Stephen A. Douglas opposed the “war wing” of the Republican party in early 1861, which was led by the Blair family and determined to engulf the country in war. On the 19th of March 1861, Senator Thomas Clingman of North Carolina stated that Lincoln would not assemble Congress to present his case for war as “I do not believe they would agree to do it.”
He prophesied that “The Republicans intend . . . as soon as they collect the force to have war, to begin; and then call Congress suddenly together and say, “the honor of the country is concerned; the flag is insulted. You must come up and vote men and money.” As a minority party that won the presidency with only 39% of the vote, Republicans avoided Congress until after the war was launched, and all feared arrest and imprisonment for opposing Lincoln’s will.
Republicans Determined for War
“15 March : Lincoln asked his cabinet members to each give him a written opinion on invading Charleston harbor, what he called, in his usual dissenting way, “to provision Fort Sumter.” Seward, Chase, Welles, Bates, and Cameron opposed it. They considered war in a way Lincoln never did, that war of itself is worse than the alternative. Even if for policy rather than moral, it is to their credit that their first instinct was to oppose the horror of war.
Montgomery Blair was the only cabinet member who urged war. His father, Francis, or Frank, heatedly told Lincoln he would be a coward if he did not invade. The Blairs asserted that going into Charleston port would cause no war.
Also on March 15 in the Senate, Douglas attacked the Blairs. He told the truth:
“What they really want is a civil war. They are determined, first, on seeing slavery abolished by force, and then on expelling the entire Negro race from the continent. This was old Blair’s doctrine. Sir, long ago, and it is Montgomery’s doctrine, Sir.
If they can get their grip on Lincoln, this country will never see peace or prosperity again. Sir, in your time or mine, or in our children’s time. We all know the irrepressible conflict is going on in [Lincoln’s] camp, even debating whether Fort Sumter shall be surrendered when it is impossible to hold it . . . for fear that somebody in the Republican party might say you had backed down.
What man in all America, who knows the facts connected with Fort Sumter, can hesitate in saying that duty, honor, patriotism and humanity require that Anderson and his gallant band should be instantly withdrawn? Sir, I am not afraid to say so. Peace is the only policy that can save the country and save your [Republican] party.”
(Southern Independence. Why War? The War to Prevent Southern Independence, Charles T. Pace, Shotwell Publishing, 2015, excerpts pp. 152-153)