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The President's Message.
The President's Message.
either besieged or menaced by | could not be thrown into that warlike preparations, and espe- fort within the time for his relief, cially Fort Sumter was nearly rendered necessary by the limitsurrounded by well-protected, hostile batteries, with ed supply of provisions, and with a view of holding guns equal in quality to the best of its own, and possession of the same, with a force of less than outnumbering the latter as perhaps ten to one. A twenty thousand good and well-disciplined men. disproportionate share of the Federal muskets and This opinion was concurred in by all the officers of rifles had somehow found their way into these his command, and their memoranda on the subject States, and had been seized to be used against the were made inclosures of Major Anderson's letter. Government. Accumulations of the public reve- The whole was immediately laid before Lieutenantnue, lying within them, had been seized for the General Scott, who at once concurred with Major same object. The Navy was scattered in distant Anderson in opinion. On reflection, however, he seas, leaving but a very small part of it within the took full time, consulting with other officers, both immediate reach of the Government. Officers of of the Army and of the Navy, and, at the end of the Federal Army and Navy had resigned in great four days, came reluctantly, but decidedly, to the numbers; and of those resigning, a large propor- same conclusion as before. He also stated at the tion had taken up arms against the Government. same time that no such sufficient force was then at Simultaneously, and in connection with all this, the the control of the Government, or could be raised purpose to sever the Federal Union was openly and brought to the ground within the time when the avowed. In accordance with this purpose, an or- provisions in the fort would be exhausted. In a dinance had been adopted in each of these States, purely military point of view, this reduced the duty declaring the States, respectively, to be separated of the Administration in the case to the mere matter from the National Union. A formula for instituting of getting the garrison safely out of the fort. a combined Government of these States had been promulgated; and this illegal organization, in the character of Confederate States, was already invoking recognition, aid and intervention from foreign
Finding this condition of things, and believing it to be an imperative duty upon the incoming Executive to prevent, if possible, the consummation of such attempt to destroy the Federal Union, a choice of means to that end became indispensable. This choice was made, and was declared in the Inaugural Address. The policy chosen looked to the exhaustion of all peaceful measures, before a resort to any stronger ones. It sought only to hold the public places and property not already wrested from the Government, and to collect the revenue; relying for the rest on time, discussion and the ballot-box. It promised a continuance of the mails, at Government expense, to the very people who were resisting the Government; and it gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the people, or any of their rights. Of all that which a President might constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, everything was forborne, without which it was believed possible to keep the Government on foot.
"On the 5th of March, (the present incumbent's first full day in office,) a letter of Major Anderson, commanding at Fort Sumter, written on the 28th of February, and received at the War Department on the 4th of March, was, by that Department, placed in his hands. This letter expressed the professional opinion of the writer that reenforcements
"It was believed, however, that to so abandon that position, under the circumstances, would be utterly ruinous; that the necessity under which it was to be done would not be fully understood; that by many it would be construed as a part of a voluntary policy; that at home it would discourage the friends of the Union, embolden its adversaries. and go far to insure to the latter a recognition abroad; that, in fact, it would be our National destruction consummated. This could not be allowed. Starvation was not yet upon the garrison; and ere it would be reached, Fort Pickens might be reenforced. This last would be a clear indication of policy, and would better enable the country to accept the evacuation of Fort Sumter as a military necessity. An order was at once directed to be sent for the landing of the troops from the steamship Brooklyn into Fort Pickens. This order could not go by land, but must take the longer and slower route by sea. The first return news from the order was received just one week before the fall of Fort Sumter. The news itself was that the officer commanding the Sabine, to which vessel the troops had been transferred from the Brooklyn, acting upon some quasi armistice of the late Administration, (and of the existence of which the present Administration, up to the time the order was dispatched, had only too vague and uncertain rumors to fix atten. tion,) had refused to land the troops. To now reenforce Fort Pickens, before a crisis would be reached at Fort Sumter, was impossible, rendered so by the near exhaustion of provisions in the latter named fort. In precaution against such a conjuncture, the
The President's Message.
THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE.
The President's Mes sage.
Government had a few days be- | ly of man the question, whether
fore commenced preparing an expedition, as well adapted as might be, to relieve Fort Sumter, which expedition was intended to be ultimately used or not, according to circumstances. The strongest anticipated case for using it was now presented; and it was resolved to send it forward. As had been intended in this contingency, it was also resolved to notify the Governor of South Carolina that he might expect an attempt would be made to provision the fort; and that, if the attempt should not be resisted, there would be no effort to throw in men, arms or ammunition, without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort. This notice was accordingly given; whereupon the fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall, without even awaiting the arrival of the provisioning expedition.
"So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war power of the Government; and so to resist force employed for its destruction, by force for its preservation.
"The call was made, and the response of the country was most gratifying, surpassing in unanimity and spirit the most sanguine expectation. Yet none of the States, commonly called slave States, except Delaware, gave a regiment through regular State organization. A few regiments have been organized within some others of those States, by individual enterprise, and received into the Government service. Of course, the seceded States, so called, (and to which Texas had been joined about the time of the Inauguration,) gave no troops to the cause of the Union. The border States, so called, were not uniform in their action; some of them being almost for the Union, while in others -as Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas-the Union sentiment was nearly repressed and silenced. The course taken in Virginia was the most remarkable, perhaps the most important. A Convention, elected by the people of that State to consider this very question of disrupting the Federal Union, was in session at the capital of Virginia when Fort Sumter fell. To this body the people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men. Almost immediately after the fall of Sumter, many members of that majority went over to the original disunion minority, and, with them, adopted an ordinance for withdrawing the State from the Union. Whether this change was wrought by their great approval of the assault upon Sumter, or their
"It is thus seen that the assault upon and reduction of Fort Sumter was in no sense a matter of self-defense on the part of the assailants. They well knew that the garrison in the fort could by no possibility commit aggression upon them. They knew -they were expressly notified that the giving of bread to the few brave and hungry men of the garrison, was all which would on that occasion be attempted, unless themselves, by resisting so much, should provoke more. They knew that this Government desired to keep the garrison in the fort, not to assail them, but merely to maintain visible possession, and thus to preserve the Union from actual and immediate dissolution-trusting, as hereinbefore stated, to time, discussion and the ballot-box, for final adjustment; and they assailed and reduced the fort for precisely the reverse object-to drive out the visible authority of the Federal Union, and thus force it to immediate dissolution. That this was their object, the Executive well understood; and, having said to them, in the Inaugural Address, you can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors,' he took pains, not only to keep this declaration good, but also to keep the case so free from the power of ingenious sophistry that the world should not be able to misunderstand it. By the affair at Fort Sumter, with its surrounding circumstances, that point was reached. Then and thereby the assailants of the Government began the conflict of arms, without a gun in sight, or in expectancy to return their fire, save only the few in the fort, sent to that harbor years before, for their own protection, and still ready to give that protection in what-great resentment at the Government's resistance to ever was lawful. In this act, discarding all else, they have forced upon the country the distinct issue: 'Immediate dissolution or blood.'
that assault, is not definitely known. Although they submitted the ordinance for ratification to a vote of the people, to be taken on a day then somewhat more than a month distant, the Convention these United States. It presents to the whole fami- and the Legislature, (which was also in session at the
"And this issue embraces more than the fate of
The President's Mes
same time and place,) with leading men of the State, not members of either, immediately commenced acting as if the State were already out of the Union. They pushed military preparations vigorously forward all over the State. They seized the United States armory at Harper's Ferry and the Navy Yard at Gosport, near Norfolk. They received-perhaps invited-into their State large bodies of troops, with their warlike appointments, from the so-called seceded States. They formally entered into a treaty of temporary alliance and cooperation with the so-called 'Confederate States,' and sent members to their Congress at Montgomery. And finally, they permitted the insurrectionary Government to be transferred to their capital at Richmond.
"The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to make its nest within her borders; and this Government has no choice left but And it has the less to deal with it where it finds it. regret, as the loyal citizens have, in due form, clamed its protection. Those loyal citizens this Government is bound to recognize and protect, as being Virginia.
"In the Border States, so called-in fact the Middle States-there are those who favor a policy which they call armed neutrality;' that is, an arming of these States to prevent the Union forces passing one way, or the disunion the other, over their soil. This would be disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it would be the building of an impassable wall along the line of separation-and yet, not quite an impassable one; for, under the guise of neutrality, it would tie the hands of the Union men, and freely pass supplies from among them to the insurrectionists, which it could not do as an open enemy. At a stroke, it would take all the trouble off the hands of secession, except only what It would do proceeds from the external blockade. for the disunionists that which, of all things, they most desire-feed them well, and give them disunion without a struggle of their own. It recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to maintain the Union; and while very many who have favored it are, doubtless, loyal citizens, it is, nevertheless, very injurious in effect.
"Recurring to the action of the Government, it may be stated that, at first, a call was made for seventy-five thousand militia; and rapidly following this, a proclamation was issued for closing the ports of the insurrectionary districts by proceedings in the nature of blockade. So far all was believed to be strictly legal. At this point the insurrectionists announced their purpose to enter upon the practice of privateering.
The President's Message.
"Other calls were made for volunteers to serve three years, unless sooner discharged, and also for large additions to the regular army and navy. These measures, whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon, under what appeared to be a popu lar demand and a public necessity; trusting then, as now, that Congress would readily ratify them It is believed that nothing has been done beyond the constitutional competency of Congress.
"Soon after the first call for militia, it was considered a duty to authorize the Commanding-General, in proper cases, according to his discretion, to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or, in other words, to arrest and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety. This authority has purposely been exercised but very sparingly. Nevertheless, the legality and propriety of what has been done under it are questioned, and the attention of the country has been called to the proposition that one who is sworn to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,' should not himself violate them. Of course, some consideration was given to the questions of power and propriety, before this matter was acted upon. The whole of the laws which were required to be faithfully executed, were being resisted, and failing of execution in nearly one-third of the States. Must they be allowed to finally fail of execution, even had it been perfectly clear, that by the use of the means necessary to their execution, some single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citizen's liberty, that practically, it relieves more of the guilty than of the innocent, should, to a very limited extent, be violated? To state the question more directly, are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself to go to pieces, lest that one be violated? Even in such a case, would not the official oath be broken, if the Government should be overthrown, when it was believed that disregarding the single law would tend to preserve it? But it was not believed that this question was presented. It was not believed that any law was violated. The provision of the Constitution that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion the pub lic safety may require it,' is equivalent to a provi sion--is a provision-that such privilege may be sus pended when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety does require it. It was decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the privilege of the writ, which was authorized to be made. Now it is insisted that Congress, and not the Executive, is vested with this power. But the
The President's Mes
THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE.
Constitution itself is silent as to | ciency. One of the greatest
which, or who, is to exercise the power; and as the provision was plainly made for a dangerous emergency, it cannot be believed the framers of the instrument intended that, in every case, the danger should run its course until Congress could be brought together; the very assembling of which might be prevented, as was intended in this case, by the rebellion.
No more extended argument is now offered, as an opinion, at some length, will probably be presented by the Attorney-General. Whether there shall be any legislation upon the subject, and if any, what, is submitted entirely to the better judgment of Congress.
"The forbearance of this Government had been so extraordinary, and so long continued, as to lead some foreign nations to shape their action as if they supposed the early destruction of our National Union was probable. While this, on discovery, gave the Executive some concern, he is now happy to say that the sovereignty and rights of the United States are now everywhere practically respected by foreign Powers; and a general sympathy with the country is manifested throughout the world.
"The reports of the Secretaries of the Treasury, War, and the Navy, will give the information in detail deemed necessary and convenient for your deliberation and action; while the Executive, and all the Departments, will stand ready to supply omissions, or to communicate new facts, considered important for you to know.
"It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making this contest a short and decisive one; that you place at the control of the Government, for the work, at least four hundred thousand men, and $400,000,000. That number of men is about one-tenth of those of proper ages within the regions where, apparently, all are willing to engage; and the sum is less than a twenty-third part of the money value owned by the men who seem ready to devote the whole. A debt of $600,000,000 now is a less sum per head than was the debt of our Revolution when we came out of that struggle; and the money value in the country now bears even a greater proportion to what it was then than does the population. Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties as each had then to establish them.
The President's Mes sage.
perplexities of the Government is to avoid receiving troops faster than it can provide for them. In a word, the people will save their Government, if the Government itself will do its part only indifferently well.
"It might seem, at first thought, to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called 'secession' or 'rebellion.' The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning, they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They knew their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country, as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents, to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is, that any State of the Union may, consistently with the National Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.
"With rebellion thus sugar-coated, they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.
"This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency from the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred supremacy pertaining to a State-to each State of our Federal Union. Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution— no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial de
"A right result, at this time, will be worth more to the world than ten times the men and ten times the money. The evidence reaching us from the|pendence; and the new ones each came into the country leaves no doubt that the material for the work is abundant; and that it needs only the hand of legislation to give it legal sanction, and the hand of the Executive to give it practical shape and effi
Union directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas. And even Texas, in its temporary independence, was never designated a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on
The President's Message.
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coming into the Union, while | of national power and State that name was first adopted for rights, as a principle, is no other the old ones in and by the De- than the principle of generality claration of Independence. Therein the 'united colo- and locality. Whatever concerns the whole, should nies' were declared to be free and independent be confided to the whole-to the General GovernStates; but, even then, the object plainly was not to ment; while whatever concerns only the State, declare their independence of one another, or of the should be left exclusively to the State. This is all Union, but directly the contrary, as their mutual there is of original principle about it. Whether the pledge and their mutual action, before,at the time,and National Constitution, in defining boundaries beafterwards, abundantly show. The express plighting tween the two, has applied the principle with exact of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in accuracy, is not to be questioned. We are all bound the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that by that defining, without question. the Union shall be perpetual, is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of State rights,' asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the sovereignty' of the States; but the word even is not in the National Constitution; nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a sovereignty,' in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define ita political community without a political superior?' Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty. And even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union; by which act she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States, and the laws and treaties of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution, to be for her the supreme law of the land. The States have their status IN the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this, they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and in fact it created them as States. Originally, some independent colonies made the Union; and, in turn, the Union threw off their old dependence for them and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course, it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union; never-cessity, they have either discarded or retained the theless, dependent upon, and preparatory to, coming into the Union.
What is now combated is the position that secesion is consistent with the Constitution-is lawful · and peaceful. It is not contended that there is any express law for it; and nothing should ever be implied as law which leads to unjust or absurd conse. quences. The nation purchased, with money, the countries out of which several of these States were formed. Is it just that they shall go off without leave, and without refunding? The nation paid very large sums, (in the aggregate, I believe, nearly a hundred millions,) to relieve Florida of the aboriginal tribes. Is it just that she shall now be off without consent, or without making any return? The nation is now in debt for money applied to the benefit of these so-called seceding States, in common with the rest. Is it just, either that creditors shall go unpaid, or the remaining States pay the whole? A part of the present national debt was contracted to pay the old debts of Texas. Is it just that she shall leave, and pay no part of this herself?
"Again: if one State may secede, so may another; and when all shall have seceded, none is left to pay the debts. Is this quite just to creditors? Did we notify them of this sage view of ours when we borrowed their money? If we now recognize this doctrine by allowing the seceders to go in peace, it is difficult to see what we can do if others choose to go, or to extort terms upon which they will promise to remain.
The seceders insist that our Constitution admits of secession. They have assumed to make a national Constitution of their own, in which, of ne
right of secession, as, they insist, it exists in ours. If they have discarded it, they thereby admit that, on principle, it ought not to be in ours. If they have retained it, by their own construction of ours they show that to be consistent they must secede from one another, whenever they shall find it the easiest way of settling their debts, or effecting any other selfish or unjust object. The principle itself is one of disintegration, and upon which no govern ment can possibly endure.
"If all the States, save one, should assert the