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14th, Toombs answered: "The government of the Confederate States can never agree that negotiations shall be made dependent on the non-execution of our own laws. . . . Not even to avert war can we ever consent to suspend the operation of the laws which we are bound to execute." In a separate despatch of March 29th Roman expressed hopes that Seward would, "before long, return to his idea of having an informal interview with us, and that some plan, not for a final treaty of peace-he dares not go so far-but for a truce or cessation of hostilities, perhaps until the meeting of the next Congress, may be agreed upon."
If the Confederates understood the needs of their own government, Seward's expectations were to be disappointed—unless he had some plan in reserve.
2. John A. Gilmer, of North Carolina, and George W. Summers, of Virginia, probably stood closer to Seward than any other Southerners not Republicans. Gilmer indicated his belief that, in order to save the Unionists in the southern states from being "swept away in a torrent of madness," it would be necessary to withdraw the troops from all the fortifications in the Confederacy and leave the revenue laws unenforced, so as to avoid a resort to arms.' He thought that most of the states could be won back in less than two years. Likewise Judge Summers, in his great Union speech before the Virginia convention, maintained that there was neither cause nor power to retake the lost forts; that there was no way for the United States to collect the customs in the seceded states; that we were "bound to accept secession as an existing fact," for the seven states had "formed a new confederacy" and were "now performing the functions of an independent government.
1 For Gilmer's letters to Seward, see Appendix L.
2 At the same time he said he would regard that statesman as row and unphilosophical" who should consider the action of these
Moreover, the report of the committee on Federal relations had already indicated that more than half the members of the convention were practically defensive allies of the Confederacy.' Throughout March those who called themselves Unionists or conservatives held the immediate secessionists in check; but it was the task of Sisyphus, and every day the burden grew heavier. Not even one hint has been found, in the many letters they wrote to Seward, that they would remain loyal if the Confederacy should be resisted. Lincoln's sarcastic exclamation—“Yes! your Virginia people are good Unionists, but it is always with an if!"-was a perfect characterization of their attitude. And, as a matter of fact, those whom Lincoln so accurately called Seward and Weed's "white crows" soon became Confederates. Yet Seward expected such broken reeds to be the southern pillars of the Union!
3. The commissioners had frequently reported that the peace party at the North was growing. An editorial article in the New York Times of March 21st said that "there is a growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go." Every week of quiet strengthened conservatives and abolitionists in the belief that it would be better to say, "Wayward sisters, depart in peace," than to risk the perils of a civil war. Neither the Times nor the Evening Journal accepted this view, but both papers suggested that an extra session of Congress would be a prerequisite of adopting a policy
states as insurrectionary. He announced that the news received from Washington that morning [presumably from Seward per Welling] removed all doubt about a pacific policy and the evacuation of Sumter. "These states must be left to time, to their experiment, to negotiation, to entreaty, to sisterly kindness."-Speech of March 11, 1861, SemiWeekly Richmond Enquirer, March 25th.
1 American Annual Cyclopædia, 1861, 732–34.
21 Southern Historical Papers, 446.
of active resistance to secession.' Gilmer urged Seward, March 12th, to draw up a proclamation throwing upon Buchanan's administration the blame for the condition of affairs. To this Seward replied that the suggestions were "judicious." There had been a very marked change of attitude since the previous winter, when the Evening Journal denounced Buchanan for not pursuing a vigorous policy. The almost free-trade tariff of the Confederacy had so demoralized importation at the North that the Times said, on March 30th: "With us it is no longer an abstract question-one of constitutional construction, or of reserved or delegated powers of the state or Federal government, but of material existence and moral position both at home and abroad." Douglas and most of the Democrats were known to be in favor of withdrawing the troops from both Sumter and Pickens, and recognizing as a fact what had taken place. The Republican Senators became more and more impatient, and Trumbull finally introduced a resolution declaring that the true way to preserve the Union was to enforce in all the states the laws of the Union."
So, as yet there was no sign of the refluent wave that was expected to sweep back into the Union its dismembered parts in fact, all the appearances indicated that Seward's plans, as far as announced, were wholly inadequate to save or restore the integrity of the nation.
In a very significant editorial article on 'Peaceful Secession," March 23d, the Evening Journal said that there should be no shedding of blood "by the general government, if it have not the needed force to carry on the war which the shedding of blood would initiate." As late as April 3d, a leading article in the Times said: "If he [the President] decides to enforce the laws, let him call Congress together and demand the means of doing it."
"See Appendix L, letter of April 11th. 3 Globe, 1860-61, 1519.
SEWARD'S STRUGGLE FOR SUPREMACY
ON March 28th the Senate adjourned. This promised to relieve the administration from criticism in that quarter. The New York Tribune of that morning contained a sensational despatch dated the previous day in Washington, disclosing the fact that an order, which was Scott's, had been sent a fortnight before, to reinforce Fort Pickens with the four hundred troops on the Brooklyn. On this 28th of March, also, expired the twenty-day delay, to which the commissioners had been authorized to consent. By this time, too, the conclusions of Fox, Hurlbut, and Lamon had become known. Hence it was to be expected that the administration would soon publicly and definitively announce its policy. Late that evening Lincoln called the members of his Cabinet into consultation to inform them that General Scott had recommended that Fort Pickens as well as Fort Sumter should be evacuated. Lincoln showed considerable emotion in making the announcement. A painful silence followed, until Blair began to denounce Scott for "playing politician," and not acting as a general should in recommending the surrender of a fort that was regarded as impregnable. Those present understood that the remarks were aimed at Seward'; and in after years both Blair and Welles recorded their belief that Scott was acting as Seward's decoy.'
1 3 Nicolay and Hay, 394, 395; Welles, 58, 60, 65.
Owing to the intimacy between Scott and Seward, it was assumed that Scott's recommendation was really Seward's, adroitly and tentatively made in this way in order to avoid hazarding the Secretary of State's influence with the administration.
A continuation of peace was the prerequisite of success for Seward's policy. His attitude toward Fort Sumter was such as to warrant the belief that he would also favor the evacuation of Fort Pickens, if necessary to the avoidance of an outbreak. Since 1839, when Scott was used by Weed and Seward as a means to defeat the nomination of Clay,' the man whom the country admired as a soldier and ridiculed as a politician had been repeatedly employed by the shrewd New York. leaders as a means of carrying out their plans. In 1851-52 it was notorious that Scott was under the influence of their political mesmerism. During the winter of 1860-61 Seward and Scott were working like hand in glove. Gwin explained how Seward cited Scott's change of attitude as evidence of the strength of the policy of peace. The letter of March 3, 1861, to Seward was thoroughly unconventional and suspicious. It said that to "conquer the seceded states" would require an army of three hundred thousand men, two hundred and fifty million dollars, and a garrison of thirty-five thousand men to protect Washington. Within three days this opinion was quoted to Toombs by the commissioners, with the unimportant error of naming two hundred and fifty thousand men instead of three hundred thousand. The information was exactly in line with what Seward wanted the Confederate leaders at Montgomery to know. Welles subsequently asserted that when the Sumter question first came before the new Cabinet, Seward recommended that it be referred to Scott and
12 Schurz's Clay, 178.