Attorney General Edward Bates provided another vote for abandoning Sumter. Bates acknowledged that the government had both the right and the power to provision and reinforce the fort. But the question was not one of right or power, but "of prudence and patriotism." Aside from pride and honor, there was no great national interest involved in holding Sumter.
Bates followed the argument of General Scott and other army experts that the fort could be relieved only by employing a massive military force that would appear to others as aggressive and provoke war. He was, therefore, willing to forbear upholding the government's right for a while longer, "in the hope of a peaceful solution of our present difficulties."
Finally, Bates concurred with Seward that in several of the Confederate states, "a large proportion of the people" were "lovers of the Union." Conciliatory rather than provocative measures would enable them to restore the nation without bloodshed. He would therefore "evacuate Fort Sumter, rather than be an active party in the beginning of civil war."
Bates made clear that he was not in favor of a permanent division of the country. While he would abandon Sumter out of prudence, he was decidedly in favor of defending Fort Pickens and other defensible southern forts where the situation differed from that at Charleston Harbor.
Bibliography: Lincoln, Works, eds. Nicolay and Hay, 6: 217-20.