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REPORTS OF THE SELECT (HOUSE) COMMITTEE OF FIVE. REPORT ON THE PRESIDENT'S CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE SOUTH CAROLINA COMMISSIONERS. THE MINORITY REPORT, (DISSENTING.) REPORT ON THE SECESSION REVOLUTION, AND THE DUTY OF THE GOVERNMENT.
The Majority Report.
"Accompanying the message of the President referred to this Committee, is a copy of certain correspondence had between the President and claiming to be Commissioners on the part of South Messrs. R. W. Barnwell, J. H. Adams, and J. L. Orr,
THE Special Committee of Five on the caution, which the future would approve. President's Message of February 8th-con- We give place to these documents-forming, sisting of Messrs. Howard, (Rep..) of Michi- | as they do, historical ranges, by which to gan, Dawes, (Rep.,) of Massachusetts, Rey- direct the student of events into correct and nolds, (Rep.,) of New York, Cochrane, (Dem.,) acknowledged channels. of New York, and Branch, (Dem.,) of North Carolina-reported, from time to time, on the subjects committed to their discretional investigation. Their report on the condition of the Navy has been given [see p. 440, et sequitur.] February 27th, the Committee submitted a majority report, covering the entire question of the President's correspondence with the South Carolina Commissioners, and the complicity with treason chargeable to certain members of the Cabinet. The report is an important document, giving the version to acts of an Executive character which was sustained by a vast majority of the people, as well as by the force of facts, whose authen-as to all other measures and arrangements proper to ticity will bear but one statement. The Mi- be made and adopted in the existing relations of the nority Report, made by Mr. Cochrane-hay- parties, and for the continuance of peace and amity between the Commonwealth (of South Carolina) and ing also the concurrence of Mr. Branch- the Government at Washington. defended the Executive from censure, and pronounced his course one of wisdom and
Carolina, authorized and empowered to treat with the Government of the United States for the delivery of the forts, magazines, light-houses, and other real estate, with their appurtenances, within the limits of South Carolina, and also for the apportionment of the public debt, and a division of all other property held by the Government of the United States as agent
of the Confederated States, of which South Carolina was recently a member; and generally to negotiate
"A further message of the President, under date of February 8th, 1861, and referred to the Committee,
communicates a copy of certain The Majority Report. correspondence, growing out of another special mission from the State of South Carolina to the President of the United States, having for its object a demand upon the Government of the United States for the delivery of Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, to the constituted authorities of the State of South Carolina.
"The correspondence above referred to is submitted bythe President without comment, or any sugges tion as to the propriety or necessity of any action by Congress in respect to it, or to the various subjects to which it refers. If important to be submitted to Congress at all, it seems certainly to be of a character demanding grave consideration; and the fact that it has been placed before us by the President implies that, in his opinion, at least, it involved considerations which might properly engage the attention of the legislative branch of the Government, in connection with the various other matters forced upon it by the necessities of the times. The Committee has, therefore, thought it expedient and proper to direct attention to these special embassies, their object, the action of the President thereon, and, incidentally, to the character of the correspondence.
The Majority Report
made the subject of a formal
disloyal State, could be regarded in no other light than as engaged in a revolutionary effort to subvert the Government of the United States; and, being so regarded, it would appear to have been the plain duty of the Executive to enforce the laws against any individuals, however eminent and respectable, known or suspected of complicity in any movement of a treasonable character. We are not able to imagine any circumstances under which the Presi dent of the United States would be justified in entertaining diplomatic intercourse with the State of South Carolina, in her present attitude to the General Government, except upon the assumption that by the action of her authorities she had succeeded in acquiring the position of an independent power, owing no duty whatever to the Government of the United States.
"The first communication to the President, by Messrs. Barnwell, Adams, and Orr, under date of December 28th, 1860, communicates an official copying this Commission, acting under the sanction of a of an Ordinance of Secession, adopted by the State of South Carolina, on the 20th of the same month, by virtue of which that State assumes to have withdrawn from the Federal Union, and taken the position of an entirely independent nation. That such an attitude was assumed by South Carolina, in attempting negotiations with the Government of the United States, is not only obvious from the history of current events, but it was most distinctly asserted by her Commissioners,' in their communication to the President. The movement of Major Anderson from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, after their arrival in Washington, seems to have been regarded as an obstacle, on their part, to the opening of any discussion touching the object of their mission, until the circumstances attending that movement should be explained in a manner which would relieve them of all doubt as to the spirit in which the contemplated negotiations should be conducted. They, however, urge upon the President the immediate withdrawal of the troops of the United States from the harbor of Charleston, upon the allegation that they are a standing menace, which rendered negotiations impossible, and which, as they express it, 'threaten speedily to bring to a bloody issue questions which ought to be settled with temperance and judgment.' This communication was received by the President, and
"As before stated, it is claimed by her, and in her behalf, that she now occupies such a position, and her agents are sent hither upon that assumption, charged with most extraordinary and insolent demands upon the President. The reception, by the President, of such a communication under such cir cumstances, and awarding the dignity of an official reply, involves, to some extent, the recognition of the assumed position of the rebellious State, and impliedly admits that the individuals engaged in the
THE MAJORITY REPORT.
The Majority Report.
revolutionary movements against | course in respect to the abanThe Majority Report. the Federal Government have donment of its own forts, arsenals, and other public buildings upon threats of forcible expulsion, if the demands upon it are not at once acceded to, we may well pause and consider to what depths of degradation and humiliation the American Government is approaching, if the lowest depth has not already been reached.
acquired a political position which entitles them to some other consideration than is most commonly due to those who invite a collision with established authority. It is this attitude of the President that the Committee particularly desire to express dissent from, and to affirm most emphatically the doctrine that so long as the Federal Government exists, its Constitution and laws operate with full vigor upon the people of every State, and that no action of State authority of less degree than successful revolution can justify any department of the Government in treating any persons engaged in the effort to throw off all Federal obligations other than rebels and traitors, and entitled to be dealt with as such.
"The Committee do not propose to discuss here whether it is wise or politic at the present time to employ the whole power of the Government under all circumstances and at all hazards to punish offenders against its laws. In times of extensive civil commotion and discontent, prudence may dictate great caution and forbearance in the exercise of acknowledged powers; and when whole communities assume the attitude of revolution against established Government, for real or imaginary wrongs, it may be wise to listen to their complaints with attention, and not, by any unnecessary rigor against palpable violations of law, provoke passions already unduly and unreasonably excited. But when growing discontent assumes the position of actual hostility; when, instead of seeking redress under existing
boldly avowed by overturning the Government to which their allegiance is due, we cannot see the wisdom of a policy which permits treason to perform its work without hindrance of molestationabove all we cannot sanction a policy in the Executive Department of this Government which professes a purpose of executing its laws and protecting its property from unlawful violence, and yet remains inactive when revolution is actually impending, and entertains friendly intercourse with embassies instigated by and growing out of the highest type of treason to the Federal Constitution.
"Even if, from any considerations growing out of the structure of our Government, or the dangerous tendency of the secession movement in several States of the Union, the anxiety to prevent the shedding of blood, and of avoiding the evils of civil war, great forbearance in the actual enforcement of the laws against political offenders may be pardoned, and perhaps justified, we are not prepared to give our assent to any action of the Executive Depart-forms, resort is had to force, and the purpose is ment, which, in express terms, or by necessary implication, may seem to place the responsible actors and abettors of secession in any State of the Union in any other aspect than that of traitors to the Constitution of the United States. It is believed that the assertion and maintenance of this position is essential to the existence of the Federal Government, and without which it neither can have nor deserve obedience at home or respect abroad. It may, perhaps, for a time, be tolerated that offenders against the laws may be permitted to go unwhipt of justice.' The forcible seizure of public property by rebellious citizens may temporarily be allowed to pass unpunished, for reasons which may appear satisfactory to those charged with executive duty; but this condition of things cannot be of long continuance. Either the Government must vindicate its power, or it will itself become powerless. If any portion of the people of the Republic may at their pleasure repudiate all Federal authority, defy and disorganize the Government, seize its property, and insult its flag, without incurring the hazard of punishment for treason, either by civil or military authority, we may well admit that there is no Government of the United States worthy of preservation. And if, after the people of the State, without adequate cause, have announced their purpose of repudiating all allegiance to the Federal Union, they are without question to be entertained by the Government of the United States, in diplomatic inter
"The President acknowledges the obligation of his oath to protect and defend the Constitution and enforce the laws made in obedience to its requirements, denies the right of secession, and yet in the correspondence before us we have the evidence that with full knowledge that the authority of the Government has been set at defiance, its dignity insulted, and its flag dishonored, he yet negotiates with treason and commits the Government to a partial recognition of the revolutionary movement for its destruction. If for any considerations of policy he may be justified in suspending the exercise of its powers, we know of no reason that can justify a course of action which ignores the theory upon which the whole foundation of the Government rests. If the fact that the Government has the power to protect itself from domestic violence may not prudently be acted upon under any apprehen
sion that any exercise of auThe Majority Report. thority may irritate and exasperate those already in open rebellion, it would be some consolation to such of the citizens of the United States as are still loyal to the Constitution to feel assured that the desire to shield traitors from the consequences of their acts may not result in the utter demoralization of all Federal authority and dignity.
The Majority Report.
Government-provided, that no
"If we recur to the contents of the correspondence to which we have referred, there is but little to commend it to favorable consideration. The communication by the Commissioners' of South Carolina to the President conveys, in the most unqualified terms, an imputation of bad faith upon the President, and of necessity upon the Government of the United States, on account of the occupation of Fort Sumter by Major Anderson and his command. It is clearly intimated that some agreement previously made by the President respecting the occupation of the forts in the harbor of Charleston had been violated. From this charge the President has undertaken to defend himself, and to furnish excuses.for the action of the Government in respect to the occupation of its own fortresses and the disposition of its own troops. The fact that the State of South Carolina intended to rebel against the Government of the United States was well understood long before her ordinance of secession was actually adopted. The probable consequences such action, it was also well known, would be an attempt, on the part of the State, to take possession of all the forts, arsenals, magazines, and other public property within her limits. Under such circumstances, nothing would seem to be clearer than the duty of the President to "In this disclosure the Committee is not able to provide in due time an adequate force for the pro- resist the inference that, in the beginning of the tection of all the public property in danger of as-revolutionary movement against the Government sault. Instead, however, of taking such a course, of the United States, there were relations of an exthe President seems to have been in communication tremely friendly character between those who conwith those engaged in rebellion, and a sort of under-templated rebellion, and those whose duty it was to standing appears to have been had early in De-suppress it. We cannot but regard it as a most excember, that no action should be taken by the Government of the United States to reinforce the command charged with the defence of the forts in the harbor of Charleston.
"On the 9th of December, 1860, the Representatives in Congress from the State of South Carolina furnished the President with a written statement under their signatures, expressing their strong conviction that the forts in the harbor of Charleston would not be attacked or molested previously to the action of the Convention of that State, then about to assemble, and they hoped and believed not until an offer had been made, through an accredited representative, to negotiate for an amicable arrangement of all matters between the State and the Federal
traordinary fact that parties notoriously contemplating the disruption of the Government, should beforehand stipulate with its executive authority in respect to the most convenient and least dangerous mode for making the rebellion successful. While the President has avowed his determination to exe cute the laws, he does not seem to have regarded treason to the Constitution of the United States contemplated and existing ás among the crimes condemned by the laws of the land and deserving punishment.
"That crime, the highest known to the laws of the world, appears in our history to have assumed a milder form, to be treated with marked tenderness by the authorities of the Government against which
THE REBEL AGENTS.
The Majority Report.
the crime is perpetrated. We do not think the history of any Government furnishes in this respect any parallel to the policy of our own, and we cannot believe that any Government, however powerful, can long survive the inauguration of, and persistence in, such a policy. We, therefore, regard it our duty to condemn, in the most emphatic terms, the course pursued by the President in recognizing or substantially holding diplomatic communication with the rebellious authorities of the State of South Carolina. The dignity of the Government required at least that the President should at once, and with firmness, decline all negotiations with a State in the attitude of rebellion, if the obligations of his oath did not require him to hand over such of the rebels as came within his power to the civil authorities of the United States, to be dealt with according to the forms of law.
"Even while these negotiations were going on, the President received information that the authorities of the State of South Carolina had seized, by force, Castle Pinckney, Fort Moultrie, the United States Arsenal, and the Custom-house and Postoffice, in the City of Charleston. Although the correspondence before us does not disclose the facts, the history of the times furnishes us with the results of this peace policy.' In several other States of the Union the authority of the Government of the United States has been defied and insulted, its flag dishonored, and its property unlawfully seized. No effort has been made to defend or recover it, and now a Revolutionary Government, embracing six of the States of the Union, (in all of which acts of violence against the property of the United States have been committed,) is set up in defiance of, and in hostility to, the Government of the United States.
"The Revolutionary Government must either be recognized or repudiated. Its independence must be acknowledged, or the persons engaged in the effort to establish it must be treated as rebels and traitors to the Constitution of the United States. To acknowledge the right of secession, or recognize the revolutionary acts growing out of it, is a surrender of the authority, power, and dignity of the Government of the United States, and a substantial agreement to its destruction. We cannot believe that the American people will consent to the dissolution of the Federal Union without an effort to save it, even if that effort involves a resort to all the powers which the Government is able to command. That it can be preserved by peaceful negotiations and compromise does not seem probable; for in certain quarters all propositions of that character are most distinctly repudiated. The demand is made that the Government of the United States shall surrender its
authority, or maintain it by
force of arms. We can imagine The Majority Report but one answer that ought to be given to such a demand, and the longer it is delayed the more disastrous may be the consequences to those who resist, as well as those who desire to maintain the integrity and the authority of the most beneficent Government established since the foundation of the world.
The correspondence growing out of the mission of Colonel Hayne, Special Envoy,' from the State of South Carolina, communicated with the Message of the 8th of February, 1861, is also before us. The object of the mission, as already stated, was to demand of the President the unconditional surrender of Fort Sumter to the authorities of the State of South Carolina, accompanied with a threat that if the demand was refused it would be taken by force of arms. The views we express as to the duty of the President in relation to the first mission applies with equal, if not greater, force to that represented by Colonel Hayne, as Special Envoy. If it were possible, the character of the second mission is even more insulting and offensive to the Government of the United States than the first. In both instances the President refused to accede to the demands made upon him, but, in our judgment, this fact does not remove the objections urged against the propriety of receiving or entertaining communications with any Commissioners' or 'Envoys' from States in the condition of actual rebellion against the Government, who come not to obtain pardon for their of fences, but with demands which cannot, without disgrace and humiliation, be for one moment entertained.
"Whatever consequences may follow the effort to maintain the dignity and integrity of the Government of the United States, it seems impossible to contemplate the possibility of its peaceful destruction. So long as it has the power of self-preservation, there appears to be no alternative between its exercise, at whatever hazard, and a cowardly surrender, without a blow struck, upon the demand of rebels and traitors.
"Your Committee insist upon maintaining the dignity and exercising the powers of the Govern ment against any who deliberately set about its destruction, or invite collision with its power or its laws.
"In conclusion, the Committee recommend the adoption of the following resolution:
"Resolved, That in the opinion of this House the President had no constitutional power to negotiate with the represent. atives of the State of South Carolina for the surrender of any public property within the limits of that State, and that it is inexpedient for Congress to take any further action in relation thereto.""