[Illustration: GENERAL ROBERT ANDERSON.]
Being in such intimate relations and intercourse with the leaders of the Breckinridge wing of the Democratic party during the progress of the Presidential canvass, and that party being made up so exclusively of the extreme Southern Democrats, the President must have had constant information of the progress and development of the disunion sentiment and purpose in the South. He was not restricted as the other parties and the general public were to imperfect reports and doubtful rumors current in the newspapers.
But in addition there now came to him an official warning which it was a grave error to disregard. On October 29, one week before the election, the veteran Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief of the Army, communicated to him in writing his serious apprehensions of coming danger, and suggested such precautions as were then in the power of the Administration. Beginning life as a farmer’s boy, collegian, and law student, General Scott from choice became a soldier, devoting himself to the higher aims of the profession of arms, and in a brilliant career of half a century had achieved world-wide renown as a great military captain. In the United States, however, the military is subordinated to the civic ambition, and Scott all his life retained a strong leaning to diplomacy and statesmanship, and on several important occasions gave his country valuable service in essentially civic functions. He had been the unsuccessful Presidential candidate of the Whig party in 1852, a circumstance which no doubt greatly increased his personal attention to current politics, then and afterwards. As the first military officer of the nation, he was also the watchful guardian of the public peace.
[Sidenote] Lieut.-General Winfield Scott,
“Autobiography,” Vol. I.,
The impending rebellion was not to him, as it was to the nation at large, a new event in politics. Many men were indeed aware, through tradition and history, that it was but the Calhoun nullification treason revived and pushed to a bolder extreme. To General Scott it was almost literally the repetition of an old experience. A generation before, he was himself a prominent actor in opposing the nullification plot. About the 4th of November, 1832, upon special summons, he was taken into a confidential interview by President Jackson, who, after asking Scott’s military views upon the threatened rebellion of the nullifiers in Charleston harbor, by oral orders charged him with the duty of enforcing the laws and maintaining the supremacy of the Union; the President placing at his orders the troops and vessels necessary for this purpose. Scott accepted the trust and went to Charleston, and while humoring the nullification Quixotism existing there, he executed the purpose of his mission, by strengthening the defenses and reenforcing; the Federal forts. His task was accomplished with the utmost delicacy, but with firmness. The rebellion was indeed abandoned upon pretense of compromise; but had a conflict occurred at that time the flag of the Union would probably not have been the first to be lowered in defeat.