War of the Rebellion: Serial 001 Page 0116 OPERATIONS IN CHARLESTON HARBOR, S. C. Chapter I.

Search Civil War Official Records

Charleston," stating that, "under present circumstances, they are a standing menace which renders negotiation impossible, and, as our recent experience shows, threatens speedily to bring to a bloody issue questions which ought to be settled with temperance and judgment."

The reason for this change in your position is that, since your arrival in Washington, "an officer of the United States, acting, as we (you) are assured not only without but against your (my) orders, has dismantled one fort and occupied another, thus altering to a most important extent the condition of affairs under which we (you) came."

You also allege that you came here "the representatives of an authority which could at any time within the past sixty days have taken possession of the forts in Charleston Harbor, but which, upon pledges given in a manner that we (you) cannot doubt, determined to trust to your (my) honor rather than to its own power."

This brings me to a consideration of the nature of those alleged pledges, and in what manner they have been observed. In my message of the 3rd of December instant I stated, in regard to the property of the United States in South Carolina, that it "has been purchased for a fair equivalent, 'by the consent of the legislature of the State, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals', &c., and over these the authority 'to exercise exclusive legislation' has been expressly granted by the Constitution to Congress. It is not believed that any attempt will be made to expel the United States from this property by force; but if in this I should prove to be mistaken, the officer in command of the forts has received orders to act strictly on the defensive. In such a contingency the responsibility for consequences would rightfully rest upon the heads of the assailants."

This being the condition of the parties on Saturday, December 8, four of the Representatives from South Carolina called upon me and requested an interview. We had an earnest conversation on the subject of these forts and the best means of preventing a collision between the parties, of the purpose of sparing the effusion of blood. I suggested, for prudential reasons, that it would be best to put in writing what they said to me verbally. They did so accordingly, and on Monday morning, the 10th instant, three of them presented to me a paper signed by all the Representatives of South Carolina, with a single exception, of which the following is a copy:

WASHINGTON, December 9, 1860.

His Excellency JAMES BUCHANAN,

President of the United States:

In compliance with our statement to you yesterday, we now express too you our strong convictions that neither the constituted authorities, nor any body of the people of the State of South Carolina, will either attack or molest the United States forts in the harbor of Charleston previously to the action of the convention, and we hope and believe not until an offer has been made, through an accredited representative, to negotiate for an amicable arrangement of all matters between the State and Federal Government, provided that no re-enforcements shall be sent into those forts, and their relative military status shall remain as at present.






And here I must, in justice to myself, remark that at the time the paper was presented to me I objected to the word "provided," as it might be construed into an agreement on my part which I never would make. They said nothing was further from their intention; they did not so understand it, and I should not so consider it. It is evident they could enter