The Effort to Avoid War

Des Moines Iowa State Register, April 24, 1861

Profoundly desirous of avoiding the terrible evils of civil war, the President and his advisers have gone to the furthest verge of forbearance. The declaration of the Inaugural has been more than fulfilled. The Secessionists have not been disturbed in the possession of stolen property. They have been suffered to go into the Border States preaching treason. They have been suffered to collect and retain the revenues collected at Southern ports. They have levied and collected their troops, strengthened their fortifications for assaults upon places in the possession of the Federal Government, and sent their messengers abroad to enlist foreign sympathy in favor of the dismemberment of the Union, by appealing to the cupidity of the commercial and manufacturing interest. The President said that he should retain all the government property committed to his care, and possess himself of what had been unlawfully seized, so far as possible. Being sworn to execute the laws in all the States, he should do so as far as practicable, and as inoffensively as it was possible to perform that duty.—Finding the obstacles to the execution of this policy insuperable—if a collission was to be avoided—and the government destitute of means, he has, as already stated, suffered rebellion to remain unmolested, unsubdued.—The enemies of the Union being dissatisfied because they were merely tolerated, not recognised, the President, as a last resort, in answer to their demands, agreed that Fort Sumter should be evacuated by Major Anderson, and left in possession of a small guard, whose sole duty would be the protection of public property. The offer was instantly rejected, and an unconditional surrender demanded, not only of Sumter, but also of Pickens. Such is the statement made in a semi-authoritative form by the Albany Evening Journal and the New York Tribune.

The President refused this demand of the seceding States. Did he do right? The same demand, substantially, was made of Mr. Buchanan. He refused it, and the country said amen. He was asked to order Major Anderson back to Moultrie, when that officer, without orders, took possession of Sumter.—He refused, and the country with one voice—outside of the rebel States—said he did right. He attempted to reinforce Sumter.—The vessel he sent was fired upon. The country approved his act, and regretted only that it was frustrated, and the failure of Anderson to open his batteries upon the men who dared to fire upon the American flag in American waters. Will it be said then, by any, that President Lincoln ought to do, what Buchanan refused to do? Will it be said that he—sworn to enforce the Constitution and the Laws in all the States of the Union, to uphold the honor of his country and its flag—ought to have yielded to the demand of the Seceding States, surrendered the property of the Union and permitted its flag to be supplanted by that of the rebels? Would not such a step be proclaimed, the world over, as a recognition of rebellion successful, revolution consummated? Is he vested with power to take any such step? Would he not, on the contrary, be guilty of perjury, weakness, and complicity with treason, if he had complied with the demand made upon him? He could commit the property of the government to the keeping of South Carolina, for the Union, if he could satisfy himself that it would be safely kept. But he could not surrender it, unconditionally, as the rightful property of a seceding State or a rebel government. He could not rightly treat with the rebels at all, while they had arms in their hands. Their very approach was a menace and an insult. They pointed their batteries at Sumter, and said to the President surrender, or we take it. Wigfall, in the Senate, speaking for the rebels, braved the loyal sentiment of the whole country by saying—"take your troops out of our territory, or we will drive them out; take down your flag, or we will pull it down for you!" Such, in substance, was the demand made upon the President, by the rebel States. He refused to comply with it, and the country will say he did right; that had he done otherwise, he would deserve to be branded as a coward and traitor.

What next? Having failed to make an honorable arrangement with insolent rebels—for whom a traitor's death would be a fitting doom—the President, (having been told that Major Anderson would be starved out) gave notice that he would be supplied with provisions, but that there was no design to reinforce him. The answer to this was from the brazen throats of a dozen batteries. A murderous fire followed instantly the demand for surrender. Knowing that the garrison were weak and half-fed, the thousands behind the batteries at Charleston, thought it a good time to exhibit their chivalry. They intercepted the despatches sent to Major Anderson informing him that supply vessels, backed by a fleet, would be at Charleston in a few days. Their prowess would brook no further delay. They thirsted for a fray with their own countrymen and the flag that had led their fathers to victory, when Liberty—not Slavery—was the watchword. They were successful, and their flag floats over another fortress built by the treasure of the American people. They have gained a new supply of arms and ammunition to continue the war upon the Government of the United States.

With this record of facts before them, the whole world will justify the President in girding on the sword and calling upon the people to vindicate their own rights, their own courage, their own government and their own flag. He has done all that the most exacting friend of peace could ask, to avert the evils of civil war. Let those who have drawn the sword, perish by the sword.