Pennsylvania, respectively, with regard to the military defenses of those States.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
[Inclosure Numbers 1.] EXECUTIVE CHAMBER, Harrisburg, Pa., November 2, 1861.
Honorable WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.:
SIR: I received a few days since an envelope, apparently from the Department of State of Washington, inclosing a slip from a newspaper purporting to be a copy of a letter from you to the Governor of New York. This mode of communicating advice by the Government of the United States to the State authorities is so unusual that I am perhaps not quite justified in assuming, as I do, that the communication is authentic.
I am glad to learn that the prospect of a disturbance of our amicable relations with foreign countries is now less serious than it has been at any period during the course of the insurrection.
The duty of taking precautions against such disturbance is appropriate to the Government of the United States, and as when the prospect was more serious it was not thought fit to invite to the subject the attention of Congress, which had authority to make suitable provision, I do not understand how the fact that it is now less serious can afford a reason for calling on individual States, which have no such authority. What Congress has done or omitted you, of course, must know, but it seems strange that general appropriations for military purposes should render lawful the expense of fortifying Washington, Cincinnati, Saint Louis, and other places, and yet that the Government should falter under an apprehension of want of authority when the question is of fortifying sea-board and lake ports. The regular session of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, as you may be aware, will not commence until more than a month after the next meeting of Congress. When you assure me that the prospect of disturbance is now less serious than it has been at any period since the insurrection began, I feel that your letter would not justify me in calling a special session. Without action by the Legislature I have less authority to act than the Executive of the United States, since the subject itself is within the scope of the General Government, and is not within that of a State government. State governments have recently (in conformity with the spirit of the Constitutional provisions in regard to the militia) acted as agents of the General Government in raising volunteers for the general defense, and in clothing, arming, equipping, and supplying them; but even in this matter not, it is believed, beyond their own people and territory.
Some of the points important for the maritime defense of Pennsylvania are situated in other States. It could not of course be expected that the authorities of this Commonwealth should go into New Jersey or Delaware to erect fortifications. If they are to be erected by the concurrent action of the several States immediately concerned, and agreement among them would be necessary to determine what should be done and what proportion of the expense of doing it should be borne be each. No such agreement could be lawfully made without the action of the several State Legislatures, and the Constitution expressly prohibits its being made without the assent of Congress.