Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

History of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life online

. (page 12 of 46)
Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondHistory of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life → online text (page 12 of 46)
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the Florida coast, and Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor, South Carolina.
The forts thus seized had been put in improved condition, new ones had
been built, and armed forces had been organized and were organizing, all
avowedly with the same hostile purpose.


The forts remaining in the possession of the Federal Government in
and near these States were either besieged or menaced by warlike prepa
rations, and especially Fort Sumter was nearly surrounded by well-
protected hostile batteries, with guns equal in quality to the best of its
own, and outnumbering the latter as perhaps ten to one. A dispropor
tionate share of the Federal muskets and rifles had somehow found their
way into these States, and had been seized to be used against the Govern
ment. Accumulations of the public revenue, lying within them, had
been seized for the same object. The Navy was scattered in distant seas,
leaving but a very small part of it within the immediate reach of the
Government. Officers of the Federal Army and Navy had resigned in
great numbers ; and of those resigning, a large proportion had taken up
arms against the Government. Simultaneously, and in connection with
all this, the purpose to sever the Federal Union was openly avowed. In
accordance with this purpose, an ordinance had been adopted in each of
these States, declaring the States, respectively, to be separated from the
National Union. A formula for instituting a combined government of
these States had been promulgated ; and this illegal organization, in the
character of Confederate States, was already invoking recognition, aid,
and intervention from foreign Powers.

Finding this condition of things, and believing it to be an imperative
duty upon the incoming Executive to prevent, if possible, the consum
mation of such attempt to destroy the Federal Union, a choice of means
to that end became indispensable. This choice was made, and was de
clared in the Inaugural Address. The policy chosen looked to the exhaus
tion of all peaceful measures before a resort to any stronger ones. It
sought only to hold the public places and property not already wrested
from the Government, and to collect the revenue, relying for the rest on
time, discussion, and the ballot-box. It promised a continuance of the
mails, at Government expense, to the very people who were resisting the
Government ; and it gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to
any of the people, or any of their rights. Of all that which a President
might constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, every thing was
forborne, without which it was believed possible to keep the Government
on foot.

On the 5th of March (the present incumbent s first full day in office,
a letter of Major Anderson, commanding at Fort Sumter, written on the
28th of February, and received at the War Department on the 4th of
March, was by that Department placed in his hands. This letter ex
pressed the professional opinion of the writer, that re-enforcements could
not be thrown into that fort within the time for his relief, rendered ne
cessary by the limited supply of provisions, and with a view of holding
possession of the same, with a force of less than twenty thousand good
and well-disciplined men. This opinion was concurred in by all the


officers of his command, and their memoranda on the subject were made
enclosures of Major Anderson s letter. The whole was immediately laid
before Lieutenant-General Scott, who at once concurred with Major
Anderson in opinion. On reflection, however, he took full time, con
sulting- with other officers, both of the army and the navy ; and at the
end of four days came reluctantly, but decidedly, to the same conclusion
as before. He also stated at the same time that no such sufficient force
was then at the control of the Government, or could be raised and
brought to the ground within the time when the provisions in the fort
would be exhausted. In a purely military point of view, this reduced
the duty of the Administration in the case to the mere matter of getting
the garrison safely out of the fort.

It was believed, however, that to so abandon that position, under the
circumstances, would be utterly ruinous ; that the necessity under which
it was to be done would not be fully understood ; that by many it would
be construed as a part of a voluntary policy ; that at home it would dis
courage the friends of the Union, embolden its adversaries, and go far to
insure to the latter a recognition abroad ; that, in fact, it would be our
national destruction consummated. This could not be allowed. Star
vation was not yet upon the garrison ; and ere it would be reached Fort
Pickens might be re-enforced. This would be a clear indication of policy,
and would better enable the country to accept the evacuation of Fort
Sumter as a military necessity. An order was at once directed to be sent
for the landing of the troops from the steamship Brooklyn into Fort
Pickens. This order could not go by land, but must take the longer and
slower route by sea. The first return news from the order was received
just one week before the fall of Fort Sumter. The news itself was that
the officer commanding the Sabine, to which vessel the troops had been
transferred from the Brooklyn, acting upon some quasi armistice of the
late Administration (and of the existence of which the present Adminis
tration, up to the time the order was despatched, had only too vague and
uncertain rumors to fix attention), had refused to land the troops. To
now re-enforce Fort Pickens before a crisis would be reached at Fort
Sumter was impossible rendered so by the near exhaustion of provisions
in the latter-named fort. In precaution against such a conjuncture, the
Government had a few days before commenced preparing an expedition,
as well adapted as might be, to relieve Fort Sumter, which expedition
was intended to be ultimately used or not, according to circumstances.
The strongest anticipated case for using it was now presented, and it was
resolved to send it forward. As had been intended in this contingency,
it was also resolved to notify the Governor of South Carolina that he
might expect an attempt would be made to provision the fort ; and that,
if the attempt should not be resisted, there would be no effort to throw
in men, arms, or ammunition, without further notice, or in case of an


attack upon the fort. This notice was accordingly given ; whereupon
the fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall, without even awaiting
the arrival of the provisioning expedition.

It is thus seen that the assault upon and reduction of Fort Sumter was
in no sense a matter of self-defence upon the part of the assailants. They
well knew that the garrison in the fort could by no possibility commit
aggression upon them. They knew they were expressly notified that
the giving of bread to the few brave and hungry men of the garrison
was ail which would on that occasion be attempted, unless themselves,
by resisting so much, should provoke more. They knew that this Gov
ernment desired to keep the garrison in the fort, not to assail them, but
to maintain visible possession, and thus to preserve the Union from
actual and immediate dissolution trusting, as hereinbefore stated, to
time, discussion, and the ballot-box for final adjustment ; and they as
sailed and reduced the fort for precisely the reverse object to drive out
the visible authority of the Federal Union, and thus force it to immediate
dissolution. That this was their object the Executive well understood ;
and having said to them in the Inaugural Address, " You can have no
conflict without being yourselves the aggressors," he took pains not
only to keep this declaration good, but also to keep the case so free from
the power of ingenious sophistry that the world should not be able to
misunderstand it. By the affair at Fort Sumter, with its surrounding
circumstances, that point was reached. Then and thereby the assailants
of the Government began the conflict of arms, without a gun in sight,
or in expectancy to return their fire, save only the few in the fort, sent
to that harbor years before for their own protection, and still ready to
give that protection in whatever was lawful. In this act, discarding all
else, they have forced upon the country the distinct issue, "immediate
dissolution or blood."

And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It
presents to the whole family of man the question, whether a constitu
tional republic or democracy a government of the people by the same
people can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own
domestic foes. It presents the question, whether discontented individuals,
too few in numbers to control administration, according to organic law,
in any case, can always, upon the pretences made in this case, or on any
other pretences, or arbitrarily, without any pretence, break up their
Government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon
the earth. It forces us to ask, " Is there, in all republics, this inherent
and fatal weakness ?" " Must a government, of necessity, be too strong
for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own exist

So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war power


of the Government ; and so to resist force employed for its destruction,
by force for its preservation.

The call was made, and the response of the country was most gratify
ing, surpassing in unanimity and spirit the most sanguine expectation.
Yet none of the States commonly called Slave States, except Delaware,
gave a regiment through regular State organization. A few regiments
have been organized within some others of those States by individual
enterprise, and received into the Government service. Of course, the
seceded States, so called (and to which Texas had been joined about the
time of the inauguration), gave no troops to the cause of the Union.
The Border States, so called, were not uniform in their action, some of them
being almost for the Union, while in others as Virginia, North Carolina,
Tennessee, and Arkansas the Union sentiment was nearly repressed and
silenced. The course taken in Virginia was the most remarkable per
haps the most important. A convention, elected by the people of that
State to consider this very qnestion of disrupting the Federal Union,
was in session at the capital of Virginia when Fort Sumter fell. To this
body the people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men.
Almost immediately after t.he fall of Surnter many members of that
majority went over to the original disunion minority, and with them
adopted an ordinance for withdrawing the State from the Union. Whether
this change was wrought by their great approval of the assault upon
Sumter, or their great resentment at the Government s resistance to that
assault, is not definitely known. Although they submitted the ordinance
for ratification to a vote of the people, to be taken on a day then some
what more than a month distant, the Convention and the Legislature
(which was also in session at the same time and place), with leading
men of the State not members of either, immediately commenced acting
as if the State were already out of the Union. They pushed military
preparations vigorously forward all over the State. They seized the
United States armory at Harper s Ferry, and the navy -yard at Gosport,
near Norfolk. They received perhaps invited into their State large
bodies of troops, with their warlike appointments, from the so-called
seceded States. They formally entered into a treaty of temporary alli
ance and co-operation with the so-called " Confederate States," and sent
members to their Congress at Montgomery ; and, finally, they permitted
the insurrectionary Government to be transferred to their capital at Rich

The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to
make its nest within her borders ; and this Government has no choice
left but to deal with it where it finds it. And it has the less regret, as
the loyal citizens have in due form claimed its protection. Those loyal
citizens this Government is bound to recognize and protect as being


In the Border States, so-called in fact, the Middle States there are
those who favor a policy which they call "armed neutrality" that is,
an arming of those States to prevent the Union forces passing one way,
or the disunion the other, over their soil. This would be disunion com-
pleted. Figuratively speaking, it would be the building of an impassable
wall along the line of separation and yet not quite an impassable one,
for, under the guise of neutrality, it would tie the hands of Union men,
and freely pass supplies from among them to the insurrectionists, which
it could not do as an op*en enemy. At a stroke it would take all the
trouble off the hands of secession, except only what proceeds from the
external blockade. It would do for the disunionists that which of all
things they most desire feed them well, and give them disunion without
a struggle of their own. It recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no
obligation to maintain the Union ; and while Very many who have fa
vored it are doubtless loyal citizens, it is, nevertheless, very injurious in

Recurring to the action of the Government, it may be stated that at
first a call was made for seventy five thousand militia; and rapidly fol
lowing this, a proclamation was issued for closing the ports of the insur
rectionary districts by proceedings in the nature of a blockade. So far
all was believed to be strictly legal. At this point the insurrectionists
announced their purpose to enter upon the practice of privateering.

Other calls were made for volunteers to serve for three years, unless
sooner discharged, and also for large additions to the regular army and
navy. These measures, whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon
under what appeared to be a popular demand and a public necessity ;
trusting then, as now, that Congress would readily ratify them. It is
believed that nothing has been done beyond the constitutional compe
tency of Congress.

Soon after the first call for militia, it was considered a duty to authorize
the Commanding-General, in proper cases, according to his discretion,
to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or, in other words,
to arrest and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms
of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety.
This authority has purposely been exercised but very sparingly. Never
theless, the legality and propriety of what has been done under it are
questioned, and the attention of the country has been called to the
proposition, that one who has sworn to " take care that the laws be
faithfully executed," should not himself violate them. Of course, some
consideration was given to the question of power and propriety before
this matter was acted upon. The whole of the laws which were required
to be faithfully executed were being resisted, and failing of execution in
nearly one-third of the States. Must they be allowed to finally fail of ex
ecution, even had it been perfectly clear that by the use of the niuaiis
necessary to their execution some single law, made in such extreme


tenderness of the citizen s liberty that practically it relieves more of the
guilty than of the innocent, should to a very limited extent be violated ?
To state the question more directly : Are all the laws but one to go unex
ecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?
Even in such a case, would not the official oath be broken if the Gov
ernment should be overthrown, when it was believed that disregarding
the single law would tend to preserve it ? But it was not believed that
this question was presented. It was not believed that any law was
violated. The provision of the Constitution ttiat " the privilege of the
writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when, in cases of
rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it," is equivalent to
a provision is a provision that such privilege may be suspended when,
in case of rebellion or invasion, the public safety does require it. It was
decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the public safety does
require the qualified suspension of the privilege of the writ which was
authorized to be made. Now, it is insisted that Congress, and not the
Executive, is vested with this power. But the Constitution itself is silent
as to which or who is to exercise the power ; and as the provision was
plainly made for a dangerous emergency, it cannot be believed the
frame rs of the instrument intended that in every case the danger should
run its course until Congress could be called together, the very assembling
of which might be prevented, as was intended in this case, by the re

No more extended argument is now offered, as an opinion, at some
length, will probably be presented by the Attorney-General. Whether
there shall be any legislation on the subject, and, if any, what, is sub
mitted entirely to the better judgment of Congress.

The forbearance of this Government had been so extraordinary, and so
long continued, as to lead some foreign nations to shape their action
as if they supposed the early destruction of our national Union was
probable. While this, on discovery, gave the Executive some concern,
he is now happy to say that the sovereignty and rights of the United
States are now everywhere practically respected by foreign powers ; and
a general sympathy with the country is manifested throughout the

The reports of the Secretaries of the Treasury, War, and the Navy,
will give the information in detail deemed necessary and convenient for
your deliberation and action ; while the Executive and all the Depart
ments will stand ready to supply omissions, or to communicate new facts
considered important for you to know.

It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making this
contest a short and decisive one ; that you place at the control of the
Government, for the work, as least four hundred thousand men and
$400,000,000. That number of men is about one-tenth of those of proper
ages within the regions where, apparently, all are willing to engage ; and


the sum is less than a twenty-third part of the money value owned by
the men who seem ready to devote the whole. A debt of $600,000,000
now, is a less sum per head than was the debt of our Revolution when
we came out of that struggle ; and the money value in the country now
bears even a greater proportion to what it was then, than does the popu
lation. Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our
liberties, as each had then to establish them.

A right result, at this time, will be worth more to the world than ten
times the men and ten times the money. The evidence reaching us from
the country leaves no doubt that the material for the work is abundant,
and that it needs only the hand of legislation to give it legal sanction,
and the hand of the Executive to give it practical shape and efficiency.
One of the greatest perplexities of the Government is to avoid receiving
troops faster than it can provide for them. In a word, the people will
save their Government, if the Government itself will do its part only
indifferently well.

It might seem, at first thought, to be of little difference whether the
present movement at the South be called "secession," or "rebellion."
The movers, however, will understand the difference. At the beginning,
they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable
magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They knew
their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to
law and order, and as much pride in, and reverence for the history and
Government of their common country, as any other civilized and patriotic
people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the
teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly, they com
menced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented
an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly
logical steps, through all the incidents, to the complete destruction of
the Union. The sophism itself is, that any State of the Union may,
consistently with the national Constitution, and therefore lawfully and
peacefully, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union,
or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to
be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judges of its
justice, is too thin too merit any notice.

With rebellion thus sugar-coated they have been dragging the public
mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they
have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against
the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the
farcical pretence of taking their State out of the Union, who could have
been brought to no such thing the day before.

This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency from

the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred supremacy

pertaining to a State to each State of our Federal Union. Our States

have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the



Union by the Constitution no one of them ever having been a State out
of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they
cast off their British colonial dependence; and the new ones each came
into the Union directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas.
And even Texas, in its temporary independence, was never designated a
State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into
the Union, while that name was first adopted by the old ones in and by
the Declaration of Independence. Therein the " United Colonies" were
declared to be "free and independent States;" but, even then, the ob
ject plainly was not to declare their independence of one another, or of
the Union, but directly the contrary ; as their mutual pledge and their
mutual action before, at the time, and afterwards, abundantly show. The
express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in the
Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be per
petual, is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance
or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of
u State rights/ asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union
itself? Much is said about the " sovereignty" of the States; but the
word even is not in the national Constitution ; nor, as is believed, in any
of the State constitutions. What is " sovereignty " in the political sense
of the term ? Would it be far wrong to define it " a political community
without a political superior?" Tested by this, no one of our States, ex
cept Texas, ever was a sovereignty. And even Texas gave up the char
acter on coming into the Union ; by which act she acknowledged the
Constitution of the United States and the laws and treaties of the United
States made in pursuance of the Constitution, to be for her the supreme
law of the land. The States have their status in the Union, and they have
no other legal status. If they break from this, they can only do so
against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves sepa
rately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or
purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence or
liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and, in fact, it
created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made tho
Union, and, in turn, the Union threw off their old dependence for them,
and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a
State constitution independent of the Union. Of course, it is not for
gotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they en
tered the Union; nevertheless dependent upon, and preparatory to, com
ing into the Union.

Unquestionably the States have the powers and rights reserved to them
in and by the national Constitution ; but among these, surely, are not in
cluded all conceivable powers, however mischievous or destructive ; but,
at most, such only as were known in the world, at the time, as govern
mental powers ; and, certainly, a power to destroy the Government it
self had never been known as a governmental as a merely administra-

Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondHistory of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life → online text (page 12 of 46)