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"that no measure changing the existing status of things prejudicially to the Confederate States is at present contemplated by the administration." It was thoroughly understood on all sides that the Confederacy would violently resist any attempt to reinforce United States troops at any point within the claimed boundary of the seven seceded states. Notwithstanding Scott's order of the 12th to reinforce Fort Pickens, this assurance covered that fort as much as Fort Sumter or any others.
All parties concerned liked the new arrangement; so this peculiar intercourse continued. On March 16th Campbell, understanding Seward's anxiety about an answer to the note of the commissioners, followed up his
"I saw Judge Crawford, after leaving you to-day," Campbell wrote to Seward, March 15, 1861, "and communicated to him that I had entire confidence that Fort Sumter would be evacuated in five days, and that no measure changing the existing status of things prejudicially to the Confederate States is at present contemplated by the administration.
That these conclusions imposed great responsibility upon the administration, and that this responsibility would be injuriously increased by any demand for an answer to the communication of the commissioners of the Confederate States, and insisted that an answer should not be requested until the effect of the evacuation of Fort Sumter on the public mind should be ascertained, and, at all events, that nothing be done for ten days. Judge Crawford agreed to my proposal, but said Mr. Forsyth's concurrence was necessary. Mr. F. could not be found, and it was agreed that as soon as he could be consulted that Judge C. would address me a note as to the result.
"I have not yet heard from him.
"I think that you need not concern yourself to make an answer for the present. As soon as I hear from the commissioners, 1 will inform you.
"Judge C. preferred to conduct the correspondence with General Davis, and I shall not (probably) write to the latter on the subject. I cautioned Judge C. not to speak of our intercourse, and not to express any surmise as to the source from which my assurances were derived. I did not mention any name to him."-Seward MSS.
report to Seward with these lines: "The commissioners have sent a telegram to Montgomery in order to obtain permission to do as desired. An answer will, probably, be received to-day. Nothing will be expected from you to-day on their part." As anticipated, Toombs telegraphed the commissioners to "wait a reasonable time and then ask instructions."
At the expiration of the five days within which Sumter was to be evacuated, Campbell was requested to make inquiries about the delay. On March 21st he conferred with Seward and again gave the commissioners a written statement that his "confidence" was "unabated" as to the facts stated on March 15th; 2d, that no prejudicial movement to the South is contemplated as respects Fort Pickens. I shall be able to speak positively to-morrow afternoon."" After a long consultation with Seward, on March 22d, Campbell made a third record of his "unabated confidence" that there was no ground for distrust as to Sumter, and that the condition of things at Fort Pickens was not to be altered prejudicially to the Confederacy. He advised against making any demands upon the United States, and said he should have knowledge of any change in the existing status. His memorandum was shown to Seward before it was delivered therefore Fort Pickens was expressly covered by the pledge. Justice Nelson was present at each of the three interviews; Campbell showed the statements to him and obtained his sanction before giving them to the commissioners. Campbell published these
1 Seward MSS.
Campbell's statement, printed in Crawford, 331. Campbell, as well as the commissioners, seems to have become somewhat suspicious, for he took Justice Nelson with him for his "protection against the treachery of Secretary Seward and such other members of the Cabinet as he sees," as Toombs was informed.-Commissioners to Toombs, March 22d.
3 Crawford, 331, 332.
facts only a few weeks later.' Nelson's loyalty would have made it morally obligatory to deny Campell's account if it had not been correct.
On March 24th the Russian Minister called upon commissioner Roman and reported the following as the substance of a conversation with Seward the day before: no coercion or blockade, the Secretary had said, would be attempted; the seceding states would be allowed to collect the duties at their custom-houses, but the expense of their post-offices ought to be paid out of this revenue; he hoped those states, if allowed to act quietly, would retrace their steps, and return to the Union, but if they persisted they should be permitted to depart in peace; he had to fight the ultra-Republicans, but he was gaining ground and his policy would finally prevail. Could not an informal meeting with Roman be arranged for him at the Russian legation? Seward and the Minister agreed that taking a cup of tea there two evenings later would furnish the best opportunity. Roman gladly accepted the suggestion. The next morning Seward sent his regrets; and subsequently told the Minister that, after much reflection, he had declined, because he was afraid that the meeting might become known to the newspapers. The commissioners believed that it was because Seward was apprehensive of Horace Greeley, who had just arrived in Washington. They advised that the strongest possible force should be presented at Fort Pickens, so that there would be an "excuse" for its evacuation. They did not believe that the forts would be reinforced at the risk of a conflict. But it was still a question whether the administration was more afraid of the Confederate States or of the radical Republicans.*
1 McPherson's Rebellion, 110.
2 Roman to Toombs, March 25th. See note to p. 135 post.
Until the last days of March, Seward's influence over the administration seemed to be undisturbed. Although Lincoln had not adopted his recommendations, he so carefully avoided direct antagonism to them that Seward and his friends as well as Jefferson Davis-continued to believe that they would prevail. What did the status at this time--near the end of March-indicate as to the efficiency of Seward's plan and methods if they should be allowed full sway? A fair point from which to judge them should be gained by a careful examination of these three questions:
1. How did the Confederates regard and expect to meet his policy?
2. What conditions did the southern Unionists put upon its acceptance?
3. What did Seward's closest friends, and other Republicans, think of the outlook?
1. With profound complacency the Confederates regarded Seward as their cat's-paw. "I have felt it my duty under instructions from your department, as well as from my best judgment," Crawford wrote to Toombs, March 6th, "to adopt and support Mr. Seward's policy, upon condition, however, that the present status is to be rigidly maintained. His reasons and my own, it is proper to say, are as wide apart as the poles: he is fully persuaded that peace will bring about a reconstruction of the Union, whilst I feel confident that it will build up and cement our confederacy and put us beyond the reach either of his arms or of his diplomacy." "It is well that he should indulge in dreams which we know are not to be realized," Forsyth and Crawford complacently said, two days later. Because the Confederates were. living under their own laws and were levying tribute upon the North, the commissioners felt that a continu
1 Toombs to commissioners, April 2d.
ance of quiet would be most conducive to a solidification of their government and to preparation for any emergency; while it would tend to give them character, power, and influence abroad.' The evacuation of Forts Sumter and Pickens would be pro tanto a recognition of independence. Obtaining Fort Pickens might be a work of time. "Still, invest the latter as Sumter was and it soon becomes a necessity." Crawford pointed out that, by procuring from Seward a pledge not to change the status, the Confederate States had won a great advantage, for they "were not bound in any way whatever to observe the same course toward it "—the United States. "We think, then, that the policy of 'masterly inactivity,' on our part, was wise in every particular." As late as April 2d, the Confederate Secretary of State wrote to the commissioners: "It is a matter of no importance to us what motives may induce the adoption of Mr. Seward's policy by his government. We are satisfied that it will redound to our advantage, and, therefore, care little for Mr. Seward's calculations as to its future effect upon the Confederate States." At the same time Toombs instructed the commissioners not to agree to maintain the present status except upon the condition that the United States troops should be withdrawn from both Sumter and Pickens. From the beginning these forts were linked together for war or peace.' This soon became apparent.
The commissioners had asked their government if during negotiations it would be practicable to collect the same duties as were required by the laws of the United States rather than by those of the Confederacy. March
1 Commissioners, March 26th. 2 Crawford to Toombs, April 1st. 3 On February 15th, a resolution of the Confederate Congress expressed the opinion "that immediate steps should be taken to obtain possession of Forts Sumter and Pickens, by the authority of this government, either by negotiations or force, as early as practicable." 1 War Records, 258.