our solemn belief that any change in the then existing condition of things in Charleston Harbor would, in the excited state of feeling at home, inevitably precipitate a collision.
The impression made upon us was that the President was wavering and had not decided what course he would pursue. He said he was glad to have had this conversation with us, but would prefer that we should give him a written memorandum of the substance of what we had said. This we did on Monday, the 10th. It was in these words:
His Excellency JAMES BUCHANAN,
President of the United States:
In compliance with our statement to you yesterday, we now express to 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 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-enforcement shall be sent into those forts, and their relative military status shall remain as at present.
WM. PORCHER MILES.
M. L. BONHAM.
W. W. BOYCE.
LAWRENCE M. KEITT,
WASHINGTON, December 9, 1860.
The President did not like the word "provided" because it looked as if we were binding him while avowing that we had no authority to commit the convention. We told him that we did not so understand it. We were expressing our convictions and belief, predicated upon the maintenance of a certain condition of things, which maintenance was absolutely and entirely in his power. If he minted such condition, then we believed that collision would be avoided until the attempt at a peaceable negotiation had failed. If he did not, then we solemnly assured him that we believed that collision must inevitably and at once be precipitated. He seemed satisfied, and said it was not his intention to send re-enforcements or make any change. We explained to him what we meant by the words "relative military status," as applied to the forts; mentioned the difference between Major Anderson's occupying his then position at Fort Moultrie and throwing himself into Fort Sumter. We stated that the latter step would be equivalent to re-enforcing the garrison and would just as certainly as the sending of fresh troops lead to the result which we both desired to avoid. When we rose to go the President said in substance, "After all, this is a matter of honor among gentlemen. I do not know that any paper or writing is necessary. We understand each other."
One of the delegation, just before leaving the room, remarked: "Mr. President, you have determined to let things remain as they are, and not to send re-enforcements; but suppose that you were hereafter to change your policy for any reason, what then? That would put us, who are willing to use personal influence to prevent any attack upon the forts before commissioners are sent on to Washington, in rather an embracing position." "Then," said the President, "I would first return you, this paper." We do not pretend to give the exact words on either side, but we are sure we give the sense of both.
The above is a full and exact account of what passed between the President and the delegation. The President, in his letter to our commissioners, tries to give the impression that our "understanding" or "agreement" was not a "pledge." We confess we are not sufficiently versed in the wiles of diplomacy to feel the force of this "distinction