WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, February 6, 1861.
Hon. I. W. HAYNE,
Attorney-General of the State of South Carolina:
SIR: The President of the United States has received your letter of the 31st ultimo,* and has charged me with the duty of replying thereto. In the communication addressed to the President by Governor Pickens, under date of the 12th of January,* and which accompanies yours, now before me, his excellency says:
I have determined to send to you Hon. I. W. Hayne, the attorney-general of the State of South Carolina, and have instructed him to demand the surrender of Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, to the constituted authorities of the State of South Carolina. The demand I have made of Major Anderson, and which I now make of you, is suggested because of my earnest desire to avoid bloodshed, which a persistence in your attempt to retain the possession of that fort will cause, and which will be unavailing to secure to you that possession, but induce a calamity most deeply to be deplored.
The character of the demand thus authorized to be made appears- under the influence, I presume, of the correspondence with the Senators to which you refer-to have been modified by subsequent instructions of his excellency, dated the 26th, and received by yourself on the 30th of January, in which he says:
If it be so that Fort Sumter is held as property, then as property, the rights, whatever they may be, of the United States can be ascertained; and for the satisfaction of these rights the pledge of the State of South Carolina you are authorized to give.
The full scope and precise purport of your instructions, as thus modified, you have expressed in the following words:
I do not come as a military man to demand the surrender of a fortress, but as the legal officer of the State-its attorney-general-to claim for the State the exercise of its undoubted right of eminent domain, and to pledge the State to make good all injury to the rights of property which arise from the exercise of the claim.
And lest this explicit language should not sufficiently define your position, you add:
The proposition now is that her [South Carolina's] law officer should, under authority of the governor and his council, distinctly pledge the faith of South Carolina to make such compensation in regard to Fort Sumter and its appurtenances and contents, to the full extent of the money value of the property of the United States delivered over to the authorities off South Carolina by your command.
You then adopt his excellency's train of thought upon the subject so far as to suggest that the possession of Fort Sumter by the United States, "if continued long enough, must lead to collision," and that "an attack upon it would scarcely improve it as property, whatever the result, and if captured it would no longer be the subject of account."
The proposal, then, now presented to the President is simply an offer on the part of South Carolina to buy Fort Sumter and contents as property of the United States, sustained by a declaration in effect that if she is not permitted to make the purchase she will seize the fort by force of arms. As the initiation of a negotiation for the transfer of property between friendly governments this proposal impresses the President as having assumed a most unusual form. He has, however, investigated the claim on which it professes to be based, apart from the declaration that accompanies it; and it may be here remarked that much stress has been laid upon the employment of the words "property" and "public property" by the President in his several messages. These are the most comprehensive terms which can be used in such a
*Not of record in War Department.