Imágenes de páginas

Mr. Stephens, after discussing the ability of the seven States already banded together to go on in their undertaking without the "Border States," and the hopes and wishes entertained in regard to the latter, goes on to discuss the prospect in regard to hostilities with the National Government, as follows:

As to whether we shall have war with our late confederates, or whether all matters of difference between us shall be amicably settled, I can only say that the prospect for a peaceful adjustment is better, so far as I am informed, than it has been. The prospect of war is, at least, not so threatening as it has been. The idea of coercion, shadowed forth in Mr. Lincoln's inaugural, seems not to be followed up, thus far, so vigorously as was expected. Fort Sumter, it is believed, will soon be evacuated. What course will be pursued toward Fort Pickens, and the other forts on the Gulf, is not so well understood. It is 0 be greatly desired that all of them should be surrendered. Our object is peace, not only with the North, but with the world.

* * * The idea of coercing us, or subjugating us, is utterly preposterous. Whether the intention of evacuating Fort Sumter is to be received as an evidence of a desire for a peaceful solution of our difficulties with the United States, or the result of necessity, I will not undertake to say. I would fain hope the former. Rumors are afloat, however, that it is the result of necessity. All I can say to you, therefore, on that point, is, keep your armor bright, and your powder dry.

That Mr. Stephens well understood the impossibility of peace on the only terms he ventured even to hint, is sufficiently manifest, and his reporter further adds, referring to a later part of his speech:

He alluded to the difficulties and embarrassments which seemed to surround the question of a peaceful solution of the controversy with the old Government. How can it be done? is perplexing many minds. The President seems to think that he can not recognize our independence, nor can he, toilh and by the advice of the Senate, do so. The Constitution makes no such provision. A general convention of all tho States has been suggested by some.

He closed without recommending this, or any other practicable method of peace—which, perhaps, for himself he would have consented to—well knowing that quite another policy was predetermined by conspirators older in the work than he, and to whose scheme he had already undoubtedly given his full consent.

The Rebels saw no hope but in war. Any thing short of that would amount only to a brief ebullition, in the States in which insurrection was already dominant. Something was yet needed to "fire the Southern heart." All the initiated knew that the match was soon to be applied to the industriously prepared train. They may have dreamed of the surrender: of Sumter or Pickens as a military necessity; but they little understood the purpose of the President, if it was ever thought possible on any other ground. They certainly greatly mistook his intentions, in either event.

It must be remembered that the close of the last Administration found, still in the office of the Adjutant-General of the Army, a man (General Cooper) who now holds a like position in the Confederate service. The Departments and the city were filled with men of like sympathy, whose knowledge of affairs enabled them to communicate immediate information as to every movement inaugurated, and even of the avowed purposes or projects of every high officer of the Government, civil or military. Men deemed entirely trustworthy and faithful, even, were afterward found to have been in complicity with the traitors, and not a few holding military commissions—which could not be revoked without positive grounds—were regarded as doubtful. For a time it was uncertain how far any one— with a few noble exceptions—in responsible places, in Army or Navy, could be relied on for a cordial support of any efficient policy, even of defense. The event has shown how well founded, in numerous instances beside that of General Cooper, was this distrust.

Mr. Lincoln fully appreciated his surroundings. Disloyalty was rampant among the citizens of the capital. In the Departments, or just relieved therefrom, were men who watched every move, and were anxious to aid the rebellion. The sifting process has been steadily going on, yet how impossible was at immediate purification, is manifest. Under all the circumstance* of his position, the President had no resource but to keep his own counsel. Inexperienced in military affairs, he had the ready advice and faithful service of the illustrious head of tho Army, Lieutenant-General Scott. True and loyal as that veteran General was, however, his political sympathies had never gone with the now dominant party, while his Virginian birth and associations led him to shrink from every appearance of attempted coercion. It is no secret that General Scott openly and earnestly advocated tho evacuation of Fort Sumter—on military, if not also on political, grounds. It is believed that he carried over nearly every Cabinet Minister to his views. The President, while adjusting his new agencies, and learning the spirit of the men about him, in the Army and in tho Navy, as well as awaiting, with attentive eye, the developments of opinion and action, in both sections, allowed. the consideration of this question to be continued, from day to day, without indicating his purpose. Tho emissaries who waited here on their false diplomatic mission kept duly apprised, through channels easily imaginable after what has since transpired, of the opinions of General Scott and the deliberations thereon. They had constantly communicated with the leaders at home, it being deemed expedient to allow, during all this period, free intercourse by mail and telegraph. The result was a general impression at the South—for which no word of the Chief Executive ever gave any warrant, although he obviously had no occasion to correct any such misconception—that Fort Sumter was to be evacuated, and that no attempt would be made to reinforce Fort Pickens.

The parting missive of these pseudo-diplomats, on the 9th of April, makes the following statement on this point (addressed to Mr. Seward):

The memorandum [of the Secretary of State, before referred to,] is dated March 15, and was not delivered until April 8. Why was it withheld during the intervening twenty-three days? In the postscript to your memorandum you say it "was delayed, as was understood, with their (Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford's) consent." This is triu; but it is also true that, on the lbth of March, Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford were assured by apcrson occw pying a high official position in the Government, and who, as they believed, was speaking by authority, that Fort Sumter would be evacuated within a very few days, and that no measure changing the existing status, prejudicially to the Confederate States, as respects Fort Pickens, was then contemplated, and these assurances were subsequently repeated, with the addition that any contemplated change, as respects Pickens, would be notified to us. On the 1st of April we were again informed that there might be an attempt to supply Fort Sumter with provisions, but that Governor PicTcens should have previous notice of the attempt. There was no suggestion of reinforcements. The undersigned did not hesitate to believe that these assurances expressed the intentions of the Administration at the time, or, at all events, of prominent members of that Administration. This delay was assented to, for the express purpose of attaining tho gTeat end of the mission of the undersigned, to-wit: A pacific solution of existing complications. * * * The intervening twenty-three days were employed in active unofficial efforts, the object of which was to smooth the path to a pacific solution, the distinguished personage alluded to cooperating with the undersigned; and every step of that effort is recorded in writing, and now in possession of the undersigned and of their Government. # * * * It is proper to add that, during these twentythree days, two gentlemen of official distinction, as high as that of the personage hitherto alluded to, aided the undersigned as intermediaries in these unofficial negotiations for peace.

Without stopping to inquire how far the veracity of a document, conceived in such a spirit and designed for immediate effect, North and South, is to bo implicitly relied en, it is enough to say that, by its very terms, this paper shows clearly that neither the President, nor any one authorized in any manner to speak for him, ever gave the assurances stated, even in unofficial intercourse. If these conspirators were deceived by "intermediaries," holding responsible places in the Government, yet so abusing the confidence of their superiors as to communicate their military plans to the emissaries of rebels who had already levied war against the Government, and fired upon its flag, it is manifest that neither Mr. Lincoln nor his Constitutional advisers need regret the deception. The President, however, it is proper distinctly to state, never had the slightest knowledge of the communications alleged, if thej ever took place.

It should also he definitely stated here, that Mr. Lincoln (whatever military or civil advisers may have imagined) never seriously entertained the purpose of peaceably and voluntarily abandoning any Government fortifications or property. Much less was he prepared to leave the gallant garrisons of Forts Sumter and Pickens to starvation or humiliating surrender.

As early as the 18th of March, General Bragg, then in command of the Confederate forces at Pensacola, issued his order cutting off supplies of every kind from Fort Pickens as well ae from the "armed vessels of the United States," then in the harbor—a military step toward the reduction of the fort, in marked contrast with the pacific professions and affected good faith set forth in the Rebel document just quoted from. An intention of precipitating more active hostilities there was plainly indicated by the insurgents, and the necessity of decisive action on the part of the Government was apparent. A small fleet, of eight vessels, was got in readiness with all possible expedition, (including the two sloops-of-war, Pawnee and Powhatan, with transports carrying troops and supplies,) the first of which set sail from the Washington Navy-Yard on the 6th of April, and the remainder during the next three days. The orders were sealed, but the movement could not be altogether a secret. In fact, it seems to have been almost immediately known at the headquarters of secession in the South. While a portion of this fleet paused off Charleston harbor, tho remainder saved Fort Pickens by a timely reinforcement.

On the 7th of April, General Beauregard, at Charleston, followed his co-laborer at Pensacola, and issued an order, notice of which was sent to Major Anderson, prohibiting further intercourse between that fort and the city. This was another military step, backed by the rapid concentration of Rebel troops at Charleston, toward compelling the surrender of Fort Sumter. It left no course to the Government short of furnishing supplies to the garrison of that sea-girt fort. And how careful the President was, from the outset, to avoid, so far as was possible, every act that might even unwarrantably provoke a collision of arms,

« AnteriorContinuar »