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

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On April 12, 1861 and 1865

On this day in 1861, at 4:30 a.m., Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina; the first shots fired in the Civil War.

Four years and hundreds of thousands of deaths later, Lincoln was negotiating with the 'Rebel Legislature' of Virginia after the conflict had officially come to an end with the surrender of Lee's army several days before.

Lincoln wrote to General Godfrey Weitzel, the officer in command of Richmond, in his continued negotiations with 'Judge Campbell' - the man who was apparently designated spokesmen for the Rebel government body in Virginia.

In this response Lincoln appears frustrated... no doubt wondering what it will take to pull not only Virginia, but the entire Confederacy back into the Union. The differences in ideology between the two sides, the two halves of the country had not changed; one side had simply beaten the other in armed conflict.

War Department,
Washington, D.C., April 12. 1865

``Cypher'' Office U.S. Military Telegraph,
Major General Weitzel
Richmond, Va

I have just seen Judge Campbell's letter to you of the 7th. He assumes as appears to me that I have called the insurgent Legislature of Virginia together, as the rightful Legislature of the State, to settle all differences with the United States. I have done no such thing. I spoke of them not as a Legislature, but as ``the gentlemen who have acted as the Legislature of Virginia in support of the rebellion.'' I did this on purpose to exclude the assumption that I was recognizing them as a rightful body. I dealt with them as men having power de facto to do a specific thing, towit, ``to withdraw the Virginia troops, and other support from resistance to the General Government,'' for which in the paper handed Judge Campbell I promised a specific equivalent, to wit, a remission to the people of the State, except in certain cases, the confiscation of their property. I meant this and no more. In as much however as Judge Campbell misconstrues this, and is still pressing for an armistice, contrary to the explicit statement of the paper I gave him; and particularly as Gen. Grant has since captured the Virginia troops, so that giving a consideration for their withdrawal is no longer applicable, let my letter to you, and the paper to Judge Campbell both be withdrawn or, counter-manded, and he be notified of it. Do not now allow them to assemble; but if any have come, allow them safe-return to their homes. A. LINCOLN


[1] ALS, DNA WR RG 107, Presidential Telegrams, I, 386-87. The time of this telegram is marked by the clerk as 6 P.M. See Lincoln's memorandum to Campbell, April 5, and communications to Grant and to Weitzel, April 6, supra. On April 7, Judge Campbell wrote Weitzel:

``The events of the war have placed under the military control of the United States the natural and artificial channels of communication of the Confederate States, their emporiums of commerce and intercourse, and all the places that have any special importance in a military point of view. The armies of the Confederacy are diminished in point of numbers, and debilitated from the want of adequate equipments, transportation, and supplies. The spirit of the people is not broken and the resources of the country allow of a prolonged and embarrassing resistance. Humanity as well as patriotism requires that such a contest, which must be in the end fruitless, should be averted. To do this is the province of enlarged and [wise] statesmanship. The obstacles to an immediate accommodation arise [from the] condition of the Confederate Government and nature of the questions involved [in] the war. The Confederate Government has made no provision [for] the possibility of its failure. Its functionaries don't understand how [they] can negotiate for the subversion or overthrow of their [Government]. All the powers of negotiation are in the hands of the [President], and he is not willing to employ them for such [a] result. The affections and hopes of the people are concentrated [in] the Army, and it will be difficult to bring them [to] take action without the co-operation and counsel of their [brethren] of the army. Thus while reflecting persons are convinced that the [cause] of the Confederate States can't be achieved, and they are predisposed [to] an adjustment, there is a great difficulty in obtaining an [acknowledgment] of this conviction from a legally constituted authority. I [think] that an armistice would obviate much of this difficulty, nor [do] I believe that there would be any danger of a [delay] in securing peace by this temporary cessation of hostilities. The [disbanding] of the armies would be the probable, I may say the [certain], result of such a measure.

``The legislature of Virginia [will or should] be immediately convened. The legislature of South Carolina will meet according [to] adjournment in May.

``The President of the United States in his memorandum left with [me] states three indispensable conditions to peace, which when examined are [all] included in the single one of the restoration of the Union by [the] consent of the seceding States. If his proclamations upon the subject of slavery have the force of law I suppose that it became operative when it was issued, and that rights were vested under it. I do not presume that his revocation of that proclamation could destroy the rights thus acquired.

``The acceptance of the Union involves acceptance of his proclamation, if it be valid as a law. In Virginia the question of limits is one of great concern and interest, and in both States the averages of taxes, the confiscation acts, the bills of pains and penalties, the oaths of allegiance, the right to representation in Congress, and the condition of the slave population, are subjects of importance. I do not very well see how these matters can be adjusted without a very grave, important, and patient inquiry between the parties; that is, the United States and the authorities of the States. I have stated that the regular session of the legislature of South Carolina will be held in May. I would recommend that all the facilities offered in Virginia to the assembling of their legislature be extended to that State, and that it be invited to send commissioners to adjust the questions that are supposed to require adjustment.

``I have made a statement of the practical difficulties that exist in order to encourage you to persevere in the course of patience, moderation, forbearance, and conciliation that has marked your conduct since you entered Richmond. Many of the difficulties will be removed or lessened by such a course, and I do not know of any that will not be aggravated by the adoption of the opposite.'' (OR, I, XLVI, III, 657. Brackets are in the source.)

An even crazier exchange of telegrams between Weitzel and Lincoln concerned Sunday services, and even the prayers being said in Richmond.

A piece of advice when working through this: read the annotation first.

War Department
Washington, D.C., April 12. 1865

``Cypher'' Office U.S. Military Telegraph,
Major General Weitzel,
Richmond, Va.

I have seen your despatch to Col. Hardie about the matter of prayers. I do not remember hearing prayers spoken of while I was in Richmond; but I have no doubt you have acted in what appeared to you to be the spirit and temper manifested by me while there.

Is there any sign of the rebel Legislature coming together on the understanding of my letter to you? If there is any such sign, inform me what it is; if there is no such sign you may as [well] withdraw the offer. A. LINCOLN


[1] ALS, DNA WR RG 107, Presidential Telegrams, I, 385. The time of this telegram is marked by the clerk as 9 A.M. On April 9, Charles A. Dana had telegraphed Stanton from Richmond: ``On Friday evening I asked Weitzel . . . what he was going to do about opening the churches on Sunday. He answered that all were to be allowed to be opened on condition that no disloyalty should be uttered and that the Episcopal ministers would be required to read the prayer for the President. . . . I told him this was all right. Last evening he sent [George F.] Shepley to me to ask that this order might be relaxed, so that the clergy would only be required not to pray for Jeff. Davis. Shepley said this was what had been determined on by . . . Weitzel before I gave orders to the contrary. I answered I had given no orders at all . . . and that Weitzel must act in the matter entirely on his own judgment. It appears that Judge Campbell thought it very desirable that a loyal prayer should not be exacted, and that Weitzel had consented to it; but when I asked him the question . . . he gave me an answer opposite to the reality. I report the fact, confessing that it shakes a good deal my confidence in Weitzel. . . .'' (OR, I, XLVI, III, 677).

Whereupon Stanton telegraphed Weitzel: ``It has just been reported to this Department that you have, at the instance of Mr. Campbell, consented that service should be performed in the Episcopal churches of Richmond to-day without the usual prayer said in loyal churches of that denomination for the President . . . and that you have even agreed to waive that condition. If such has been your action it is strongly condemned by this Department . . . you are directed immediately to report by telegraph your action in relation to religious services in Richmond . . . and also to state what took place between you and Mr. Campbell on the subject. . . .'' (Ibid., p. 678).

Weitzel replied the next day: ``The orders in relation to religious services in Richmond were verbal, and were applicable alike to all religious denominations. . . . They were, in substance, that no expression would be allowed in any part of the church service . . . which in any way implied a recognition of any other authority than that of the United States. . . . No orders were given as to what would be preached or prayed for, but only as to what would not be permitted. . . . I have had personally but three interviews with Judge Campbell---two of them in the presence of, and the other by the written command of, the President. In neither of these interviews was any question discussed in relation to church or prayers. . . .'' (Ibid., pp. 696-97).

On April 11, James A. Hardie telegraphed Weitzel: ``The Secretary of War directs me to say that your explanation . . . is not satisfactory. . . . The Secretary also directs me to instruct you that officers commanding in Richmond are expected to require from all religious denominations in that city, in regard to their rituals and prayers, no less respect for the President . . . than they practiced toward the rebel chief . . . before he was driven from the capital.'' (Ibid., p. 711).

Weitzel's reply to Lincoln's telegram of April 12 was received at 3 P.M.: ``You spoke of not pressing little points. You said you would not order me, but if you were in my place you would not press them. The passports have gone out for the legislature, and it is common talk that they will come together.'' (Ibid., p. 724).

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