The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

SIMON CAMERON, Secretary o f War.




I somewhat wish to authorize my friend Jesse Bayles to raise a
Kentucky regiment, but I do not wish to do it without your consent.
If you consent, please write so at the bottom of this.

Yours truly,

We consent:

August 5, 1861.

I repeat, I would like for Col. Bayles to raise a regiment of cavalry
whenever the Union men of Kentucky desire or consent to it.


JULY 2, 1861


You are engaged in suppressing an insurrection against the laws of
the United States. If at any point on or in the vicinity of any
military line which is now or which shall be used between the city of
New York and the city of Washington you find resistance which renders
it necessary to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for the public
safety, you personally, or through the officer in command at the
point where resistance occurs, are authorized to suspend that writ.

Given under my hand and the seal of the United States at the city of
Washington, this second day of July, A.D. 1861, and of the
independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.


By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.




MY DEAR SIR:–General Scott had sent me a copy of the despatch of
which you kindly sent one. Thanks to both him and you. Please
assemble the Cabinet at twelve to-day to look over the message and

And now, suppose you step over at once and let us see General Scott
(and) General Cameron about assigning a position to General Fremont.

Yours as ever,

JULY 4, 1861.

been convened on an extraordinary occasion, as authorized by the
Constitution, your attention is not called to any ordinary subject of

At the beginning of the present Presidential term, four months ago,
the functions of the Federal Government were found to be generally
suspended within the several States of South Carolina, Georgia,
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, excepting only those of
the Post-Office Department.

Within these States all the forts, arsenals, dockyards,
custom-houses, and the like, including the movable and stationary
property in and about them, had been seized, and were held in open
hostility to this government, excepting only Forts Pickens, Taylor,
and Jefferson, on and near the Florida coast, and Fort Sumter, in
Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The forts thus seized had been
put in improved condition, new ones had been built, and armed forces
had been organized and were organizing, all avowedly with the same
hostile purpose.

The forts remaining in the possession of the Federal Government in
and near these States were either besieged or menaced by warlike
preparations, and especially Fort Sumter was nearly surrounded by
well-protected hostile batteries, with guns equal in quality to the
best of its own, and outnumbering the latter as perhaps ten to one.
A disproportionate share of the Federal muskets and rifles had
somehow found their way into these States, and had been seized to be
used against the government. Accumulations of the public revenue
lying within them had been seized for the same object. The navy was
scattered in distant seas, leaving but a very small part of it within
the immediate reach of the government. Officers of the Federal army
and navy had resigned in great numbers; and of those resigning a
large proportion had taken up arms against the government.
Simultaneously, and in connection with all this, the purpose to sever
the Federal Union was openly avowed. In accordance with this
purpose, an ordinance had been adopted in each of these States,
declaring the States respectively to be separated from the national
Union. A formula for instituting a combined government of these
States had been promulgated; and this illegal organization, in the
character of confederate States, was already invoking recognition,
aid, and intervention from foreign powers.

Finding this condition of things, and believing it to be an
imperative duty upon the incoming executive to prevent, if possible,
the consummation of such attempt to destroy the Federal Union, a
choice of means to that end became indispensable. This choice was
made and was declared in the inaugural address. The policy chosen
looked to the exhaustion of all peaceful measures before a resort to
any stronger ones. It sought only to hold the public places and
property not already wrested from the government, and to collect the
revenue, relying for the rest on time, discussion, and the
ballot-box. It promised a continuance of the mails, at government
expense, to the very people who were resisting the government; and it
gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the people,
or any of their rights. Of all that which a President might
constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, everything was
forborne without which it was believed possible to keep the
government on foot.

On the 5th of March (the present incumbent’s first full day in
office), a letter of Major Anderson, commanding at Fort Sumter,
written on the 28th of February and received at the War Department on
the 4th of March, was by that department placed in his hands. This
letter expressed the professional opinion of the writer that
reinforcements could not be thrown into that fort within the time for
his relief, rendered necessary by the limited supply of provisions,
and with a view of holding possession of the same, with a force of
less than twenty thousand good and well-disciplined men. This
opinion was concurred in by all the officers of his command, and
their memoranda on the subject were made inclosures of Major
Anderson’s letter. The whole was immediately laid before
Lieutenant-General Scott, who at once concurred with Major Anderson
in opinion. On reflection, however, he took full time, consulting
with other officers, both of the army and the navy, and at the end of
four days came reluctantly but decidedly to the same conclusion as
before. He also stated at the same time that no such sufficient
force was then at the control of the government, or could be raised
and brought to the ground within the time when the provisions in the
fort would be exhausted. In a purely military point of view, this
reduced the duty of the administration in the case to the mere matter
of getting the garrison safely out of the fort.

It was believed, however, that to so abandon that position, under the
circumstances, would be utterly ruinous; that the necessity under
which it was to be done would not be fully understood; that by many
it would be construed as a part of a voluntary policy; that at home
it would discourage the friends of the Union, embolden its
adversaries, and go far to insure to the latter a recognition abroad;
that in fact, it would be our national destruction consummated. This
could not be allowed. Starvation was not yet upon the garrison, and
ere it would be reached Fort Pickens might be reinforced. This last
would be a clear indication of policy, and would better enable the
country to accept the evacuation of Fort Sumter as a military
necessity. An order was at once directed to be sent for the landing
of the troops from the steamship Brooklyn into Fort Pickens. This
order could not go by land, but must take the longer and slower route
by sea. The first return news from the order was received just one
week before the fall of Fort Sumter. The news itself was that the
officer commanding the Sabine, to which vessel the troops had been
transferred from the Brooklyn, acting upon some quasi armistice of
the late administration (and of the existence of which the present
administration, up to the time the order was despatched, had only too
vague and uncertain rumors to fix attention), had refused to land the
troops. To now reinforce Fort Pickens before a crisis would be
reached at Fort Sumter was impossible–rendered so by the near
exhaustion of provisions in the latter-named fort. In precaution
against such a conjuncture, the government had, a few days before,
commenced preparing an expedition as well adapted as might be to
relieve Fort Sumter, which expedition was intended to be ultimately
used, or not, according to circumstances. The strongest anticipated
case for using it was now presented, and it was resolved to send it
forward. As had been intended in this contingency, it was also
resolved to notify the governor of South Carolina that he might
expect an attempt would be made to provision the fort; and that, if
the attempt should not be resisted, there would be no effort to throw
in men, arms, or ammunition, without further notice, or in case of an
attack upon the fort. This notice was accordingly given; whereupon
the fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall, without even
awaiting the arrival of the provisioning expedition.

It is thus seen that the assault upon and reduction of Fort Sumter
was in no sense a matter of self-defense on the part of the
assailants. They well knew that the garrison in the fort could by no
possibility commit aggression upon them. They knew–they were
expressly notified–that the giving of bread to the few brave and
hungry men of the garrison was all which would on that occasion be
attempted, unless themselves, by resisting so much, should provoke
more. They knew that this government desired to keep the garrison in
the fort, not to assail them, but merely to maintain visible
possession, and thus to preserve the Union from actual and immediate
dissolution–trusting, as hereinbefore stated, to time, discussion,
and the ballot-box for final adjustment; and they assailed and
reduced the fort for precisely the reverse object–to drive out the
visible authority of the Federal Union, and thus force it to
immediate dissolution. That this was their object the executive well
understood; and having said to them in the inaugural address, “You
can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors,” he
took pains not only to keep this declaration good, but also to keep
the case so free from the power of ingenious sophistry that the world
should not be able to misunderstand it. By the affair at Fort
Sumter, with its surrounding circumstances, that point was reached.
Then and thereby the assailants of the government began the conflict
of arms, without a gun in sight or in expectancy to return their
fire, save only the few in the fort sent to that harbor years before
for their own protection, and still ready to give that protection in
whatever was lawful. In this act, discarding all else, they have
forced upon the country the distinct issue, “immediate dissolution or

And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States.
It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a
constitutional republic or democracy–a government of the people by
the same people–can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity
against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether
discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control
administration according to organic law in any case, can always, upon
the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or
arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their government, and thus
practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces
us to ask: Is there in all republics this inherent and fatal
weakness? Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the
liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own

So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war
power of the government, and so to resist force employed for its
destruction by force for its preservation.

The call was made, and the response of the country was most
gratifying, surpassing in unanimity and spirit the most sanguine
expectation. Yet none of the States commonly called slave States,
except Delaware, gave a regiment through regular State organization.
A few regiments have been organized within some others of those
States by individual enterprise, and received into the government
service. Of course the seceded States, so called (and to which Texas
had been joined about the time of the inauguration), gave no troops
to the cause of the Union.

The border States, so called, were not uniform in their action, some
of them being almost for the Union, while in others–as Virginia,
North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas–the Union sentiment was
nearly repressed and silenced. The course taken in Virginia was the
most remarkable–perhaps the most important. A convention elected by
the people of that State to consider this very question of disrupting
the Federal Union was in session at the capital of Virginia when Fort
Sumter fell. To this body the people had chosen a large majority of
professed Union men. Almost immediately after the fall of Sumter,
many members of that majority went over to the original disunion
minority, and with them adopted an ordinance for withdrawing the
State from the Union. Whether this change was wrought by their great
approval of the assault upon Sumter, or their great resentment at the
government’s resistance to that assault, is not definitely known.
Although they submitted the ordinance for ratification to a vote of
the people, to be taken on a day then somewhat more than a month
distant, the convention and the Legislature (which was also in
session at the same time and place), with leading men of the State
not members of either, immediately commenced acting as if the State
were already out of the Union. They pushed military preparations
vigorously forward all over the State. They seized the United States
armory at Harper’s Ferry, and the navy-yard at Gosport, near Norfolk.
They received perhaps invited–into their State large bodies of
troops, with their warlike appointments, from the so-called seceded
States. They formally entered into a treaty of temporary alliance
and co-operation with the so-called “Confederate States,” and sent
members to their congress at Montgomery. And finally, they permitted
the insurrectionary government to be transferred to their capital at

The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to
make its nest within her borders; and this government has no choice
left but to deal with it where it finds it. And it has the less
regret as the loyal citizens have, in due form, claimed its
protection. Those loyal citizens this government is bound to
recognize and protect, as being Virginia.

In the border States, so called,–in fact, the middle States,–there
are those who favor a policy which they call “armed neutrality”; that
is, an arming of those States to prevent the Union forces passing one
way, or the disunion the other, over their soil. This would be
disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it would be the building
of an impassable wall along the line of separation–and yet not quite
an impassable one, for under the guise of neutrality it would tie the
hands of Union men and freely pass supplies from among them to the
insurrectionists, which it could not do as an open enemy. At a
stroke it would take all the trouble off the hands of secession,
except only what proceeds from the external blockade. It would do
for the disunionists that which, of all things, they most desire–
feed them well and give them disunion without a struggle of their
own. It recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to
maintain the Union; and while very many who have favored it are
doubtless loyal citizens, it is, nevertheless, very injurious in

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 | View All | Next -»