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is it wise now to attempt it, instead of withdrawing the garrison?


The most that could be done by any means now in our hands would be to throw two hundred and fifty to four hundred men into the garrison, with provisions for supplying it five or six months. In this active and enlightened country, in this season of excitement, with a daily press, daily mails, and an incessantly operating telegraph, the design to reinforce and supply the garrison must become known to the opposite party at Charleston as soon at least as preparation for it should begin. The garrison would then almost certainly fall by assault before the expedition could reach the harbor of Charleston. But supposing the secret kept, the expedition must engage in conflict on entering the harbor of Charleston; suppose it to be overpowered and destroyed, is that new outrage to be avenged, or are we then to return to our attitude of immobility? Should we be allowed to do so? Moreover, in that event, what becomes of the garrison?

"I suppose the expedition successful. We have then a garrison in Fort Sumter that can defy assault for six months. What is it to do then? Is it to make war by opening its batteries and attempting to demolish the defences of the Carolinians? Can it demolish them if it tries? If it cannot, what is the advantage we shall have gained? If it can, how will it serve to check or prevent disunion?

"In either case, it seems to me that we will have inaugurated a civil war by our own act, without an adequate object, after which reunion will be hopeless, at least under this administration, or in any other way than by a popular disavowal both of the war and of the administration which unnecessarily commenced it. Fraternity is the element of union; war is the very element of disunion. Fraternity, if practised by this administration, will rescue the Union from all its dangers. If this administration, on the other hand, take up the sword, then an opposite party will offer the olive branch, and will, as it ought, profit by the restoration of peace and union."

"I would not provoke war in any way now. I would resort to force to protect the collection of revenue, because that is a necessary as well as legitimate public object. Even then it should only be a naval force that I would employ for that necessary purpose, while I would defer military action on land until a case should arise where we would hold

the defensive.1 In that case we should have the spirit of the country and the approval of mankind on our side. In the other, we should peril peace and union, because we had not the courage to practise prudence and moderation at the cost of temporary misapprehension. If this counsel seem to be impassive and even unpatriotic, I console myself by the reflection that it is such as Chatham gave to his country under circumstances not widely different."

He still left unexplained the method and influences by which the slave states hesitating whether to sympathize with the Confederacy or with the Federal government were to be kept within their normal spheres. He was even more vague as to the manner in which the resolute and ambitious new government was to be dealt with and finally dissolved. Yet, the logic of his answer to Lincoln's question, his opinions expressed at different times, the declared aims of those who were known to be his allies and confidants, and the plans of southern Unionists with whom he was in close communication furnish a clear outline of the policy by which he expected to avert civil war and disunion.

As has been noticed, the first step was an attempt to abolish party lines and to unite those who believed the preservation of the Union the most important consideration. This put in the background the aims of the radical Republicans, and tended to soothe the fears of a majority of the voters of the South outside the cotton states, so that they refused to rush precipitately into secession. North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and all the border slave states had shown at least a temporary preference for the old government. It was believed in many quarters that the Confederacy could not long continue unless she should win over several more states. In the contest to gain these middle states the Confederacy had a great

1 Not italicized in the original.

25 Works, 606 ff.

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advantage, but it was not so evident then as it is now. "Force," "coercion," "subjugation," were words of such frightful omen to most Southerners that little distinction was made in their meanings. Many Northerners, like Seward, tried to eliminate these words from all discussions, knowing how they would be used by secessionists. After the inauguration, the first aim was to strengthen the southern Unionists and make allies of them. Because the reprovisioning or the reinforcement of forts would be regarded as positive evidence of an intention to coerce the states, it must be avoided as much as coercion itself. The New York Times of March 21st said that the true policy of the administration was "unquestionably that of masterly inactivity"; that the object was "the conversion of the southern people from their secessionism." "Force, as a means of restoring the Union, or of permanently preserving it, is out of the question." Seward thought that the best evidence. of the peaceful intentions of the administration would be the withdrawal of the troops from Fort Sumter. As a result it was expected that several of the loyal slave states would soon take a positive stand against secession. Then their influence would be felt by neighboring states, and, ultimately, by the Confederacy.' As late as April 10th, he expressed great confidence that a constitutional convention would remove the difficulties if all else should fail.2

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Virginia, still the most important point, was to be used as the thin edge of the wedge. It was rumored that

1 This idea is vaguely expressed in the opinion of March 15th. "He [Seward] could give me no good reason for supposing it, but he seemed to be quite convinced that, as soon as the states of Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri rejected the appeals of the secessionists, as he has positive information they will reject them, the disintegration of the new-born Confederacy will begin.”—“Diary of a Public Man," March 7th, 129 North American Review, 489.

2 Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861, 74, 75. .

Seward thought of going to Richmond to help forward the cause, for the state convention was still in session there.' But he sent a special agent, and then recommended to Lincoln that George W. Summers, the ablest of the Unionists there, should be made a Judge of the Supreme Court. About the same time he told an editor of the Washington National Intelligencer that the troops would be withdrawn from Sumter, and he requested him to state the fact to Summers.




A few days later Summers wrote: "The [report of the] removal from Sumter acted like a charm-it gave us great strength. A reaction is now going on in the state. The outside pressure has greatly subsided." It was then supposed that a convention of the loyal slave states would be called at Frankfort or Nashville, and that the conditions of remaining in the Union would there be formulated and subsequently brought to the consideration of the other states. Seward expected that a national convention would soon follow, where an agreement would be reached by all the loyal states. The

1 New York Times, March 8th.

3 Nicolay and Hay, 423.

3 29 New York Nation, 383, 384. The intermediary was the late J. C. Welling, subsequently president of Columbian University.

• Ibid.

5 Summers's speech of March 11th, in the Virginia convention. Semi-Weekly Richmond Enquirer, March 25th.

"The "Diary," etc., of March 12th, records another interview with Seward. "He has news from Richmond, and I understood him from Mr. Summers, that the prospect of defeating the secessionists in the convention brightens all the time, and that Virginia, after disposing finally of the importunities of the southern states, will take the initiative for a great national convention. Of this he feels as confident as of the complete overthrow of the schemes of the fire-eaters by the quiet evacuation of Fort Sumter, which cannot now be long delayed."

"He is hopeful of the success of the convention plan if we can but get the better of our own mischief-makers here, who are much more dangerous to us, he thinks-and I agree with him-than the people at Montgomery."-129 North American Review, 495.

The Evening Journal of March 22d said: "In proposing a national

New York Times, which was the frankest exponent of this policy, urged editorially, March 21st, that the efforts of the Union men ought to be recognized, that documents explaining the true position of the administration should be scattered throughout the South, and that the patronage, influence, and power of the government should be used to build up a Union party in every southern state. These were exactly the lines on which Seward was working.'

To what extent was the sovereignty of the United States to be suspended in the Confederacy during the practice of this" Fabian policy, which concedes nothing, yet which employs no force in support of resisted Federal authority?"? It was here that optimistic theories and negotiations had to give way to facts and practical administration. Excepting some phases of the purely military question, all the considerations that Seward had urged for the evacuation of Fort Sumter applied with nearly equal force to Fort Pickens. Even from a military point of view, the difference, which was chiefly one of time and degree, would disappear with the carrying out of Seward's plan. His method of dealing with secession was surprisingly like Buchanan's.'

convention of the states, Governor Seward, as on many former occasions, saw farther and more clearly into the future than his congressional associates, most of whom repudiated the suggestion. That sentiment is now toning up to the idea. Some states have met it with their approval. Our own will do so. We may look forward, therefore, to a period when, passion subsiding, irritation soothed, and the popular mind tranquillized, wholesome results may flow from the deliberation of a national council."

1 A letter from Samuel Hooper, dated Boston, February 18, 1861, showed that on Seward's suggestion he had collected one thousand dollars for the distribution of documents in the border slave states.— Seward MSS.

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2 Tribune, March 27, 1861.

3 See the paragraph beginning "Partly by design," in the opinion of March 15th; also 129 North American Review, 127, 128, 133, 489.

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