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This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I cannot be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the national Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add, that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution— which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision now to be implied constitutional law, I have no objections to its being made express and irrevocable. The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have conferred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this also if they choose; but the Executive, as such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to his successor. Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people. By the frame of the Government under which we live, the same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no Administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years. My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty. In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you, You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government; while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend" it. I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cord of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
The declarations of the Inaugural, as a general thing, gave satisfaction to the loyal people of the whole country. It was seen, everywhere, that while President LINcoLN felt constrained, by the most solemn obligations of duty, to maintain the authority of the Government of the United States over all the territory within its jurisdiction, whenever that authority should be disputed by the actual exercise of armed force, he would nevertheless do nothing whatever to provoke such a demonstration, and would take no step which could look like violence or offensive warfare upon the seceded States. In the Border States its reception was in the main satisfactory. But, as a matter of course, in those States, as elsewhere throughout the South, the secession leaders gave it the most hostile construction. No effort was spared to inflame the public mind by representing the Inaugural as embodying the purpose of the President to make war upon the Southern States for their attempt to secure a redress of wrongs. The President’s first act was to construct his Cabinet, which was done by the appointment of William H. Seward, of New York, Secretary of State; Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury; Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, Secretary of War; Gideon Welles, of Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy; Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana, Secretary of the Interior; Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, Postmaster-General; and Edward Bates, of Missouri, Attorney-General. These nominations were all confirmed by the Senate, and these gentlemen entered upon the discharge of the duties of their several offices. On the 12th of March, Messrs. John Forsyth, of Alabama, and Crawford, of Georgia, requested an unofficial interview with the Secretary of State, which the latter declined. On the 13th they sent to him a communication informing him that they were in Washington as Commissioners from a government composed of seven States which had withdrawn from the American Union, and that they desired to enter upon negotiations for the adjustment of all questions growing out of this separation. Mr. Seward, by direction of the President, declined to receive them, because it “could not be admitted that the States referred to had, in law or fact, withdrawn from the Federal Union, or that they could do so in any other manner than with the consent and concert of the people of the United States, to be given through a National Convention
to be assembled in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States.” This communication, though written on the 15th of March, was withheld, with the consent of the Commissioners, until the 8th of April, when it was delivered. The fact of its receipt, and its character, were instantly telegraphed to Charleston, and it was made the occasion for precipitating the revolution by an act which, it was believed, would unite all the Southern States in support of the Confederacy. On the day of its receipt, the 8th of April, Gen. Beauregard, at Charleston, telegraphed to L. P. Walker, the rebel Secretary of War, at Montgomery, that “an authorized messenger from President Lincoln had just informed Gov. Pickens and himself that provisions would be sent to Fort Sumter peaceably, or, otherwise, by force.” Gen. B. was instructed to demand the surrender of the fort, which he did on the 11th, and was at once informed by Major Anderson, who was in command, that his “sense of honor and his obligations to his Government prevented his compliance.” On the night of the same day Gen. Beauregard wrote to Major Anderson, by orders of his government, that if he “would state the time at which he would evacuate Fort Sumter” (as it was known that it must soon be evacuated for lack of provisions) “and will agree that, in the mean time, you will not use your guns against us unless ours shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you.” At half-past two in the morning of the 12th, Major Anderson replied that he would evacuate the fort by noon on the 15th, abiding, mean time, by the terms proposed, unless he should “receive, prior to that, controlling instructions from his Government, or additional supplies.” In reply to this note he was notified, at half-past three, that the rebels would open their batteries upon the fort in one hour from that time. This they did, and, after a bombardment of thirty-three hours, Major Anderson agreed to evacuate the fort, which he carried into effect on Sunday morning, the 14th.
The effect of this open act of war was, in some respects, precisely what had been anticipated by the rebel authorities: in other respects, it was very different. Upon the Southern States it had the effect of arousing public sentiment to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, and of strengthening the rebel cause. At the North, it broke down, for the moment, all party distinctions and united the people in a cordial and hearty support of the Government.
The President regarded it as an armed attack upon the Government of the United States, in support of the combination which had been organized into a Confederacy to resist and destroy its authority, and he saw, at once, that it could be met and defeated only by the force placed in his hands for the maintenance of that authority. He, accordingly, on the 15th of April, issued the following
WHEREAs, the laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law: now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union to the aggregate number of 75,000, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.
The details for this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department. I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and existence of our national Union, and the perpetuity of popular government, and to redress wrongs already long enough endured. I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called