White: There are people who would call him stubborn. Surely if it were put to him tactfully that so simple a course might avert incalculable disaster, no man would nurse his dignity to the point of not yielding. I speak plainly, but it’s a time for plain speaking. Mr. Lincoln is doubtless a man of remarkable qualities: on the two occasions when I have spoken to him I have not been unimpressed. That is so, Mr. Jennings?
White: But what does his experience of great affairs of state amount to beside yours, Mr. Seward? He must know how much he depends on certain members of his Cabinet, I might say upon a certain member, for advice.
Seward: We have to move warily.
Jennings: Naturally. A man is sensitive, doubtless, in his first taste of office.
Seward: My support of the President is, of course, unquestionable.
White: Oh, entirely. But how can your support be more valuable than in lending him your unequalled understanding?
Seward: The whole thing is coloured in his mind by the question of slavery.
Jennings: Disabuse his mind. Slavery is nothing. Persuade him to withdraw from Fort Sumter, and slavery can be settled round a table. You know there’s a considerable support even for abolition in the South itself. If the trade has to be allowed in some districts, what is that compared to the disaster of civil war?
White: We do not believe that the Southern States wish with any enthusiasm to secede. They merely wish to establish their right to do so. Acknowledge that by evacuating Fort Sumter, and nothing will come of it but a perfectly proper concession to an independence of spirit that is not disloyal to the Union at heart.
Seward: You understand, of course, that I can say nothing officially.
Jennings: These are nothing but informal suggestions.
Seward: But I may tell you that I am not unsympathetic.
White: We were sure that that would be so.
Seward: And my word is not without influence.
Jennings: It can be used to bring you very great credit, Mr. Seward.
Seward: In the mean time, you will say nothing of this interview, beyond making your reports, which should be confidential.
White: You may rely upon us.
Seward (rising with the others): Then I will bid you good-morning.
White: We are profoundly sensible of the magnanimous temper in which we are convinced you will conduct this grave business. Good-morning, Mr. Seward.
Jennings: And I—
There is a knock at the door.
Seward: Yes—come in.
A CLERK comes in.
Clerk: The President is coming up the stairs, sir.