Friday, April 1, 2011

Lincoln to Seward: "I'm the decider"

William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State d...Image via Wikipedia
William Seward
    • In Washington, US Secretary of State William Seward, who voted against the Fox Expedition to Fort Sumter, hands Lincoln a memorandum, entitled "Some Thoughts for the President's Consideration." Seward had been Lincoln’s trusted right hand, especially serving Lincoln in Washington before the Inauguration, until he opposed the Fox Plan. In Seward’s memorandum, he bemoans the embarrassment that the Administration, a month into its term, still has neither a foreign nor domestic policy and makes suggestions.  Understanding the motivations of the Northern people better than Lincoln, he tells the President that the diplomatic issues with the Confederate States need to center around Union or disunion rather than slavery, and reiterates to the President that Fort Sumter should be abandoned while holding on to other Federal forts in the seceded Gulf states. This position, from a radically liberal Republican who was Lincoln’s chief opponent for the Republican nomination (and who might have been a better President), is the same opinion Seward has held since the Inauguration. Seward offers to President Lincoln his willingness to assume responsibility for dealing with the Confederacy. Then incredibly, Seward also advocates an energetic foreign policy demanding explanations from the Europeans, particularly Spain and France, of their recent interference in the Western Hemisphere. With the prospect of armed conflict on their own soil, Seward then amazingly opines that if Spain and France could not offer satisfactory explanations, Lincoln should "convene Congress and declare war against" Spain and France. Seward ends the memorandum suggesting Lincoln make him director of Administration policy. Lincoln, who for party reasons needs Seward to remain in the Cabinet, replies with a measure of tact, reminding Seward of Lincoln’s Inaugural pledge to hold onto all US government property, and that he must therefore hold both Sumter and Pickens. With some firmness Lincoln asserts that he, not Seward, will make the policy decisions in this Administration saying, “I must do it.” With just under a month into his Administration, the President demonstrates his profound ability to hear no counsel in disagreement with what is in his own head./1861
      Powhatan, steam frigate, completed 1850.Image via Wikipedia
      USS Powhatan
    • Meanwhile, Lincoln hurriedly signs a series of orders to outfit the secret expedition to reinforce Fort Pickens. The orders have been drawn up by a small group that included Montgomery Meigs, a young and energetic Navy lieutenant named David D. Porter, General Scott, and Secretary of State Seward. Meigs' plan, to be commanded by Colonel Harvey Brown, called for a transport vessel to land troops and stores at Fort Pickens, while a ship of war simultaneously steams into Pensacola Bay to block Confederate forces. At Seward’s suggestion though, Lincoln detaches the large paddle-wheel steamer USS Powhatan at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the Fort Sumter Relief Expedition to proceed forthwith to Florida to aid Union-held Fort Pickens at Pensacola Bay, Florida. The Administration bungles communications with the Department of the Navy, and confusion will ensue with the Powhatan once the Fort Sumter Expedition gets underway./1861
    • [SECOND SESSION] In Charleston, the second session of the South Carolina Convention debates more on ratifying the Provisional Confederate Constitution/1861

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