Smith29.html-- Initial Problems at Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens --

 

Smith's Advice

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OPINIONS WRITTEN BY MEMBERS OP THE CABINET AT THE VERBAL REQUEST OF THE PRESIDENT, AT A CABINET MEETING HELD TO DETERMINE THE QUESTION OF SENDING AN EXPEDITION TO RELIEVE FORT SUMTER, March 29, 1861.

Mr. Smith, Secretary of the Interior, wrote:

Viewing the question whether Fort Sumter shall be evacuated as a political one, I remark that the effect of its evacuation upon the public mind will depend upon the concurrent and subsequent action of the government. If it shall be understood that by its evacuation we intend to acknowledge our inability to enforce the laws, and our intention to allow treason and rebellion to run their course, the measure will be extremely disastrous and the administration will become very unpopular. If, however, the country can be made to understand that the fort is abandoned from necessity, and at the same time Fort Pickens and other forts in our possession shall be defended, and the power of the government vindicated, the measure will be popular and the country will sustain the administration.

Believing that Fort Sumter cannot be successfully defended, I regard its evacuation as a necessity, and I advise that Major Anderson's command shall be unconditionally withdrawn.

At the same time I would adopt the most vigorous measures for the defense of the other forts, and if we have the power I would blockade the Southern ports, and enforce the collection of the revenue with all the power of the government.

 

 

Bibliography: Lincoln, Works, eds. Nicolay and Hay, 6: 229-230.