The Life, Public Services and State Papers of Abraham Lincoln

By Henry J. Raymond

Chapter 6



ON the 4th of March, 1861, Mr. Lincoln took the oath and assumed the duties of the Presidential office. He was quite right in saying, on the eve of his departure from his home in Spring-Held, that those duties were greater than had devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. A conspiracy which had been on foot for thirty years had reached its crisis. Yet in spite of all that had been done by the leading spirits in this movement, the people of the slaveholding States were by no means a unit in its support. Seven of those States South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana had passed secession ordinances, and united in the establishment of a hostile Confederacy; but in nearly all of them a considerable portion of the people were opposed to the movement, while in all the remaining slaveholding States a very active canvass was carried on between the friends and the opponents of secession. In Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee especially, the Government of the United States was vindicated and its authority sustained by men of pre-eminent ability and of commanding reputation, and there seemed abundant reason for hoping that, by the adoption of prudent measures, the slaveholding section might be divided, and the Border Slave States retained in the Union. The authorities of the rebel Confederacy saw the importance of pushing the issue to an instant decision. Under their directions nearly all the forts, arsenals, dock-yards, custom houses, &c., belonging to the United States, within the limits of the seceded States, had been seized, and were held by representatives of the rebel government. The only forts in the South which remained in possession of the Union were Forts Pickens, Taylor, and Jefferson on the Florida coast, and Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, and preparations were far advanced for the reduction and capture of these. Officers of the army and navy from the South had resigned their commissions and entered the rebel service. Civil officers representing the United States within the limits of the Southern States could no longer discharge their functions, and all the powers of that Government were practically paralyzed.

It was under these circumstances that Mr. Lincoln entered upon the duties of Ms office, and addressed himself to the task, first, of withholding the Border States from joining the Confederacy, as an indispensable preliminary to the great work of quelling the rebellion and restoring the authority of the Constitution.

The ceremony of inauguration took place as usual in front of the Capitol, and in presence of an immense multitude of spectators. A large military force was in attendance, under the immediate command of General Scott, but nothing occurred to interrupt the harmony of the occasion. Before taking the oath of office, Mr. Lincoln delivered the following

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Fellow-Citizens of the United States:

In compliance. with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appeal before you to address you briefly, and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President "before he enters on the execution of his office."

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.

Apprehension seems to exist, among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and

their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that " I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institution's according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to the balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend, and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in anywise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States, when law fully demanded, for whatever cause as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver 'is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution to this provision as much as any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves, whose cases come within the terms of this clause, "shall be delivered up," their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by National or by State authority; but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him, or to others, by which authority it is done. And should any one, in any case, be content that his oath shall go unkept, on a mere unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again, in any law upon this subject, ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not, in any case, surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well, at the same time, to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that "the citizens of eacli State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States?"

I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservation, and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules. And while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them, trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution. During that period, fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have, in succession, administered the Executive branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope for precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years, under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold that, in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all National Governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Government, and the Union will endure forever H being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again, if the United States be not a Government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was farther matured, and the faith of all the then Thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And, finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was " to form a more perfect union."

But if destruction of the Union, by one, or by a part only, of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before, the Constitution having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows, from these views, that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I, therefore, consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it, so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or, in some authoritative manner, direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there need be no, bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the National authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be but necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States, in any interior locality, shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable withal, I deem it better to forego, for the time, the uses of such offices.

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible, the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed, unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised, according to circumstances actually existing, and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the National troubles, and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union, may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our National fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? "Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? "Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

All profess to be content in the Union, if all constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right, plainly written in the Constitution, has been denied? I think not. Happily the human mind is so constituted that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If, by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution certainly would if such right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them by affirmations and negations, guarantees and prohibitions in the Constitution, that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate, nor any document of reasonable length contain, express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by National or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly 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 hold 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 decisions 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 decisions may be erroneous in any given case, still, the evil effect following it being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled, and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.

Nor is there in this view any assault upon the Court or the Judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes. One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and 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. It is impossible, 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 identical 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 rightful authority of the people over the whole 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 objections 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 Euler 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, the 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 wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.

My countrymen, one 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; while the new Administration will have no immediate 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 reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issues 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 de fend " it.

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 cord 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.

The declarations of the Inaugural, as a general thing, gave satisfaction to the loyal people of the whole country. It was seen, everywhere, that while President Lincoln felt constrained, by the most solemn obligations of duty, to maintain the authority of the Government of the United States over all the territory within its jurisdiction, whenever that authority should be disputed by the actual exercise of armed force, he would nevertheless do nothing whatever to provoke such a demonstration, and would take no step which could look like violence or offensive warfare upon the seceded States. In the Border States its reception was in the main satisfactory. But, as a matter of course, in those States, as elsewhere throughout the South, the secession leaders gave it the most hostile construction. No effort was spared to inflame the public mind, by representing the Inaugural as embodying the purpose of the President to make war upon the Southern States for their attempt to secure a redress of wrongs.

The President's first act was to construct his Cabinet, which was done by the appointment of William H. Seward, of New York, Secretary of State; Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury; Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, Secretary of War; Gideon Welles, of Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy; Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana, Secretary of the Interior; Montgomery Blair of Maryland, Postmaster-General; and Edward Bates, of Missouri, Attorney-General. These nominations were all confirmed by the Senate, and these gentlemen entered upon the discharge of the duties of their several offices.

On the 12th of March, Messrs. John Forsyth, of Alabama, and Crawford, of Georgia, requested an unofficial interview with the Secretary of State, which the latter declined. On the 13th they sent to him a communication, informing him that they were in Washington as commissioners from a government composed of seven. States which had withdrawn from the American Union, and that they desired to enter upon negotiations for the adjustment of all questions growing out of this separation. Mr. Seward, by direction of the President, declined to receive them, because it "could not be admitted that the States referred to had, in law or fact, withdrawn from the Federal Union, or that they could do so 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 assembled in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States." This communication, though written on the loth of March, was withheld, with the consent of the Commissioners, until the 8th of April, when it was delivered. The. fact of its receipt, and its character, were instantly telegraphed to Charleston, and it was made the occasion for precipitating the revolution by an act which, it was "believed, would unite all the Southern States in support of the Confederacy. On the day of its receipt, the 8th of April, General Beauregard, at Charleston, telegraphed to L. P. Walker, the rebel Secretary of War, at Montgomery, that "an authorized messenger from President Lincoln had just informed Governor Pickens and himself that provisions would be sent to Fort Sumter peaceably, or, otherwise, by force." General Beauregard was instructed to demand the surrender of the fort, which he did on the 11th, and was at once informed by Major Anderson, who was in command, that his " sense of honor and his obligations to his Government prevented his compliance." On the night of the same day General Beauregard wrote to Major Anderson, by orders of his Government, that if he "would state the time at which he would evacuate Fort Sumter" (as it was known that it must soon be evacuated for lack of provisions), "and will agree that, in the mean time, you will not use your guns against us unless ours shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you." At half-past two in the morning of the 12th, Major Anderson replied that he would evacuate the fort by noon on the 15th, abiding, meantime, by the terms proposed, unless he should "receive, prior to that, control ling instructions from his Government, or additional sup. plies." In reply to this note he was notified, at half-past three, that the rebels would open their batteries upon the fort in one hour from that time. This they did, and, after a bombardment of thirty-three hours, Major Anderson agreed to evacuate the fort, which he carried into effect on Sunday morning, the 14th.

The effect of this open act of war was, in some respects, precisely what had been anticipated by the rebel authorities: in other respects, it was very different. Upon the Southern States it had the effect of arousing public sentiment to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, and of strengthening the rebel cause. At the North, it broke down, for the moment, all party distinctions, and united the people in a cordial and hearty support of the Government.

The President regarded it as an armed attack upon the Government of the United States, in support of the combination which had been organized into a Confederacy to resist and destroy its authority, and he saw, at once, that it could be met and defeated only by the force placed in his hands for the maintenance of that authority. He accordingly, on the 15th of April, issued the following


By the President of the United States.

Whereas, the laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law: now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.

The details for this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department. I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government, and to redress wrongs already long enough endured. I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will probably be to repossess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens of any part of the country; and I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes, within twenty days from this date.

Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both houses of Congress. The Senators and "Representatives are, therefore, summoned to assemble at their respective chambers, at twelve o'clock, noon, on Thursday, the fourth day of July next, then and there to consider and determine such measures as, in their wisdom, the public safety and interest may seem to demand.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of "Washington, this fifteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.


     By the President.

WILLIAM II. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

The issue of this Proclamation created the most intense enthusiasm throughout the country. Scarcely a voice was raised in any of the Northern States against this measure, which was seen to be one of absolute necessity and of self-defence on the part of the Government. Every Northern State responded promptly to the President's demand, and from private persons, as well as by the legislatures, men, arms, and money were offered, in unstinted profusion and with the most zealous alacrity, in support of the Government. Massachusetts was first in the field; and on the first day after the issue of the Proclamation, her Sixth Regiment, completely equipped, started from Boston for the National Capital. Two more regiments were also made ready, and took their departure within forty-eight hours. The Sixth Regiment, on its way to Washington, on the 19th, was attacked by a mob in Baltimore, carrying a secession flag, and several of its members were killed or severely wounded. This inflamed to a still higher point the excitement which already pervaded the country. The whole Northern section of the Union felt outraged that troops should be assailed and murdered on their way to protect the Capital of the Nation. In Maryland, where the Secession party was strong, there was also great excitement, and the Governor of the State and the Mayor of Baltimore united in urging, for prudential reasons, that no more troops should be brought through that city. To their representation the President made the following reply:

WASHINGTON, April 29, 1351.

Governor HICKS and Mayor BROWN:

GENTLEMEN: Your letter by Messrs. Bond, Dobbin, and Brune is received. I tender you both ray sincere thanks for your efforts to keep the peace in the trying situation in which you are placed.

For the future, troops must be brought here, but I make no point of bringing them through Baltimore. Without any military knowledge myself, of course I must leave details to General Scott. He hastily said this morning in the presence of these gentlemen, " March them around Baltimore, and not through it." I sincerely hope the General, on fuller reflection, will consider this practical and proper, and that you will not object to it. By this a collision of the people of Baltimore with the troops will be avoided, unless they go out of their way to seek it. I hope you will exert your influence to prevent this.

Now and ever I shall do all in my power for peace consistently with the maintenance of the Government.

Your obedient servant,


And in further response to the same request from Governor Hicks, followed by a suggestion that the controversy between the North and South might be referred to Lord Lyons, the British Minister, for arbitration, President Lincoln, through the Secretary of State, made the following reply:

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, April 22, 1861.

His Excellency THOMAS H. HICKS, Governor of Maryland:

SIR: I have had the honor to receive your communication of this morning, in which you inform me that you have felt it to be your duty to advise the President of the United States to order elsewhere the troops then off Annapolis, and also that no more may be sent through Maryland; and that you have further suggested that Lord Lyons be requested to act as mediator between the contending parties in our country, to prevent the effusion of blood.

The President directs me to acknowledge the receipt of that communication, and to assure you that he has weighed the counsels it contains with the respect which he habitually cherishes for the Chief Magistrates of the several States, and especially for yourself. He regrets, as deeply as any magistrate or citizen of this country can, that demonstrations against the safety of the United States, with very extensive preparations for the effusion of blood, have made it his duty to call out the forces to which you allude.

The force now sought to be brought through Maryland is intended for nothing but the defence of the Capital. The President has necessarily .confided the choice of the National highway which that force shall take in coining to this city to the Lieutenant-General commanding the Army of the United States, who, like his only predecessor, is not less distinguished for his humanity than for his loyalty, patriotism, and distinguished public service.

The President instructs me to add, that the National highway thus selected by the Lieutenant-General has been chosen by him upon consultation with prominent -magistrates and citizens of Maryland as the one which, while a route is absolutely necessary, is farthest removed from the populous cities of the State, and with the expectation that it would therefore be the least objectionable one.

The President cannot but remember that there has been a time in the history of our country when a general of the American Union, with forces' designed for the defence of its Capital, was not unwelcome anywhere in the State of Maryland, and certainly not at Annapolis, then, -as now, the capital of that patriotic State, and then, also, one of the capitals of the Union.

If eighty years could have obliterated all the other noble sentiments of that age in Maryland, the President would be hopeful, nevertheless, that there is one that would forever remain there and everywhere. That sentiment is, that no domestic contention whatever that may arise among the parties of this Republic ought in any case to be referred to any foreign arbitrament, least of all to the arbitrament of a European monarchy.

I have the honor to be, with distinguished consideration, your Excellency's obedient servant,


At the President's request, the Mayor of Baltimore, and a number of leading influential citizens of Maryland, waited upon him at Washington, and had an open conference upon the condition of affairs in that State. The Mayor subsequently made the following report of the interview:

The President, upon his part, recognized the good faith of the city and State authorities, and insisted upon his own. He admitted the excited state of feeling in Baltimore, and his desire and duty to avoid the fatal consequences of a collision with the people. He urged, on the other hand, the absolute, irresistible necessity of having a transit through the State for such troops as might be necessary for the protection of the Federal Capital. The protection of Washington, he asseverated with great earnestness, was the sole object of concentrating troops there; and lie protested that none of the troops brought through Maryland were intended for any purposes hostile to the State, or aggressive as against the Southern States. Being now unable to bring them up the Potomac in security, the Government must either bring them through Maryland or abandon the Capital.

He called on General Scott for his opinion, which the General gave at length, to the effect that troops might be brought through Maryland, without going through Baltimore, by either carrying them from Perrysville to Annapolis, and thence by rail to Washington, or by bringing them to the Relay House on the Northern Central Railroad, and marching them to the Relay House on the Washington Railroad, and thence by rail to the Capital. If the people would permit them to go by either of those routes uninterruptedly, the necessity of their passing through Baltimore would be avoided. If the people would not permit them a transit thus remote from the city, they must select their own best route, and, if need be, fight their way through Baltimore a result which the General earnestly deprecated.

The President expressed his hearty concurrence in the desire to avoid a collision, and said that no more troops should be ordered through Baltimore, if they were permitted to go uninterruptedly by either of the other routes suggested. In this disposition the Secretary of War expressed his participation.

Mayor Brown assured the President that the city authorities would use all lawful means to prevent their citizens from leaving Baltimore to attack the troops in passing at a distance; but he urged, at the same time, the impossibility of their being able to promise any thing more than their best efforts in that direction. The excitement was great, he told the President; the people of all classes were fully aroused, and it was impossible for any one to answer for the consequences of the presence of Northern troops anywhere within our borders. He reminded the President, also, that the jurisdiction of the city authorities was confined to their own population, and that he could give no promises for the people elsewhere, because he would be unable to keep them if given. The President frankly acknowledged this difficulty, and said that the Government would only ask the city authorities to use their best efforts with respect to those under their jurisdiction.

The interview terminated with the distinct assurance, on the part of the President, that no more troops would be sent through Baltimore unless obstructed in their transit in other directions, and with the understanding that the city authorities should do their best to restrain their own people.

In accordance with this understanding, troops were forwarded to Washington by way of Annapolis, until peace and order were restored in Baltimore, when the regular use of the highway through that city was resumed, and has been continued without interruption to the present time.

On the 19th of April the President issued the following proclamation, blockading the ports of the seceded States:


By the President of the United States.

Whereas, An insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the Collection of the revenue cannot be efficiently executed therein conformable to that provision of the Constitution which required duties to be uniform throughout the United States:

And whereas, A combination of persons, engaged in such insurrection, have threatened to grant pretended letters of marque, to authorize the bearers thereof to commit assaults on the lives, vessels, and property of the good citizens of the country, lawfully engaged in commerce on the high seas, and in waters of the United States:

And whereas, An Executive Proclamation has been already issued, requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist there from, calling out a militia force for the purpose of repressing the same, and convening Congress in extraordinary session to deliberate and determine thereon:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned, and to the protection of the public peace, and the lives and property of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations, until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings, or until the same shall have ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States and of the laws of nations in such cases provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted, so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave any of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will indorse on her register the fact and date of such warning; and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo as prize as may be deemed advisable.

And I hereby proclaim and declare, that if any person, under the pretended authority of such States, or under any other pretence, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such persons will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for he prevention and punishment of piracy.

By the President.                                                             ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

     WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State

WASHINGTON, April 19. 1861.

These were the initial steps by which the Government sought to repel the attempt of the rebel Confederacy if overthrow its authority by force of arms. Its action was at that time wholly defensive. The declarations of rebel officials, as well as the language of the Southern press, indicated very clearly their intention to push the war begun at Sumter into the North. Jefferson Davis had himself declared, more than a month previous, that whenever the war should open, the North and not the South should be the field of battle. At a popular demonstration held at Montgomery, Ala., on hearing that fire had been opened upon Sumter, L. P. Walker, the rebel Secretary of War, had said, that while "no man could tell where the war would end, he would prophesy that the flag which now flaunts the breeze here, would float over the dome of the old Capitol at Washington before the first of May," and that it "might float eventually over Faneul Hall itself." The rebel Government had gone forward with great vigor to prepare the means for making good these predictions. Volunteers were summoned to the field. Besides garrisoning the fortresses in their possession along the Southern coast, a force of nearly twenty thousand men was pushed rapidly forward to Virginia. A loan of eight millions of dollars was raised, and Davis issued a proclamation offering letters of marque to all persons who might desire to aid the rebel Government and enrich themselves by depredations- upon the rich and extended commerce of the United States. The South thus plunged openly and boldly into a war of aggression; and the President, in strict conformity with the declaration of his Inaugural, put the Government upon the defensive, and limited the military operations of the moment to the protection of the Capital..

The effect of these preliminary movements upon the Border Slave States was very decided. The assault upon Sumter greatly excited the public mind throughout those States. In Virginia it was made to inure to the benefit of the rebels. The State Convention, which had been in session since the 13th of February, was composed of a hundred and fifty-two delegates, a large majority of whom were Union men. The Inaugural of President Lincoln had created a good deal of excitement among the members, and a very animated contest had followed as to its proper meaning. The secessionists insisted that it announced a policy of coercion towards the South, and had seized the occasion to urge the immediate passage of an ordinance of secession. This gave rise to a stormy debate, in which the friends of the Union maintained their ascendency. The news of the attack upon Sumter created a whirlwind of excitement, which checked somewhat the Union movement; and, on the 13th of April, Messrs. Preston, Stuart, and Randolph, who had been sent to Washington to ascertain the President's intentions towards the South, sent in their report, which was received just after Governor Pickens, of South Carolina, had announced the attack upon Sumter, and had demanded to know what Virginia intended to do in the war they had just commenced, and in which they were determined to triumph or perish The Commissioners reported that the President had made the following reply to their inquiries:


GENTLEMEN: As a committee of the Virginia Convention, now in session, you present me a preamble and resolution in these words:

Whereas, In the opinion of this Convention, the uncertainty which prevails in the public mind as to the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue towards the seceded States, is extremely injurious to the industrial and commercial interests of the country, tends to keep up an excitement which is unfavorable to the adjustment of the pending difficulties, and threatens a disturbance of the public peace: Therefore,

Resolved, That a committee of three delegates be appointed to wait on the President of the United States, present to him this preamble, and respectfully ask him to communicate to this Convention the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate States.

In answer I have to say, that having, at the beginning of my official term, expressed my intended policy as plainly as I was able, it is with deep regret and mortification I now learn there is great and injurious uncertainty in the public mind as to what that policy is, and what course I intend to pursue. Not having as yet seen occasion to change, it is now ray purpose to pursue the course marked out in the Inaugural Address. I commend a careful consideration of the whole document as the best expression I can give to my purposes. As I then and therein said, I now repeat, " The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what is necessary for these objects there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." By the words "property and places belonging to the Government," I chiefly allude to the military posts and property which were in possession of the Government when it came into my hands. But if, as now appears to be true, in pursuit of a purpose to drive the United States authority from these places, an unprovoked assault has been made upon Fort Sumter, I shall hold myself at liberty to repossess it, if I can, like places which had been seized before the Government was devolved upon me; and in any event I shall, to the best of my ability, repel force by force. In case it proves true that Fort Sumter has been assaulted, as is reported, I shall, perhaps, cause the United States mails to be withdrawn from all the States which claim to have seceded, believing that the commencement of actual war against the Government justifies and possibly demands it. I scarcely need to say that I consider the military posts and property situated within the States which claim to have seceded, as yet belonging to the Government of the United States as much as they did before the supposed secession. Whatever else I may do for the purpose, I shall not attempt to collect the duties and imposts by any armed invasion of any part of the country; not meaning by this, however, that I may not land a force deemed necessary to relieve a fort upon the border of the country. From the fact that I have quoted a part of the Inaugural Address, it must not be inferred that I repudiate any other part, the whole of which I reaffirm, except so far as what I now say of the mails may be regarded as a modification.


On the 17th, two days after this report was presented, and immediately after receiving the President's proclamation calling for troops, the Convention passed an ordinance of secession by a vote of eighty-eight to fifty-five; and Virginia, being thus the most advanced member of the rebel Confederacy, became the battle-field of all the earlier contests which ensued, and on the 21st of May the capital of the rebel Government was transferred to Richmond. Very strenuous efforts were made by the rebel authorities to secure the adhesion of Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri to the Confederacy; but the wise forbearance of the President in his earlier measures had checked these endeavors, and held all those States but Tennessee aloof from active participation in the secession movement.

The months of May and June were devoted to the most active and vigorous preparations on both sides for the contest which was seen to be inevitable. Over a hundred thousand troops had been raised and organized in the rebel States, and the great mass of them had been pushed forward towards the Northern border. On the 20th of April, the Government of the United States seized all the dispatches which had accumulated in the telegraph offices during the preceding year, for the purpose of detecting movements in aid of the rebel conspiracy. On the 27th of April the blockade of rebel ports was extended by proclamation to the ports of North Carolina and Virginia. On the 3d of May the President issued a proclamation calling into the service of the United States forty-tw-*" thousand and thirty-four volunteers for three years, anc. ordering an addition of twenty-two thousand one hundred and fourteen officers and men to the regular army, and eighteen thousand seamen to the navy. And on the 16th, by another proclamation, he directed the commander of the United States forces in Florida to "permit no person to exercise any office or authority" upon the islands of Key West, Tortugas, and Santa Rosa, which may be inconsistent with the laws and Constitution of the United States; authorizing him, at the same time, if he shall find it necessary, to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and to remove from the vicinity of the United States fortresses all dangerous and suspected persons."

One of the first duties of the "new Administration was to define the position to be taken by the Government of the United States towards foreign nations in view of the rebellion. While it is impossible to enter here upon this very wide branch of the general subject at any considerable length, this history would be incomplete if it did not state, in official language, the attitude which the President decided to assume. That is very distinctly set forth in the letter of instructions prepared by the Secretary of State for Mr. Adams, on the eve of his departure for the court of St. James, and dated April 10, in the following terms:

Before considering the arguments you are to use, it is important to indicate those which you are not to employ in executing that mission:

First. The President has noticed, as the whole American people have, with much emotion, the expressions of good-will and friendship towards the United States, and of concern for their present embarrassments, which have been made on apt occasions, by her Majesty and her ministers. You will make due acknowledgment for these manifestations, but at the same time you will not rely on any mere sympathies or national kindness. You will make no admissions of weakness in our Constitution, or of apprehension on the part of the Government. You will rather prove, as you easily can, by comparing the history of our country with that of other States, that its Constitution and Government are really the strongest and surest which have ever been erected for the safety of any people. You will in no case listen to any suggestions of compromise by this Government, under foreign auspices, with its discontented citizens. If, as the President does not at all apprehend, you shall unhappily find her Majesty's Government tolerating the application of the so-called seceding States, or wavering about it, you will not leave them to suppose for a moment that they can grant that application and remain the friends of the United States. You may even assure them promptly, in that case, that if they determine to recognize, they may at the same time prepare to enter into alliance with the enemies of this Republic. You alone will represent your country at London, and you will represent the whole of it there. When you are asked to divide that duty with others, diplomatic relations between the Government of Great Britain and this Government will be suspended, and will remain so until it shall be seen which of the two is most strongly intrenched in the confidence of their respective nations and of mankind.

You will not be allowed, however, even if you were disposed, as the President is sure you will not be, to rest your opposition to the application of the Confederate States on the ground of any favor this Administration, or the party which chiefly called it into existence, proposes to show to Great Britain, or claims that Great Britain ought to show them. You will not consent to draw into debate before the British Government any opposing moral principles which may be supposed to lie at the foundation of the controversy between those States and the Federal Union.

You will indulge in no expressions of harshness or disrespect, or even impatience, concerning the seceding States, their agents, or their people. But you will, on the contrary, all the while remember that those States are now, as they always heretofore have been, and, notwithstanding their temporary self-delusion, they must always continue to be, equal and honored members of this Federal Union, and that their citizens throughout all political misunderstandings and alienations still are and always must be. our kindred and countrymen. In short, all your arguments must belong to one of three classes, namely: First. Arguments drawn from the principles of public law and natural justice, which regulate the intercourse of equal States. Secondly. Arguments which concern equally the honor, welfare, and happiness of the discontented States, and the honor, welfare, and happiness of the whole Union. Thirdly. Arguments which are equally conservative of the rights and interests, and even sentiments of the United States, and just in their bearing upon the rights, interests, and sentiments of Great Britain and all other nations.

Just previous to the arrival of Mr. Adams at his post, the British Government determined, acting in concert with that of France, to recognize the rebels as a "belligerent power. Against this recognition our Government directed Mr. Adams to make a decided and energetic protest. On the fifteenth of June the British and French Ministers at Washington requested an interview with the Secretary of State for the purpose of reading to him certain instructions they had received on this subject from their respective governments. Mr. Seward declined to hear them officially until he knew the nature of the document, which was accordingly left with him for perusal, and he afterwards declined altogether to hear it read, or receive official notice of it. In a letter to Mr. Adams, on the 19th, he thus states its character and contents: -

That paper purports to contain a decision at which the British Government has arrived, to the effect that this country is divided into two belligerent parties, of which the Government represents one, and that Great Britain assumes the attitude of a neutral between them.

This Government could not, consistently with a just regard for the sovereignty of the United. States, permit itself to debate these novel and extraordinary positions with the Government of her Britannic Majesty: much less can we consent that that Government shall announce to us a decision derogating from that sovereignty, at which it has arrived without previously conferring with us upon the question. The United States are still solely and exclusively sovereign within the territories they have lawfully acquired and long possessed, as they have always been. They are at peace with all the world, as, with unimportant exceptions, they have always been. They are living under the obligations of the law of nations, and of treaties with Great Britain, just the same now as heretofore; they are, of course, the friend of Great Britain, and they insist that Great Britain shall remain their friend now, just as she has hitherto been. Great Britain, by virtue of these relations, is a stranger to parties and sections in this country, whether they are loyal to the United States or not, and Great Britain can neither rightfully qualify the sovereignty of the United States. nor concede, nor recognize any rights or interests or power of any party? State, or section, in contravention to the unbroken sovereignty of the Federal Union. What is now seen in this country is the occurrence, by no means peculiar, but frequent in all countries more frequent even in Great Britain than here of an armed insurrection engaged in attempting to overthrow the regularly constituted and established Government. There is, of course, the employment of force by the Government to suppress the insurrection, as every other government necessarily employs force in such cases. But these incidents by no means constitute a state of war impairing the sovereignty of the Government, creating belligerent sections, and entitling foreign States to intervene, or to act as neutrals between them, or in any other way to cast off their lawful obligations to the nation thus for the moment disturbed. Any other principle than this would be to resolve government everywhere into a thing of accident and caprice, and ultimately all human society into a state of perpetual war.

We do not go into any argument of fact or of law in support of the positions we have thus assumed. They are simply the suggestions of the instinct of self-defence, the primary law of human action not more the law of individual than of National life.

Similar views were presented for the consideration of the French Emperor, and, indeed, of all the foreign governments with which we held diplomatic intercourse. The action of the seceding States was treated as rebellion, purely domestic in its character, upon the nature or merits of which it would be unbecoming in us to hold any discussion with any foreign Power. The President pressed upon all those governments the duty of accepting this view of the question, and of abstaining, consequently, from every act which could be construed into any recognition of the rebel Confederacy, or which could embarrass the Government of the United States in its endeavors to re-establish its rightful authority. Especial pains were taken, by the most emphatic declarations, to leave no doubt in the mind of any foreign statesman as to the purpose of the people of the United States to accomplish that result. "You cannot be too decided or explicit," was the uniform language of the Secretary, "in making known to the Government that there is not now, nor has there "been, nor will there "be, any the least idea existing in this Government of suffering a dissolution of this Union to take place in any way whatever." Efforts were also made by our Government to define, with the precision which the novel features of the case required, the law of nations in regard to neutral rights, and also to secure a general concurrence of the maritime powers in the principles of the Paris Convention of 1859: the latter object was, however, thwarted by the demand made by both France and England, that they should not be required to abide by these principles in their application to the internal conflict which was going on in the United States. This demand the President pronounced inadmissible.  


Book Navigation Title Page Preface Illustrations Memorandum Table of Contents   ► Chapter I.   ► Chapter II.   ► Chapter III.   ► Chapter IV.   ► Chapter V.   ► Chapter VI.   ► Chapter VII.   ► Chapter VIII.   ► Chapter IX.   ► Chapter X.   ► Chapter XI.   ► Chapter XII.   ► Chapter XIII.   ► Chapter XIV.   ► Chapter XV.   ► Chapter XVI.   ► Chapter XVII.   ► Chapter XVIII.   ► Chapter XIX.   ► Chapter XX.   ► Chapter XXI. Anecdotes and Reminiscences of President Lincoln.   ► Mr. Lincoln's Sadness   ► His Favorite Poem   ► His Religious Experience   ► His Sympathy   ► His Humor, Shrewdness, and Sentiment   ► The Emancipation Proclamation Appendix. Letters on Sundry Occasions.   ► To Mr. Lodges, of Kentucky   ► To General Hooker   ► To John B. Fry   ► To Governor Magoffin   ► To Count Gasparin   ► The President and General McClellan   ► Warnings Against Assassination Reports, Dispatches, and Proclamations Relating to the Assassination.   ► Secretary Stanton to General Dix   ► The Death-Bed   ► The Assassins   ► Reward Offered by Secretary Stanton   ► Flight of the Assassins   ► The Conspiracy Organized in Canada   ► Booth Killed. Harold Captured   ► Reward Offered by President Johnson   ► The Funeral Official Announcements   ► Acting Secretary Hunger to Minister Adams   ► Acting Secretary Hunter to his Subordinates   ► Orders from Secretary Stanton and General Grant   ► Orders from Secretary "Welles   ► Order from Secretary McCulloch   ► Order from Postmaster-General Dennison   ► Proclamation by President Johnson of a Day of Humiliation and Mourning.   ► Secretary Stanton to Minister Adams   ► Important Letter from J. Wilkes Booth   ► Indictment of the Conspirators   ► The Finding of the Court