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INFLUENCE OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE. [SECT. VII.
perience to the helm of state. The affairs of thirty mil lions may have to be administered by the unskillfulness which would scarcely answer for three. Lincoln undertook his task, not with the decision of knowledge and confidence, but with the trepidation of unacquaintance and doubt.
Lincoln, in his in
It is not surprising that at this time he submitted to the guidance of Mr. Seward, who, he was experience, relies willing to believe, had more experience, clearer views, and a better understanding of the political difficulty. But, on his part, Mr. Seward did not realize the vastness and energy of secession. A veteran politician, he mistook the inflexible determination of a more than Catilinean conspiracy for the shifting intrigues of a caucus.
Lincoln had no knowledge of the past. He perpetually felt that deficiency in contemplating the probable future. He saw that he must trust to his Secretary of State, who, in the earlier periods of the war, was to him historian and prophet combined.
The affairs of the nation were assuming a most ominous aspect; every day was adding not only to the audacity, but to the success of the conspirators. Though it was well known that the Norfolk navy yard would be seized, and that from its vast supplies the Confederacy would be armed, nothing was for a long time done either to protect or to destroy it. The administration only looked on. But, even had Lincoln been conversant with the management of public affairs, it was hardly possible for him, in this particular, to have acted otherwise than he did. Washington was overflowing with bands of insatiate office-seekers, ferocious in the pursuit of their objects. Their demands must be attended to first; the election pledges must be redeemed. If the President had thought that the idea of state
He must satisfy the clamor of placehunters.
CHAP. XXXIV.] DIFFICULTIES OF THE ADMINISTRATION.
rights had become extinct in the North, he now found his mistake. Place-hunters had to be satisfied, and patronage allotted according to states. Not more than
so many must be gratified from this, not more than so much bestowed upon that. The deafening clamor must be harmonized geographically. There was more urgency to satisfy the vociferous demand of some locally influential politician than to strike down the hand clutching at the throat of the nation.
The consequent procrastination.
It was plain that the republic was on the brink of Accnsations against great events; that new political necessities the administration. Were arising; that, to meet the unscrupulous acts of those who detested the Union and scorned the Constitution, something more than the legal forms of the Constitution would be required. But it is not true, as its enemies affirmed, that "the secret history of the acts of the administration at its first assumption of power was a lamentable and degrading record of double-dealing, vacillation, turpitude, and colossal ignorance." On the contrary, the worst that can be said of it is that it was a history of good intentions unintelligently, and therefore inadequately sustained.
The political purity of the republic of the Revolution had altogether passed away. A new soci ety had come into existence, animated by new desires and guided by new ideas. The character of the nation had changed. Necessarily the formulas of its life must also change. When great and powerful communities had resolved that they would no longer be bound by written law, and were determined to secure their ends by violence, when only a political bribe could deter them from resorting to force, it was plain that there was imminent peril of the Mexicanization of the country.
In reference to this impending danger, Lincoln said, “I
Change in the character of the nation.
FORMATION OF THE CABINET.
will suffer death before I will consent, or advise my friends to consent, to any concession or compromise which looks like buying the privilege of taking possession of the government, to which we have a constitutional right, because whatever I might think of the merit of the various propositions before Congress, I should regard any concession in the face of menace as the destruction of the government itself, and a consent on all hands that our system shall be brought down to a level with the existing disorganized state of affairs in Mexico."
Prevalence of Mexican ideas in the South.
Impartial observers saw clearly that the political difficulty could only be overcome by the appli
It had become
needful to resort cation of force. The Southern States, unscrupulously resorting to arms, universally declared that if the administration could not compel their obedience, it had no right to claim to be their government. In the Republic, as first formed from the Old English Colonies, the doctrine that government rests on the consent of the governed had been found an acceptable and sufficient rule; but it had now become painfully ap parent that a very different maxim was necessary, where a vast continent, with many conflicting interests, was in question.
The first great public duty of the President was the Formation of Lin- appointment of the cabinet. Lincoln had been pledged to make Mr. Seward Secretary of State, though there were misgivings in the Republican party that this able man would be found not unwilling to postpone the strict application of its principles for the sake of the consolidation of its power. For the other ministerial offices there were rivalries and bitter contentions, but in the end the following cabinet was formed:
CHAP. XXXIV.] ARRIVAL OF THE SECESSION COMMISSIONERS. 21
..Secretary of State.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
Seward declines to receive them.
In a few days (March 12th) after the inauguration, Mr. Arrival of secession Forsyth, of Alabama, and Mr. Crawford, of Georgia, came to Washington. They announced themselves as representatives of the Confederate government, which had instructed them to make overtures to the government of the United States for the opening of negotiations with a view to a peaceful solution of all questions in dispute, and requested the appointment of a day on which they might present their credentials to the President.
The Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, respectfully declined an interview with them, and in a memorandum declared that he could not recognize in the late events an accomplished revolution or an independent nation; that he could not admit that the states referred to had withdrawn or could withdraw from the Union without the consent of the people of the United States; that he could not regard, or in any way admit, the so-called Confederate States as a foreign power with whom diplomatic relations ought to be established; that his duties as Secretary of State confined him to the conducting of the foreign relations of the country, and did not embrace domestic questions. Unable, therefore, not only to comply with the request of the applicants to appoint a day for their visit to the President, he must also state that he had no authority to recognize them as diplomatic agents, or hold any communication with them.
He concluded by saying that, under a strong desire to
APPLICATION OF THE COMMISSIONERS.
practice entire directness, and to act in a spirit of perfect respect and candor toward Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, and to that portion of the Union in whose names they present themselves, he had submitted this paper, though there was no necessity for his so doing, to the President, who coincided in his views, and sanctioned his decision declining official intercourse with those gentlemen.
Reply of the seces
To this memorandum the Confederate commissioners replied that their object was to invite friendsion agents to him. ly relations between the government of the United States and the new government of the people who had rejected its authority. The territories of the two powers being contiguous, their relations must be either friendly or hostile; that, in the spirit of humanity and Christian civilization, the government of the Confederate States had commissioned them to present the olive-branch of peace.
They continued that the United States government had not met them in a like conciliatory and peaceful spirit, but with a persistence untaught, and uncured by the ruin that had been wrought, refused to recognize the great fact of a complete and successful revolution; that, had they been met with frankness and manliness, they would not now have had to return home to tell their gov. ernment that its earnest efforts in behalf of peace had been futile, and that the United States meant to subjugate them by force of arms; that impartial history must record the innocence of the government of the Confeder ate States, and place the responsibility of the bloodshed and mourning that might ensue on those who had set naval and land armaments in motion to subject the people of one portion of the land to the will of those of another portion.
They likewise informed the secretary that the old Union was broken up, and that its disintegration had be