Browsing "Prescient Warnings"

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

The aristocratic cotton manufacturers who supported Henry Clay’s “American System” organized the Massachusetts Whig party out of the chaos of Andrew Jackson’s reelection in 1832. They and their allies saw high tariffs as job insurance, and resented Jackson’s appeal to immigrant labor, farmers and urban workers. These Massachusetts Whigs had grown wealthy from Eli Whitney’s invention and slave-produced cotton from the South, and considered abolitionists as enemies of the Constitution and peace. Both Whitney and the mill owners were responsible for perpetuating slavery in the South as they made cotton production highly profitable.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

“The leaders of the Whig party, for a number of reasons, were particularly responsive to the abolitionist threat. Several members of their class, including Sewall, Edmund Quincy, Ellis Gray Loring, Francis Jackson, James Russell Lowell, William Ellery Channing, and Wendell Phillips, had entered abolitionist ranks and so threatened the newly-restored [upper Boston] class unity.

Although the aristocrats were engaged in a great many reforms, abolitionism never became fashionable or even acceptable to the social elite as a whole, and aristocrats who associated with the abolitionists were quickly ostracized. Consequently, many of the leading abolitionists came from less socially-distinguished families and were most successful in their appeals to the middle class.

The Whig leaders, who regarded abolitionism as a disruptive influence in American society and deplored the abolitionists’ opposition to harmony with the South and the maintenance of the Union, seldom distinguished the moderate abolitionists from the Garrisonian extremists.

Worst of all, from the Whig point of view, the abolitionists, in their demand for immediate, uncompensated emancipation, had attacked property right which the conservative Whigs regarded as fundamental to every other right.

The Whig leaders opposed all denunciations of slavery and slaveholders, many of whom were personal friends, business associates, and political allies. They considered slavery a redundant issue in Massachusetts politics and anti-slavery propaganda worse than meaningless in the North. Although most of them, to be sure, considered slavery an evil, they emphasized that it was an institution wholly controlled by the States, and as such was protected by the Constitution, which was no to be tampered with.

Anti-slavery agitation in the North would only bring about sectional disharmony and, in addition, worsen the condition of the slave in the South. Abbott Lawrence summed up the conservative Whig position when he wrote:

“I am in favor of maintaining the compact as established by our fathers. I am for the Union as it is. I have no sympathy with the abolition party of the North and East. I believe they have done mischief to the cause of freedom in several States of the Union. The abolition of slavery in the States is exclusively a State question and one with which I do not feel that I should meddle or interfere in any shape or form.”

(Cotton Versus Conscience: Massachusetts Whig Politics and Southwestern Expansion, 1843-1848, Kinley J. Brauer, University of Kentucky Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 22-24)

Letting the South Go In Peace

John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, President from 1824 to 1829 and later speaking of the proposed annexation of Texas in the late 1840s, stated: “We hesitate not to say that annexation of Texas, effected by any act or proceeding of the Federal Government, or any of its departments, would be identical with dissolution. It would be a violation of our national compact . . . not only to result in a dissolution of the Union, but fully to justify it . . .” Secession from the Union was an original New England idea, and flouted whenever it determined its influence in the Union was being diminished. It was an idea later adopted by the South, but by then New England had control of the federal apparatus and would not allow its national power to be diminished. Coercion followed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Letting the South Go in Peace

“In regard to this question of the right of the States to withdraw, and the power of coercion, is it not appropriate to call attention to the following views expressed by Mr. Horace Greeley, one of the ablest writers and firmest supporters of the Republican, or, abolition party. In an article published in the New York Tribune a few day[s] after the election of Lincoln in 1860, and reproduced in his work styled “The American Conflict,” he says:

“That was a base and [hypocritical] row that was once raised at Southern dictation about the ears of John Quincy Adams, because he presented for the dissolution of the Union. The petitioner had a right to make the request; it was the member’s duty to present it.

And now when the Cotton States consider the value of the Union debatable, we maintain their perfect right to discuss it. Nay! We hold we hold with Mr. Jefferson, to the inalienable right of communities to alter or abolish forms of government that have become injurious or oppressive, and if the Cotton States shall decide that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist upon letting them go in peace.

The right to secede is a revolutionary one, but it exists nevertheless, and we do not see how one party can have a right to do what another party has a right to prevent. We must ever resist the asserted right of any State to coercion in the Union, and to nullify and defy the laws thereof; to withdraw from the Union is quite another matter.

And whenever a considerable section of our Union shall deliberately resolve to go out, we shall resist all coercive measures to keep it in. We hope never to live in a republic whereof one section is pinned to another by bayonets.

But while we uphold the practical liberty, if not the abstract right of secession, we must insist that the step be taken, if ever it shall be, with the deliberation and gravity becoming so momentous an issue. Let ample time be given for reflection, let the subject be fully canvassed before the people, and let a popular vote be taken in every case before secession is decreed.

A judgment thus rendered, a demand for separation so backed, would either be acquiesced in without effusion of blood, or those who rushed upon carnage to defy or defeat it, would place themselves clearly in the wrong.”

It would be hard to conceive language more forcible for defining the right of the States to withdraw and the wrong and criminality of the attempt to coerce them when they had exercised that right, than this of Mr. Greeley’s.”

(The Heritage of the South: A History of the Introduction of Slavery; Its Establishment from Colonial Times and Final Effect Upon the Politics of the United States, Jubal Anderson Early, Brown Morrison Co., 1915, excerpts pp. 96-97)

John Brown’s Co-Conspirators

In the mid-1850s there appeared the political assassin who murdered the obscure and innocent rather than the mighty, as was often financed by the latter as an instrument for political purposes. The mighty who encouraged and financed John Brown included preacher Theodore Parker, physician Samuel Gridley Howe, manufacturer George Stearns, teacher Franklin Sanborn and millionaire Gerrit Smith. Add to this group Frederick Douglass, who fled to Canada rather than face trial for complicity in Brown’s crime.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

John Brown’s Co-Conspirators

“Meanwhile, John Brown passed on through to Ohio, continuing eastward and arriving in Boston, Massachusetts on January 4, 1857, where he first called on Franklin Sanborn, Secretary of the Massachusetts Kansas Aid Committee. Two days later he called on Amos Lawrence . . . who noted him to be, “a calm, temperate and pious man, but when aroused ifs a dreadful foe.”

Lawrence was sizing up Brown to ascertain his future usefulness, for Lawrence was both wealthy and influential.

Charles Howe invited influential activists and newspapermen to meet with John Brown in the offices of his Institute for the Blind . . . [where] Brown outlined his plans for leading a band of 100 Terrorists to “Fight for Exclusion in Kansas [Territory]” and “carry the war into [the homeland of bonded African Americans in the Southern States].”

During these days in Boston, Brown also met with Charles Howe, Thomas Higginson, George Stearns . . . Theodore Parker, but not all together at the same time, and thereby he kept some from knowing about the other’s involvement.

With Stearns sitting as Chairman and Sanborn as Secretary, the Massachusetts Kansas Aid Committee “voted to give John Brown control over the 200 Sharps rifles stored in the cellar of the minister, John Todd, in Tabor, Iowa, plus 4,000 ball cartridges and 31,000 percussion caps.” That same day, January 7, [reporter] James Redpath’s commendation of Brown appeared in the New York Tribune.

About this time Redpath took Brown to call on Charles Sumner [where] Brown admired the coat Sumner had been wearing during his caning at the hands of Preston Brooks. Then on January 11, Brown was a dinner guest of George Stearns and family at their home in Medford, Massachusetts. During the visit, Brown captivated George, his wife and children with tales of alleged attacks by settlers from the Southern States. From that point forward, George Stearn’s wife would often urge her husband to help finance Brown’s campaign.”

(Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced the American Civil War, Volume Two, the Demagogues; Howard Ray White, excerpts pp. 268-269)

Jul 30, 2018 - Jeffersonian America, Prescient Warnings, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Conservatives, Southern Statesmen, Tenth Amendment, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

Jefferson foresaw problems between the States and the general government, and noted in an 1824 letter to John Cartwright that if a collision can “neither be avoided nor compromised, a convention of the States must be called, to ascribe the doubtful power to that department which they may think best.” He saw further that the “encroachments of State governments will tend to an excess of liberty which will correct itself, while those of the general government will tend to monarchy, which will fortify itself from day to day, instead of working its own cure. The very basis of the Tenth Amendment was to forbid the general government from assuming powers not delegated.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

“Jefferson’s real concern was for American law, not international morality. He said he feared he had “gone beyond the Constitution” in agreeing to purchase Louisiana. Much as he believed the United States “must have the Mississippi”; much as he wanted there to be one nation on the continent, and an overland route to the Pacific coast, he was at least as much concerned for human liberty.

With respect to foreign affairs, he believed that only a strong Federal government could conduct them. But with respect to internal affairs, he believed the Federal powers were very narrowly defined, and that all other powers, including the right to secede, belonged to the States.

He utterly rejected the Federalists’ theory that the Constitution “implied” that the government could assume any powers not specifically spelled out in that document. If that we so, he felt, a future Federal government could justify almost anything on grounds that the laws it passed helping to promote the general welfare, even if their effect was to convert the republic into a monarchy.

The only protection the people had, he felt, lay in their control of their State governments. If the several States did not retain all powers not granted to the Federal government, they might as well give up any pretense of having rights of their own.

The issue of States’ rights versus Federal rights was a basic problem to the framers of the Constitution, as the vague language of the Constitution suggests; it was a basic problem to Jefferson; it became a bloody one during the Civil War, and it still to great extent plagues the United States today.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, excerpts pp. 341-342)

 

Hamilton Envisions an American Pericles

Hamilton and Washington both foresaw ways in which future demagogues would undermine the Constitution by usurping powers reserved to other branches, and leading the country into war to hold onto power and increase their wealth. The usurper would be Lincoln, who wielded the power of an absolute dictator between April and July 1861, and by the time Congress had assembled in the latter month, could arrest and imprison anyone as he launched a ruinous and bloody war upon his own people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Hamilton Envisions an American Pericles

“The Founders all knew war first hand; war on American soil, with a full third of their own countrymen against them, often in arms alongside the enemy. They built into their [Constitution] machinery to handle treason and rebellion. But they knew that crisis and war were favorite tools of demagogues. Hamilton reminded his readers of “the celebrated Pericles,” leader of Athens, motivated by fear and pique, who led his nation into a bloody and ruinous war to save his own political skin and to escape economic damage he had helped visit upon the state.

Hamilton saw that a leader who took America into war could use the circumstance to rob her of cherished liberties: “The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort to repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

“If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, Washington wrote, “let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can any time yield.”

In Washington’s “Farewell Address,” the connection between perpetual voluntary union, and obedience to the Constitution, is explicit. His prayer for the country, he said, was “that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained.”

The cult of the union, as it evolved in the Civil War era, identified “liberty” and “union” as essentially identical. But to the Founders, “liberty” was tied to the balance of powers they had carefully woven into the Constitution: “Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian.” Washington wrote.

A little-known fact of the Constitution is that two of the largest States — Virginia and New York – made the right to withdraw from the union explicit in their acceptance of the Constitution. And in such an agreement between parties as is represented by the Constitution, a right claimed by one is allowed to all.”

(The Legality of Secession, excerpts, www.etymonline.com)

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

Both Jefferson and Hamilton recognized that sectionalism had been a part of American politics since colonial days, and the emerging West was adding a third section to the political landscape. The political problem facing Federalists and Republicans was “how to win the allegiance of the absconding swindlers, murderers, fugitive slaves, bankrupts, brigands and failures” who settled the wild areas of the West. And certainly those Westerners would give their political allegiance to whomsoever got them what they wanted. Therein lay the seeds of future war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

“[Jefferson] saw that factions were forming in the United States, and the political parties were emerging. This was something the Founding Fathers had not envisioned when they wrote and agreed upon the Constitution. But it was clear enough to Jefferson that, on one side, there was a Federalist Party, led by Hamilton.

This party, he felt, had made a virtual prisoner of Washington . . . and was hiding behind his prestige to effect its nefarious scheme of converting the United States into a monarchy for the specific benefit of Northern financiers. Hamilton, Jefferson somewhat wildly wrote, “was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

Jefferson saw the Federalists as aristocrats who were the enemies of natural law and the rights of man. They interpreted the Constitution to mean the Federal government could seize any rights not specifically denied it, in order to destroy liberty. They were hand in hand with the financiers of Great Britain, and their opposition to slavery was not humanitarian, but just a hypocritical way of seeking to undermine the economy, and hence the power, of the agricultural Southern States.

On the other side, in Jefferson’s view, there ought to be the “anti-Federalist” party, which would stand for strict construction and the rights of States in order to safeguard the rights of man. As he saw them, the anti-Federalists were those who feared the creation of a national bank as another Federalist plot to destroy these rights; they were the true revolutionaries, whereas the Federalists represented the forces of reaction.

As revolutionaries, the republicans were therefore the enemies of monarchical Great Britain and the friends of revolutionary France. If they believed in slavery, it was because – well, of course nobody could really believe in slavery; the South was at heart republican and of course someday slavery would be abolished, but not right now. It was not the time to raise that question: the times now demanded opposition to the anti-revolutionary Federalists.

The anti-Federalists should form a party.”

There was meanwhile a nation to govern – one whose destiny lay clearly in the West. Here, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, were two-hundred thousand American settlers whose political opinions could be decisive. Both saw opportunities to speculate in western lands [but] both feared that the balance of political power might shift from the East Coast to these broad western lands with the swift growth of population there. It was a possibility that occurred to western politicians as well.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 242-244; 247-248)

 

The Republican Party Endangers the Union

The Republican Party which formed out of the ashes of the Whig Party and combined with the Know-Nothing and Free Soil political organizations, was seen as a harmless lunatic fringe in 1856. But by the national election of 1860 it appeared to many that their broad support in the North might enable them to win. And if they were victorious, their platform pledged them to arrest, jail and possibly execute anyone who disagreed with their views on the Kansas Territory. This purely sectional party never promoted a peaceful or practical solution to the African slavery they found in their midst, and claimed was the reason they hated the South with such intensity.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Republican Party Endangers the Union

“Buchanan stated the keynote of his campaign in these words: “The Union is in danger and the people everywhere begin to know it. The Black Republicans must be, as they can be with justice, boldly assailed as disunionists, and this charge must be reiterated again and again.”

Forget the past, bury the bank, the tariff, and the rest of the historic fossils. The Democrats must publicize the statements of “the abolitionists, free soilers and infidels against the Union,” to show that the Union was in danger. “This race ought to be run on the question of Union or disunion.”

The Democratic press generally adopted this campaign them, and devoted columns to the antiunion pronouncements of prominent Republicans. Ohio’s Representative Joshua R. Giddings had announced “I look forward to the day when there shall be a servile insurrection in the South; when the black man . . . shall assert his freedom, and wage a war of extermination against his master; when the torch of the incendiary shall light up the towns of the South, and blot out the last vestige of slavery; and though I may not mock at their calamity, nor laugh when their fear cometh, yet I will hail it as the dawn of the millennium.”

New York’s Governor William H. Seward asserted that “there is a higher law than the Constitution,” and hoped soon to “bring the parties of the country into an aggressive war upon slavery.” Speaker of the House Nathaniel P. Banks said frankly that he was “willing . . . to let the Union slide.” Judge Rufus S. Spalding declared that if he had the alternatives of continuance of slavery or a dissolution of the Union, “I am for dissolution, and I care not how quick it comes.”

Editor James Watson Webb predicted that if the Republicans lost the [1860] election, they would be “forced to drive back the slavocracy with fire and sword.” A Poughkeepsie clergyman prayed “that this accursed Union may be dissolved, even if blood have to be spilt.”

O.L. Raymond told an audience in [Boston’s] Fanueil Hall, “Remembering that he was a slaveholder, I spit upon George Washington.”

(President James Buchanan: a Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 257-258)

Preferring Compromise to War

Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois addressed the United States Senate on January 3, 1861 (below), after the Committee of Thirteen was unable to agree on a plan to remedy the escalating sectional crisis between North and South. He promoted several constitutional amendments to peacefully reestablish the Union on the basis of sectional integrity and national prosperity. The new Republican Party refused several attempts at compromise, and invaded the American South after provoking a conflict at Charleston harbor.  It should be remembered that Article 3, Section 3 or the Constitution defines treason as waging war against “them,” the united States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Preferring Compromise to War

“In my opinion, the Constitution was intended as a bond of perpetual Union. It was intended to last [forever], and was so understood when ratified by the people of the several States. New York and Virginia have been referred to as having ratified with the reserved right to withdraw or secede at pleasure. This was a mistake. [Their intention was] that they had not surrendered the right to resume the delegated powers, [and] must be understood as referring to the right of revolution, which nobody acknowledges more freely than I do, and not the right of secession.

Nor do I sympathize at all in all the apprehensions and misgivings I hear expressed about coercion. We are told that inasmuch as our Government is founded upon the will of the people, or the consent of the governed, therefore coercion is incompatible with republicanism. Sir, the word government means coercion. There can be no Government without coercion.

But coercion must always be used in the mode prescribed in the Constitution and laws. But the proposition to subvert the de facto government of South Carolina, and reduce the people of that State into subjection to our Federal authority, no longer involves the question of enforcing the laws in a country within our possession; but does involve a question whether we will make war on a State which has withdrawn her allegiance and expelled our authorities, with the view of subjecting her to our possession for the purpose of enforcing our laws within her limits.

I desire to know from my Union-loving friends on the other side of the Chamber how they intend to enforce the laws in the seceding States, except by making war, conquering them first, and administering the laws in them afterwards.

In my opinion, we have reached a point where dissolution is inevitable, unless some compromise, founded upon mutual concession, can be made. I prefer compromise to war. The preservation of this Union, the integrity of this Republic, is of more importance than party platforms or individual records.

Why not allow the people to pass [judgment] on these questions? All we have to do is to submit [the constitutional compromises] to the States. If the people reject them, theirs will be the responsibility . . . if they accept them, the country will be safe, and at peace.

The political party which shall refuse to allow [the] people do determine for themselves at the ballot-box the issue between revolution and war on the one side, and obstinate adherence to a party platform on the other, will assume a fearful responsibility.

A war upon a political issue, waged by a people of eighteen States against a people of fifteen States, is a fearful and revolting thought. The South will be a unit, and desperate, under the belief that your object in waging war is their destruction, and not the preservation of the Union; that you meditate servile insurrection . . . by fire and sword, in the name and under the pretext of enforcing the laws and vindicating the authority of the Government.

You know that such is the prevailing opinion at the South; and that ten million people are preparing for the conflict under that conviction.”

(The Politics of Dissolution: the Quest for a National Identity & the American Civil War, Marshall L. DeRosa, editor, Transaction Publishers, 1998, excerpts, pp. 194-196; 201-202)

 

The Impassable Breach in 1850

The idea of States withdrawing from the Union was not new in 1860, the first being New England’s desire for independence once the Louisiana Purchase was contemplated, and afterward during the War of 1812, and as other territories were added. It is said that John C. Calhoun learned his concept of secession from the New Englanders. In 1850, as described below, the withdrawal of the South from the Union was well along and only a matter of time.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Impassable Breach in 1850

“[Silver Bluff], 17 March 1850

“The Session of Congress has been stormy and thus far nothing has been done but to debate Slavery and the Union. The South has threatened dissolution through many Representatives, in doing which [Robert] Toombs of [Georgia] and [Thomas] Clingman of [North Carolina], both Whigs, have taken the lead. [South Carolina] rather silent.

In the Senate [Jeremiah] Clemens of [Alabama], [Solomon] Downs of [Louisiana], [Henry] Foote and [Jefferson] Davis of [Mississippi have been the most violent. Many calculations have been paraded showing the advantage of disunion to the South. On the other hand threats of coercion have been made freely by minor men. There have been some terrible scenes in the House.

The North has given up the Wilmot proviso for the present, on the avowed ground that that Slavery is naturally excluded from the newly acquired Territories. The main question is on the admission of California as a State – the adventurers there having without any of the usual forms, made a Constitution, excluding Slavery, and asked for admission into the Union.

[Henry] Clay has brought in a long string of what he calls compromise resolutions, which surrender everything in issue to the North. He has denounced the South bitterly and prophesied, if not threatened, Civil war and coercion.

The South contends that the admission of California [as a free State] destroys her equality in the Senate – already merely nominal there, for Delaware belongs to the North. That deprived of equality there [in the number of slave vs. free States] and already in a vast minority in the House and Electoral College, she will be undone.

Mr. [John C.] Calhoun has made an admirable speech, showing that the equilibrium between the North and South is utterly annihilated, and must be restored or we must separate. As such a restoration is well known to be an impossibility – his proposition is plainly – Disunion.

Webster followed with a most eloquent speech, denouncing the free-soil and anti-fugitive [slave] movements, but denouncing slavery and yielding nothing. At this moment, however, my impression is that they will enter into another fatal truce and stave off the difficulty for the present.

I have had drawn up for a month . . . many resolutions which I had intended to proposed there, if I could get backing. They are short and to the effect that Conventions should be immediately called in the Slave States to send Delegates to a General Congress, empowered to dissolve the Union, form a new Constitution, and organize a new Government, and in the meantime appoint a Provisional Government until the Constitution could go into operation.”

(Secret and Sacred, the Diaries of James Henry Hammond, a Southern Slaveholder; Carol Bleser, editor, Oxford University Press, 1988, excerpts pp. 197-198)

Igniting the Flame at Fort Sumter

President James Buchanan’s vacillation and failure to seek conciliation during the Fort Sumter crisis burdened the inexperienced Lincoln with something he was ill-prepared to handle. Buchanan had underway a secret negotiation with the president-elect “to obtain his backing for a national constitutional convention, and he expected an answer from Lincoln at any hour.” Though Buchanan tried to engage conservative Republicans to endorse some conciliatory measures to defuse the crisis, none were forthcoming.  Jefferson Davis, in his efforts to save the Union, encouraged his fellow congressmen and the president to seek peaceful solutions to the crisis.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Igniting the Flame at Fort Sumter

[South Carolina-born, American diplomat] William H. Trescott, acting as a go-between, scheduled a procedural meeting [with Buchanan] for December 27. On the morning of that fateful day news arrived [in Washington] which created wild excitement. Major [Robert] Anderson had just spiked the guns of Moultrie and had moved his entire command into Fort Sumter under cover of darkness . . .

The South Carolina commissioners cancelled their visit to [President] Buchanan and waited for more information. Trescott hurried to [Secretary of War John B.] Floyd’s office and obtained from him a promise that he would promptly order Anderson back to Moultrie as soon as he received official confirmation of the reports.

Floyd immediately telegraphed Anderson that he did not believe the news, “because there is no order for any such movement,” but Anderson replied, “The telegram is correct.”

While messages sped back and forth, the Southern leaders in Washington headed for the White House. Jefferson Davis arrived first and broke the news to Buchanan. “Now, Mr. President,” he said, “you are surrounded with blood and dishonor on all sides.”

“[Buchanan exclaimed]: I call God to witness, you gentlemen more than anybody know that this is not only without but against my orders. It is against my policy.”

Senators Hunter, Lane, Yulee, even Slidell called and bore down on Buchanan to order Anderson out of Sumter or face general secession and war. Buchanan paced nervously, telling his excited callers to keep calm and trust him. He gave evidence of sympathizing with their position for it seemed to him at the moment that if Anderson had ruptured the “gentlemen’s agreement” [to maintain the status quo in Charleston harbor]. It was certainly a move the president had not anticipated. But for all his soothing words, he gave the Southerners no promise.

The afternoon Cabinet meeting ran over into the night. Black, Holt and Stanton aggressively defended Anderson’s action. “Good,” said Black. “It is in precise accordance with his orders.” “It is not,” said Floyd.

Buchanan believed that Anderson’s orders justified his maneuver. The Cabinet had assigned the major “military discretion” and had authorized him to take defensive action in the face of “tangible evidence of a design to attack him.” His report of a few days before had offered such evidence, though no hint that he intended to transfer the troops.

Buchanan said he would not order Anderson to return to Moultrie, but he expressed deep concern over the settlement of the question of responsibility. Neither the President nor Secretary of War had commanded the transfer . . .

Buchanan agreed to see the South Carolinians “only as private gentlemen.” At their interview, the only one which was to be held, they informed the president excitedly and with asperity that they would not negotiate with him until he ordered all federal troops out of the Charleston area. Buchanan replied that he could issue no such order.

The commissioners then withdrew and that night prepared a letter . . . It suggested that South Carolina had made a serious mistake “to trust your honor rather than its own power,” and warned that unless the troops were withdrawn, affairs would speedily come to a “bloody issue.”

(President James Buchanan, a Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 378-379)

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