In his Inaugural Address, Lincoln avowed his responsibility to hold those forts presently under federal authority. "The power confided to me," he pledged, "will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and pl aces belonging to the Government." He added, however, that beyond what was necessary to achieve this objective, "there would be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." He said nothing about reclaiming property now under Confederate control, and he explicitly offered reassurances to the South that slavery was safe in its present limits and that he would enforce the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution. But he held that the Constitution and the Union were perpetual, that secession was, therefore, legally void, and resistance to the federal government constituted rebellion.
Bibliography: Lincoln, Works, eds. Nicolay and Hay, 6: 169-85; Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 3: 327-44.