Browsing "Prescient Warnings"

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)

“Casus Belli”

As the majority of the South, and Northern men trained at West Point in the years prior to the war, were educated to believe withdrawing from the Union was a proper remedy to which a State might peaceably resort to if its people determined in was in their best interest to do so. The war’s result determined that secession was not improper as a redress, but that superior military power could conquer and subjugate any State or States who resort to such obvious constitutional measures for redress. Excerpts from a mid-August 1879 address regarding secession by General J.R. Chalmers follows.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Casus Belli”

“All we ask is an impartial statement in history of our cause, as we understood it; and it devolves on the survivors of the struggle to correct whatever we believe to be erroneous statements in regard to it, whenever and wherever they are made.

“The right to judge of infractions of the Constitution and the mode and measure of redress,” were no new questions in our politics. They were discussed in the conventions which formed the Constitution, and subsequently whenever the General Government was supposed, by usurpation of power, to infringe on rights reserved to the people of the States united.

Massachusetts threatened secession in the War of 1812, when her commerce was crippled; South Carolina threatened nullification in 1832, when a high protective tariff discriminated heavily against her interest.

Every State of the North practiced nullification against the fugitive slave laws as fast as they came under the control of the Republican party.

Eleven States of the South attempted to practice secession when the General Government fell into the hands of the Republican party, whose leaders had denounced the Constitution as “a covenant with the devil,” and the Union as a “league with hell.”

No honorable man can read the last speech of Jefferson Davis, in the United States Senate, or the letters of Sidney Johnston and Robert E. Lee, when about to resign their commissions in the United States army, and say that the Confederate leaders left the Union “from choice or on light occasion.”

They loved the Union formed of States united by the Constitution; they feared a Union consolidated in the hands of men who denounced the Constitution.

Mr. Lincoln and two-thirds of his party in Congress then denied any purpose to destroy slavery, but every Republican leader now shamelessly boast that this was the great object of the war.

The very fact that there was a war growing out of a question of constitutional rights, should be a source of pride, as evidence that no large body of our people will ignobly submit to what they believe to be a violation of their rights.”

(Forrest and his Campaigns, Gen. J.R. Chalmers, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume VII, Broadfoot Publishing, 1990, excerpts pp. 451-452)

Dec 24, 2017 - Articles of Confederation, Bringing on the War, Historical Accuracy, Prescient Warnings    Comments Off on Sovereign Political Communities, Not “One People”

Sovereign Political Communities, Not “One People”

It is erroneously believed today that the United States Constitution followed the Declaration of Independence, though the Articles of Confederation were the first “Constitution.” It is recalled that the Articles were deemed by all parties to it as perpetual and a majority of States were required to approve any changes therein. Nonetheless, eleven States unconstitutionally seceded from the Articles in 1789 and inaugurated a new union – leaving North Carolina and Rhode Island as unaffiliated and independent States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sovereign Political Communities, Not One People

“We have seen that the united colonies, when they declared their independence, formed a league or alliance with one another as the “United States.” This title antedated the adoption of the Articles of Confederation.

It was assumed immediately after the Declaration of Independence, and was continued under the Articles of Confederation; the first of which declared that “the style of this confederacy shall be “The United States of America”, and this style was retained – without question – in the formation of the present Constitution.

It has been fully shown that the States thus became and continued to be “united,” and whatever form their union assumed, acted and continued to act as distinct and sovereign political communities. The monstrous fiction that they acted as one people “in their sovereign capacity” has not an atom of fact to serve as a basis. To go back to the very beginning, the British colonies never constituted one people.

The [loose expressions employed in debate in the British Parliament about the time of the American Revolution – such as “that people . . . etc., and] who made use of this colloquial phraseology concerning the inhabitants of a distant continent . . . could little have foreseen the extraordinary use to be made of their expression nearly a century afterward, in sustaining a theory contradictory to history as well as to common sense.

It is as if the familiar expressions often employed in our own time, such as “the people of Africa,” or “the people of South America,” should be cited, by some ingenious theorist of a future generation . . . or that the Peruvians and Patagonians belonged to the same political community.

When the colonies united in sending representatives to a Congress in Philadelphia, there was no purpose – no suggestion of a purpose – to merge their separate individuality in one consolidated mass. No such idea existed, or with their known opinions, could have existed. They did not assume to become a united colony or province, but styled themselves “united colonies” – colonies united for purposes of mutual counsel and defense . . .

As “United States” they adopted the Articles of Confederation, in which the separate sovereignty, freedom and independence of each was distinctly asserted. It was without any change of title – still as “United States” – without any sacrifice of individuality – without any compromise of sovereignty – that the same parties entered into a new and amended compact with one another under the present Constitution.”

(State Sovereignty Being the Constitution, Part II of the Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Jefferson Davis, Volume I, D. Appleton & Company, 1881, excerpts, pp. 114; 117-119)

“The Party of Our Fathers’ is Dead”

Strom Thurmond’s break with the Democratic Party was symbolized by his absence at the 1964 Democratic Party Convention. He admired Barry Goldwater’s vote against Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Bill, his strong military stance, strict interpretation of the Constitution, and his ardent anti-communism.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“The Party of Our Fathers’ is Dead”

“[Meeting on September 12, 1964, Strom Thurmond] wasted no time, telling Goldwater, “I have three choices open to me. I can keep quiet [as a Democrat], I can come out for you and remain a Democrat, or I can come out for you and go all the way to the Republican Party. I’ll do what will help you most.”

[Thurmond would publicly castigate] the Democrats as an evil group who no longer represented “the people.” In addressing “My Fellow South Carolinians” that Wednesday night, Thurmond said:

“The Democratic Party has abandoned the people . . . It has repudiated the Constitution of the United States. It is leading the evolution of our nation to a socialist dictatorship. The Democratic Party has forsaken the people to become the party of minority groups, power-hungry union leaders, political bosses, and big businessmen looking for government contracts and favors . . . The Democratic Party has invaded the private lives of the people by using the powers of government for coercion and intimidation of individuals.

The Democratic Party has rammed through Congress unconstitutional, impractical, unworkable, and oppressive legislation which invades inalienable personal and property rights of the individual . . . The Democratic Party has encouraged, supported and protected the Supreme Courts in a reign of judicial tyranny . . .

The [Democrat] party of our fathers is dead. Those who took its name are engaged in another reconstruction, this time not only of the South, but of the entire nation. If the American people permit the Democratic Party to return to power, freedom as we have known it in this country is doomed, and individuals will be destined to lives of regulation, control, coercion, intimidation, and subservience to a power elite who shall rule from Washington . . .”

(Ol’ Strom, an Unauthorized Biography of Strom Thurmond, Jack Bass & Marilyn W. Thompson, Longstreet Press, 1999, excerpts pp. 200-205)

Seward’s Hot Potato

Samuel Cutler Ward (1814-1884), known as the “King of the Lobby” due to his exemplary success at high-level political persuasion, was the brother of abolitionist Julia Ward, and served as an intermediary between William Seward and Confederate leaders before the war. Ward told Seward in 1862 that the Confederate leaders would not rejoin the Union as he saw in the South “a malignant hatred of the North which rendered” the destruction of the South necessary. Ward understood that “within two years they would have formed entangling free trade and free navigation treaties with Europe and a military power hostile to us.” Seward may have believed that peace might prevail, but Lincoln and his party’s extremists led the way to war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Seward’s Hot Potato

“Seward, who was to be Secretary of State, it had become definite, was in a quandary. As he saw the situation, he faced two necessities: one was to guide the inexperienced Lincoln in shaping the policies of the Administration; and the other was to convince his former associates in the Senate, who now headed the insurrectionary Confederacy in Montgomery, that Washington would initiate no hostilities against them, but would follow a policy of conciliation and friendship.

Seward wanted Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin, and the others to understand clearly that he would be the chief architect of Administration policy; and further, that they could rely on his assurance that this policy would be one of peace, not provocation. In this, of course, he spoke only for himself, but he was convinced that he would be able to shape Lincoln’s view of the situation; Lincoln, he reasoned, was unversed in statecraft, and would be grateful for expert leading by a thoroughly practiced Secretary of State.

Seward’s sincere conviction was that the problem of secession, like all other human disagreements, could be resolved by reasonable discussion among reasonable men. One wing of the Republican party was howling for the forcible suppression of “treason” in the South; this wing was led by Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and to them Seward’s conciliatory views were themselves barely removed from Treason, — if removed at all. For him to communicate directly with the men in Montgomery might be construed as “communicating with the enemy.”

If he were to communicate with them at all, he would have to work through an intermediary whom both he and Southern leaders could trust . . . [poet, politician and gourmet] Sam Ward.

When Lincoln slunk into Washington in a distressing pusillanimous manner (or so it seemed), supposedly to foil an assassination plot, Sam was disgusted.

Seward was juggling a hot potato tossed to him by three commissioners whom the Confederacy had sent to Washington to treat for the peaceable surrender of United States forts in Southern territory, principally Fort Sumter at Charleston, and Fort Pickens near Pensacola, Florida. The commissioners . . . were well-known to Sam . . . If [they] go back unacknowledged as [commissioners], President Davis cannot hold back the people from attacking the forts.

[Seward] kept stalling the Southern commissioners with excuses – pressure of patronage demands, the delays attendant [to] departmental routine, and such pretexts. He could not receive the commissioners without recognizing the government behind them; yet he did not wish to send them back to Montgomery in anger.”

(Sam Ward, “King of the Lobby,” Lately Thomas, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965, excerpts pp. 251-253)

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