiderate purposes of an unjustifiable and unconstitutional aggression upon the rights and authority vested in the Federal Government
, and hitherto benignly exercised, as from their very nature they always must be so exercised, for the maintenance of the Union
, the preservation of Liberty, and the security, peace, welfare, happiness, and aggrandizement of the American
The Secretary of State
, therefore, avows to Messrs. Forsyth
that he looks patiently, but confidently, to the cure of evils which have resulted from proceedings so unnecessary, so unwise, so unusual, and so unnatural — not to irregular negotiations, having in view new and untried relations with agencies unknown to, and acting in derogation of, the Constitution
and laws, but to regular and considerate action of the people of those States, in co-operation with their brethren in the other States, through the Congress of the United States; and such extraordinary conventions, if there shall be need thereof, as the Federal Constitution
contemplates and authorizes to be assembled.”
then referred them to the President
's Inaugural Message, saying that, “guided by the principles therein announced,” he could not admit that any States had withdrawn from the Union
, or that they could do so, excepting with the consent of the people of the United States
, given through a National Convention.
Therefore, the so-called “Confederate States
” were not a foreign power, “with whom diplomatic relations ought to be established,” and that he could not “recognize them as diplomatic agents, or hold correspondence or other communication with them.”
Thus, at the outset, both in the Inaugural Address
, and in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State
for the representatives of the conspirators, the Government
took the broad national ground that secession was an impossibility;
that no State, as a State, had seceded or could secede; that the National Government
is a unit, and that it knows no States in the exercise of its executive authority, but deals only with the individuals of the people; therefore the “coercing of a State” was an impossibility, the contemplation of it an absurdity, and the assertion of its possibility a positive misrepresentation.
And during the entire war that ensued, the Government
acted upon the plain fact, declared by the very nature of the construction of the nation, that no State, as a State, was at any time in insurrection or rebellion, but only certain persons in certain States were acting in open defiance of the Law
and of the Constitution
Individual citizens, not States
, any more than counties or towns, were held amenable to the outraged Constitution and laws.21
's Memorandum remained uncalled for and undelivered for twenty-three days, when, on the 8th of April, J. F. Pickett
of the Commissioners
, applied for it.22
The Commissioners explained the delay in seeking a reply to their note, by asserting that they had been assured by “a person occupying a high official station in the Government
,” and who, they believed, was speaking by authority, that Fort Sumter
would soon be evacuated, and that there would be no change in the relations of Fort Pickens
to the “Confederacy,” prejudicial to the “new government.”
They were also informed, they said, on the 1st of April, that an attempt might be made to send provisions to Fort Sumter
, but nothing was said about re-enforcing the garrison.
, they understood, was to be informed before any attempt to send supplies should be made.
With the belief that no hostile act would be undertaken unheralded, they had consented to wait, that they might secure the great object of their mission, namely, “a peaceful solution of existing complications.”
The “person occupying a high official station” was John A. Campbell
, a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States
, who soon afterward resigned his seat on the bench, and joined the conspirators in their unholy work.
He had received from Secretary Seward
such assurances of peaceful intentions on the part of the Government
, that on the day when the Secretary
wrote his Memorandum for the Commissioners
, Judge Campbell
advised them not to press the matter of their mission.
“I feel an entire confidence,” he said, “that an immediate demand for an answer to your communication will be productive of evil and not of good.”
They acted upon his advice, and waited.
It was from Judge Campbell
that they received from Mr. Seward
, on the 1st of April, the assurance that he was “satisfied that the Government
would not undertake to supply Fort Sumter
without giving notice to Governor Pickens
When, on the 8th, they were informed that
had been so notified, they sent for the Secretary
's reply, and received the Memorandum alluded to; and on the 9th they returned a response characteristic of the cause which they represented.
It was disingenuous, boastful, and menacing.
They spoke of their government — the band of usurpers at Montgomery
— as one seeking the good of the people
who (they falsely alleged) “had intrusted them with power, in the spirit of humanity, of the Christian
civilization of the age,” et coetera
and who, among its first acts, had sent to the Government
of the United States
, which they were attempting to revolutionize, the olive-branch of peace.
The Commissioners proceeded to give the Secretary
a lecture, composed of a curious compound of truth, untruth, prophecy, and sophistry.
“Persistently wedded,” they said,
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 it can never be done while a freeman survives in the Confederate States to wield a weapon, the undersigned appeal to past history to prove.
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.23 . . . 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.
In conclusion, these bold conspirators offended truth and insulted the Chief Magistrate
by saying, it was 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
In a memorandum of a few lines, on the 10th of April the Secretary of State
acknowledged the, receipt of this communication, and declined to make a reply.
So ended the first attempt of the so-called Government of the “Confederate States of America
” to hold diplomatic intercourse with the National Government
, whose forbearance they had reason to admire.
The Commissioners left Washington
on the morning of the 11th.
In their communication, Messrs. Forsyth
recited the assurances concerning Fort Sumter
which they had received from the Secretary of State
through Judge Campbell
, and charged the Administration with bad faith, because, early in April, it attempted to send supplies to the Fort
, finding himself suspected of treachery, or at best of duplicity, by his friends at Montgomery
, hastened, on the day after the attack on Fort Sumter
, to exculpate himself by a letter to the Secretary of State
, intended for publication.
“On the 7th of April,” he said, “I addressed you a letter on the subject of the alarm that the preparations by the Government
had created, and asked you if the assurances I had given were well or ill founded in respect to Sumter
Your reply was:--‘ Faith, as to Sumter
, fully kept — wait and see.’
In the morning's paper I read :--‘ An authorized messenger from President Lincoln
informed Governor Pickens
and General Beauregard
that provisions will be sent to Fort Sumter
--peaceably, or otherwise by force.’
This was on the 8th, at Charleston
, the day following your last assurance, and is the evidence of the faith I was invited to wait
for and see
. In the same paper, I read that intercepted dispatches disclosed the fact that Mr. Fox
, who had been allowed to visit Major Anderson
, on the pledge that his purpose was pacific, employed his opportunity to devise a plan for supplying the fort by force, and that this plan had been adopted by the Washington Government
, and was in process of execution.
My recollection of the date of Mr. Fox
's visit carries it to a day in March.
I learn he is a near connection of a member of the Cabinet
My connection with the Commissioners
and yourself was superinduced by a conversation with Justice Nelson
He informed me of your strong disposition in favor of peace, and that you were pressed with a demand of the Commissioners
of the Confederate States
for a reply to their first letter, and that you desired to avoid it at that time.”
then mentioned his interview with the Secretary
, and the pledge given for the evacuation of Sumter
, as the ground of his advice to the Commissioners
to wait, and added:--“The Commissioners who received those communications conclude they have been abused and overreached.
The Montgomery Government holds the same opinion. . . . I think no candid man, who will read over what I have written, and consider for a moment what is going on at Sumter
, but will agree that the equivocating conduct of the Administration, as measured and interpreted in connection with these promises, is the proximate cause of the great calamity.
I have a profound conviction that the telegrams of the 8th of April, of General Beauregard
, and of the 10th of April, of General Walker
, the Secretary of War
, can be referred to nothing else than their belief that there has been systematic duplicity practiced on them, through me.24
It is under an oppressive sense of the weight of this responsibility that I submit to you these things for your explanation.”
did not reply to this letter, nor to another note, again asking for explanations, written on the 20th of April.
The correspondence of the Commissioners
, and the letter of Judge Campbell
to Secretary Seward
, were soon published to the world, and made an unfavorable impression concerning the dignity and good faith of the Government
The Commissioners disingenuously affected to be ignorant of the reason why an answer was not immediately given by the Secretary
to their letter, when, as we have seen, they had made arrangements themselves with Campbell
, their friend and adviser, to delay asking for it. Campbell
's letter to the Secretary
was also unnoticed; and the charges, actual and implied, of bad faith on the part of the Government
, went out uncontradicted.
The friends of the conspirators everywhere denounced the Administration as faithless.
It was held up to scorn by the organs of the ruling classes in England
and on the Continent; and its friends, in the absence of explanations, were unable to defend it with success.
State policy, which allowed the President
to give a partial explanation three months later,25
commanded silence at that time.
The pledges concerning Sumter
, and the charge that they had been violated by the Government
, were obscured in mystery, and month after month the Opposition pointed significantly to the seeming bad faith of the Secretary of State
The following facts, communicated to the author of this work, semi-officially, in September, 1864, may, in connection with Mr. Lincoln
's Message, just referred to, make it plain that he and his advisers acted in good faith, and that Mr. Seward
's assurances were honestly given:--
On the 4th of March, the day when Mr. Lincoln
was inaugurated, a
letter was received at the War Department from Major Anderson
, dated the 28th, of February,
in which that officer expressed an opinion that re-enforcements “could not be thrown into Fort Sumter
within the time for his relief, rendered necessary by the limited supply of provisions, and with a view of holding possession of the same, with a force of less than twenty thousand good and well-disciplined men.”
This letter was laid before the President
and his Cabinet on the 5th, and the first question of importance which that council was called upon to decide was, whether Fort Sumter
should be surrendered to the demands of the South Carolina
was called into the council,27
and he concurred in opinion with Major Anderson
No sufficient force was then at the control of the Government
, nor could they be raised and taken to the ground before Anderson
's supplies would be exhausted.
In a military point of view, the Administration was reduced to the simple duty of getting the garrison safely out of the fort.
, governed by the advice of General Scott
, who had been earnest some weeks earlier, while there was yet time, for re-enforcing the fort, was in favor of abandoning any further attempts to hold it. Every member of his Cabinet but two--anxious for peace, and believing further efforts to hold Sumter
would be useless, and perhaps mischievous — coincided with the views of the President
and of General Scott
Those members were Messrs. Chase
Finding himself alone in support of the idea that the fort must be held at all hazards, Mr. Blair
for his kinsman by marriage, Gustavus V. Fox
, who had resigned his commission of lieutenant in the Navy several years before.
had already, through Secretary Holt
to Mr. Buchanan
a plan for provisioning and re-enforcing the garrison of Sumter
, january which was highly approved by General Scott
This plan, which Mr. Blair
now wished to lay before President Lincoln
, proposed the preparation of necessary supplies in packages of portable form; to, appear off Charleston
bar with them and the troops in a large ocean steamer; to have three or four men-of-war as a protecting force; to have the steamer accompanied by three fast New York tug-boats, and, during the night, to, send in the supplies and troops in. these tugs, or in launches, as should seem best, after arrival and examination.
The channel between Cummings's Point
and Fort Moultrie
is one mile and one-third in width; and this plan was based on the feasibility of passing the line of fire, from batteries that commanded this channel, with impunity.
Experience has taught us that it was so. Farragut
's successes during the late war were achieved by action based upon the same plan; and the impunity with which vessels passed up and down the Potomac
, after the insurgents had established batteries upon its banks, shows that the plan was feasible.
The President was strongly urged to give up Fort Sumter
for the sake of peace; but the Postmaster-General
argued against it, in opposition to the opinions of the General-in-Chief
and other military men, with great pertinacity.
Aided by the practical suggestions of Mr. Fox
, he succeeded in
convincing the President
of the feasibility of the plan, and that sound policy required that the attempt should be made, whether it should succeed or not. “It was believed,” as the President
said in his Message, already referred to,
“that to abandon that position, under the circumstances, would be utterly ruinous; that the necessity
under which it was done would not be fully understood; that by many it would be construed as a part of a voluntary
policy; that at home it would discourage the friends of the Union
, embolden its adversaries, and go far to insure to the latter a recognition abroad; that, in fact, it would be our national destruction commenced.”
Although satisfied of the feasibility and the necessity of strengthening Major Anderson
, by sending him provisions and men, the President
, extremely anxious for peace and reconciliation, hesitated to make any movement that might lead to collision with the insurgents.
He favored Mr. Fox
's propositions, and that gentleman, with the approval of the Secretary of War
and General Scott
, visited Charleston harbor
In company with Captain Hartstene
, of the Navy, who had joined the insurgents, he visited Fort Sumter
on the 21st of March, by permission of Governor Pickens
and ascertained that Major Anderson
had provisions sufficient for his command until the 15th of April;29
and it was understood between them that he must surrender or evacuate the fort at noon on that day. Mr. Fox
gave him no assurances, such as Judge Campbell
mentioned, of relief, nor any information of a plan for that purpose.
On his return to Washington
, Mr. Fox
reported to the President
that any attempt to succor Major Anderson
must be made before the middle of April.
The President was perplexed.
He yearned for peace, if it could be had without dishonor.
The Virginia Convention was then in session, and he sent for one of the prominent members of that body, known to be a professed Union man, and assured him that if the Convention
would adjourn instead of staying in session, menacing the Government
, he would immediately direct Major Anderson
to evacuate Sumter
Had the Virginia
politicians desired peace, this reasonable request would have been complied with.
On the contrary, this professed Virginia Unionist replied:--“The United States
must instantly evacuate Fort Sumter
and Fort Pickens
, and give assurances that no attempts shall be made to collect revenue in Southern ports.”
This was a demand, in effect, for the President
to recognize the band of conspirators at Montgomery
as a government possessed of sovereign powers.
was now satisfied that a temporizing policy would not do. He had said in a little speech to the New Jersey Legislature,
when on his way to Washington
, as we have observed, “it may be necessary to put the foot down firmly.”
That necessity now presented itself;, and the President
did “put the foot down firmly.”
Overruling the persistent objections of the General-in-Chief
, and other military
authorities, and regarding the affair more as a naval than as a military operation, he at once sent for Mr. Fox
, and verbally authorized him
to fit out an expedition for the relief of Sumter
, according to that gentleman's plan.
The written order for that service was not given until the afternoon of the 4th of April, when the President
that, in order that “faith as to Sumter
” might be kept, he should send a messenger at once to Charleston
, to inform Governor Pickens
that he was about to forward provisions, only, to the garrison, and that if these supplies should be allowed to enter, no more troops would be sent there.
This was done.
(afterward marshal of the District of Columbia) was sent as a special messenger to Governor Pickens
, who was also informed that supplies must go into Sumter
peaceably, if possible, if not, by force, as the Governor
arrived in the city of New York
the second time, on his important errand, on the evening of the 5th of April, and delivered to Colonel H. L. Scott
, of the staff of the General-in-Chief
, a copy of his instructions.
That officer ridiculed the idea of relieving Sumter
,.and stood as an obstacle in the way as far as possible.
The plan was highly approved by Commodores Stewart
; and, as Mr. Fox
's orders were imperative, he performed his duty in spite of all official detentions, and with that professional
skill, untiring industry, and indomitable energy which, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy
, he displayed throughout the entire war that ensued, he fitted out the expedition (having made some previous preparations) within the space of forty-eight hours. He sailed on the morning of the 9th, with two hundred recruits, in the steamer Baltic
, Captain Fletcher
.--The entire relief squadron consisted of that vessel, the United States
, and Harriet Lane
, and the tugs Yankee, Uncle Ben
, and Freeborn;
and all of them were ordered to rendezvous off Charleston
The frigate Powhatan
bore the senior naval officer of the expedition, and men sufficient to man the boats for the relief party.
Soon after leaving New York, the expedition encountered a heavy storm.
One of the tugs (the Freeborn
) was driven back; a second (Uncle Ben
) put into Wilmington, North Carolina
, and was captured by the insurgents there; and the third, losing her smoke-stack, was not able to reach Charleston
bar until it was too late.
was also lost to the expedition.
While passing down New York Bay, Captain Meigs
, who was Quartermaster-General
during the war, and Lieutenant
went on board of her, with an order from the President
to take any man-of-war they might select and proceed immediately with her crew to Pensacola
Under this order they took possession of and sailed away in the flag-ship of the relief expedition.32
bar on the morning of the 12th, just as the insurgents opened fire on Fort Sumter
and the Harriet Lane
were already there, with orders to report to the Powhatan
, but she had gone to Fort Pickens
, then, like Fort Sumter
, threatened by armed insurgents.
All day long the ocean and Charleston harbor
were swept by a storm.
A heavy sea was rolling inward, and there were no signs of abatement until the morning of the 13th.
It was then determined to seize a schooner lying at anchor near, load her with provisions, and take her to Fort Sumter
the following night.
She was accordingly prepared, but before the time for her departure, Fort Sumter
was in the hands of the insurgents.
How that happened will be related in the next chapter.
It was fortunate for the Republic
that the effort to relieve Major Anderson
was made at that time.
It gave practical assurances to the country that the new Administration would employ all its energies in support of the Constitution
and the laws; and it also gave to the Government
one whose services can only be appreciated by those who know their amount and value.
The judgment and energy displayed by Mr. Fox
caused him to be appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy
He was then in the prime of life, and endowed with great physical endurance.
As the lieutenant of Secretary Welles
, invested with wide discretionary powers, he was to the Navy what the General-in-Chief
is to the Army.
Tail-piece — relief squadron.|