Xxvii. Ominous pause.
- The two cabinets -- attempts to negotiate by Forsyth and Crawford -- repelled by Gov. Seward -- Judge Campbell's statement -- Northern proposals to join the Confederacy -- Society for the promotion of National Unity.
President Lincoln, on the day after his inauguration, submitted to the new Senate the names of those whom he had chosen to preside over the several Departments, and who thus became, by a usage which has no express warrant in the Constitution, his official counselors. They were
William H. Seward, of New York, Secr'y of State; Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury; Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, Secretary of War; Gideon Wells, of (Connecticut, Secr'y of the Navy; Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana, Secretary of the Interior ; Edward Bates, of Missouri. Attorney-General; Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, Postmaster-General. Mr. Jefferson Davis, ruling at Montgomery, had already constituted his Cabinet, which consisted of
Robert Toombs, of Georgia, Secretary of State; Charles G. Memminger, of South Carolina, Secretary of the Treasury; Leroy Pope Walker, of Alabama, Secretary of War;to which were afterward added
Stephen R. Mallory, of Florida, Sec'ry of the Navy; John H. Reagan, of Texas, Postmaster-General.Thus the two Governments stood face to face, holding positions and maintaining assumptions so palpably, utterly incompatible as to necessitate an early collision; and that collision must, in the nature of things, produce a crash that would shake the continent. Still, there was great and wise reluctance, at least on this side, to precipitate or to initiate hostilities. In spite of appearances, President Lincoln,1 and the advisers in whom he most trusted, seemed still incredulous as to the inevitability and imminence of a clash of arms. Gov. Seward, the new Secretary of State, had for months been apparently the most resolute of optimists with regard to a happy issue from our internal complications. At the New England Dinner2 in New York, lie had confidently predicted a settlement of all our troubles within the ensuing sixty days. That term had sped; yet his faith in a peaceful solution of our differences appeared as buoyant as ever, and seemed to be shared by the President, whose “Nobody hurt as yet” had become a watchword among the obstinate believers in “ Manifest Destiny” and the unparalleled rationality, wisdom, intelligence, and self-control, of the peerless American People. Does this look like infatuation? If the wisdom that comes to-morrow were the genuine article, every man would be a Solomon. Remember that, for more than seventy years, no man had seen an American hand lifted against the symbol of our Nationality. Neither Shays's Rebellion,3 in Massachusetts, nor the Whisky Rebellion,4 so called, in western Pennsylvania, had really purposed aught beyond the removal or redress of temporary grievances which were deemed intolerable. Even old John Brown — fanatic as he was; madman as many held him — never dreamed of dividing the country which he sought to purge of its most flagrant wrong; his Canada Constitution expressly stipulated5 that the Union should be preserved, and its flag retained and cherished by his adherents. Since the close of our Revolutionary struggle, no man had seen, in the Free States, any other banner floating over a regiment of our people than the Stars and Stripes; though the waves of party spirit had often run mountain high,6 and we had seemed just on the brink of disruption and civil war, yet the dreaded collision had always been somehow averted, and the moment of fiercest excitement, of widest alienation, had  often been the immediate precursor of a halcyon era of reconciliation, peace, and fraternal harmony. It was not easy for Northern men, especially those who had never visited and sojourned at the South, to comprehend and realize the wide prevalence and intensity of anti-National sentiment and feeling in those localities whose social order, industry, and business, were entirely based on Slavery. Neither envying nor hating the Southerners, while lamenting their delusions and resisting their exactions, it was hard indeed for many, if not most, of the citizens of the Free States to realize that we stood on the brink of a volcano whose rumblings preluded an eruption of blood as well as ashes. Scarcely a week after Mr. Lincoln's inauguration, his Secretary of State was served with the following:
To this virtual Declaration of War, under the guise of an overture looking to negotiation, settlement, and amity, Gov. Seward responded as follows :7
These memorable papers are too lucid to require or justify extended comment. The Commissioners, it will be seen, place the alleged Secession of the Cotton States expressly and exclusively on the true and proper ground--“the inherent right of every free people to change or reform their political institutions” --in other words, the Right of Revolution — thus precluding all discussion as to the pretended constitutional right, or reservation of right, to secede at will from the Union. But this position, however wisely and honorably taken, does not at all preclude the question which Mr. Lincoln was bound to ask, and, in some way, to answer--“What right have I, the fairly chosen Chief Magistrate of the Union--chosen, too, at an election wherein the seven States now alleged to have seceded fully participated — to recognize those States as a foreign nation, as independent of the remaining States as Russia or Peru? How will such recognition, and the action necessarily consequent thereon, accord with my solemn oath of office, and the weighty obligations it imposes? How with my duty to those loyal citizens of the United States who are also citizens or residents of the States which acknowledge Mr. Jefferson Davis as their political Chief?” To these questions, inevitably presenting themselves to every intelligent mind, Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford indicate no reply whatever. They represented a power which had declined cooperation with even a majority of the Slave States--which had not even considered the propriety of calling a National Convention--and which now proffered to the Union no compromise, no middle ground, but the naked alternative of “ Surrender or fight!” Gov. Seward's reply, though pacific in temper, and evidently animated by a hope that hostilities may yet be avoided, is eminently frank and explicit. That the Executive could recognize Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford only as citizens of the United States, not as plenipotentiaries of an independent and foreign power — that the alleged secession and confederation of the seven States in question was not, and could not be, recognized by the Government as valid; their secession being impliedly, and their confederation expressly, forbidden by the Federal Constitution — that there could be no secession save through the agency of a National Convention, which those States had declined to invoke, and were now unwilling to submit to — that their alleged grievances could be redressed only through such Convention, or by the Congress of the United States, wherein the right of those States to an equal representation had been, and still was, unquestioned — and that the President had been consulted respecting, and fully  concurred in, these views of his Secretary of State-so much seems plainly set forth in this “memorandum,” with all the perspicuity which can be attained through the employment of our mother tongue. How is it possible, then, that complaint should nevertheless be made that the Confederates were deluded by Gov. Seward into anticipations of an early and easy concession of their independence? Yet that charge is made; and, since it rests wholly on the testimony of a Confederate who once held, and had not then resigned, the exalted position of a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, it may be well to consider it fully. The testimony is that of Judge Campbell aforesaid, (a prominent disciple of Mr. Calhoun), who, about the time of his taking final leave of Washington to enter more openly into the service of the Confederacy, wrote to Gov. Seward as follows:
Judge Campbell, it will be noted, takes up the thread of the furtive negotiations exactly where the Commissioners had dropped it. They had made their demand on the 12th; had been answered by Gov. Seward on the 15th; but the answer withheld; for on this day Judge C. makes his first appearance on the scene, with an assurance to the Commissioners that he felt “entire confidence that Fort Sumter would be evacuated within the next ten days,” if the Commissioners would not push matters too hurriedly to a crisis. Still later, he gave these Commissioners assurances that no attempt would be made to supply the closely invested and scantily provisioned garrison of Fort Sumter, until due notice of the intent had been given to Gov. Pickens; which promise was fulfilled to the letter. Judge Campbell quotes Justice Nelson as testifying to Gov. Seward's “strong disposition in favor of peace.” Who ever denied or doubted it? But did he ever avow an inclination to Peace on the basis of Disunion? That is the vital point; and it is not covered, even by assertions, on the part of the Confederates. That he clung tenaciously to the hope of some “ adjustment” or “ conciliation,” whereby civil war might be averted, and the just authority of the Federal Government acknowledged and respected by the Confederate States, is manifest; and that is the whole truth, and affords a simple and obvious explanation of what seems to Confederates so mysterious, so crafty, or so atrocious. The manifest, controlling fact is, that the parties to this unique correspondence occupied positions so contrasted, so  incompatible, that it was scarcely possible that they should seriously engage in a negotiation, much less bring it to a happy issue. It was much as if a plenipotentiary should address the government to which he was accredited in Greek, knowing no other tongue, and his dispatch be received and answered by one who was equally ignorant of any language but Choctaw. The only possible result of such diplomacy is a postponement of hostilities; and that seems, in this case, to have been achieved: for the Confederate envoys, in shaking from their feet the dust of Washington and returning to their own “nation,” addressed, on the 9th of April, a vituperative letter to Gov. Seward, whereof all that is not mere rhetoric, of a peculiarly Southern stamp, or has not already been herein stated, is as follows:
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 an 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 preparations 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.As the world has not been gratified with a sight of the credentials and instructions of these gentlemen, it may be discourteous to assume that their eagerness to “accept the gage of battle” carried them beyond the strict limits of their powers and duties; but the subtile casuistry which enabled them to discriminate between a recognition of Confederate independence and an “audience to adjust the new relations springing from a manifest and accomplished revolution,” might have secured to them fame and fortune in some more poetic and imaginative vocation. As the Commissioners seem to apprehend that they would be charged with a lack of energy if it should be understood that they had allowed the Government of the United States nearly four weeks wherein to decide between recognizing — or, if they choose, admitting and acting upon — the independence of the Confederate States, and an acceptance of the “gage of battle,” it may be requisite to give one more extract from their valedictory, as follows:
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 [Judge Campbell] cooperating with the undersigned; and every step of that effort is recorded in writing, and now in possession of the undersigned and of their Government. It was only when all these anxious efforts for peace had been exhausted, and it became clear that Mr. Lincoln had determined to appeal to the sword to reduce the people of the Confederate States to the will of the section or party whose President he is, that the undersigned resumed the official negotiation temporarily suspended, and sent their secretary for a reply to their note of March 12th.But that the Confederacy was allowed, in no respect, to suffer by this brief breathing-spell mistakenly accorded by her plenipotentiaries to the Union--that the “peace” which we enjoyed was of an equivocal and one-sided character — will appear, not only from the close investment of menaced Fort Sumter--with which no one was allowed to communicate, save by Gov. Pickens's gracious permission — but by the active, aggressive hostility to Federal authority manifested throughout the South, as evinced in the following order:
And, all through the seceded States, those Unionists who dared to indicate their devotion to the flag of their fathers were being treated with a still more active and positive illustration of Confederate amity than was accorded to the garrison of Sumter and the fleet off Pensacola. Whether President Lincoln did or did not, for some days after his inauguration, incline to the withdrawal of Major Anderson and his brave handful from. closely beleaguered Sumter, is not certain. It is certain that great doubt and anxiety on this point pervaded the country. Some of the newspaper correspondents at Washington, who were very properly and keenly on the watch for the least indication of the Presidential purpose, telegraphed, quite confidently, on the 14th, that Sumter was to be peaceably evacuated; that Gen. Scott had given his opinion that this was a military necessity; that the fortress was so surrounded and enveloped by Confederate forts and batteries that it could not now be reinforced, nor even provisioned, save at an enormous and unjustifiable cost of human blood; so that there was no practical alternative to its abandonment. The new Senate, which had been convened for the 4th by President Buchanan to act upon the nominations of his successor, remained sitting in Extra Session until the 28th; and its Democratic members — now reduced by Secession and by changes. to a decided minority — urgently and pertinaciously demanded from the majority some declaration of the President's purpose. “Are we to have coercion and civil war, or concession and peace?.” was the burden of their  inquiries. Messrs. T. L. Clingman,8 of North Carolina, Bayard, of Delaware, and Breckinridge,9 of Kentucky, who were all three close allies in the past of the Confederate chiefs, and two of them, since, open participants in the Rebellion, were prominent and pertinacious in pushing these inquiries; but Mr. Douglas, of Illinois, united in them, talking as if the President were at perfect liberty to enforce the laws or not, at his discretion, and as if his attempting to do it would render him responsible for lighting the flames of civil war. He distinctly advocated the surrender of the Southern fortresses; saying:
We certainly cannot justify the holding of forts there, much less the recapturing of those which have been taken, unless we intend to reduce those States themselves into subjection. * * * We cannot deny that there is a Southern Confederacy, de facto, in existence, with its capital at Montgomery. We may regret it. I regret it most profoundly; but I cannot deny the truth of the fact, painful and mortifying as it is.No Democrat in the Senate, and no organ of Democratic opinion out of the Senate, proffered an assurance or an exhortation to the President, tending to encourage and support him in upholding the integrity and enforcing the laws of the Union; and not Democrats only, but those who, in the late Presidential contest, had made “the Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement of the laws,” their platform and their battle-cry, now spoke and acted precisely as would a community who, seeing their sheriff set forth to serve a precept upon a band of desperate law-breakers, were to ask him why he did not desist from his aggressive project, and join them in preserving the peace. The Republicans of the Senate were either unable or unwilling to shed any additional light on the purposes of the Executive — the resolution in regard to them, offered by Mr. Douglas, being laid on the table by a party vote: Yeas 23; Nays 11. But, before the Senate adjourned, it was very generally understood — certainly among Republicans — that the Southern forts were not to be surrendered, and that the Union was to be maintained. The month of March had nearly worn away prior to any outward manifestations, by the ‘new lords’ at Washington, of a firm resolve to discard the policy of indecision and inaction whereby their predecessors had permitted the Republic's strongholds, arms, munitions, and treasure, to be seized and turned against her by the plotters of Disunion.10 So late as the 21st of that month, the astute and  rarely over-sanguine Vice-President Stephens11 congratulated his hearers that their revolution had thus far been accomplished without shedding a drop of blood — that the fear of deadly collision with the Union they had renounced was nearly dispelled — that the Southern Confederacy had now a population considerably larger than that of the thirteen United Colonies that won their independence through a seven years struggle with Great Britain--that its area was not only considerably larger than that of the United Colonies, but larger than that of both France and the Austrian Empire--larger than that of France, Spain, Portugal, and the British Isles altogether. He estimated the property of the Confederate States as worth Twenty-two Thousand Millions of Dollars; while the last Census makes that of the entire Union but Sixteen Thousand Millions--an understatement, doubtless. That the remaining Slave States would break away from the Union and join the Confederacy was regarded by him as a matter of course. “They will necessarily gravitate to us by an imperious law.” As to such others as might be deemed desirable acquisitions, Mr. Stephens spoke more guardedly, yet no less complacently, as was previously seen.12 This was by no means idle gasconade or vain-glorious presumption. Throughout the Free States, eminent and eager advocates of adhesion to the new Confederacy by those States--or so many of them as might hope to find acceptance — were widely heard and heeded. The New England13 States (except, possibly, Connecticut), it was agreed, need indulge no such hope--their sins were past forgiveness, and their reprobation eternal. So with the more “fanatical” States of the North-West; so, perhaps, with Western New York and Northern Ohio. The remaining States and parts of States, it was assumed, might easily and wisely fit themselves for adhesion to, and acceptance by, the Southern Confederacy by expelling or suppressing all “fanatics,” and adopting the Montgomery Constitution, thus legalizing slaveholding as well as slavehunting on their soil. Among those who were understood to urge such adhesion were Gov. Seymour, of New York, Judge Woodward and  Francis W. Hughes,14 of Pennsylvania, Rodman M. Price,15 of New Jersey, etc., etc. Kindred in idea, though diverse in its mode of operations, was an association organized at New York during this month, naming itself the “American Society for promoting National Unity,” whereof Prof. Samuel F. B. Morse (of telegraphic fame and fortune) was made President, while The Journal of Commerce became its accredited organ. The cardinal idea of this fraternity was the restoration and conservation of National Unity through the conversion of all dissidents to the faith that African Slavery is ordained by God, for the improvement and blessing of both the Whites and the Blacks. The programme of this society thus illustrates the bland, benignant piety wherein the movement was grounded:--
We believe that the time has come when such evil teachings [Abolitionism] should be firmly and boldly confronted, not by the antagonisms of doubtful and perishable weapons, but by “the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever,” as expounded by a broad and faithful recognition of His moral and providential government over the world. It is with this view that we propose an organized effort, etc., etc. Our attention will not be confined to Slavery; but this will be, at present, our main topic. Four millions of immortal beings, incapable of self-care, and indisposed to industry and foresight, are providentially committed to the hands of our Southern  friends. This stupendous trust they cannot put from them, if they would. Emancipation, were it possible, would be rebellion against Providence, and destruction to the colored race in our land. We at the North rid ourselves of no responsibility by assuming an attitude of hostility to Slavery, and thus sundering the bonds of State fellowship; we only put it out of our power to do the good which both humanity and religion demand. Should we not rather recognize the Providence of God, in His playing such a vast multitude of the degraded and dependent sons of Africa in this favored land, and cheerfully cooperate, by all needful labors and sacrifices, with His benevolent design to save and not to destroy them? Under a Providential dispensation, lifting them up from the degradation and miseries of indolence and vice, and exacting of them due and needful labor, they can certainly be trained and nurtured, as many have been, for the services and joys of heaven; and, if the climate and institutions of the South are such that our fellow-citizens there can afford to take the onerous care of them, in return for their services, should we not gladly consent? They freely concede to us our conscientious convictions, our rights, and all our privileges: should we not as freely concede to them theirs? Why should we contend? Why paralyze business, turn thousands of the industrious and laborious poor out of employment, sunder the last ties of affection that can bind these States together, destroy our once prosperous and happy nation, and perhaps send multitudes to premature graves — and all for what? Is not such a course a struggle of arrogant assumption against the Providence of the Most High? and, if persisted in, will it not surely bring down His heavy and prolonged judgments upon us?Such were the means whereby many conservative and Christian men were intent on preserving our National unity, and reviving the sentiment of fraternity among our people, in March and the beginning of April, 1861.