Page images

rules. And while I do not choose now to I broken, and, to the extent of my ability, I shall specify particular acts of Congress as proper take care, as the Constitution itself expressly to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union safer for all, both in official and private sta- be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing tions, to conform to and abide by all those acts this I deem to be only a simple duty on my which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of part; and I shall perform it, so far as practithem, trusting to find impunity in having them cable, unless my rightful masters, the Ameriheld to be unconstitutional.

can people, shall withhold the requisite meads, It is seventy-two years since the first inaugu- or, in some authoritative manner, direct the ration of a President under our National Con- contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as stitution. During that period fifteen different a menace, but only as a declared purpose of and greatly distinguished citizens have, in suc- the Union that it will constitutionally defend cession, administered the Executive branch of and maigtain itself. the Government. They have conducted it In doing this there need be no bloodshed or through many perils, and generally with great violence; and there shall be none, unless it be success. Yet, with all this scope for precedent, forced upon the national authority. The power I now enter upon the same task for the brief confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, constitutional term of four years under great and possess the property and places belonging and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the to the Government, and to collect the duties Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is and imposts ; but, beyond what may be necesnow formidably attempted.

sary for these objects, there will be no invasion, I hold that, in contemplation of universal no using of force against or among the people law, and of the Constitution, the Union of anywhere. Where hostility to the United these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is im- States, in any interior locality, shall be so great plied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law and universal as to prevent competent resident of all National Governments. It is safe to as- citizens from holding the Federal offices, there sert that no Government proper ever had a will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers provision in its organic law for its own termi- among the people for that object. While the nation. Continue to execute all the express strict legal right may exist in the Government provisions to our National Constitution, and to enforce the exercise of these offices, the atthe Union will endure forever--it being im- tempt to do so would be so irritating, and so possible to destroy it, except by some action nearly impracticable with all, 1 deem it better not provided for in the instrument itself. to forego, for the time, the uses of such offices.

Again, if the United States be not a Govern- The mails, unless repelled, will continue to ment proper, but an association of States in the be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far nature of the contract:merely, can it, as a con- as possible, the people everywhere shall have tract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the that sense of perfect security which is most parties who made it? One party to a contract favorable to calm thought and reflection. The may violate it-break it, so to speak; but does course here indicated will be followed, unless it not require all to lawfully rescind it? current events and experience shall show a

Descending from these general principles, we modification or change to be proper, and in find the proposition that, in legal contempla- every case and exigency my best discretion tion, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the will be exercised, according to circumstances history of the Union itself. The Union is actually existing, and with a view and a hope much older than the Constitution. It was of a peaceful solution of the national troubles, formed in fact by the Articles of Association and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and in 1774. It was matured and continued by the affections. Declaration of Independence in 1776. . It was That there are persons in one section or further matured, and the faith of all the then another who seek to destroy the Union at all thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of will neither affirm nor deny ; but if there be Confederation in 1778. And, finally, in 1787, such I need address no word to them. To those, one of the declared objects for ordaining and however, who really love the Union, may I not establishing the Constitution was to form a speak? more perfect union."

Before entering upon so giave a matter as But if destruction of the Union, by one, or the destruction of our national fabric, with all by a part only, of the States, be lawfully pos- its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would sible, the Union is less perfect than before, the it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do Constitution having lost the vital element of it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while perpetuity.

there is any possibility that any portion of the It follows, from these views, that no State, ills you fly from bave no real existence? Will upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances than all the real ones you fly from--will you to that effect are legally void, and that acts of risk the commission of so fearful a mistake? violence, within any State or States, against All profess to be content in the Union, if all the authority of the United States, are insur- constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it rectionary or revolutionary, according to cir- true, then, that any right, plainly written in cumstances.

the Constitution, has been denied ? I think not. I, therefore, consider that, in view of the Happily the human mind is so constituted that Constitution and the laws, the Union is un- no party can reach to the audacity of doing


this. Think, if you can, of a single instance' may be erroneous in any given case, still the in which a plainly written provision of the evil effect following it, being limited to that Constitution has ever been denied. If, by the particular case, with the chance that it may be mere force of numbers, a majority should de- overruled, and never become a precedent for prive a minority of any clearly written con- other cases, can better be borne than could the stitutional right, it might, in a moral point of evils of a different practice. At the same time view, justify revolution-certainly would if the candid citizen must confess that if the polsuch right were a vital one. But such is not icy of the Government upon vital questions, our case. All the vital rights of minorities affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably and of individuals are so plainly assured to fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the them by affirmations and negations, guarantees instant they are made in ordinary litigation and prohibitions in the Constitution, that con- between parties in personal actions the people troversies never arise concerning them. But will have ceased to be their own rulers, having no organic law can ever be framed with a pro-to that extent practically resigned their governvision specifically applicable to every question ment into the hands of that eminent tribunal. which may occur in practical administration. Nor is there in this view any assault upon No foresight can anticipate, nor any document the Court or the Judges. It is a duty from of reasonable length contain express provisions which they may not shrink to decide cases propfor all possible questions. Shall fugitives from erly brought before them, and it is no fault of labor be surrendered by National or by State theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to authority? The Constitution does not expressly political purposes. One section of our country say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the believes slavery is right, and ought to be exTerritories? The Constitution does not ex-tended, while the other believes it is wrong, and pressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce the majority must, or the Government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce they make a precedent which, in turn, will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new Confederacy, a year or two hence, arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.

Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new Union, as to produce harmony only, and prevent renewed secession?

Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it, does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

I do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decision must be binding, in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision

ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive slave clause of the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade, are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly cured; and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction in one section; while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all, by the other.

Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face; and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the indentical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I cannot be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the

this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-country. men, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

rightful authority of the people over the whole | reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution-which amendment, however, I have not seen-has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision now to be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have conferred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this also if they choose; but the Executive, as such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government, as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to his successor.

Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people.

By the frame of the Government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no Administration, by any extreme of weakness or folly, can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.

I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.


Secretary of State-WILLIAM H. SEWARD, of New York.

Secretary of the Treasury-SALMON P. CHASE, of Ohio; suoceeded July 5, 1864, by WM. PITT FESSENDEN, of Maine. Secretary of War-SIMON CAMERON, of Pennsylvania; suoceeded January 11, 1862, by EDWIN M. STANTON, of Ohio. Secretary of the Navy-GIDEON WELLES, of Connecticut. Secretary of the Interior-CALEB B. SMITH, of Indians; succeeded January 8, 1863, by JOHN P. USHER, of Indi


Attorney General-EDWARD BATES, of Missouri; succeeded
December 14, 1864, by JAMES SPEED, of Kentucky.

Postmaster General-MONTGOMERY BLAIR, of Maryland;
succeeded October 1, 1864, by WILLIAM DENNISON, of


WASHINGTON, March 15, 1861.
Mr. John Forsyth, of the State of Alabama, and Mr. Mar

tin J. Crawford, of the State of Georgia, on the 11th instant,
through the kind offices of a distinguished Senator, submit
ted to the Secretary of State their desire for an unofficial
interview. This request was, on the 12th instant, upon
exclusively public considerations, respectfully declined.
On the 13th instant, while the Secretary was preoccupied,
Mr. A. P. Banks, of Virginia, called at this Department and
ered a sealed communication, which he had been charged
was received by the Assistant Secretary, to whom he deliv
by Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford to present to the Secre
tary in person.

In that communication Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford inform the Secretary of State that they have been duly ac credited by the Government of the Confederate States of America as Commissioners to the Government of the United States, and they set forth the object of their attendance at Washington. They observe that seven States of the Amer ican Union, in the exercise of a right inherent in every free people, have withdrawn, through conventions of their peo ple, from the United States, reassumed the attribute of sove ereign power, and formed a Government of their own, and that those Confederate States now constitute an independ ent nation de facto and de jure, and possess a Government perfect in all its parts, and fully endowed with all the

My countrymen, and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied, still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, in the aforesaid communi while the new Administration will have no im-cation, thereupon proceed to inform the Secretary that, mediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, christianity, and a firm

means of self-support.

with a view to a speedy adjustment of all questions grow ing out of the political separation thus assumed, upon such terms of amity and good will as the respective interests, geographical contiguity, and the future welfare of the sup Posed two nations might render necessary, they are in overtures for the opening of negotiations, assuring this

structed to make to the Government of the United States

Government that the President, Congress, and people of the Confederate States earnestly desire a peaceful solution of these great questions, and that it is neither their interest nor their wish to make any demand which is not founded in strictest justice, nor to do any act to injure their late confederates.

APRIL 8, 1861.

The foregoing memorandum was filed in this Department on the 15th of March last. A delivery of the same, however, to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford was delayed, as was understood, with their consent. They have now, through their secretary, communicated their desire for a definitive After making these statements, Messrs. Forsyth and disposition of the subject. The Secretary of State thereCrawford close their communication, as they say, in obe-fore directs that a duly verified copy of the paper be now dience to the instructions of their Government, by request- delivered. ing the Secretary of State to appoint as early a day as possible in order that they may present to the Preslent of the United States the credentials which they bear, and the objects of the mission with which they are charged.

A true copy of the original, delivered to me by Mr. F.
W. Seward, Assistant Secretary of State of the United
States, on April 8th, 1861, at 2.15 P. M., in blank envelope.
Secretary to the Commissioners.

The Secretary of State frankly confesses that he understands the events which have recently occurred, and the condition of political affairs which actually exists in the part of the Union to which his attention has thus been directed, very differently from the aspect in which they are presented by Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford. He sees in them not a rightful and accomplished revolution and an independent nation, with an established Government, but rather a perversion of a temporary and partisan excitement to the inconsiderate purpose of an unjustifiable and unconstitutional aggression upon the rights and the authority vested in the Federal Government, and hitherto benignly exercised, as from their very nature they always must be so exercised, for the maintenance of the Union, the preservation of liberty, and the security, peace, welfare, happiness, and aggrandizement of the American people. The Secretary of State, therefore, avows to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford that he looks patiently but confidently for the care of evils which have resulted from proceedings so unnecessary, so unwise, so unusual, and so unnatural, not to trregular negotiations, having in view new and untried lations with agencies unknown to and acting in derogation of the Constitution and laws, but to regular and considerate action of the people of those States, in co-operation with their brethren in the other States, through the Congress of the United States, and such extraordinary Conventions, if there shall be need thereof, as the Federal Constitution contemplates and authorizes to be assembled. It is, how ever, the purpose of the secretary of State on this occasion not to invite or engage in any discussion of these subjects, but simply to set forth his reasons for declining to comply with the request of Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford. On the 4th of March instant the then newly elected President of the United States, in view of all the facts bearing on the present question, assumed the Executive administration of the Government, first delivering, in accordance with an early and horored custom, an inaugural address to the people of the United States. The Secretary of State respectfully submits a copy of this address to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford. A simple reference to it will be sufficient to satisfy those gentlemen that the Secretary of State, guided by the principles therein announced, is prevented altogether from admitting or assuming that the States referred to by them, have, in law or in fact, withdrawn from the Federal Union, or that they could do so in the manner described by Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, or in any other manner than with the consent and concert of the people of the United States, to be given through a National Convention, to be assemb ed in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States. Of course the Secretary of State cannot act upon the assump-struction of the Union, under which we might have contion, or in any way admit that the so-called Confederate States constitute a foreign Power, with whom diplomatic relations ought to be established.

The Commissioners in reply to Mr. Seward.

WASHINGTON, April 9, 1861. Hon. WM. H. SEWARD, Secretary of State of the United States, Washington.

The "memorandum," dated Department of State, Washington, March 15, 1861, with postscript under date of Sth instant, has been received through the hands of Mr. J. T. Pickett, secretary to this commission, who, by the instruc tions of the undersigned, called for it on yesterday at the Department.

In that memorandum you correctly state the purport of the official note addressed to you by the undersigned on the 12th ultimo. Without repeating the contents of that note in full, it is enough to say here that its object was to invite the Government of the United States to a friendly consideration of the relations between the United States and the seven States lately of the Federal Union, but now separated from it by the sovereign will of their people, re-growing out of the pregnant and undeniable fact that those people have rejected the authority of the United States and established a Government of their own. Those relations had to be friendly or hostile. The people of the old and new Governments, occupying contiguous territories, had to stand to each other in the relation of good neighbors, each seeking their happiness and pursuing their national destinies in their own way, without interference with the other, or they had to be rival and hostile nations. The Government of the Confederate States had no hesita tion in electing its choice in this alternative. Frankly and unreservedly, seeking the good of the people who had entrusted them with power, in the spirit of humanity, of the Christian civilization of the age, and of that Americanism which regards the true welfare and happiness of the people, the Government of the Confederate States, among its first acts, commissioned the undersigned to approach the Gov ernment of the United States with the olive branch of peace, and to offer to adjust the great questions pending between them in the only way to be justified by the consciences and common sense of good men who had nothing but the welfare of the people of the two Confederacies at heart.

Under these circumstances the Secretary of State, whose official duties are confined, subject to the direction of the President, to the conducting of the foreign relations of the country, and do not at all embrace domestic questions or questions arising between the several States and the Federal Government, is unable to comply with the request of : Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, to appoint a day on which they may present the evidences of their authority and the object of their visit to the President of the United States. On the contrary, he is obliged to state to Messrs Forsyth and Crawford that he has no authority, nor is he at liberty to recognize them as diplomatic agents, or hold correspondence or other communication with them.

Your Government has not chosen to meet the undersigned in the conciliatory and peaceful spirit in which they are commissioned. Persistently wedded to those fatal theories of construction of the Federal Constitution always rejected by the statesmen of the South, and adhered to by those of the Administration school, until they have produced their natural and often predicted result of the de

tinued to live happily and gloriously together had the spirit of the ancestry who framed the common Constitution animated the hearts of all their sons, you now, with a persistence untaught and uncured by the ruin which has been wrought, refuse to recognize the great fact presented to you of a completed and successful revolution; you close your eyes to the existence of the Government founded upon it, and ignore the high duties of moderation and humanity which attach to you in dealing with this great fact. Had you met these issues with the frankness and manliness with which the undersigned were instructed to present them to you and treat them, the undersigned had not now the melancholy duty to return home and tell their Government and their countrymen that their earnest and ceaseless efforts in behalf of peace had been futile, and that the Government of the United States meant to subjugate them by force of arms. Whatever may be the result, impartial pro-history will record the innocence of the Government of the Confederate States, and place the responsibility of the blood and mourning that may ensue upon those who have denied the great fundamental doctrine of American liberty, that "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed," and who have set naval and land armaments in motion to subject the people of one portion of this land to the will of another portion. That that can never be done while a freeman survives in the Confederate States to wield a weapon, the undersigned appeal to past history to prove. These military demonstrations against the people of the seceded States are certainly far from

Finally, the Secretary of State would observe that, although he has supposed that he might safely and with priety have adopted these conclusions without making any reference of the subject to the Executive, yet so strong has been his desire to practice entire directness and to act in a spirit of perfect respect and candor towards Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, and that portion of the people of the Union in whose name they present themselves before him, that he has cheerfully submitted this paper to the President, who coincides generally in the views it expresses, and sanctions the Secretary's decision declining official intercourse with Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford.

being in keeping and consistency with the theory of the
Secretary of State, maintained in his memorandum, that
these States are still component parts of the late American
Union, as the undersigned are not aware of any constitu-
tional power in the President of the United States to levy
war, without the consent of Congress, upon a foreign peo-
ple, much less upon any portion of the people of the United
The undersigned, like the Secretary of State, have no
purpose to "invite or engage in discussion" of the subject
on which their two Governments are so irreconcilably at
variance. It is this variance that has broken up the old
Union, the disintegration of which has only begun. It is
proper, however, to advise you that it were well to dismiss
the hopes you seem to entertain that, by any of the modes
indicated, the people of the Confederate States will ever be
brought to submit to the authority of the Government of
the United States. You are dealing with delusions, too,
when you seek to separate our people from our Govern-
ment and to characterize the deliberate, sovereign act of
that people as a "perversion of a temporary and partisan
excitement." If you cherish these dreams you will be
awakened from them and find them as unreal and unsub-
stantial as others in which you have recently indulged.
The undersigned would omit the performance of an obvious
duty were they to fail to make known to the Government
of the United States that the people of the Confederate
States have declared their independence with a full knowl-
edge of all the responsibilities of that act, and with as firm
a determination to maintain it by all the means with which
nature has endowed them as that which sustained their
fathers when they threw off the authority of the British


[ocr errors]

On the 1st of April we were again informed that there might be an attempt to supply Fort Sumter with provisions, but that Governor Pickens should have previous notice of this attempt There was no suggestion of a re inforcement. The undersigned did not hesitate to believe that these assurances expressed the intention of the Administration at the time, or at all events of prominent members of the Administration. This delay was assented to for the express purpose of attaining the great end of the mission of the undersigned, to wit, a specific solution to existing complications. The inference deducible from the date of your memorandum that the undersigned hač, of their own volition and without canse, consented to this long hiatus in the grave duties with which they were charged is therefore not consistent with a just exposition of the facts of the case.

The intervening twenty-three days were employed in active unofficial efforts, the object of which was to smooth the path to a pacific solution, the distinguished personage al Înded to co-operating with the undersigned, and every step of that effort is recorded in writing, and now in possession of the undersigned and of their Government. It was only when all these anxious efforts for peace had been ex hausted, and it became clear that Mr. Lincoln had determined to appeal to the sword to reduce the people of the Confederate States to the will of the section or party whose President he is, that the undersigned resumed the official negotiation temporarily suspended, and sent their secretary for a reply to their official note of March 12.

It is proper to add that, during these twenty-three days, two gentlemen of official distinction as high as that of the personage hitherto alluded to, aided the undersigned as intermediaries in these unofficial negotiations for peace.

The undersigned, Commissioners of the Confederate States of America, having thus made answer to all they deem material in the memorandum filed in the Department on the 15th of March last, have the honor to be,


A true copy of the original by one delivered to Mr. F. W.
Seward, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States,
at eight o'clock in the evening of April 9, 1861.
J. T. PICKETT, Secretary, &c.

The undersigned clearly understand that you have de clined to appoint a day to enable them to lay the objects of the mission with which they are charged before the President of the United States, because so to do would be to recognize the independence and separate nationality of the Confederate States. This is the vein of thought that pervades the memorandum before us. The truth of history requires that it should distinctly appear upon the record that the undersigned did not ask the Government of the United States to recognize the independence of the Confederate States. They only asked audience to adjust, in a spirit of amity and peace, the new relations springing from a manifest and accomplished revolution in the Government of the late Federal Union. Your refusal to entertain these overtures for a peaceful solution, the active naval and military preparation of this Government, and a formal notice to the commanding general of the Confederate forces in the harbor of Charleston that the President intends to provision Fort Sumter by forcible means, if neces-prized by a memorandum which has been delivered to them sary, are viewed by the undersigned, and can only be received by the world, as a declaration of war against the Confederate States; for the President of the United States knows that Fort Sumter cannot be provisioned without the effusion of blood. The undersigned, in behalf of their Ge ment and people, accept the gage of battle thus thrown down to them, and, appealing to God and the judgers ment of mankind for the righteousness of their cause, the people of the Confederate States will defend their liberties to the last against this flagrant and open attempt at their subjugation to sectional power.

Mr. Seward in reply to the Commissioners.

WASHINGTON, April 10, 1861.
Messrs. Forsyth, Crawford, and Roman, having been ap

that the Secretary of State is not at liberty to hold official intercourse with them, will, it is presumed, expect no DOtice from him of the new communication which they have addresssed to him under date of the 9th instant, beyond the simple acknowledgment of the receipt thereof, which he hereby very cheerfully gives.

of the Confederate States this 10th day of April, 1861. A true copy of the original received by the CommissionJ. T. PICKETT, Secretary, &c.



WASHINGTON CITY, April 13, 1861. SIR: On the 15th of March ultimo I left with Judge Craw ford, one of the Commissioners of the Confederate States, a note in writing to the effect following:

"I feel entire confidence that Fort Sumter will be evacuated in the next five days. And this measure is felt as imposing great responsibility on the Administration.

"I feel entire confidence that no measure changing the existing status, prejudicially to the Southern Confederate States, is at present contemplated.

"I feel an entire confidence that an immediate demand for an answer to the communication of the Commissioners will be productive of evil and not of good. I do not believə that it ought at this time to be pressed."

This communication cannot be properly closed without adverting to the date of your memorandum. The official note of the undersigned, of the 12th March, was delivered to. the Assistant Secretary of State on the 13th of that month, the gentleman who delivered it informing him that the Secretary of this commission would call at twelve o'clock, noon, on the next day for an answer. At the appointed hour Mr. Pickett did call, and was informed by the Assistant Secretary of State that the engagements of the Secretary of State had prevented him from giving the note his attention. The Assistant Secretary of State then asked for the address of Messrs. Crawford and Forsyth, the members of the Commission then present in this city, took note of the address on a card, and engaged to send whatever reply might be made to their lodgings. Why this was not done it is proper should be here explained. The memorandum is dated March 15, and was not delivered until April 8. Why was it withheld during the intervening twenty-three days? In the postcript to your memorandum you say it" was delayed, as was understood, with thir (Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford's) consent." This is true; but it is also true that on the 15th of March The next day, after conversing with you, I communicated Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford were assured, by a person to Judge Crawford, in writing, that the failure to evacuato occupying a high official position in the Government, and Sumter was not the result of bad faith, but was attributable who, as they believed, was speaking by authority, that to causes consistent with the intention to fulfill the engage Fort Sumter would be evacuated within a very few days, ment, and that, as regarded Pickens, I should have notice and that no measure changing the existing status preju- of any design to alter the existing status there. Mr. Justice dicially to the Confederate States, as respects Fort Pickens, Nelson was present at these conversations, three in num was then contemplated, and these assurances were subse-ber, and I submitted to him each of my written communi quently repeated, with the addition that any contemplated change as respects Fort Pickons would be notified to us.

The substance of this statement I communicated to you the same evening by letter. Five days clapsed and I called with a telegram from General Beauregard to the effect that Sumter was not evacuated, but that Major Anderson was at work making repairs.

cations to Judge Crawford, and informed Judge C. that they had his (Judge Nelson's) sanction. I gave you, on the 224

« PreviousContinue »