Important Correspondence.the Correspondence between Mr. Seward and the Confederate Commissioners — the gage of War thrown down and accepted, &c., &c.
The following is the correspondence between the Secretary of State and the Commissioners from the Confederate States. The letter addressed by the Commissioners to Mr. Seward is recapitulated in the reply of Mr. Seward entire, and we therefore omit it:
The reply of Mr. Seward.
Department of State, Washington March 15, 1861.Mr. John Forsyth, of the State of Alabama, and Mr. Martin J. Crawford, of the State of Georgia, on the 11th inst., through the kind offices of a distinguished Senator, submitted to the Secretary of State their desire for an unofficial interview. This request was, on the 12th inst., upon exclusively public considerations, respectfully declined. On the 13th inst., while the Secretary was preoccupied, Mr. A. P. Banks, of Virginia, called at this department, and was received by the Assistant Secretary, to whom he delivered a sealed communication, which he had been charged by Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford to present to the Secretary in person. In that communication, Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford inform the Secretary of State that they have been duly accredited by the Government of the Confederate States of America as Commissioners to the Government of the United States, and they set forth the objects of their attendance at Washington. They observe that seven States of the American Union, in the exercise of a right inherent in every free people, have withdrawn, through Conventions of their people, from the United States, re-assumed the attributes of sovereign power, and formed a Government of their own, and that those Confederate States now constitute an independent nation de facto and de fure, and possess a Government perfect in all its parts and fully endowed with all the means of self-support. Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, in their aforesaid communication, thereupon proceed to inform the Secretary that, with a view to a speedy adjustment of all questions growing out of the political separation thus assumed, upon such terms of amity and good will as the respective interests, geographical contiguity and the future welfare of the supposed two nations might render necessary, they are instructed to make to the Government of the United States overtures for the opening of negotiations, assuring this Government that the President, Congress and people of the Confederate States earnestly desire a peaceful solution of these great questions, and that it is neither their interest nor their wish to make any demand which is not founded in strictest justice, nor to do any act to injure their late confederates. After making these statements Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford close their communication, as they say, in obedience to the instructions of their Government, by requesting the Secretary of State to appoint as early a day as possible in order that they may present to the President of the United States the credentials which they bear, and the objects of the mission with which they are charged. The Secretary of State frankly confesses that he understands the events which have recently occurred, and the condition of political 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 and Crawford. 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 the 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 people. The Secretary of State, therefore, avows to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford that he looks patiently but confidently for 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 cooperation 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. It is, however, the purpose of the Secretary of State, on this occasion, not to invite or engage in any discussion of these subjects, but simply to set forth his reasons for declining to comply with the request of Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford. On the 4th of March inst., the then newly elected President of the United States, in view of all the facts bearing on the present question, assumed the Executive administration of the Government, first delivering, in accordance with an early and honored custom, and inaugural address to the people of the United States. The Secretary of State respectfully submits a copy of this address to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford. A simple reference to it will be sufficient to satisfy those gentlemen that the Secretary of State, guided by the principles therein announced, is prevented altogether from admitting or assuming that the States referred to by them have, in law or in fact, withdrawn from the Federal Union, or that they could do so in the manner described by Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, or in any other manner than with the consent and concert of the people of the United States, to be given through a National Convention, to be assembled in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States. Of course, the Secretary of State cannot act upon the assumption, or in any way admit, that the so-called Confederate States constitute a foreign power, with whom diplomatic relations ought to be established. Under these circumstances the Secretary of State, whose official duties are confined-- subject to the direction of the President — to the conducting of the foreign relations of the country, and do not at all embrace domestic questions or questions arising between the several States and the Federal Government, is unable to comply with the request of Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, to appoint a day on which they may present the evidences of their authority and the objects of their visit to the President of the United States-- On the contrary, he is obliged to state to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford that he has no authority, nor is he at liberty, to recognize them as diplomatic agents, or hold correspondence or other communication with them. Finally, the Secretary of State would observe that, although he has supposed that he might safely and with propriety have adopted these conclusions without making any reference of the subject to the Executive, yet so strong has been his desire to practice entire directness and to act in a spirit of perfect respect and candor towards Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, and that portion of the people of the Union in whose name they present themselves before him, that he has cheerfully submitted this paper to the President, who coincides generally in the views it expresses, and sanctions the Secretary's decision declining official intercourse with Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford.
April 8, 1861.The foregoing memorandum was filed in this department on the 15th of March last. A delivery of the same, however, to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford was delayed, as was understood, with their consent. They have now, through their Secretary, communicated their desire for a definitive disposition of the subject. The Secretary of State therefore directs that a duly verified copy of the paper be now delivered. A true copy of the original, delivered to me by Mr. F. W. Seward, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, on April 8, 1861, at 2.15 P. M., in blank envelope.
Altest, J. T. Pickett,
Secretary to the Commissioners.
Secretary to the Commissioners.
The Commissioners in reply to Mr Seward, Accusing the Government of deception, and Accepting a solution by the Sword.
Washington April 9, 1861.Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, Washington: The "memorandum" dated Department of State, Washington, March 15, 1861, with postscript under date of 8th inst., 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 ultimo.--Without repeating the contents of that note in full, it is enough to say here that its object was to invite the Government of the United States to a friendly consideration of the relations 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 planing their national destinies in their own way, without interference with the other, or they had to be rival and hostile nations. The Government of the Confederate States had no hesitation in electing its choice in this alternative. Frankly and unreservedly, seeking the good of the people who had entrusted 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 completed 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 this 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 that people as a ‘"perversion of a temporary and partizan 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 twelve 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 Messr. 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 Fort 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 Governor Pickens should have previous notice of this attempt. There was no suggestion of a reinforcement. The undersigned did not hesitate to believe that these assurances expressed the intentions of the Administration at the time, or at all event of prominent members of the 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 undersigned 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 co- operating 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,
A true copy of the original by one-delivered to Mr. F. W. Seward, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, at 8 o'clock in the evening of April 9, 1861. Attest, J. T. Pickett,
J. T. Pickett,
Secretary, &c., &c.
Secretary, &c., &c.
Mr. Seward, in reply to the Commissioners, Acknowledges the receipt of the letter, but Declines to answer it.
Department of State,Washington, April 10th, 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.