War of the Rebellion: Serial 001 Page 0115 Chapter I. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - UNION.

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FORT SUMTER, S. C., December 30, 1860.

Colonel R. E. DE RUSSY,

Commanding Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:

COLONEL: I am exerting myself to the utmost to make this work impregnable, and am most ably and energetically supported by Lieutenants Snyder and Meade. The whole labor of preparation falls upon us, as the command is too small to be worn down by labor.

The quartermaster has no funds, I therefore consider it my duty to provide everything. I cannot commit to paper the preparations that are completed and in progress to resist an attack here. Be assured, however, that no efforts are spared to make them as complete as they can be made under the circumstances. I beg that any funds that can be obtained for me may be deposited in New York.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Engineers.

WASHINGTON CITY, December 31, 1860.


GENTLEMEN; I have had the honor to receive your communication of the 28th instant, together with a copy of your "full powers from the Convention of the People of South Carolina" authorizing you to treat with the Government of the United States on various important subjects therein mentioned, and also copy of the ordinance, bearing date on the 20th instant, declaring that "the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States under the name of 'the United States of America' is thereby dissolved."

In answer to this communication I have to say that my position as President of the United States was clearly defined in the message to Congress on the 3rd instant. In that I stated that "apart from the execution of the laws, so far as this may be practicable, the Executive has no authority to decide what shall be the relations between the Federal Government and South Carolina. He has been invested with no such discretion. He possesses no power to change the relations heretofore existing between them, much less to acknowledge the independence of that State. This would be to invest a mere executive officer with the power of recognizing the dissolution of the confederacy among our thirty-three sovereign States. It bears no resemblance to the recognition of a foreign de facto government, involving no such responsibility. Any attempt to do this would, on his part, be naked act of usurpation. It is therefore my duty to submit to Congress the whole question in all its bearings."

Such is still my opinion, and I could therefore meet you only as private gentlemen of the highest character, and I was quite willing to communicate to Congress any proposition you might have to make to that body upon the subject. Of this you were well aware.

It was my earnest desire that such a disposition might be made of the whole subject by Congress, who alone possess the power, as to prevent the inauguration of a civil war between the parties in regard to the possession of the Federal forts in the harbor of Charleston; and I therefore deeply regret that, in your opinion, "the events of the last twenty-four hours render this impossible." In conclusion you urge upon me "the immediate withdrawal of the troops from the harbor of