The Policy of the Administration
Milwaukee Daily Wisconsin, March 13, 1861
While we give no credence to the report of the proposed surrender of Fort Sumter, Fort Pickens, &c., to the rebel States, we still have reason to believe that the National Administration will avoid all provocation to hostilities. As we understand, it is Gen. SCOTT's advice to have every thing in readiness to reenforce Fort Sumter at an hour's notice after the first gun is fired by the rebels against that fortification. Transports are all ready at New York and Norfolk with provisions and men ready to move on the signal of a telegraphic despatch from Gen. Scott. In a few hours they can reach Charleston. Will the rebels fire the first gun has become the question, whether we are to have peace or war. We are aware that there are serious practical difficulties which must attend the reenforcement of Fort Sumter. The battery on Morris Island is a natural strong sand battery, and no vessel can pass to Fort Sumter without passing that battery. If the South Carolinians fire first, of course our vessels will reply, and that battery must be silenced before reenforcements can be placed in Fort Sumter. Hence it is quite certain that a collision is inevitable in order to reenforce Fort Sumter.
Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that the administration feels the gravity of their determination—for it is now quite certain that the question must soon be determined. Of course, if Lieut. Gen. SCOTT advises its surrender, it is possible that it may be ordered by the administration. Gen. SCOTT's position and influence is such that on military matters his advice would naturally be all potential. But we confess that we cannot believe that Lieut. Gen. SCOTT will advise any such surrender. We shall not believe it until we see his, signature appended to the order. Even with that approval it is hardly probable that the people of the Free States would sanction the measure. They have been expecting to see a firm government under Mr. Lincoln's administration, and most assuredly there would be no future chance to obtain a foothold in the Cotton States, without a long war.
Indeed we cannot perceive what the Nation would gain by a surrender. It may be a measure of conciliation to the extreme South, but at the sacrifice of law and order, and the future tranquil[l]ity of even those States which remain in the Northern Confederacy. We thereby introduce and sanction the Mexican system of Pronunciamento, by which a minority commences a revolution whenever they are voted down by a majority. A county or city can secede and rebel from a State whenever they feel aggrieved by some act of legislation, or one that may take place. Obedience to law and the Constitutional rule of majorities is the very basis of a Republic. All those principles we would yield by a voluntary surrender of Fort Sumter, Fort Pickens, and Fort Brown to the traitors of the Cotton States.
It should be borne in mind that the federal property in the seceding States is held by a peculiar and what may be called an indefeasible title. It is known that the National Government will never expend a dollar on a fortification, until the State in which it is situated surrenders, by formal act of their legislature, exclusive jurisdiction to the United States. They then purchase and pay for the land, and thus hold as it were by a double title—a title of warranty from the now seceding States, as well as from individuals. Could any act of contract be stronger[?] The jurisdiction was voluntarily granted by the State, and they cannot resume that by declaring war upon their own pledged Faith.
Ownership of the property implies access to it, and so when South Carolina authorities endeavor to prevent the Government from having access to its property at Fort Sumter, it is an act of war on the National Government, and should be repelled in a mode to cause the least violence. It is reported that Major Anderson thinks that it will require an army of 15,000 men to reenforce Fort Sumter. This is a manufacture of some of the Washington correspondents who are constantly informing the public of despatches known only to the members of the Cabinet. That it will require a few ships of war to throw reenforcements into Fort Sumter, we do not deny. The Government is gradually collecting a fleet at Norfolk, which can be used to enforce the laws and collect the duties. Steam vessels in New York harbor are already loaded with provisions and munitions of war, to fire up at a moment's notice. So we have come to the conclusion that no reasonable effort will be spared to reenforce Fort Sumter, without provoking hostilities on the part of the rebel States. The object is to throw the odium of commencing the war on them, so that public sentiment will sustain the administration in the vigorous and efficient measures which it is afterwards prepared to adopt. Public Sentiment has become more powerful than vast fleets and great armies, and that our thoughtful rulers at Washington fully understand.