Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.


- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Monday, April 13, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On April 13, 1861



On this day in 1861, the newly elected President Abraham Lincoln replied to representatives of the Convention of the State of Virginia who formally requested that Lincoln lay out the "policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate States."

Virginia didn't secede from the Union until the war had officially begun. The people of the historically significant state, which geographically and economically straddled the divide between the North and South, were genuinely torn as to whether or not to follow other southern states into secession. They took their time and debated the issue at length.

I found an excellent essay which delves deeply into the discussions of the Convention of the State of Virginia - I highly recommend reading it for additional background information about pre-Civil War Virginia.

Virginians were Virginians before all else: and that included nation. This dedication to statehood can be traced directly back to the American Revolution and founding fathers like Virginian Thomas Jefferson himself. For a clearer understanding of this mindset, and much, much more, I highly recommend April 1865: The Month That Saved America. I'm re-reading it this month (seems appropriate.)

But back to Lincoln's reply to Virginia:

[April 13, 1861]

Hon: William Ballard Preston, Alexander H. H. Stuart, & George W. Randolph, Esq---

Gentlemen: As a committee of the Virginia convention, now in session, you present me a preamble and resolution, in these words:

Whereas, [2] in the opinion of this Convention the uncertainty which prevails in the public mind as to the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue toward the seceded States is extremely injurious to the industrial and commercial interests of the country; tends to keep up an excitement which is unfavorable to the adjustment of pending difficulties, and threatens a disturbance of the public peace; therefore

Resolved, that a committee of three delegates be appointed by this Convention to wait upon the President of the United States, present to him this preamble and resolution, and respectfully ask of him to communicate to this Convention the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate States.

Adopted by the Convention of the State of Virginia, Richmond, April 8th 1861

In pursuance of the foregoing resolution, the following delegates were appointed to constitute said committee.

Hon. William Ballard Preston.

Hon. Alexander H. H. Stuart.

George W. Randolph Esq.

JOHN JANNEY PRESIDENT

JNO. L. EUBANK SECRETARY.

In answer I have to say, that having, at the beginning of my official term, expressed my intended policy, as plainly as I was able, it is with deep regret, and some mortification, I now learn, that there is great, and injurious uncertainty, in the public mind, as to what that policy is, and what course I intend to pursue. Not having, as yet, seen occasion to change, it is now my purpose to pursue the course marked out in the inaugeral address. I commend a careful consideration of the whole document, as the best expression I can give of my purposes. As I then, and therein, said, I now repeat:

"The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess, the property, and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties, and imposts; but, beyond what is necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion---no using of force against, or among the people anywhere''

By the words "property, and places, belonging to the Government'' I chiefly allude to the military posts, and property, which were in the possession of the Government when it came to my hands. But [3] if, as now appears to be true, in pursuit of a purpose to drive the United States authority from these places, an unprovoked assault, has been made upon Fort-Sumpter, I shall hold myself at liberty to re-possess, if I can, like places which had been seized before the Government was devolved upon me.

And, in every event, I shall, to the extent of my ability, repel force by force.

In case it proves true, that Fort-Sumpter has been assaulted, as is reported, I shall perhaps, cause the United [States] mails to be withdrawn from all the States which claim to have seceded---believing that the commencement of actual war against the Government, justifies and possibly demands this.

I scarcely need to say that I consider the Military posts and property situated within the states, which claim to have seceded, as yet belonging to the Government of the United States, as much as they did before the supposed secession.

Whatever else I may do for the purpose, I shall not attempt to collect the duties, and imposts, by any armed invasion of any part of the country---not meaning by this, however, that I may not land a force, deemed necessary, to relieve a fort upon a border of the country. From the fact, that I have quoted a part of the inaugeral address, it must not be infered that I repudiate any other part, the whole of which I re-affirm, except so far as what I now say of the mails, may be regarded as a modification.

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