Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 452 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02.

  [Sidenote] Buchanan to Commissioners, Dec. 31, 1860.  W.R.  Vol.  I.,
  p. 117.

He hastened to assure his visitors that it was his determination “not to reenforce the forts in the harbor, and thus produce a collision, until they had been actually attacked,” or until he had “certain evidence that they were about to be attacked.”  Though this was only another concession, much like the first in outward semblance, it was nevertheless in its vital essence a fatal hurt to the rapidly shrinking Federal authority.  The conspiracy had won the choice of position; when the combat should come it was in the attitude necessary to deal the first blow.

[Illustration:  LEWIS CASS.]

The main point secured, there was an exhibition of abundant diplomatic politeness between the parties.  The President suggested that “for prudential reasons” it would be best to put in writing what they had said to him verbally.  This they readily promised, and on Monday, the 10th, gave him, duly signed by five of the South Carolina Representatives, this important paper: 

  [Sidenote] W.R.  Vol.  I., p. 116.

    WASHINGTON, December 9, 1860.

In compliance with our statement to you yesterday, we now express to you our strong convictions that neither the constituted authorities nor any body of the people of the State of South Carolina will either attack or molest the United States forts in the harbor of Charleston previously to the action of the convention, and we hope and believe not until an offer has been made through an accredited representative to negotiate for an amicable arrangement of all matters between the State and Federal Government, provided that no reenforcements shall be sent into those forts, and their relative military status shall remain as at present.

  [Sidenote] Buchanan to Commissioners, Dec. 31, 1860.  Ibid.

When President Buchanan came to look at the explicit language of this document, he shrank from the definite programme to which it committed him.  “I objected to the word ‘provided,’ as it might be construed into an agreement on my part which I never would make.  They said nothing was further from their intention; they did not so understand it, and I should not so consider it.”  There followed mutual protestations that the whole transaction was voluntary, informal, and in the nature of a mediation; that neither party possessed any delegated authority or binding power.  They were not frank enough to explain to one another that the true object of each was delay—­of the President, “that time might be gained for reflection”; of the Members, that time might be gained for the unmolested meeting of the convention, for passing the ordinance of secession, for further organizing public sentiment, and pushing forward military preparations at Charleston.

  [Sidenote] Buchanan to Commissioners, Dec. 31, 1860.  W.R.  Vol.  I.,
  p. 117.

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