The mask of official propriety worn over this pernicious intrigue, the disclaimers, the implications and mental reservations of which it was made up—all became absurd in view of the results it produced. The President, indeed, explains that it was no pledge or agreement. “But I acted,” he naively admits, “in the same manner as I would have, done had I entered into a positive and formal agreement with parties capable of contracting, although such an agreement would have been, on my part, from the nature of my official duties, impossible. The world knows that I have never sent any reenforcements to the forts in Charleston harbor, and I have certainly never authorized any change to be made in their ‘relative military status.’”
While the conspirators were thus taking effectual steps to bind the future acts of the Executive in respect to the forts in Charleston harbor, and to make sure that the rising insurrection in South Carolina should not be crippled or destroyed by any surprise or sudden movement emanating from Washington, they were not less watchful to counteract and prevent any possible hostile movement against them on the part of Major Anderson and his handful of officers and troops in Fort Moultrie, undertaken on his own discretion. Their boast of secret sources of information in Washington, coupled with subsequent events, furnish presumptive evidence that Mr. Floyd, Secretary of War, though yet openly opposing disunion, was already in their confidence and councils, and was lending them such active cooperation as might be disguised or perhaps still excused to his own conscience as tending to avert collision and bloodshed.
Shortly before, or about the time of the truce we have described, Secretary Floyd sent an officer of the War Department to Fort Moultrie with special verbal instructions to Major Anderson, which were duly communicated, and the substance of them reduced to writing and delivered to that officer on the 11th of December, the day following the conclusion of the President’s unofficial truce at Washington. The importance of this document renders it worthy of reproduction in complete form.
Memorandum of verbal instructions
to Major Anderson, 1st
Artillery, commanding at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina:
You are aware of the great anxiety of the Secretary of War that a collision of the troops with the people of this State shall be avoided, and of his studied determination to pursue a course with reference to the military force and forts in this harbor which shall guard against such a collision. He has, therefore, carefully abstained from increasing the force at this point, or taking any measures which might add to the present excited state of the public mind, or which would throw any doubt on the confidence he feels that South Carolina will not attempt by violence to obtain possession of the public works or interfere with their occupancy. But as the counsel and