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Abraham Lincoln, Volume I by John T. Morse

For a crisis it was when Seward


Seward

also gave trouble which he ought not to have given. On December 8 Lincoln wrote to him that he would nominate him as secretary of state. Mr. Seward assented and the matter remained thus comfortably settled until so late as March 2, 1861, when Seward wrote a brief note asking "leave to withdraw his consent." Apparently the Democratic complexion of the cabinet, and the suggestions of suspicious friends, made him fear that his influence in the ministry would be inferior to that of Chase. Coming at this eleventh hour, which already had its weighty burden of many anxieties, this brief destructive note was both embarrassing and exasperating. It meant the entire reconstruction of the cabinet. Never did Lincoln's tranquil indifference to personal provocation stand him in better stead than in this crisis,--for a crisis it was when Seward, in discontent and distrust, desired to draw aloof from the administration. He held the note of the recalcitrant politician for two days unanswered, then he wrote a few lines: "Your note," he said, "is the subject of the most painful solicitude with me; and I feel constrained to beg that you will countermand the withdrawal. The public interest, I think, demands that you should; and my personal feelings are deeply enlisted in the same direction." These words set Mr. Seward right again; on March 5 he withdrew his letter of March 2, and in a few hours was appointed.

Immediately after the installation of the new government

three commissioners from the Confederacy came to Washington, and requested an official audience. They said that seven States of the American Union had withdrawn therefrom, had reassumed sovereign power, and were now an independent nation in fact and in right; that, in order to adjust upon terms of amity and good-will all questions growing out of this political separation, they were instructed to make overtures for opening negotiations, with the assurance that the Confederate government earnestly desired a peaceful solution and would make no demand not founded in strictest justice, neither do any act to injure their late confederates. From the Confederate point of view these approaches were dignified and conciliatory; from the Northern point of view they were treasonable and insolent. Probably the best fruit which Mr. Davis hoped from them was that Mr. Seward, who was well known to be desirous of finding some peace-assuring middle course, might be led into a discussion of the situation, inevitably provoking divisions in the cabinet, in the Republican party, and in the country. But though Seward's frame of mind about this time was such as to put him in great jeopardy of committing hurtful blunders, he was fortunate enough to escape quite doing so. To the agent of the commissioners he replied that he must "consult the President," and the next day he wrote, in terms of personal civility, that he could not receive them. Nevertheless they remained in Washington a few weeks longer, gathering and forwarding to the Confederate government such information as they could. In this they were aided by Judge Campbell of Alabama, a Secessionist, who still retained his seat upon the bench of the Supreme


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