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19th of February, 1861. I copy from my diary made on that day:
“February 19.-In Cabinet to-day the principal matter presented was an inquiry from Major Anderson, in charge of Fort Sumter, at Charleston, what he should do in the event of the floating battery understood to have been constructed at Charleston being towed toward the fort with the evident purpose of attack. The President wished time to consider. Mr. Holt asked what he would do, or rather what Major Anderson ought to do, in case he were in charge of a fort and the enemy should commence undermining it. The President answered that he should ó crack away at them.' The President, however, is very reluctant to fire the first gun, The Peace Convention, he said, was now in session in this city, and its president, ex-President Tyler, had this morning assured him that no attack would be made on the fort. The President expressed the opinion, that the fort would eventually be taken.”
“WASHINGTON, May 13, 1861. "DEAR SIR, -Your letter of the 11th inst. is received. Troops continue to arrive, but what the end is to be, who can tell? It seems to me the South has everything to lose and nothing to gain.
“HORATIO KING. “NAHUM CAPEN, Esq., Boston, Mass.”
PRESIDENT BUCHANAN TO ROYAL PHELPS, ESQ.
The following letter came into my hands through the favor of the late George Bancroft, who received it from Mr. Phelps some time before his death. I am left free to publish it, but the responsibility is my own. The letter bears date December 22, 1860, two days after the secession of South Carolina. At that time there was some hope that Congress might agree to the Crittenden Compromise. An act of Congress of 17th December had authorized the issue of treasury notes; the advertisement inviting bids for them
was then out, and New York was looked to for the bulk of subscriptions to the loan. Thus we may behold the key to the letter. It is evident from Mr. Buchanan's appeal to his personal and political friend that he wished to convince him that it would be for the interest of New York to take the loan. Deeply regretting the attempted secession of the cotton States as Mr. Buchanan did, this and other documents show that he never had the slightest inclination to part with them.
WASHINGTON, 220 December, 1860. MY DEAR SIR, I have received your favor of the 20th inst., and rejoice to learn the change of public sentiment in your city. Still secession is far in advance of reaction, and several of the cotton States will be out of the Union before anything can be done to check their career. I think they are all wrong in their precipitation, but such I believe to be the fact
It is now no time for resolutions of kindness from the North to the South. There must be some tangible point presented, and this has been done by Mr. Crittenden in his Missouri Compromise resolutions. Without pretending to speak from authority, I believe these would be accepted though not preferred by the South. I have no reason to believe that this is at present acceptable to the Northern senators and representatives, though the tendency is in that direction. They may arrive at this point when it will be too late.
I cannot imagine that any adequate cause exists for the extent and violence of the existing panic in New York. Suppose, most unfortunately, that the cotton States should withdraw from the Union, New York would still be the great city of this continent. We shall still have within the borders of the remaining States all the elements of wealth and prosperity. New York would doubtless be somewhat
retarded in her rapid march; but, possessing the necessary capital, energy, and enterprise, she will always command a very large portion of the carrying trade of the very States which may secede. Trade cannot easily be drawn from its accustomed channels. I would sacrifice my own life at any moment to save the Union,
if such were the will of God; but this great and enterprising brave nation is not to be destroyed by losing the cotton States, even if this loss were irreparable, which I do not believe unless from some unhappy accident.
I have just received an abstract from the late census.
In the apportionment of representatives the State of New York will have as many in the House (30) as Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and South Carolina united. The latter State contains 296,422 free people and 408,905 slaves, and will be entitled in the next Congress to 4 representatives out of 233.
Why will not the great merchants of New York examine the subject closely and ascertain what will be the extent of their injuries and accommodate themselves to the changed state of things?
If they will do this, they will probably discover they are more frightened than hurt. I hope the Treasury Note Loan may
be taken at a reasonable rate of interest. No security can be better, in any event, whether the Cotton States secede or not. Panic in New York may, however, prevent, because panic has even gone to the extent of recommending that the great city of New York shall withdraw herself from the support of at least twenty-five millions of people and become a free city.
I had half an hour, and have scribbled this off in haste for your private use.
JAMES BUCHANAN. ROYAL PHELPS, Esq.
Honorable John D. Ashmore, Member of Congress from South Carolina,
asks if he has the Right to the Franking Privilege, now that South Carolina has passed an Ordinance of Secession-A Pointed Answer.
ANDERSON, S. C., Jan. 24, 1861. MY DEAR SIR,-I have in my possession some one thousand to twelve hundred volumes of “public documents,' being my proportion of the same as a member of the thirtysixth Congress. They were forwarded me in mail-sacks and are now lying in my library. Since the date of the ordinance of secession (December 20, 1860) of South Carolina I have not used the franking privilege, nor will I attempt to do so without the special permission of the Department. To pay the postage on these books, etc., would cost me a large sum, and one I am not prepared to expend. The books are of no use to me, but might be to my constituents, for whom they were intended, if distributed among them. Have I the right to frank and distribute them under existing relations? If so, please inform me. Having said that I have not used the franking privilege since the 20th December, I need hardly add that I shall not do so, even on a "public document," unless you authorize it.
I am, with great respect,
J. D. ASHMORE. Hon. HORATIO KING,
Post-OFFICE DEPARTMENT, January 28, 1861. SIR,-In answer to your letter of the 24th instant, asking if you have the right, “ under existing relations,” to frank and distribute certain public documents, I have the honor to state that the theory of the administration is that the relations of South Carolina to the general Government have been in nothing changed by her recent act of secession; and this being so, you are of course entitled to the franking privilege until the first Monday in December next. If, however, as I learn is the case, you sincerely and decidedly entertain the conviction that by that act South Carolina ceased to be a member of the confederacy, and is now a foreign State, it will be for you to determine how far you can conscientiously avail yourself of a privilege the exercise of which assumes that your own conviction is erroneous, and plainly declares that South Carolina is still in the Union, and that you are still a member of the Congress of the United States. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting P. M.-General. Hon. John D. ASHMORE,
A FRANK ANSWER.
Hon. A. G. Jenkins,' Member of Congress from Virginia, informed why
a Route Agent in his District was removed.
POST-OFFICE DEPARTMENT, February 22, 1861. DEAR SIR,_Your letter of the 20th inst. is received, requesting “distinct and specific answers” to the following interrogatories,—viz. :
1. What are the grounds of the removal of Thomas J. West, late route agent on the line from Grafton to Parkers
Killed at the head of Confederate cavalry in Virginia early in the war.