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Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education :: Forums :: General :: Articles and Article Archive
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Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Pages 162- 230 (current)
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Tue Sep 20 2011, 12:58AM

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There will be some typo errors due to copy and paste. My apologies.

I am adding some pages to the front end of this thread to show the Federal governemnts position on the issue of forts in Charleston harbor.



The forts in Charleston harbor-Conduct toward them and the reasons for it-To guard against surprise reënforcements ready-Instructions to Major Anderson-Interview with South Carolina members-General Scott again recommends the garrisoning of all the forts-Reasons against it-The compromise measures still depending--Want of troops-observation on General Scott's report to President Lincoln-His letter to Secretary Seward, and the manner in which it, with the report, was brought to light and published-Mr. Buchanan's reply to the report-General Scott's statement of the interview with President Buchanan on 15th December, and observations thereupon-The example of General Jackson in 1833, and why it was inapplicable.

IT is now necessary to recur to the condition of the forts and other public property of the United States within South Carolina, at the date of the President's annual message, on the 3d December, 1860. In regard to that property the message says "This has been purchased for a fair equivalent, by the consent of the Legislature of the State, for the 'erection of forts, magazines, arsenals,' and over these the authority 'to exercise exclusive legislation' has been expressly granted by the Constitution. to Congress. It is not believed that any attempt will be made to expel the United States from this property by force, but if in this I should prove to be mistaken, the officer in command of the forts has received orders to act strictly on the defensive. In such a contingency the responsibility for consequences would rightfully rest upon the heads of the assailants." Thus if war mast come, the President had determined to fix the whole responsibility for its commencement on South Carolina. In order to estimate correctly the wisdom of this defensive policy, it is necessary to revert to the condition of the country on the 3d December, 1860, when it was announced. At this period we

page 163

may divide the Southern States into three classes, holding opinions variant from each other.

1. There was South Carolina, which had been the avowed and persistent advocate of disunion for more than a quarter of a century. She had already called a Convention for he purpose of seceding from the Union. Her leading secessionists were ever on the alert to seize upon any action of the Federal Government which they might wrest to the purpose of alienating the other slaveholding States from their attachment to the Union, and enlisting them in her cause.

2. The second class was composed of the six other cotton States. The people of these, although highly excited against the abolitionists, were still unwilling to leave the Union. They would have been content, notwithstanding the efforts of secession demagogues, with a simple recognition of their adjudged rights to take slaves into the Territories, and hold them there like other property, until a territorial convention, assembled to frame a State constitution, should decide the question. To this decision, whatever it might be, they professed their willingness to submit. Indeed, as has already been seen from the statements of Messrs. Douglas and Toombs in the Senate, they would have consented to abandon their rights in all the Territories north of 36° 30', leaving what should remain to them little more than a name.

3. The third class consisted of the border slaveholding States, with Virginia at the head. A large majority of their people, although believing in the right of peaceful secession, had resisted all the efforts of the extreme men in their midst, and were still devoted to the Union. Of this there could be no better proof than the result of the election held in Virginia, February 4, 1861, for the choice of delegates to her State Convention, even after the cotton States had all seceded.* This showed that a very large majority of the delegates elected were in favor of remaining in the Union.

Under these circumstances, it is easy to imagine what would have been the effect on the other Southern States of sending a feeble force of United States troops to Fort Moultrie at this criti-

* Appleton's Annual Cyclopædia for 1861, p. 730.

page 164

cal conjuncture. had collision been the consequence, and blood been shed immediately before the meeting of Congress, the other cotton States, from their well-known affinities, would have rushed to the support of South Carolina. She would thus have accomplished her long-sought object. Indeed, it was the current report of the day that her leading disunionists had declared the spilling of a little blood would be necessary to secure the cooperation of other Southern States. Besides, in the President's opinion, there was no necessity, at the time, for any reënforcement to secure the forts in the harbor of Charleston. He was convinced that while the other slaveholding States were ready and willing to compromise with the North, South Carolina would not dare to attack Fort Moultrie. This conviction did not spring from any confidence in her spirit of forbearance; it arose from a certain knowledge that such an outrage would be condemned not only by the border but by the cotton States. It would estrange and separate them from her, at the very moment she was most solicitous to conciliate them. Whoever was in Washington at the time cannot fail to recollect the denunciations in advance of leading Southern men against such an unprovoked attack. The public property stood within her limits-three forts, a custom house, an arsenal, and a post office, covered by the flag of the country. From these she knew she had nothing to fear unless she should first make the attack. Such an outrage as the seizure of a fort of the United States by any State had never before been imagined. There must be a fearful suspense between the conception and the commission of such an act. It was the supreme object of the President to promote, by all the means in his power, such a fair and honorable adjustment between the North and the South as would save the country from the scourge of civil war. It was, therefore, his evident, policy to isolate South Carolina, as far as possible, from the other Southern States; and for this purpose to refrain from any act which might enable her to enlist them in her cause. If, after all, she should attack Fort Moultrie, this act would have met their universal condemnation. Besides, nothing short, of such an attack could have united the people of the North in suppressing her revolt. They were then far from being prepared for civil war.

On the contrary, they were intent on a peaceful solution of our difficulties, and would have censured any act of the administra- tion which might have defeated this purpose and precipitated them into hostilities. The true policy was that expressed by President Lincoln to the seceded cotton States in his inaugural months afterward, in which he informs them, "You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors." Although the President believed (and this with good cause, as the event has shown), that under the existing circumstances, South Carolina would not attack any of the forts in the harbor of' Charleston whilst he suffered their status quo to remain; yet in this it was possible he might be mistaken. To guard against surprise after the secession of the State, which was then imminent, he had prepared an expedition as powerful as his limited means would afford, to send reënforcements to Major Anderson, at the first moment of danger. For this purpose the Secretary of the Navy had stationed the Brooklyn, a, powerful war steamer, then completely ready for sea, in Hampton Roads, to take on board for Charleston three hundred disciplined troops, with provisions and munitions of war, from the neighboring garrison of Fortress Monroe.

Having thus provided for the reënforcement of the forts, in case of need, the Secretary of War despatched Assistant Adjutant-General Buell to Major Anderson, at Fort Moultrie, with instructions how he should act in his present position. These were communicated to him on the 11th December, 1860. Whilst they instructed the Major to avoid every act of aggression, they directed him, in case of an attack upon, or an attempt to take possession of, any of the three forts under his command, to defend them to the last extremity. Furthermore, he was authorized, as a precautionary measure, should he believe his force insufficient for the defence of all three, to remove it at his discretion from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, whenever he should have tangible evidence of a design, on the part of South Carolina, to proceed to a hostile act. We say to Fort Sumter, because the third fort, Castle Pinckney, was wholly indefensble. From the important bearing of these instructions upon subsequent events, they are entitled to textual insertion. They


are as follows: "You are aware of the great anxiety of the Secretary of War, that a collision of the troops with the people of the State shall be avoided, and of his studied determination to pursue a course with reference to the military force and forts in this harbor, which shall guard against such a collision. He has, therefore, carefully abstained from increasing the force at this point, or taking any measures which might add to the present excited state of the public mind, or which would throw any doubt on the confidence he feels that South Carolina will not attempt by violence to obtain possession of the public works or interfere with their occupancy. But as the counsel and acts of rash and impulsive persons may possibly disappoint these expectations of the Government, he deems it proper that you shall be prepared with instructions to meet so unhappy a contingency. He has, therefore, directed me verbally to give you such instructions. You are carefully to avoid every act which would needlessly tend to provoke aggression, and for that reason you are not, without evident and imminent necessity, to take up any position which could be construed into the assumption of a hostile attitude, but you are to hold possession of the forts in this harbor, and if attacked you are to defend yourself to the last extremity. The smallness of your force will not permit you, perhaps, to occupy more than one of the three forts, but an attack on or attempt to take possession of either one of them will be regarded as an act of hostility, and you may then put your command into either of them which you may deem most proper to increase its power of resistance. You are also authorized to take similar defensive steps whenever you have tangible evidence of a design to proceed to a hostile act."

The President having observed that Major Buell, in reducing to writing at Fort Moultrie the instructions he had verbally received, required Major Anderson, in case of attack, to defend himself to the last extremity, immediately caused the Secretary of War to modify this instruction. This extreme was not required by any principle of military honor or by any rule of war. It was sufficient for him to defend himself until no reasonable hope should remain of saving the fort. The instructions

★ Ex. Doc., H. R., vol. vi., No. 26, p. 10.


Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com

Publication Information: Book Title: Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Contributors: James Buchanan - author. Publisher: D. Appleton. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1866. Page Number: 166.

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Page 167 & 168

were accordingly so modified, with the approbation of General Scott.

The President having determined not to disturb the status quo at Charleston, as long as our troops should continue to be hospitably treated by the inhabitants, and remain in unmolested possession of the forts, was gratified to learn, a short time thereafter, that South Carolina was equally intent on preserving the peace. On the 8th December, 1860, four of the Representatives in Congress from that State sought an interview, and held a conversation with him concerning the best means of avoiding a hostile collision between the parties. In order to guard against any misapprehension on either side, he suggested that they had best reduce their verbal communication to writing, and bring it to him in that form. Accordingly, on the 10th December, they delivered to him a note, dated on the previous day, and signed by five members, in which they say: "In compliance with our statement to you yesterday, we now express to you our strong convictions that neither the constituted authorities, nor any body of the people of the State of South Carolina, will either attack or molest the United States forts in the harbor of Charleston, previously to the action of the Convention; and we hope and believe not until an offer has been made, through an accredited representative, to negotiate for an amicable arrangement of all matters between the State and the Federal Government, provided that no reënforcements be sent into these forts, and their relative military status shall remain as at present." ★
Both in this and in their previous conversation, they declared that in making this statement, they were acting solely on their own responsibility, and expressly disclaimed any authority to bind their State. They, nevertheless, expressed the confident belief that they would be sustained both by the State authorities and by the Convention, after it should assemble. Although the President considered this declaration as nothing more than the act of five highly respectable members of the House from South Carolina, yet he welcomed it as a happy omen, that by means of their influence collision might be prevented, and time afforded to all parties for reflection and for a peaceable ____________________

★ Ex. Doc., H. R., vol. vi., No. 96, p. 9,&c

adjustment. From abundant caution, however, he objected to the word "provided" in their statement, lest, if he should accept it without remark, this might possibly be construed into an agreement on his part not to reënforce the forts. Such an agreement, he informed them, he would never make. It would be impossible for him, from the nature of his official responsibility, thus to tie his own hands and restrain his own freedom of action. Still, they might have observed from his message, that he had no present design, under existing circumstances, to change the condition of the forts at Charleston. He must, notwithstanding, be left entirely free to exercise his own discretion, according to exigencies as they might arise. They replied that nothing was further from their intention than such a construction of this word; they did not so understand it, and he should not so consider it.

It was at this moment, on the 15th December, 1860, after the President's policy had been fixed and announced in his annual message; after the "Brooklyn" had been made ready to go to the relief of Major Anderson in case of need; after he had received instructions in accordance with this policy; after the President's pacific interview with the South Carolina members, and before any action had yet been taken on the first Crittenden Compromise, that General Scott deemed it proper to renew his former recommendation to garrison the nine Southern fortifications. This appears from his report to President Lincoln, of the 30th March, 1861, entitled "Southern Forts; a Summary," &c., of which we shall often hereafter have occasion to speak. It is scarcely a lack of charity to infer that General Scott knew at the time when he made this recommendation (on the 15th December) that it must be rejected. The President could not have complied with it, the position of affairs still remaining unchanged, without at once reversing his entire policy, and without a degree of inconsistency amounting almost to self-stultification. The Senators from the cotton States and from Virginia, where these forts are situated, were still occupied with their brother Senators in devising measures of peace and conciliation. For this patriotic purpose the Committee of Thir- teen were about to be appointed, and they remained in session


Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com

Publication Information: Book Title: Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Contributors: James Buchanan - author. Publisher: D. Appleton. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1866. Page Number: 168.

(To this point we see the instructions to Maj. Anderson and the representatives of South Carolina agreeing to this arrangement and declaring that there will be no hostile action against Anderson and his men.)

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Page 169

until the last day of the month. Meanwhile all the Southern Senators in Congress professed their willingness to adopt the Crittenden Compromise, so much and so justly lauded afterwards by General Scott himself. If at this moment, whilst they were engaged in peaceful consultation with Senators from the North, the President had despatched military expeditions to these nine forts, it was easy to foresee what would be the disastrous effect, not only in the cotton, but in all the border States. Its first effect would have been to dissolve the existing conferences for a peaceable adjustment.

This, the General's second recommendation, was wholly unexpected. He had remained silent for more than six weeks from the date of his supplemental "Views," convinced, as the President inferred, that he had abandoned the idea of garrisoning all these forts with "the five companies only" within his reach. Had the President never so earnestly desired to reënforce the nine forts in question, at this time, it would have been little short of madness to undertake the task, with the small force at his command. Without authority to call forth the militia or accept the services of volunteers for the purpose, this whole force now consisted of six hundred recruits, obtained by the General since the date of his "Views," in addition to the five regular companies.

Our army was still out of reach on the remote frontiers, and could not be withdrawn, during midwinter, in time for this military operation. Indeed, the General had never suggested such a withdrawal. He knew that had this been possible, the, inhabitants on our distant frontiers would have been immediately exposed to the tomahawk and scalping knife of the Indians. Our weak condition in regard to troops within reach is demonstrated by the insignificant number of these he was able to collect in Washington on the 4th March following. This was to resist an attempt which he apprehended would be made by an armed force to prevent the inauguration of President Lincoln and to seize the public property. The General was so firmly convinced of the reality of this plot, that nothing could shake his faith. It was in vain that a committee of the House of Representatives, after hearing the General himself, and after full investigation, had
reported, that his apprehensions were unfounded. Besides, the

February 14, 1861. House Reports of Committees, vol. ii., No. 79.

Page 170--

President, relying on his own sources of information, had never entertained any similar apprehensions. The stake, notwithstanding, was so vast and the General so urgent, that he granted him permission to bring to Washington all the troops he could muster to resist an imaginary but dreaded enemy. The whole number of these, including even the sappers and miners whom he had withdrawn from West Point, amounted to no more than six hundred and fifty-three, rank and file. These troops, with a portion of the district militia, the General had posted in different parts of the city, and had stationed sentinels on the tops of the highest houses and other eminences, so that all was ready to attack the enemy at the first moment of their appearance; but never did an inauguration pass more peacefully and quietly. It is due to President Lincoln to state, that throughout his long progress in the same carriage with the late President, both on the way' to the Capitol and the return from it, he was far from evincing the slightest apprehension of danger.

Had the President attempted to distribute the General's thousand men, as he proposed, among the numerous forts in the cotton States, as well as Fortress Monroe, their absurd inadequacy to the object would have exhibited weakness instead of strength. It would have provoked instead of preventing collision. It would have precipitated a civil war with the cotton States without the slightest preparation on the part of Congress, and would at once have destroyed the then prevailing hopes of compromise. Worse than all, it would have exasperated Virginia and the other border States, then so intent on remaining in the Union, and might have driven them at once into hostile action.

And now it becomes our painful duty to examine the report of General Scott to President Lincoln of 30th March, 1861. This was first published at the General's instance, eighteen months after its date, in the " National Intelligencer" of the 21st October, 1862. It cannot be denied that the report throughout is an indiscriminate censure of President Buchanan's conduct in dealing with the Southern forts. It evidently proceeded from a defective memory prejudiced by a strong bias. It rests mainly on vague and confused recollections of private conversations alleged to have been held with the President several months

(In the pages posted to date, it is clear that the states in secession wanted peace as much or more than anyone. Looks like Scott wanted a war more than Buchanan. This is only the beginning of what caused the war.)


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before its date. These having occurred between the commander- in-chief and the commanding General of the army, on important military questions, pertaining to their respective official duties, were, in their nature, strictly confidential. Were this otherwise, it would destroy that freedom and unreserve which ought to characterize such consultations, and instead thereof; the parties would be ever on their guard in the interchange of opinions, often greatly to the prejudice of the public interest. Had the General resolved to violate a confidence as sacred as that between the President and a member of his Cabinet, such is the treachery of the best human memory, he ought, at the least, to have submitted his statements to Mr. Buchanan before he had embodied them in his report. Had he done this, we venture to say from the sequel that most of them would have never seen the light.

When President Buchanan retired from office, he had reason to believe he had parted from the General on terms mutually amicable. Although in former years their friendly intercourse had been for a season interrupted, yet he believed all this had been forgotten. A suspicion never entered his mind that the General held in reserve a quiver of arrows to assail his public character upon his retirement from office.

This report does not allege that it had been made in consequence of a call from President Lincoln. From its face it appears to have been a pure volunteer offering on the part of the General. It deals with the past and not with the future. It is remarkable that it does not contain a word of advice to President Lincoln, such as might have been expected from the commanding General, as to the manner of recovering the forts which before its date had been already seized by the Confederates. On the contrary, it reveals the strange fact that the General, so late as the 12th March, and after the so-called Confederate Government of the cotton States was in full operation at Montgomery, had advised President Lincoln to evacuate Fort Sumter, and this in direct opposition to what had been the well-known and oft- expressed determination of Mr. Buchanan. We need scarcely remark that President Lincoln acted wisely in disregarding this counsel. It was founded on an alleged military necessity. Had the fort been actually invested by a hostile force so superior as


to render resistance hopeless, this would have justified a capitulation in order to save a useless sacrifice of life. Its voluntary abandonment, however, to the Confederacy, would have gone far toward a recognition of their independence.

The General, in this report, would have President Lincoln believe, on the authority of a Richmond newspaper, that "had Scott been able to have got these forts in the condition he desired them to be, the Southern Confederacy would not now exist." Strange hallucination! In plain English, that South Carolina, which throughout an entire generation had determined on disunion, and had actually passed an ordinance of secession to carry this purpose into effect, and the remaining six powerful cotton States ready to follow her evil example, unless their adjudged rights should be recognized by Congress, and which together have since sent into the field such numerous and powerful armies, would at once have been terrified into submission by the distribution of four hundred troops in October, or one thousand in December, among their numerous fortifications!

Very different must have been his opinion on the 3d March following, when he penned his famous letter to Secretary Seward. In this he exclaims: "Conquer the seceded [cotton] States by invading armies. No doubt this might be done in two or three years by a young and able general--a Wolfe, a Dessaix, a Hoche, with three hundred thousand disciplined men, estimating a third for garrisons, and the loss of a yet greater number by skirmishes, sieges, battles and Southern fevers. The destruction of life and property on the other side would be frightful, however perfect the moral discipline of the invaders. The conquest completed, at that enormous waste of human life to the North and the Northwest, with at least $250,000,000 added thereto, and cui bono? Fifteen devastated provinces! not to be brought into harmony with their conquerors, but to be held for generations by heavy garrisons, at an expense quadruple the net duties or taxes it would be possible to extort from them, followed by a protector or an emperor." In view of these fearful forebodings, we are not surprised that he should have despaired of the Union, and been willing to say to the cotton States, "Wayward sisters, depart in peace." Nor that he should have fallen back

(Extort MONEY, could this also be a cause??? )


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on his opinion expressed in the "Views" ( 29th October, 1860), that "a smaller evil [than such a civil war] would be to allow the fragments of the great Republic to form themselves into now Confederacies."

The General, however, in the same letter to Secretary Seward, presents his alternative for all these evils. He advises Mr. Lincoln's administration "to throw off the old and assume a new designation--the Union party; adopt the conciliatory measures proposed by Mr. Crittenden, or the Peace Convention, and my life upon it, we shall have no new case of secession, but, oil the contrary, an early return of many if not all of the States which have already broken off from the Union. Without some equally benign measure, the remaining slaveholding States will probably join the Montgomery Confederacy in less than sixty days, when this city, being included in a foreign country, would require a permanent garrison of at least thirty-five thousand troops." His advice to adopt the Crittenden Compromise would have been excellent had it been given to his Republican friends in Congress in the previous December, before any State had seceded, and before any fort had been seized, instead of then recommending to President Buchanan to dispatch small bands of United States soldiers to each of the forts. This recommendation, had it been followed at the time, would at once have defeated this very Crittenden Compromise, so much desired, and served only to provoke the cotton States into secession. It would have been the stone of Cadmus cast among the armed men sprung from the dragon's teeth, and the signal for immediate fratricidal war and mutual destruction. The advice to President Lincoln was out of season, after both the Crittenden Compromise and the measures proposed by the Peace Convenetion had been finally rejected by Congress, and whilst the Confederacy of the cotton States was in active existence.

Before we proceed to analyze in further detail the General's report, it is curious to note the reason for its publication. This was a consequence of the publication of his letter to Secretary Seward, which was in its very nature confidential. At this period, in October, 1862, when the rebellion had assumed a formidable aspect, and when his sinister predictions appeared to


be in the course of fulfilment, he read the original draft, in his own handwriting, to a friend. This gentleman, whilst extolling the far-seeing sagacity and the prophetic spirit it displayed, begged for the draft as an invaluable keepsake. This appeal to the General proved irresistible. The manuscript was delivered to the friend, who soon thereafter read it, amid great applause, at a public meeting in the city of New, York, and whilst a highly excited political canvass was depending for the office of Governor. The letter thus published, implying a direct censure on President Lincoln for not having followed the advice it had given, created no little astonishment, because of the prevalent belief at the time, that the General was under many obligations to the administration for liberal and indulgent treatment in the face of discomfiture and defeat. The letter having thus been first published by his friend, it was soon thereafter republished in the "National Intelligencer," of the 21st October, 1862, under the General's own authority, and in addition, a copy of his report to President Lincoln. Why he thus connected these two documents, so distinct and even opposite in character, it would be difficult to decide. It has been conjectured he may have thought that the censure of Mr. Buchananin the report might prove an antidote to that against Mr. Lincoln in the Seward letter. Whatever may have caused the publication of this report, Mr. Buchanan has cause to rejoice that it was brought to light during his lifetime. It might, otherwise, have slumbered on the secret files of the Executive Department until after his death, and then been revealed to posterity as authentic history. And here it is proper to mention, that a few days after the publication of the report, Mr. Buchanan replied to it in a letter published in the "National Intelligencer," of the 1st November, 1862. This gave rise to a correspondence between himself and General Scott, which, on both sides, was formally addressed to the editors of that journal, and was published by them in successive numbers. This continued throughout the autumn. It might at first be supposed that the errors in the report had been sufficiently exposed in the course of this correspondence; but in the present historical sketch of President Buchanan's conduct, it is impossible to pass over the strictures


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made upon it by General Scott. The two are inseparably joined together.

The General, in his report, prefaces the statement of his conversation with President Buchanan, by saying, that on the 13th December he had "personally urged upon the Secretary of War the same 'views' [those of the previous October], viz., strong garrisons in the Southern forts; those of Charleston and Pensa cola harbors at once; those on Mobile Bay and the Mississippi below New Orleans, next, &c., &c. I again pointed out the organized companies, and the [600] recruits at the principal depots available for the purpose. The Secretary did not concur in my views." This, indeed, he could not have done so early as the 13th December, without placing himself in direct opposition to the well-defined policy of the President. An interview was, therefore, appointed for the 15th December, between the President and the General. "By appointment," says the General, "the Secretary accompanied me to the President, December 15th, when the same topics, secessionism, &c., were again pretty fully discussed." He does not furnish the President's answer to the proposition to send strong garrisons to the Southern forts. This must unquestionably have referred to the topics of which his mind was then full, viz., the promising aspect of compromise at the moment; the certain effect of such a measure in defeating it; the inadequacy of the force at command for so extended an operation.; and the policy which had been laid down in his anuual message. Not a word of all this. But the General's memory seems to have improved with the lapse of years and the progress of the rebellion. In his report to President Lincoln, he speaks of but one conversation with President Buchanan, that of the 15th December, whilst in his letter of the 8th November, 1862, to the "National Intelligencer," a portion of the correspondence to which we have referred, he alleges he had, on the 28th and 30th of the same December, repeated the recommendation to garrison all the Southern forts. In this statement, if material, it would be easy to prove he was mistaken. Indeed, President Buchanan has in his possession a note from the General himself, dated on Sunday, 30th December, stating that by indisposition he was confined to the house


on that day, and could not therefore call upon him. Of this hereafter.

According to the report, he merely mentions in general terms the recruits he had obtained for the expedition, without allotting them. among the several forts. According to the letter, he informed President Buchanan that the number of recruits at New York and Carlisle barracks was about six hundred, "besides the five companies of regulars near at hand, making about one thousand men." And he also stated how would distribute them among the several forts. In this distribution he left only "about two hundred men for the twin forts of Moultrie and Sumter, Charleston harbor." He also declared in this letter, that "he considered the force quite adequate to the occasion." But, as if rendered conscious of its inadequacy by the logic of events, he alleges that President Buchanan"might have called forth volunteers to garrison these forts, without any special legislation," and this, too, "with the full approbation of every loyal man in the Union." That is, that on the 15th December, 1860, before any State had seceded, he might without law have usurped this authority, when the law-making power was actually in session and had made no movement to grant it, and when all were intent, not on war, but on measures of compromise. In this letter he charges the Secretary of War, "with or without the President's approbation," with "having nearly denuded our whole eastern seaboard of troops." In doing this, he must surely have forgotten that he himself had eloquently urged that all the force on the frontiers was not sufficient for the protection of our distant fellow-citizens, and had therefore advocated the raising of an additional force by Congress for this very purpose.

It would seem from the report that the President confined his observations at their interview exclusively to the reënforce-
ment of the forts in Charleston harbor, for which General Scott, according to his own statement, in the letter to the " National Intelligencer," could spare but two hundred men, the remaining eight hundred being required for the, other fortifications. The President having expressed the opinion, according to the report, "that there was at the moment no danger of an early secession

Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion.

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beyond South Carolina," he proceeded to state, "in reply to my [ General Scott's] arguments for immediately reënforcing Fort Moultrie, and sending a garrison to Fort Sumter," that "the time has not arrived for doing so; that he should wait the action of the Convention of South Carolina, in the expectation that a commission would be appointed and sent to negotiate with him and Congress, respecting the secession of the State and the property of the United States held within its limits; and that if Congress should decide against the secession, then he would send a reënforcement, and telegraph the commanding officer ( Major Anderson) of Fort Moultrie to hold the forts (Moultrie and Sumter) against attack."

Now it is probable that in the course of this conversation, the President may have referred to the rumor then current, that the South Carolina Convention intended to send commissioners to Washington to treat with the Government, but it is quite impossible he could have stated that the reënforcement of the forts should await the result of their mission. Why? Because the Brooklyn, had been for some time ready to proceed to Fort Moultrie, dependent on no other contingency than that of its attack or danger of attack. Least of all was it possible the President could have said that if Congress should decide against secession, he would then telegraph to Major Anderson "to hold the forts (Moultrie and Sumter) against attack," when instructions of a similar but stronger character had already been sent and, delivered to him, and were of record in the War Department. It is strange that the President should, according to the General, have made any future action in regard to these forts dependent upon his own decision, or that of Congress, on the question of secession, when he had in his annual message, but a few days before, condemned the doctrine as unconstitutional, and he well knew it would be equally condemned by Congress.

It is curious to note a trait of the fault-finding temper of the General in this conversation. In it he makes the Secretary of War observe, "with animation,"" We have a vessel of war (the Brooklyn) held in readiness at Norfolk, and he would then send three hundred men in her from Fort Mouroe to Charleston;" but the General objected to this arrangement, saying in answer,


"that so many men could not be withdrawn from that garrison, but could be taken from New York," &c., &c. In this report to President Lincoln the General exultingly declares, "that if the Secretary's three hundred men had then (on the 15th December), or some time later, been sent to Forts Moultrie and Sumter, both would now have been in the possession of the United States," &c. And again, "It would have been easy to reenforce this fort (Sumter) down to about the 12th February." In making these declarations, he must surely have forgotten not only his own objection to sending these very "three hundred men" from Fortress Monroe, but also the fate of the Star of the West, in the early part of January, with his recruits from New York, which had been substituted under his advice and direction for the Brooklyn.

The reader must have observed that we speak argumentatively and doubtingly of the General's statement of this conversation. We do this simply because President Buchanan, although a party to it, has no recollection whatever of its particulars. The reason doubtless is, that, believing General Scott to have been aware before the interview that the President would not violate his announced policy by sending one thousand men to all the Southern forts, or two hundred to those in Charleston harbor, he must have considered this renewed recommendation rather a matter of form, springing from a motive which he will not attempt to conjecture, than any thing more serious. But whatever may have been the cause of his want of memory, the fact is certainly true. He sincerely wishes it were otherwise.

We may observe generally in regard to this report, that the attempt, at the end of more than three months, filled with the most important and stirring events, to write out charges against President Buchanan, must almost necessarily do him injustice. Fairly to accomplish such a task, the writer ought to have tested his own recollection by a reference to dates and official documents within his reach. Not having done this, the report is confused throughout, sometimes blending in the same sentence occurrences of distinct date and opposite nature. When these come to be unravelled, it will appear in the sequel that they are often contradicted by official and other unimpeachable testimony.


And here it is due to General Scott to mention, that on the evening of their interview (15th December), he addressed a note to President Buchanan, reminding him that General Jackson, during the period of South Carolina nullification, had sent reënforcements to Fort Moultrie to prevent its seizure by the nullifiers and to enforce the collection of the revenue. This example was doubtless suggested for imitation. But the times had greatly changed during more than a quarter of a century which had since elapsed. In 1833 South Carolina stood alone. She had then the sympathy of no other Southern State. Her nullification was condemned by them all. Even her own people were almost equally divided on the question. But instead of this, in December, 1860, they were unanimous, and the other cotton States were preparing to follow her into secession, should their rights in the Territories be denied by Congress. Besides, the President had already declared his purpose to collect the revenue by the employment of vessels of war stationed outside of the port of Charleston, whenever its collection at the custom house should be resisted. He hoped thereby to avoid actual collision; but, whether or not, he had resolved at every hazard to collect the revenue. Such was the state of affairs on the 15th December, 1860. Meanwhile the forts and all other public property were unmolested, and Major Anderson and his troops continued to be supplied and treated in the kindest manner. -


(Taxes still playing a large part of the issue. Anderson and troops were drawing supplies from CHarleston at this time. )

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Chapter X

ON the 20th December, 1860, the South Carolina Convention adopted an ordinance of secession, and on the 22d appointed three of their most distinguished citizens to proceed forthwith to Washington to treat with the Government of the United States concerning the relations between the parties. These were Robert W. Barnwell, James H. Adams, and James L. Orr. They arrived in Washington on Wednesday, the 26th December. On the next morning they received intelligence by telegraph that Major Anderson had, on Christmas night, secretly dismantled Fort Moultrie; had spiked his cannon, had burnt his gun-carriages, and had removed with his troops to Fort Sumter, as if from an impending attack.This information they sent to the President. He received it with astonishment and regret. With astonishment, because he had believed Major Anderson to be in security at Fort Moultrie; and this more


especially whilst the commissioners appointed but three days before were on their way to Washington. With regret, because this movement would probaly impel the other cotton and border States into active sympathy with South Carolina, and thereby defeat the measures of compromise still before the Com- mittee of Thirteen of the Senate, from which he had hoped to confine secession to that State alone. The President never doubted for a moment that Major Anderson believed before the movement that lie had "the tangible evidence" of an impending attack required by his instructions. Still it was difficult to imagine that South Carolina would be guilty of the base perfidy of attacking any of these forts during the pendency of her mission to Washington, for the avowed purpose of preserving the peace and preventing collision. Such treacherous conduct would have been considered infamous among all her sister States. She has always strenuously denied that such was her intention.

In this state of suspense the President determined to await official information from Major Andersion himself. After its receipt, should he be convinced upon full examination that the Major, on a false alarm, had violated his instructions, he might then think seriously of restoring for the present the former status quo of the forts. This, however, was soon after known to be impossible, in consequence of the violent conduct of South Carolina in seizing all the other forts and public property in the harbor and city of Charleston.

It was under these circumstances that the President, on Friday, the 28th December, held his first and only interview with the commissioners from South Carolina. He determined to listen with patience to what they had to communicate, taking as little part himself in the conversation as civility would permit. On their introduction he stated that he could recognize them only as private gentlemen and not as commissioners from a sovereign State; that it was to Congress, and to Congress alone, they must appeal. He, nevertheless, expressed his willingness to communicate to that body, as the only competent tribunal, any propositions they might have to offer. They then proceeded, evidently under much excitement, to state their grievances arising, out of the removal of Major Anderson to Fort Sumter,


(Anderson brings war to the United States.)

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In their letter to the President of the next day, they repeat this demand, saying: ★ "And, in conclusion, we would urge upon you the immediate withdrawal of the troops from the harbor of Charleston. Under present circumstances they are a standing menace which renders negotiation impossible, and, as our recent experience shows, threatens to bring to a bloody issue questions which ought to be settled with temperance and Judgment."

This demand, accompanied by an unmistakable threat of attacking Major Anderson if not yielded, was of the most extravagant character. To comply with it, the commissioners must have known, would be impossible. Had they simply requested that Major Anderson might be restored to his former position at Fort Moultrie, upon a guarantee from the State that neither it nor the other forts or public property should be molested; this, at the moment, might have been worthy of serious consideration. But to abandon all these forts to South Carolina, on the demand of commissioners claiming to represent her as an independent State, would have been a recognition, on the part of the Executive, of her right to secede from the Union. This was not to be thought of for a moment.

The President replied to the letter of the commissioners on Monday, 31st December. In the mean time information had reached him that the State authorities, without waiting to hear from Washington, had, on the day after Major. Anderon's removal, seized Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, the custom house, and post office, and over them all had raised the Palmetto flag; and moreover, that every officer of the customs, collector, naval officer, surveyor, appraisers, together with the postmaster, had resigned their appointments; and that on Sunday, the 30th December, they had captured from Major Humphreys,

★ Ex. Doc., H. R., vol. vi., No. 26, p. 6.


the officer in charge, the arsenal of the United States, containing public property estimated to be worth half a million of dollars. The Government was thus expelled from all its property except Fort Sumter, and no Federal officers, whether civil or military, remained in the city or harbor of Charleston. The secession leaders in Congress attempted to justify these violent proceedings of South Carolina as acts of self-defence, on the assumption that Major Anderson had already commenced hostilities. It is certain that their tone instantly changed after his removal; and they urged its secrecy, the hour of the night when it was made, the destruction of his gun-carriages, and other at- tendant incidents, to inflame the passions of their followers. It was under these circumstances that the President was called upon to reply to the letter of the South Carolina commissioners, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the troops of the United States from the harbor of Charleston. In this reply he peremptorily rejected the demand in firm but courteous terms, and de-clared his purpose to defend Fort Sumter by all the means in his power against hostile attacks, from whatever quarter they might proceed.
(Vide his letter of the 31st December, 1860, Ex. Doc. No. 26, H. R., 36th Congress, 2d Session, accompanying Presi-
dent's message of 8th January, 1861.)

To this the commissioners sent their answer, dated on the 2d January, 1861. This was so violent, unfounded, and disrespectful, and so regardless of what is due to any individual whom the people have honored with the office of President, that the reading of it in the Cabinet excited indignation among all the members. With their unanimous approbation it was immediately, on the day of its date, returned to the commissioners with the following indorsement: "This paper, just presented to the President, is of such a character that he declines to receive it."
Surely no negotiation was ever conducted in such a manner, unless, indeed, it had been the predetermined purpose of the negotiators to produce an open and immediate rupture.
It may be asked, why did the President, at his interview with the South Carolina commissioners, on the 28th December, offer to lay the propositions they had to make before Congress, when he must have been morally certain they would not meet a favorable


response? This was to gain time for passion to subside, and for reason to resume her sway; to bring the whole subject before the representatives of the people in such a manner as to cause them to express an authoritative opinion on secession, and the other dangerous questions then before the country, and adopt such measures for their peaceable adjustment as might possibly reclaim even South Carolina herself; but whether or not, might prevent the other cotton States from following her evil and rash example.

The insulting letter of the commissioners, which had been returned to them, was notwithstanding presented to the Senate by Mr. Jefferson Davis, immediately after the reading of the President's special message of the 8th January; and such was the temper of that body at the time, that it was received and read, and entered upon their journal. Mr. Davis, not content with this success, followed it up by a severe and unjust attack against the President, and his example was followed by several of his adherents. From this time forward, as has been already stated, all social and political intercourse ceased between the disunion Senators and the President.

It is worth notice, that whilst this letter of the commissioners was published at length in the "Congressional Globe," among the proceedings of the Senate, their previous letter to
the President of the 28th December, and his answer thereto of the 31st, were never published in this so-called official register, although copies of both had accompanied his special message. By this means the offensive letter was scattered broadcast over the country, whilst the letter of the President, to which this professed to be an answer, was buried in one of the numerous and long after published volumes of executive documents.

It is proper to advert to the allegation of the commissioners, in their letter of the 28th December, that the removal of Major Anderson to Fort Sumter was made in violation of pledges given by the President. They also say that "since our arrival an officer of the United States, acting, as we are assured, not only without but against your orders, has dismantled one fort and occupied another, thus altering to a most important extent


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the condition of affairs under which we came." As to the alleged pledge, we have already shown that no such thing existed. It has never been pretended that it rests upon any pretext except the note of the 9th December, delivered to the President by the South Carolina members of Congress, and what occurred on that occasion. All this has been already stated. But if additional evidence were wanting to refute the assertion of a pledge, this might be found in the statement published afterwards in Charleston by two of their number (Messrs. Miles and Keitt), ★ who, in giving an account of this interview, do not pretend or even intimate that any thing passed even in their opinion on either side in the nature of a pledge. By what officer, then, was the assurance given to the commissioners since their arrival in Washington, that Major Anderson had acted not only without but against the President's order? It was none other than the Secretary of War himself, notwithstanding it was in obedience to his own instructions but a few days before that the removal was made from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. This appears from the letter of Major Anderson to the War Department of the 27th December, the day after his removal, which unfortunately did not arrive in Washington until some days after its date. In this he says: "I will add that many things convinced me that the authorities of the State designed
to proceed to a hostile act" (against Fort Moultrie), the very contingency on which the Secretary had not only authorized but directed the Major to remove his troops to Fort Sumter, should he deem this a position of greater security. These instructions were in a certain sense peculiarly his own. They were prepared and transmitted to Major Anderson by himself. Throughout they do not mention the name of the President, though in the main they expressed his views.

We can refer to a probable cause for this strange conduct on the part of the Secretary. This was, that three days before the South Carolina commissioners reached Washington, the President had communicated to him (23d December), through a distinguished friend and kinsman of his own, a request that he should resign his office, with a statement of the reason why this

★ Appleton "American Annual Cyclopædia" for 1861, p. 703.


was made. When he heard this request he displayed much feeling, but said he would comply with the President's wishes. It is proper to state the reason for this request. On the night before it was made (22d December), the fact was first made known to the President that 870 State bonds for $1,000 each, held in trust by the Government for different Indian tribes, had been purloined from the Interior Department by Godard Bailey, the clerk in charge of them, and had been delivered to William H. Russell, a member of the firm of "Russell, Majors & Waddell." Upon examination, it was discovered that this clerk, in lieu of the bonds abstracted, had from time to time received bills of corresponding amount from Russell, drawn by the firm on John B. Floyd, Secretary of War, and by him. accepted and indorsed, and this without any lawful authority. In consequence there was found in the safe where the Indian bonds had been kept, a number of these accepted bills, exactly equal in amount to $870,000. These acceptances were thirteen in number, commencing on the 13th September, 1860, and had been received by Mr. Bailey, according to his own statement, "as collateral security for the return of the bonds," and as such had been placed by him in the safe. It is remarkable that the last of them, dated on the 13th December, 1860, for $135,000, had been drawn for the precise sum necessary to make the aggregate amount of the whole number of bills exactly equal to that of the abstracted bonds.

And here it is due to Secretary Thompson to state, though a digression, that on Monday morning, the 24th December, at his own instance, the House of Representatives appointed a committee "to investigate and report upon the subject," of which Hon. Mr. Morris, of Illinois, a rancorous opponent of the administration, was the chairman. After a full investigation, the committee made their report on the 12th February, 1861. ★
In this they state: "They deem it but justice to add that they have discovered nothing to involve the late Secretary, Hon. Jacob Thompson, in the slightest degree in the fraud, and nothing to indicate that he had any complicity in the transaction, or that he had any knowledge of it until the time of the disclosure by

★ Report of Committee, H. R., 1860-'61, vol. ii., No. 78, p. 3.


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Godard Bailey." It is to be regretted, for the sake of public justice, that all the circumstances connected with the abstraction of these bonds had not been subjected to a judicial investigation. This was rendered impossible by the action of the committee itself, in examining John B. Floyd and William H. Russell as witnesses. For this reason they were relieved from all criminal
responsibility by the Act of Congress of the 24th January, 1857, ★ of the existence of which the committee seem to have been ignorant. This act provides that no person examined as a witness before a committee of either House of Congress, "shall be held to answer criminally in any court of justice for any fact or act" "touching which he shall have testified." In this manner both Mr. Floyd and Mr. Russell escaped without trial.

To return from our digression. Secretary Floyd's apparent complicity with this fraudulent transaction covered him with suspicion, and, whether this were well or ill founded, rendered it impossible, in the opinion of the President, that he should remain in the Cabinet; and hence the request that he should resign. What effect this request may have produced in suddenly converting him from having been until then an avowed and consistent opponent of secession to one of its most strenuous supporters, may be readily inferred. Certain it is, that immediately
after the arrival of the South Carolina commissioners, he became the intimate associate of leading secession Senators, who had just before been in the habit of openly condemning his official conduct.

On the evening of the day after the arrival of these commissioners he boldly assumed his new position, and became the only witness to a pledge which his own instructions of a few days before prove could never have existed. On that evening, in the face of all these facts, he read to the President, in Cabinet council, in a discourteous and excited tone, hitherto unknown, a paper declaring that "it is evident now, from the action of the commander at Fort Moultrie, that the solemn pledges of this Government have been violated by Major Anderson," and that "one ____________________

★ 11 Laws U. S., p. 155.


remedy only is left, and that is to withdraw the garrison from the harbor of Charleston altogether." This evidently foreshadowed the demand made by the commissioners on the following day (28th December), of which we have already treated. This proposition the President heard with astonishment. As he had stated in his reply to them of the 31st December: "Such an idea was never thought of by me. No allusion had ever been made to it in any communication between myself and any human being."

The Secretary, on the 29th December, sent to the President the resignation of his office. By this he offered to discharge its duties until his successor should be appointed. It was instantly accepted without reference to this offer, and Postmaster General Holt was transferred to the War Department.

The President had not made the personal acquaintance of Mr. Floyd before his appointment. Though never in Congress, he had been, like his father, Governor of Virginia. Mr. Buchanan had been favorably impressed by the fact that he had refused to accept a recommendation from the Electoral College of Virginia for a seat in the Cabinet, assigning as a reason that the President, in making selections for this high and confidential office, ought to be left free and untrammelled to the exercise of his own judgment.

The removal of Major Anderson to Fort Sumter, and the seizure by South Carolina of all the remaining public property at Charleston, altogether changed the aspect of affairs from what it had been at the date of the interview between General Scott and the President. Fort Sumter was now threatened with an immediate attack. The time had arrived for despatching the Brooklyn on her destined expedition for its relief. At this crisis General Scott, being too unwell to call in person, addressed a note to the President, on Sunday, the 30th December, asking his permission to send, without reference to the War Department, and otherwise as secretly as possible, two hundred and fifty recruits from New York harbor to reënforce Fort Sumter, together with some extra muskets or rifles, ammunition and subsistence stores, expressing the hope "that a sloop-of-war and


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cutter may be ordered for the same purpose as early as tomorrow" (31st December).

The President immediately decided to order reënforeements; but he preferred to send them by the Brooklyn, which had remained in readiness for this service. He thought that a powerful war steamer with disciplined troops on board would prove more effective than a sloop-of-war and cutter with raw recruits. Accordingly on the next morning (Monday) he instructed the Secretaries of War and the Navy to despatch the Brooklyn to Fort Sumter. On the evening of this day the General called to congratulate him on the fact that the Secretaries had already issued appropriate orders to the respective army and navy officers, and stated that these were then in his own pocket.

In contradiction to this prompt action, it is difficult to imagine how the General could have asserted, in his report to President Lincoln, that "the South Carolina commissioners had already been many days in Washington, and no movement of defence [on the part of the United States] had been permitted." In regard to the "many days" delay:-- These commissioners arrived in Washington on the 26th December; the General sent his request to the President on Sunday, the 30th; and on Monday morning he himself received the necessary orders for the departure of the expedition. General Scott, notwithstanding this prompt response to his request, proceeds still further,and charges the President with having "refused to allow any attempt to be made" to reënforce Fort Sumter, "because he was holding negotiations with the South Carolina commissioners," although this alleged refusal occurred at the very time (31st December)
when he himself had in his own hands the order for the Brooklyn to proceed immediately to Fort Sumter. Nay, more: "Afterwards," says the General, " Secretary Holt and myself endeavored, in vain, to obtain a ship-of-war for the purpose, and were finally obliged to employ the passenger steamer Star of the West." After this statement, will it be credited that the Star of the West was employed in place of the Brooklyn at the pressing instance of General Scott himself? And yet such is the fact. The President yielded to this unfortunate change with great reluctance, and solely in deference to the opinion of the commanding General on a question of military strategy. What a failure and confusion of memory The report to President Lincoln exhibits!

At the interview with President Buchanan on the evening of the 31st December, the General seemed cordially to approve the matured plan of sending reënforcements by the Brooklyn. Why, then, the change in his opinion? At this interview the President informed him he had sent a letter but a few hours before to the South Carolina commissioners, in answer to a communication from them, and this letter would doubtless speedily terminate their mission;--that although he had refused to recognize them in an official character, yet it might be considered improper to transmit the orders then in his possession to the Brooklyn until they had an opportunity of making a reply, and that the delay for this purpose could not, in his opinion, exceed forty-eight hours. In this suggestion the General promptly concurred, observing that it was gentlemanly and proper. He, therefore, retained the orders to await the reply. On the morning of the 2d January the President received and returned the insolent communication of the South Carolina commissioners without an answer, and thus every obstacle was removed from the immediate transmission of the orders. In the mean time, however, the General had unluckily become convinced, after advising with an individual believed to possess much knowledge and practical experience in naval affairs, that the better plan to, secure both secrecy and success would be to send to Fort Sumter a fast side-wheel mercantile steamer from New York with the two hundred and fifty recruits.

Such was the cause of the change, according to the undoubted information communicated to the President at the time by the Secretaries of War and the Navy. For this reason alone was the Star of the West substituted for the service instead of the Brooklyn. The change of programme caused a brief delay; but the Star of the West, with recruits on board, left New York for Charleston on the afternoon of the 5th January. On the evening of the same day, however, on which this ill-fated steamer went to sea, General Scott despatched a telegram to his son-in-


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law, Colonel Scott, of the United States army, then at New York, to countermand her departure; but this did not reach him until after she had left the harbor.

The cause of this countermand proves how much wiser it would have been to employ the Brooklyn in the first instance on this important service. This shall be stated in the language of Secretary Holt in his letter of the 5th March, 1861, in reply to certain allegations which had been made and published ★ by Mr. Thompson, the late Secretary of the Interior. In this he says: "The countermand spoken of (by Mr. Thompson) was not more cordially sanctioned by the President than it was by General Scott and myself; not because of any dissent from the order on the part of the President, but because of a letter received that day from Major Anderson, stating, in effect, that he regarded himself secure in his position; and yet more from intelligence which late on Saturday evening ( 5th January, 1861) reached the Department, that a heavy battery had been erected among the sand hills, at the entrance to Charleston harbor, which would probably destroy any unarmed vessel (and such was the Star of the West) which might attempt to make its way to Fort Sumter. This important information. satisfied the Government that there was no present necessity for sending reënforcements, and that when sent they should go not in a vessel of commerce, but of war. Hence the countermand was despatched by telegraph to New York; but the vessel had sailed a short time before it reached the officer ( Colonel Scott) to whom it was addressed."

General Scott, as well as the Secretaries of War and the Navy, convinced of the blunder which had been committed in substituting the Star of the West for the Brooklyn, proceeded to provide, as far as might be possible, against anticipated disaster. For this purpose the Secretary of the Navy, on the 7th January, despatched an order to the commander of the--Brooklyn ( Farragut), and General Scott simultaneously forwarded to him a despatch to be delivered to the U.S. officer in command of the, recruits on the Star of the West. By this the commander of the recruits was informed that Captain Farragut had been in-

★ "National Tntelligencer," 5th March, 1861


structed to afford him "aid and succor in case your [his] ship be shattered or injured; second, to convey this order of recall, in case you cannot land at Fort Sumter, to Fort Monroe, Hampton Roads, there to await farther orders." In a postscript he was further directed "to land his troops at Fort Monroe and discharge the ship." The sequel will show that these precautions were useless.

The Star of the West, under the command of Captain McGowan, proceeded on her ill-starred voyage, amid anxious apprehensions for the fate of the recruits and mariners on board. She arrived in Charleston harbor on the 9th of January, the flag of the United States flying at her mast-head; and whilst endeavoring to approach Fort Sumter, was fired upon by order of Governor Pickens. She then immediately changed her course and returned to New York. Fortunately no lives were lost, nor was the vessel materially injured. This statement of facts proves incontestably that the President, so far from refusing, was not only willing but anxious, within the briefest period, to reënforce Fort Sumter.

On the very day and immediately after this outrage on the Star of the West, Major Anderson sent a flag to Governor Pickens, informing him of the reason why he had not opened fire from Fort Sumter on the batteries which had attacked the Star of the West. This was because he presumed the act had been unauthorized. He demanded its disavowal, and if this were not sent in a reasonable time he would consider it war, and fire on any vessel that attempted to leave the harbor. Had he adhered to his purpose, the civil war would then have commenced. This demand of Major Anderson, so worthy of an American officer, was totally disregarded by the Governor. Instead of disavowing the act or apologizing for it, he had the audacity, but, two days after the outrage, to send the Hon. A. G. Magrath and General D. F. Jamison, whom he styled as "both members of the Executive Council and of the highest position in the State," to Major Anderson, for the purpose of persuading him to surrender the fort. In the letter which they bore from the Governor, dated on the 11th January, they were instructed to present to


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Major Anderson"considerations of the gravest public character, and of the deepest interest to all who deprecate the improper waste of life, to induce the delivery of Fort Sumter to the constituted authorities of the State of South Carolina, with a pledge on its part to account for such public property as may be in your charge."

This Major Anderson appears to have regarded, not merely as an effort to persuade him voluntarily to surrender the fort, but as an absolute demand for its surrender. In either case, however, his instructions, already quoted, prescribed his line of duty. Under these he ought to have peremptorily informed the emissaries of the Governor that he would not surrender, but would defend the fort against attack by all the means in his power. In this course he would not only have obeyed his instructions, but have acted in accordance with the explicit determination of the President, announced but eleven days before (31st December) to the South Carolina commissioners. But Major Anderson, notwithstanding these considerations, as well as his own declared purpose but two days before to consider the attack on the Star of the West as war, and to act accordingly, unless it should be explained and disavowed, now proposed to
Governor Pickens to refer the question of surrender to Washington. In his answer of the same date to the Governor's menacing request, whilst stating that, he could not comply with it, and deeply regretting that the Governor should have made a demand of him with which he could not comply, he presents, the following alternative : "Should your Excellency deem fit, prior to a resort. to arms, to refer this matter to Washington, it would afford me the sincerest pleasure to depute one of my officers to accompany any messenger you may deem, proper to be the bearer of your demand." This proposition was promptly accepted by the Governor, and in pursuance thereof he sent on his part Hon. I. W. Hayne, Attorney-General of South Carolina, to Washington; whilst Major Anderson sent as his deputy Lieutenant J. Norman Hall, of the first artillery, then under his command in the fort. These gentlemen immediately set out for Washington, and arrived together on the evening of the 13th January, 1861.

Thus, greatly to the surprise of the President, had a truce or suspension of arms been concluded between Major Anderson and Governor Pickens, to continue, from its very nature, until he should again decide against the surrender of Fort Sumter. This was what the writers on public law denominate "a partial truce under which hostilities are suspended only in certain places, as between a town and the army besieging it." ★ Until this decision should be made by the President, Major Anderson had thus placed it out of his own power to ask for reënforcements, and equally out of the power of the Government to send them with- out a violation of the public faith pledged by him as the commandant of the fort. In the face of these facts, the President saw with astonishment that General Scott, in his report to President Lincoln, had stated that the expedition under Captain Ward, of three or four small steamers, "had been kept back," not in consequence of this truce between Major Anderson and Governor Pickens, "but by something like a truce or armistice concluded here [in Washington], embracing Charleston and Pensacola harbors, agreed upon between the late President and certain principal seceders of South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, &c., and this truce lasted to the end of the administration." From the confused and inaccurate memory of the General, events altogether distinct in their nature are so blended in his report to President Lincoln, that it is difficult to disentangle them. Such is eminently the case in mixing up the facts relative to Charleston and Pensacola in the same sentences. In order to render each clear, we shall first treat of Charleston and afterwards of Pensacola.

The expedition of the Star of the West had scarcely returned to New York, when the news of the truce between Major Anderson and Governor Pickens reached Washington (13th January). Between the two events it was physically impossible to prepare and send a second expedition, and this could not be done afterwards until the truce should expire, without a violation of public faith. It did not last, as the General asserts, "to the end of the administration," but expired by its own ____________________
★ Vattel Law of Nations, p. 404.


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limitation on the 5th February, the day when Secretary Holt finally and peremptorily announced to the South Carolina commissioner that the President would not under any circumstances surrender Fort Sumter. It is possible that, under the laws of war, the President might have annulled this truce after due notice to Governor Pickens. This, however, would have cast a serious reflection on Major Anderson for having concluded it, who, beyond question, had acted from the purest and most patriotic motives. Neither General Scott nor any other person, so far as is known, ever proposed to violate it. Indeed, from his peculiar temper of mind and military training, he would have been the last man to make such a proposition; and yet, in his report to President Lincoln, he does not make the most distant allusion to the fact, well known to him, that such a truce had ever been concluded. Had he done this, he would at once have afforded conclusive evidence against sending reënforcements until it should expire. On the contrary, instead of the actual truce, "something like a truce," according to his statement, was made, not in Charleston, but in Washington, and not between the actual parties to it, but "between the late President and certain principal seceders of South Carolina." Nothing more unfounded and unjust could have been attributed to President Buchanan.

Major Anderson may probably have committed an error in not promptly rejecting the demand, as be understood it, of Governor Pickens for the surrender of Fort Sumter, instead of referring it to Washington. If the fort were to be attacked, which was then extremely doubtful, this was the propitious moment for a successful resistance. The Governor, though never so willing, was not in a condition to make the assault. He required time for preparation. On the other hand, Major Anderson was then confident in his power to repel it. This is shown by his letters to the War Department of the 31st December and 6th January. From these it appears that he not only felt safe in his position, but confident that he could command the harbor of Charleston, and hold the fort in opposition to any force which might be brought against him. Such was, also the oft-expressed


conviction at Washington of Lieutenant Hall, whom be had selected as his deputy, as well as that of Lieutenant Theodore Talbot, likewise of the 1st artillery, who had left Fort Sumter on the 9th January, 1861, as a bearer of despatches. Still, had Governor Pickens attacked the fort, this would have been the commencement of civil war between the United States and South Carolina. This every patriot desired to avoid as long as a reasonable hope should remain of preserving peace. And then such a hope did extensively prevail, founded upon the expectation that the Crittenden Compromise, or some equally healing measure, might be eventually adopted by Congress. How far this consideration may account for Major Anderson's forbearance when the Star of the West was fired upon, and for his proposal two days thereafter to refer the question of the surrender of the fort to Washington, we can only conjecture. If this were the cause, his motive deserves high commendation.

Colonel Hayne, the commissioner from South Carolina, as already stated, arrived in Washington on the 13th January. He bore with him a letter from Governor Pickens addressed to the President. On the next morning he called upon the President and stated that he would deliver this letter in person on the day following. The President, however, admonished by his recent experience with the former commissioners, declined to hold any conversation with him on the subject of his mission, and requested that all communications between them might be in writing. To this he assented. Although the President had no actual knowledge of the contents of the Governor's letter, he could not doubt it contained a demand for the surrender of the fort. Such a demand he was at all times prepared peremptorily to reject. This Colonel Hayne must have known, because the President had but a fortnight before informed his predecessors this was impossible, and had never been thought of by him in any possible contingency. The President confidently expected that the letter would be transmitted to him on the day after the interview, when his refusal to surrender the fort would at once terminate the truce, and leave both parties free to act upon their own responsibility. Colonel Hayne, however, did


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not transmit this letter to the President on the 15th January, according to his promise, but withheld it until the 31st of that month. The reason for this vexatious delay will constitute a curious portion of our narrative, and deserves to be mentioned in some detail. (Vide the President's message of 8th February, 1861, with the accompanying documents, Ex. Doc., H. R., vol. ix., No. 61.)

The Senators from the cotton States yet in Congress appeared, strangely enough, to suppose that through their influence the President might agree not to send reënforcements to Fort Sumter, provided Governor Pickens would stipulate not to attack it. By such an agreement they proposed to preserve the peace. But first of all it was necessary for them to prevail upon Colonel Hayne not to transmit the letter to the President on the day appointed, because they well knew that the demand which it contained would meet his prompt and decided refusal. This would render the conclusion of such an agreement impossible.

In furtherance of their plan, nine of these Senators, with Jefferson Davis at their head, addressed a note to Colonel Hayne, on the 15th January, requesting him to defer the delivery of the letter. They proposed that he should withhold it until they could ascertain from the President whether he would agree not to send reënforcements, provided Governor Pickens would engage not to attack the fort. They informed the Colonel that should the President prove willing in the first place to enter into such an arrangement, they would then strongly recommend that he should not deliver the letter he had in charge for the present, but send to South Carolina for authority from Governor Pickens to become a party thereto. Colonel Hayne, in his answer to these Senators of the 17th January, informed them that he had not been clothed with power to make the arrangement suggested, but provided they could get assurances with which they
were entirely satisfied that no reënforcements would be sent to Fort Sumter, he would withhold the letter with which he had been charged, refer their communication to the authorities of South Carolina, and await further instructions.


On the 19th January this correspondence between the Senators and Colonel Hayne was submitted to the President, accompanied by a note from three of their number, requesting him to take the subject into consideration. His answer to this note was delayed no longer than was necessary to prepare it in proper form. On the 22d January it was communicated to these Senators in a letter from the Secretary of War. This contained an express refusal to enter into the proposed agreement. Mr. Holt says: "I am happy to observe that, in your letter to Colonel Hayne, you express the opinion that it is 'especially due from South Carolina to our States, to say nothing of other slaveholding States, that she should, so far as she can consistently with her honor, avoid initiating hostilities between her and the United States or any other power.' To initiate such hostilities against Fort Sumter would, beyond question, be an act of war against the United States. In regard to the proposition of Colonel Hayne, 'that no reënforcements will be sent to Fort Sumter in the interval, and that public peace will not be disturbed by any act of hostility toward South Carolina,' it is impossible for me to give you any such assurances. The President has no authority to enter into such an agreement or understanding. As an executive officer, he is simply bound to protect the public property so far as this may be practicable; and it would be a manifest violation of his duty to place himself under engagements that he would not perform this duty, either for an indefinite or limited period. At the present moment it is not deemed necessary to reënforce Major Anderson, because he makes no such request and feels quite secure in his position. Should his safety, however, require reënforcements, every effort will be made to supply them."

It was believed by the President that this peremptory refusal to enter into the proposed agreement, would have caused Colonel Hayne immediately to present the letter he had in charge and thus terminate his mission, thereby releasing both parties from the obligations of the truce. In this expectation the President was disappointed. The secession Senators again interposed, and advised Colonel Hayne still longer to withhold the letter from the President, and await further instructions from


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Charleston. In his answer of 24th January to their note containing this advice, he informs them that although the letter from the Secretary of War "was far from being satisfactory," yet in compliance with their request he "would withhold the communication with which he was at present charged, and refer the whole matter to the authorities of South Carolina, and would awalt their reply." On the 30th this reply was received, and on the next day Colonel Hayne transmitted to the President the letter of Governor Pickens demanding the surrender of the fort, with a long communication from himself. This letter is dated "Headquarters, Charleston, January 12, 1861," and is as follows:

"SIR : At the time of the separation of the State of South Carolina from the United States, Fort Sumter was, and still is, in the possession of troops of the United States, under the command of Major Anderson. I regard that possession as not consistent with the dignity or safety of the State of South Carolina, and have this day [it was the day previous] addressed to Major Anderson a communication to obtain from him the possession of that fort by the authorities of this State.

The reply of Major Anderson informs me that he has no authority to do what I required, but he desires a reference of the demand to the President of the United States. Under the circumstances now existing, and which need no comment by me, I have determined to send to you Hon. I. W. Hayne, the Attorney-General of the State of South Carolina, and have instructed him to demand the delivery of Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, to the constituted authorities of the State of South Carolina. The demand I have made of Major Anderson, and
which I now make of you, is suggested by my earnest desire to avoid the bloodshed which a persistence in your attempt to retain possession of that fort will cause, and which will be unavailing to secure to you that possession, but induce a calamity most deeply to be deplored. If consequences so unhappy shall ensue, I will secure for this State, in the demand which I now make, the satisfaction of having exhausted every attempt to avoid it.

"In relation to the public property of the United States


within Fort Sumter, the Hon. I. W. Hayne, who will hand you this communication, is authorized to give you the pledge of the State that the valuation of such property will be accounted for by this State, upon the adjustment of its relations with the United States, of which it was a part."

On the 6th February, the Secretary of War, on behalf of the President, replied to this demand, as well as to the letter of Colonel Hayne accompanying it. Our narrative would be incomplete without this admirable and conclusive reply. It is as follows:

"WAR DEPARTMENT, February 6, 1861. ★

"SIR: The President of the United States has received your letter of the 31st ultimo, and has charged me with the duty of replying thereto.

"In the communication addressed to the President by Governor Pickens, under date of the 12th January, and which accompanies yours now before me, his Excellency says: 'I have determined to send to you the Hon. I. W. Hayne, the Attorney- General of the State of South Carolina, and have instructed him to demand the surrender of Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, to the constituted authorities of the State of South Carolina. The demand I have made of Major Anderson, and which I now make of you, is suggested because of my earnest desire to avoid the bloodshed which a persistence in your attempt to retain the possession of that fort will cause, and which will be unavailing to secure to you that possession, but induce a calamity most deeply to be deplored.' The character of the demand thus authorized to be made appears (under the influence, I presume, of the correspondence with the Senators to which you refer) to have been modified by subsequent instructions of his Excellency, dated the 26th, and received by yourself on the 30th January, in which he says: 'If it be so that Fort Sumter is held as property, then, as property, the rights, whatever they may be, of the United States, can be ascertained, and for the satisfaction of these rights the pledge of the State of South Carolina you are authorized to give.' The full scope and precise purport of your instructions, as thus modi-

★ H. R. Ex. Doc., 1860-'61, vol. ix., Doc., No 61.


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fled, you have expressed in the following words: 'I do not come as a military man to demand the surrender of a fortress, but as the legal officer of the State--its attorney-general--to claim for the State the exercise of its undoubted right of eminent domain, and to pledge the State to make good all injury to the rights of property which arise from the exercise of the claim.' And lest this explicit language should not sufficiently define your position, you add: 'The proposition now is that her [ South Carolina's] law officer should, under authority of the Governor and his council, distinctly pledge the faith of South Carolina to make such compensation, in regard to Fort Sumter and its appurtenances and contents, to the full extent of the money value of the property of the United States, delivered over to the authorities of South Carolina by your command.' You then adopt his Excellency's train of thought upon the subject, so far as to suggest that thpossession of Fort Sumter by the United States, 'if continued long enough, must lead to collision,' and that 'an attack upon it would scarcely improve it as property, whatever the result; and if captured, it would no longer be the subject of account.'

"The proposal, then, now presented to the President, is simply an offer on the part of South Carolina to buy Fort Sumter and contents as property of the United States, sustained by a declaration, in effect, that if she is not permitted to make the purchase she will seize the fort by force of arms. As the initiation of a negotiation for the transfer of property between friendly governments, this proposal impresses the President as having assumed a most unusual form. He has, however, investigated the claim on which it professes to be based, apart from the declaration that accompanies it. And it may be here remarked, that much stress has been laid upon the employment of the words 'property' and 'public property' by the President in his several messages. These are the most comprehensive terms which can be used in such a connection, and surely, when referring to a fort or any other public establishment, they embrace the entire and undivided interest of the Government therein.

"The title of the United States to Fort Sumter is complete and incontestable. Were its interest in this property purely


proprietary, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, it might probably be subjected to the exercise of the right of eminent do- main; but it has also political relations to it of a much higher and more imposing character than those of mere proprietorship. It has absolute jurisdiction over the fort and the soil on which it stands. This jurisdiction consists in the authority to 'exercise exclusive legislation' over the property referred to, and is therefore clearly incompatible with the claim of eminent domain now insisted upon by South Carolina. This authority was not derived from any questionable revolutionary source, but from the peaceful cession of South Carolina herself, acting through her legislature, under a provision of the Constitution of the United States. South Carolina can no more assert the right of eminent
domain over Fort Sumter than Maryland can assert it over the District of Columbia. The political and proprietary rights of
the United States in either case rest upon precisely the same ground.

"The President, however, is relieved from the necessity of further pursuing this inquiry by the fact that, whatever may be
the claim of South Carolina to this fort, he has no constitutional power to cede or surrender it. The property of the United
States has been acquired by force of public law, and can only be disposed of under the same solemn sanctions. The President, as the head of the executive branch of the government only, can no more sell and transfer Fort Sumter to South Carolina than he can sell and convey the Capital of the United States to Maryland or to any other State or individual seeking to possess it. His Excellency the Governor is too familiar with the Constitution of the United States, and with the limitations upon the powers of the Chief Magistrate of the government it has established, not to appreciate at once the soundness of this legal proposition. The question of reënforcing Fort Sumter is so fully disposed of in my letter to Senator Slidell and others, under date of the 22d of January, a copy of which accompanies this, that its discussion will not now be renewed. I then said: 'At the present moment it is not deemed necessary to reënforce Major Anderson,
because he makes, no such request. Should his safety, however, require reënforcements, every effort will be made to supply


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them.' I can add nothing to the explicitness of this language, which still applies to the existing status.

"The right to send forward reënforcements when, in the judgment, of the President, the safety of the garrison requires them, rests on the same unquestionable foundation as the right to occupy the fortress itself. In the letter of Senator Davis and others to yourself, under date of the 15th ultimo, they say: 'We therefore think it especially due from South Carolina to our States --to say nothing of other slaveholding States--that she should, as far as she can consistently with her honor, avoid initiating hostilities between her and the United States or any other power;' and you now yourself give to the President the gratifying assurance that ' South Carolina has every disposition to preserve the public peace;' and since he is himself sincerely animated by the same desire, it would seem that this common and patriotic object must be of certain attainment. It is difficult, however, to reconcile with this assurance the declaration on your part that 'it is a consideration of her [ South Carolina's] own dignity as a sovereign, and the safety of her people, which prompts her to demand that this property should not longer be used as a military post by a government she no longer acknowledges,' and the thought you so constantly present, that this occupation must lead to a collision of arms and the prevalence of civil war.

Fort Sumter is in itself a military post, and nothing else; and it would seem that not so much the fact as the purpose of its use should give to it a hostile or friendly character. This fortress is now held by the Government of the United States for the same object for which it has been held from the completion of its construction. These are national and defensive; and were a public enemy now to attempt the capture of Charleston or the destruction of the commerce of its harbor, the whole force of the batteries of this fortress would be at once exerted for their protection. How the presence of a small garrison, actuated by such a spirit as this, can compromise the dignity or honor of South Carolina, or become a source of irritation to her people, the President is at a loss to understand. The attitude of that garrison, as has been often declared, is neither menacing, nor defiant, nor unfriendly. It is acting under orders to stand strictly on the


defensive; and the government and people of South Carolina must well know that they can never receive aught but shelter from its guns, unless, in the absence of all provocation, they should assault it and seek its destruction. The intent with which this fortress is held by the President is truthfully stated by Senator Davis and others in their letter to yourself of the 15th January, in which they say: 'It is not held with any hostile or unfriendly purpose toward your State, but merely as property of the United States, which the President deems it his duty to protect and preserve.'

"If the announcement so repeatedly made of the President's pacific purposes in continuing the occupation of Fort Sumter until the question shall have been settled by competent authority, has failed to impress the government of South Carolina, the forbearing conduct of his administration for the last few months should be received as conclusive evidence of his sincerity. And if this forbearance, in view of the circumstances which have so severely tried it, be not accepted as a satisfactory pledge of the peaceful policy of this administration toward South Carolina, then it may be safely affirmed that neither language nor conduct can possibly furnish one. If, with all the multiplied proofs which exist of the President's anxiety for peace, and of the earnestness with which he has pursued it, the authorities of that State shall assault Fort Sumter, and peril the lives of the handful of brave and loyal men shut up within its walls, and thus plunge our common country into the horrors of civil war, then upon them and those they represent must rest the responsibility.

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"Secretary of War.

"Hon. I. W. HAYNE, Attorney-General of the State of South Carolina.

"P.S.--The President has not, as you have been informed, received a copy of the letter to yourself from the Senators, communicating that of Mr. Holt of the 22d January."

This letter of Mr. Holt, though firm and decided in character, is courteous and respectful, both in tone and in terms. It


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reviews the subject in an able and comprehensive manner, explaining and justifying the conduct of the President. Unlike
the letters to which it is a response, it contains no menace. In conclusion it does no more than fix the responsibility of commencing a civil war on the authorities of South Carolina, should they assault Fort, Sumter and imperil the lives of the brave and loyal men shut up within its walls. It does not contain a word or an expression calculated to afford just cause of offence; yet its statements anti its arguments must have cut Colonel Hayne to the quick. To reply to them successfully was impossible. He, therefore, had no resort but to get angry. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, on the 8th February he addressed an insulting answer not to Secretary Holt, as usage and common civility required, but directly to the President. He then suddenly left Washington, leaving his missile behind him to be delivered after his departure. Form his conduct he evidently anticipated its fate. His letter was returned to him on the same day, directed to Charleston, with the following indorsement:

"The character of this letter is such that it cannot be received. Col. Hayne having left the city before it was sent to the President, it is returned to him by the first mail." What has become of it we do not know. No copy was retained, nor have
we ever heard of it since.

What effect this letter of Mr. Holt may have produced upon the truculent Governor of South Carolina we shall not attempt
to decide. Certain it is, from whatever cause, no attack was made upon Fort Sumter until six weeks after the close of Mr.
Buchanan's administration. The fort remained unmolested until South Carolina had been for some time a member of the Confederate States. It was reserved for Mr. Jefferson Davis, their President, to issue the order for its bombardment, and thus formally to commence the civil war. This he did with a full consciousness that such would be the fatal effect; because in the letter from him and other Southern Senators to Col. Hayne, of the 15th January, both he and they had warned Governor Pickens that an attack upon the fort would be "the instituting hostilities between her [South Carolina] and the United States."

Thus ended the second mission from South Carolina to the


President, and thus was he relieved from the truce concluded by Major Anderson. But in the mean time, before the termination of this truce, the action of the General Assembly of Virginia, instituting the Peace Convention, had interposed an insurmountable obstacle to the reënforcement of Fort Sumter, unless attacked or in immediate danger of attack, without entirely defeating this beneficent measure. Among their other proceedings they had passed a resolution "that ex-President John Tyler is hereby appointed by the concurrent vote of each branch of the General Assembly, a commissioner to the President of the United States; and Judge John Robertson is hereby appointed by a like vote, a commissioner to the State of South Carolina and the other States that have seceded or shall secede, with instructions respectfully to request the President of the United States and the authorities of such States to agree to abstain, pending the proceedings contemplated by the action of the General Assembly, from any and all acts calculated to produce a
collision of arms between the States and the Government of the United States."

Mr. Tyler arrived in. Washington on the 23d January, a fortnight before the departure of Col. Hayne, bearing with him
a copy of the Virginia resolutions. These he presented to the President on the following day, assuring, him that whilst the
people of Virginia were almost universally inclined to peace and reconstruction, yet any efforts on her part to reconstruct or preserve the Union "depended for their success on her being permitted to conduct them undisturbed by outside collision."

This resolution, it will be observed, requested the President, and not Congress, to enter into the proposed agreement. Mr.
Tyler, therefore, urged the President to become a party to it. This he refused, stating, according to Mr. Tyler's report to the Governor of Virginia, "that he had in no manner changed his views as presented in his annual message; that he could give no pledges; that it was his duty to enforce the laws, and the whole power rested with Congress." He promised, notwithstanding, that he would present the subject to that body. This was due both to its intrinsic importance and to the State of Virginia, which had manifested so strong a desire to restore and preserve the Union.


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