Lincoln's Inaugural Address
Lincoln pondered the momentous questions posed by secession and the situation of the southern forts for his inaugural statement. He never doubted that peaceable disunion was wrong and that the Union was permanent. But
disclaiming the right of secession did not necessarily dictate a particular policy regarding federal property.
Different policies might be defended as most likely to uphold and restore the Union. He had to weigh the consequences of any decision on the upper South, the Confederacy, northern public opinion, and his own political supporters. He had to consider, too, the nature of his responsibility as the chief executive, sworn to uphold the Constitution and the law.
As he formulated his initial policy towards Forts Sumter and Pickens for his inaugural address, Lincoln received advice suggesting three different courses of action. Some counseled that he abandon Sumter and Pickens along with the other property now under Confederate control. Others urged him not only to continue holding Sumter and Pickens, but also to retake forts seized by the South.
Still others recommended that he hold Sumter and Pickens, but leave for the time being the forts already in Confederate hands.
To see the advice Lincoln received, click on the three pictures.
|Orville H. Browning
||Indianapolis Daily Journal
||William C. Rives
After reviewing the recommendations, place yourself in Lincoln's position. If you were preparing your inaugural address,
what policy would you choose and why? Would you:
- Abandon the Forts Under Your Control?
- Reclaim the Forts Taken by Southern States?
- Hold Only Those Forts Still in Federal Hands?
- Or Choose Some Other Course of Action?
- Use the Notebook to write a brief
answer explaining your decision, or use a word processing program to
write a full response. To see Lincoln's decision, click "What
- What Lincoln Did.
Bibliography: Baringer, House Dividing, pp.