Nov 10, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Changing the Question

Changing the Question

Union men in the South encouraged Lincoln to withdraw troops from Fort Sumter, defuse the crisis and allow time for cooler heads to prevail; Gen. Winfield Scott, a Virginian, suggested Lincoln relinquish Fort Pickens as a conciliatory gesture toward the South. The problem for Lincoln was maintaining Republican party cohesion, and especially the radical element that pushed for war and the opportunity to decisively destroy the South’s political and economic power – and chose party over country.

Changing the Question

“Seward was in no way alone in urging Lincoln to give up Sumter. Five members of the cabinet expressed the same point of view on March 15; only two were for provisioning Sumter. Seward . . . strongly set forth in a memorandum to Lincoln his belief that Sumter and Pickens were different situations:

“My system is built upon this idea as a ruling one, namely we must change the question before the public from one upon slavery, or about slavery, for a question upon Union or Disunion. In other words, from what would be regarded as a party question to one of patriotism and union.

The occupation or evacuation of Fort Sumter, although not in fact a slavery, or a party question is so regarded. Witness, the temper manifested by the Republicans in the Free States, and even by Union men in the South. I would therefore terminate it as a safe means for changing the issue. I deem it fortunate that the last administration created the necessity.

For the rest, I would simultaneously defend and reinforce all the Forts in the Gulf, and have the Navy recalled from foreign stations to be prepared for a blockade. Put the Island of Key West under Martial Law. This will raise distinctly the question of Union or Disunion. I would maintain every fort and possession in the South.”

(Collected Works of A. Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, ed., New Brunswick, 1953, Vol. IV, pg 317)

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