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Chapter 11:

The appointment of commissioners to proceed to Washington, for the purpose of establishing friendly relations with the United States and effecting an equitable settlement of all questions relating to the common property of the states and the public debt, has already been mentioned. No time was lost in carrying this purpose into execution. Crawford—first of the commissioners—left Montgomery on or about February 27, and arrived in Washington two or three days before the expiration of Buchanan's term of office as President of the United States. Besides his official credentials, he bore the following letter to the President, of a personal or semiofficial character, intended to facilitate, if possible, the speedy accomplishment of the objects of his mission:

To the President of the United States.
sir: Being animated by an earnest desire to unite and bind together our respective countries by friendly ties, I have appointed Martin J. Crawford, one of our most esteemed and trustworthy citizens, as special Commissioner of the Confederate States to the Government of the United States; and I have now the honor to introduce him to you, and to ask for him a reception and treatment corresponding to his station, and to the purposes for which he is sent.

Those purposes he will more particularly explain to you. Hoping that through his agency these may be accomplished, I avail myself of this occasion to offer to you the assurance of my distinguished consideration.

(Signed) Jefferson Davis. Montgomery, February 17, 1861.

It may here be mentioned, in explanation of my desire that the commission, or at least a part of it, should reach Washington before the close of Buchanan's term, that I had received an intimation from him, through a distinguished Senator of one of the border states,1 that he would be [229] happy to receive a commissioner or commissioners from the Confederate States, and would refer to the Senate any communication that might be made through such a commission.

Crawford—now a judge of the Supreme Court of Georgia, and the only surviving member of the commission—in a manuscript account, which he has kindly furnished, of his recollections of events connected with it, says that, on arriving in Washington at the early hour of half-past 4 o'clock in the morning, he was “surprised to see Pennsylvania Avenue, from the old National to Willard's Hotel, crowded with men hurrying, some toward the former, but most of the faces in the direction of the latter, where the new President [Mr. Lincoln, President-elect], the great political almoner, for the time being, had taken up his lodgings. At this point,” continues Judge Crawford, “the crowd swelled to astonishing numbers of expectant and hopeful men, awaiting an opportunity, either to see Mr. Lincoln himself, or to communicate with him through some one who might be so fortunate as to have access to his presence.”

Describing his reception in the federal capital, Judge Crawford says:

The feverish and emotional condition of affairs soon made the presence of the special Commissioner at Washington known throughout the city. Congress was still, of course, in session; Senators and members of the House of Representatives, excepting those of the Confederate States, who had withdrawn, were in their seats, and the manifestations of anxious care and gloomy forebodings were plainly to be seen on all sides. This was not confined to sections, but existed among the men of the North and West as well as those of the South. . . .

Mr. Buchanan, the President, was in a state of most thorough alarm, not only for his home at Wheatland, but for his personal safety.2 In the very few days which had elapsed between the time of his promise to receive a Commissioner from the Confederate States and the actual arrival of the Commissioner, he had become so fearfully panic-stricken, that he declined either to receive him or to send any message to the Senate touching the subject-matter of his mission.

The Commissioner had been for several years in Congress before the Administration of Mr. Buchanan, as well as during his official term, and had always been in close political and social relations with him; yet he was afraid of a public visit from him. He said that he had only three days of official life left, and could incur no further dangers or reproaches than those he had already borne from the press and public speakers of the North.

The intensity of the prevalent feeling increased as the vast crowds, arriving by every train, added fresh material; and hatred and hostility toward our new Government were manifested in almost every conceivable manner.


Another of the commissioners (Forsyth) having arrived in Washington on March 12—eight days after the inauguration of Lincoln—the two commissioners then present, Forsyth and Crawford, addressed to Seward, Secretary of State, a note informing him of their presence, stating the friendly and peaceful purposes of their mission, and requesting the appointment of a day, as early as possible, for the presentation to the President of the United States of their credentials and the objects which they had in view. This letter will be found in the Appendix,3 with other correspondence which ensued, published soon after the events to which it relates. The attention of the reader is specially invited to these documents, but, as additional revelations have been made since they were first published, it will be proper, in order to obtain a full understanding of the transactions to which they refer, to give here a brief statement of the facts.

No written answer to the note of the commissioners was delivered to them for twenty-seven days after it was written. The paper of Seward, in reply, without signature or address, dated March 15,4 was “filed,” as he states, on that day, in the Department of State, but a copy of it was not handed to the commissioners until April 8. But an oral answer had been made to the note of the commissioners at a much earlier date, for the significance of which it will be necessary to bear in mind the condition of affairs at Charleston and Pensacola.

Fort Sumter was still occupied by the garrison under command of Major Anderson, with no material change in the circumstances since the failure of the attempt made in January to reenforce it by means of the Star of the West. This standing menace at the gates of the chief harbor of South Carolina had been tolerated by the government and people of that state, and afterward by the Confederate authorities, in the abiding hope that it would be removed without compelling a collision of forces. Fort Pickens, on one side of the entrance to the harbor of Pensacola, was also occupied by a garrison of United States troops, while the two forts (Barrancas and McRee) on the other side were in possession of the Confederates. Communication by sea was not entirely precluded, however, in the case of Fort Pickens; the garrison had been strengthened, and a fleet of federal men-of-war was lying outside of the harbor. The condition of affairs at these forts—especially at Fort Sumter—was a subject of anxiety with the friends of peace, and the hope of settling by negotiation the questions involved in their occupation had been one of the most [231] urgent motives for the prompt dispatch of the commissioners to Washington.

The letter of the commissioners to Seward was written, as we have seen, on March 12. The oral message above mentioned was obtained and communicated to the commissioners through the agency of two judges of the Supreme Court of the United States—Justices Nelson of New York and Campbell of Alabama. On March 15, according to the statement of Judge Campbell,5 Justice Nelson visited the Secretaries of State and of the Treasury and the Attorney General (Seward, Chase, and Bates), to dissuade them from undertaking to put in execution any policy of coercion. “During the term of the Supreme Court he had very carefully examined the laws of the United States to enable him to attain his conclusions, and from time to time he had consulted the Chief Justice [Taney] upon the questions which his examination had suggested. His conclusion was that, without very serious violations of Constitution and statutes, coercion could not be successfully effected by the executive department. I had made [continues Judge Campbell] a similar examination, and I concurred in his conclusions and opinions. As he was returning from his visit to the State Department, we casually met, and he informed me of what he had done. He said he had spoken to these officers at large; that he was received with respect and listened to with attention by all, with approbation by the Attorney General, and with great cordiality by the Secretary of State; that the Secretary had expressed gratification to find so many impediments to the disturbance of peace, and only wished there had been more. He stated that the Secretary told him there was a present cause of embarrassment: that the Southern Commissioners had demanded recognition, and a refusal would lead to irritation and excitement in the Southern States, and would cause a counter-irritation and excitement in the Northern States, prejudicial to a peaceful adjustment. Justice Nelson suggested that I might be of service.”

The result of the interview between these two distinguished gentlemen, we are informed, was another visit by both of them to the State Department, for the purpose of urging Seward to reply to the commissioners, and assure them of the desire of the United States government for a friendly adjustment. Seward seems to have objected to an immediate recognition of the commissioners, on the ground that the state of public sentiment in the North would not sustain it, in connection with the withdrawal of the troops from Fort Sumter, which had been [232] determined on. “The evacuation of Sumter,” he said, “is as much as the Administration can bear.”

Judge Campbell adds:

I concurred in the conclusion that the evacuation of Sumter involved responsibility, and stated that there could not be too much caution in the adoption of measures so as not to shock or to irritate the public sentiment, and that the evacuation of Sumter was sufficient for the present in that direction. I stated that I would see the Commissioners, and I would write to Mr. Davis to that effect. I asked him what I should say as to Sumter and as to Pickens. He authorized me to say that, before that letter could reach him [Mr. Davis], he would learn by telegraph that the order for the evacuation of Sumter had been made. He said the condition of Pickens was satisfactory, and there would be no change made there.

The italics in this extract are my own.

The letter in which this promise was communicated to me has been lost, but it was given in substantially the terms above stated as authorized by Seward—that the order for the evacuation of the fort would be issued before the letter could reach me. The same assurance was given, on the same day, to the commissioners. Judge Campbell tells us that Crawford was slow to consent to refrain from pressing the demand for recognition. “It was only after some discussion and the expression of some objections that he consented” to do so. This consent was clearly one part of a stipulation, of which the other part was the pledge that the fort would be evacuated in the course of a few days. Crawford required the pledge of Seward to be reduced to writing, with Judge Campbell's personal assurance of its genuineness and accuracy.6 This written statement was exhibited to Judge Nelson, before its delivery, and approved by him. The fact that the pledge had been given in his name and behalf was communicated to Seward the same evening by letter. He was cognizant of, consenting to, and in great part the author of the whole transaction.

It will be observed that not only the commissioners in Washington, but also the Confederate government at Montgomery, were thus assured on the highest authority—that of the Secretary of State of the United States, the official organ of communication of the views and purposes of his government—of the intention of that government to order the [233] evacuation of Fort Sumter within a few days from March 15, and not to disturb the existing status at Fort Pickens. Moreover, this was not the mere statement of a fact, but a pledge, given as the consideration of an appeal to the Confederate government and its commissioners to refrain from embarrassing the Federal administration by prosecuting any further claims at the same time. As such a pledge it was accepted, and while its fulfillment was quietly awaited, the commissioners forbore to make any further demand for reply to their note of March 12.

Five days having elapsed in this condition of affairs, the commissioners in Washington telegraphed Brigadier General Beauregard, commander of the Confederate forces at Charleston, inquiring whether the fort had been evacuated, or any action taken by Major Anderson indicating the probability of an evacuation. Answer was made to this dispatch that the fort had not been evacuated, that there were no indications of such a purpose, but that Major Anderson was still working on its defenses. This dispatch was taken to Seward by Judge Campbell. Two interviews occurred in relation to it, at both of which Judge Nelson was also present. Of the result of these interviews, Judge Campbell states:

The last was full and satisfactory. The Secretary was buoyant and sanguine; he spoke of his ability to carry through his policy with confidence. He accounted for the delay as accidental, and not involving the integrity of his assurance that the evacuation would take place, and that I should know whenever any change was made in the resolution in reference to Sumter or to Pickens. I repeated this assurance in writing to Judge Crawford, and informed Governor Seward in writing what I had said.7

It would be incredible, but for the ample proofs which have since been brought to light, that during all this period of reiterated assurances of a purpose to withdraw the garrison from Fort Sumter, and of excuses for delay on account of the difficulties which embarrassed it, the government of the United States was assiduously engaged in devising means for furnishing supplies and reenforcements to the garrison, with the view of retaining possession of the fort!

G. V. Fox, afterward Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy, had proposed a plan for reenforcing and furnishing supplies to the garrison of Fort Sumter in February, during the administration of Buchanan. In a letter published in the newspapers since the war, he gives an account of the manner in which the proposition was renewed to the new administration and its reception by them, as follows:

On the 12th of March I received a telegram from Postmaster—General Blair to come to Washington. I arrived there on the 13th. Mr. Blair having been [234] acquainted with the proposition I presented to General Scott, under Mr. Buchanan's Administration, sent for me to tender the same to Mr. Lincoln, informing me that Lieutenant-General Scott had advised the President that the fort could not be relieved, and must be given up. Mr. Blair took me at once to the White House, and I explained the plan to the President. Thence we adjourned to Lieutenant-General Scott's office, where a renewed discussion of the subject took place. The General informed the President that my plan was practicable in February, but that the increased number of batteries erected at the mouth of the harbor since that time rendered it impossible in March.

Finding that there was great opposition to any attempt at relieving Fort Sumter, and that Mr. Blair alone sustained the President in his policy of refusing to yield, I judged that my arguments in favor of the practicability of sending in supplies would be strengthened by a visit to Charleston and the fort. The President readily agreed to my visit, if the Secretary of War and General Scott raised no objection.

Both these gentlemen consenting, I left Washington on the 19th of March, and, passing through Richmond and Wilmington, reached Charleston on the 21st.

Thus we see that at the very moment when Secretary Seward was renewing to the Confederate government, through Judge Campbell, his positive assurance that “the evacuation would take place,” this emissary was on his way to Charleston to obtain information and devise measures by means of which this promise might be broken.

On his arrival in Charleston, Fox tells us that he sought an interview with Captain Hartstein of the Confederate Navy, and through this officer obtained from Governor Pickens permission to visit Fort Sumter. He fails, in his narrative, to state what we learn from Governor Pickens himself,8 that this permission was obtained “expressly upon the pledge of ‘pacific purposes.’ ” Notwithstanding this pledge, he employed the opportunity afforded by his visit to mature the details of his plan for furnishing supplies and reenforcements to the garrison. He did not, he says, communicate his plan or purposes to Major Anderson, the commanding officer of the garrison, having discernment enough, perhaps, to divine that the instincts of that brave and honest soldier would have revolted at and rebuked the duplicity and perfidy of the whole transaction. The result of his visit was, however, reported at Washington, his plan was approved by President Lincoln, and he was sent to New York to make arrangements for putting it in execution.

In a very few days after [says Governor Pickens, in the message already quoted above], another confidential agent, Colonel Lamon, was sent by the President [Mr. Lincoln], who informed me that he had come to try and arrange for the removal of the garrison, and, when he returned from the fort, asked if a [235] war-vessel could not be allowed to remove them. I replied that no war-vessel could be allowed to enter the harbor on any terms. He said he believed Major Anderson preferred an ordinary steamer, and I agreed that the garrison might thus be removed. He said he hoped to return in a very few days for that purpose.

This, it will be remembered, occurred while Fox was making active, though secret, preparations for his relief expedition.

Colonel, or Major Lamon, as he is variously styled in the correspondence, did not return to Charleston, as promised. About March 30 (which was Saturday) a telegram from Governor Pickens was received by the commissioners in Washington, making inquiry with regard to Colonel Lamon, and the meaning of the protracted delay to fulfill the promise of evacuation. This was fifteen days after the original assurance of Seward that the garrison would be withdrawn immediately, and ten days after his explanation that the delay was “accidental.” The dispatch of Governor Pickens was taken by Judge Campbell to Seward, who appointed the ensuing Monday (April 1) for an interview and answer. At that interview Seward informed Judge Campbell that “the President was concerned about the contents of the telegram—there was a point of honor involved; that Lamon had no agency from him, nor title to speak.”9 This late suggestion of the point of honor would seem, under the circumstances, to have been made in a spirit of sarcastic pleasantry, like Sir John Falstaff's celebrated discourse on the same subject. The only substantial result of the conversation, however, was the written assurance of Seward, to be communicateed to the commissioners, that “the Government will not undertake to supply Fort Sumter without giving notice to Governor Pickens.”

This, it will be observed, was a very material variation from the positive pledge previously given, and reiterated, to the commissioners, to Governor Pickens, and to myself directly, that the fort was to be forthwith evacuated. Judge Campbell in his account of the interview, says: “I asked him [Mr. Seward] whether I was to understand that there had been a change in his former communications. His answer was, ‘None.’ ”10

About the close of the same week (the first in April), the patience of the commissioners having now been well-nigh exhausted, and the hostile preparations of the government of the United States, notwithstanding the secrecy with which they were conducted, having become matter of general rumor, a letter was addressed to Seward upon the subject by Judge Campbell, in behalf of the commissioners, again asking whether [236] the assurances so often given were well or ill founded. To this the Secreetary returned answer in writing: “Faith as to Sumter fully kept. Wait and see.”

This was on April 7.11 The very next day (the 8th) the following official notification (without date or signature) was read to Governor Pickens of South Carolina, and General Beauregard, in Charleston, by Chew, an official of the State Department (Seward's) in Washington, who said—as did a Captain or Lieutenant Talbot, who accompanied him —that it was from the President of the United States, and delivered by him to Chew on the 6th—the day before Mr. Seward's assurance of “faith fully kept.”

I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such an attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition, will be made, without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort.12

Thus disappeared the last vestige of the plighted faith and pacific pledges of the Federal government.

In order fully to appreciate the significance of this communication, and of the time and circumstances of its delivery, it must be borne in mind that the naval expedition which had been secretly in preparation for some time at New York, under direction of Captain Fox, was now ready to sail, and might reasonably be expected to be at Charleston almost immediately after the notification was delivered to Governor Pickens, and before preparation could be made to receive it. Owing to cross-purposes or misunderstandings in the Washington cabinet, however, and then to the delay caused by a severe storm at sea, this expectation was disappointed, and the Confederate commander at Charleston had opportunity to communicate with Montgomery and receive instructions for his guidance before the arrival of the fleet, which had been intended to be a surprise.

In publications made since the war by members of Lincoln's cabinet, it has been represented that during the period of the disgraceful transactions above detailed, there were dissensions and divisions in the cabinet—certain members of it urging measures of prompt and decided coercion; the Secretary of State favoring a pacific or at least a dilatory policy; the President vacillating for a time between the two, but eventually adopting the views of the coercionists. In these statements it is [237] represented that the assurances and pledges, given by Seward to the Confederate government and its commissioners, were given on his own authority, and without the consent or approval of the President of the United States. The absurdity of any such attempt to dissociate the action of the President from that of his Secretary, and to relieve the former of responsibility for the conduct of the latter, is too evident to require argument or comment. It is impossible to believe that, during this whole period of nearly a month, Lincoln was ignorant of the communications that were passing between the Confederate commissioners and Seward, through the distinguished member of the Supreme Court—still holding his seat as such—who was acting as intermediary. On one occasion, Judge Campbell informs us that the Secretary, in the midst of an important interview, excused himself for the purpose of conferring with the President before giving a final answer, and left his visitor for some time, awaiting his return from that conference, when the answer was given, avowedly and directly proceeding from the President.

If, however, it were possible to suppose that Seward was acting on his own responsibility, and practicing a deception upon his own chief, as well as upon the Confederate authorities, in the pledges which he made to the latter, it is nevertheless certain that the principal facts were brought to light within a few days after the close of the efforts at negotiation. Yet the Secretary of State was not impeached and brought to trial for the grave offense of undertaking to conduct the most momentous and vital transactions that had been or could be brought before the government of the United States, without the knowledge and in opposition to the will of the President, and for having involved the government in dishonor, if not in disaster. He was not even dismissed from office, but continued to be the chief officer of the cabinet and confidential adviser of the President, as he was afterward of the ensuing administration, occupying that station during two consecutive terms. No disavowal of his action, no apology nor explanation, was ever made. Politically and legally, the President is unquestionably responsible in all cases for the action of any member of his cabinet, and in this case it is as preposterous to attempt to dissever from him the moral, as it would be impossible to relieve him of the legal, responsibility that rests upon the government of the United States for the systematic series of frauds perpetrated by its authority.

On the other hand Seward, throughout the whole negotiation, was fully informed of the views of his colleagues in the cabinet and of the President. Whatever his real hopes or purposes may have been in the [238] beginning, it is positively certain that long before the end, and while still reiterating his assurances that the garrison would be withdrawn, he knew that it had been determined, and that active preparations were in progress, to strengthen it.

Gideon Welles, who was Secretary of the Navy in Lincoln's cabinet, gives the following account of one of the transactions of the period:

One evening in the latter part of the month of March, there was a small gathering at the Executive Mansion, while the Sumter question was still pending. The members of the Cabinet were soon individually and quietly invited to the council-chamber, where, as soon as assembled, the President informed them he had just been advised by General Scott that it was expedient to evacuate Fort Pickens, as well as Fort Sumter, which last was assumed at military headquarters to be a determined fact, in conformity with the views of Secretary Seward and the General-in-Chief. . . .

A brief silence followed the announcement of the amazing recommendation of General Scott, when Mr. Blair, who had been much annoyed by the vacillating course of the General-in-Chief in regard to Sumter, remarked, looking earnestly at Mr. Seward, that it was evident the old General was playing politician in regard to both Sumter and Pickens; for it was not possible, if there was a defense, for the rebels to take Pickens; and the Administration would not be justified if it listened to his advice and evacuated either. Very soon thereafter, I think at the next Cabinet meeting, the President announced his decision that supplies should be sent to Sumter, and issued confidential orders to that effect. All were gratified with this decision, except Mr. Seward, who still remonstrated, but preparations were immediately commenced to fit out an expedition to forward supplies.13

This account is confirmed by a letter of Montgomery Blair.14 The date of the announcement of the President's final purpose is fixed by Welles, in the next paragraph to that above quoted, as March 28. This was four days before Seward's assurance given Judge Campbell—after conference with the President—that there would be no departure from the pledges previously given (which were that the fort would be evacuated), and ten days before his written renewal of the assurance—“Faith as to Sumter fully kept. Wait and see!” This assurance, too, was given at the very moment when a messenger from his own department was on the way to Charleston to notify the governor of South Carolina that faith would not be kept in the matter.

It is scarcely necessary to say that the commissioners had, with good reason, ceased to place any confidence in the promises of the United States government, before they ceased to be made. On April 8th they sent the following dispatch to General Beauregard: [239]

Washington, April 8, 1861.
General G. T. Beauregard: Accounts uncertain, because of the constant vacillation of this Government. We were reassured yesterday that the status of Sumter would not be changed without previous notice to Governor Pickens, but we have no faith in them. The war policy prevails in the Cabinet at this time.

On the same day the announcement made to Governor Pickens through Chew was made known. The commissioners immediately applied for a definitive answer to their note of March 12th, which had been permitted to remain in abeyance. The paper of the Secretary of State, dated March 15th, was thereupon delivered to them. This paper, with the final rejoinder of the commissioners and Judge Campbell's letters to the Secretary of April 13th and April 20th, respectively, will be found in the Appendix.

Negotiation was now at an end, and the commissioners withdrew from Washington and returned to their homes. Their last dispatch, before leaving, shows that they were still dependent upon public rumor and the newspapers for information as to the real purposes and preparations of the Federal administration. It was in these words:

Washington, April 10, 1861.
General G. T. Beauregard: The “Tribune” of to-day declares the main object of the expedition to be the relief of Sumter, and that a force will be landed which will overcome all opposition.

The annexed extracts from my message to the Confederate Congress at the opening of its special session on April 29, will serve as a recapitulation of the events above narrated, with all of comment that it was then, or is now, considered necessary to add:

extracts from President's message to the Confederate Congress, of

April 29, 1861.

. . . Scarce had you assembled in February last, when, prior even to the inauguration of the Chief Magistrate you had elected, you expressed your desire for the appointment of Commissioners, and for the settlement of all questions of disagreement between the two Governments upon principles of right, justice, equity, and good faith.

It was my pleasure, as well as my duty, to cooperate with you in this work of peace. Indeed, in my address to you, on taking the oath of office, and before receiving from you the communication of this resolution, I had said that, as a necessity, not as a choice, we have resorted to the remedy of separating, and hence-forth our energies must be directed to the conduct of our own affairs, and the perpetuity of the Confederacy which we have formed. If a just perception of [240] mutual interest shall permit us to peaceably pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will then have been fulfilled.

It was in furtherance of these accordant views of the Congress and the Executive, that I made choice of three discreet, able, and distinguished citizens, who repaired to Washington. Aided by their cordial cooperation and that of the Secretary of State, every effort compatible with self-respect and the dignity of the Confederacy was exhausted, before I allowed myself to yield to the conviction that the Government of the United States was determined to attempt the conquest of this people, and that our cherished hopes of peace were unobtainable.

On the arrival of our Commissioners in Washington on the 5th of March,15 they postponed, at the suggestion of a friendly intermediator, doing more than giving informal notice of their arrival. This was done with a view to afford time to the President of the United States, who had just been inaugurated, for the discharge of other pressing official duties in the organization of his Administration, before engaging his attention to the object of their mission.

It was not until the 12th of the month that they officially addressed the Secretary of State, informing him of the purpose of their arrival, and stating in the language of their instructions their wish to make to the Government of the United States overtures for the opening of negotiations, assuring the Government of the United States that the President, Congress, and people of the Confederate States desired a peaceful solution of these great questions; that it was neither their interest nor their wish to make any demand which was not founded on the strictest principles of justice, nor to do any act to injure their late confederates.

To this communication, no formal reply was received until the 8th of April. During the interval, the Commissioners had consented to waive all questions of form, with the firm resolve to avoid war, if possible. They went so far even as to hold, during that long period, unofficial intercourse through an intermediary, whose high position and character inspired the hope of success, and through whom constant assurances were received from the Government of the United States of its peaceful intentions—of its determination to evacuate Fort Sumter; and, further, that no measure would be introduced changing the existing status prejudicial to the Confederate States; that, in the event of any change in regard to Fort Pickens, notice would be given to the Commissioners.

The crooked path of diplomacy can scarcely furnish an example so wanting in courtesy, in candor, and directness, as was the course of the United States Government toward our Commissioners in Washington. For proof of this, I refer to the annexed documents marked, [?] taken in connection with further facts, which I now proceed to relate.

Early in April the attention of the whole country was attracted to extraordinary preparations, in New York and other Northern ports, for an extensive military and naval expedition. These preparations were commenced in secrecy for an expedition whose destination was concealed, and only became known when nearly completed; and on the 5th, 6th, and 7th of April, transports and vessels of war, with troops, munitions, and military supplies, sailed from Northern ports, bound southward. [241]

Alarmed by so extraordinary a demonstration, the Commissioners requested the delivery of an answer to their official communication of the 12th of March, and the reply, dated on the 15th of the previous month, was obtained, from which it appears that, during the whole interval, while the Commissioners were receiving assurances calculated to inspire hope of the success of their mission, the Secretary of State and the President of the United States had already determined to hold no intercourse with them whatever, to refuse even to listen to any proposals they had to make; and had profited by the delay created by their own assurances, in order to prepare secretly the means for effective hostile operations.

That these assurances were given, has been virtually confessed by the Government of the United States, by its act of sending a messenger to Charleston to give notice of its purpose to use force, if opposed in its intention of supplying Fort Sumter.

No more striking proof of the absence of good faith in the conduct of the Government of the United States toward the Confederacy can be required, than is contained in the circumstances which accompanied this notice.

According to the usual course of navigation, the vessels composing the expedition, and designed for the relief of Fort Sumter, might be looked for in Charleston Harbor on the 9th of April. Yet our Commissioners in Washington were detained under assurances that notice should be given of any military movement. The notice was not addressed to them, but a messenger was sent to Charleston to give notice to the Governor of South Carolina, and the notice was so given at a late hour on the 8th of April, the eve of the very day on which the fleet might be expected to arrive.

That this manoeuvre failed in its purpose was not the fault of those who controlled it. A heavy tempest delayed the arrival of the expedition, and gave time to the commander of our forces at Charleston to ask and receive instructions of the Government. . . .

1 Hunter of Virginia.

2 This statement is in accord with a remark which Buchanan made to the author at an earlier period of the same session, with regard to the violence of Northern sentiment then lately indicated, that he thought it not impossible that his homeward route would be lighted by burning effigies of himself, and that on reaching his home he would find it a heap of ashes.

3 See Appendix L.

4 Ibid.

5 See letter of Judge Campbell to Colonel George W. Munford in “Papers of the Southern historical Society,” appended to Southern Magazine for February, 1874.

6 “In the course of this conversation I told Judge Crawford that it was fair to tell him that the opinion at Washington was, the secession movements were short-lived; that his Government would wither under sunshine, and that the effect of these measures might be as supposed; that they might have a contrary effect, but that I did not consider the effect. I wanted, above all other things, peace. I was willing to accept whatever peace might bring, whether union or disunion. I did not look beyond peace. He said he was willing to take all the risks of sunshine.”—Letter of Judge Campbell to Colonel Munford, as above.

7 Letter to Colonel Munford, above quoted. The italics are not in the original.

8 Message to the legislature of South Carolina, November, 1861.

9 Letter to Colonel Munford, above cited.

10 Letter to Munford.

11 Judge Campbell, in his letter to Seward of April 13, 1861 (see Appendix L), written a few days after the transaction, gives this date. In his letter to Colonel Munford, written more than twelve years afterward, he says “Sunday, April 8th.”

12 For this and other documents quoted relative to the transactions of the period, see The Record of Fort Sumter, compiled by W. A. Harris, Columbia, South Carolina, 1862.

13 Lincoln and Seward, New York, 1874, pp. 57, 58. The italics are not in the original.

14 Ibid., pp. 64-69.

15 Crawford, as we have seen, had arrived some days earlier. The statement in the message refers to the arrival of the full commission, or a majority of it.

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