The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5 by Abraham Lincoln
Secretary Seward's Bid for Power, Memorandum from Secretary Seward, April 1, 1861
Some thoughts for the President's Consideration,
First. We are at the end of a month's administration, and yet without a policy either domestic or foreign.
Second. This, however, is not culpable, and it has even been unavoidable. The presence of the Senate, with the need to meet applications for patronage, have prevented attention to other and more grave matters.
Third. But further delay to adopt and prosecute our policies for both domestic and foreign affairs would not only bring scandal on the administration, but danger upon the country.
Fourth. To do this we must dismiss the applicants for office. But how? I suggest that we make the local appointments forthwith, leaving foreign or general ones for ulterior and occasional action.
Fifth. The policy at home. I am aware that my views are singular, and perhaps not sufficiently explained. My system is built upon this idea as a ruling one, namely, that we must CHANGE THE QUESTION BEFORE THE PUBLIC FROM ONE UPON SLAVERY, OR ABOUT SLAVERY, for a question upon UNION OR DISUNION: In other words, from what would be regarded as a party question, to one of patriotism or union.
The occupation or evacuation of Fort Sumter, although not in fact a slavery or a party question, is so regarded. Witness the temper manifested by the Republicans in the free States, and even by the Union men in the South.
I would therefore terminate it as a safe means for changing the issue. I deem it fortunate that the last administration created the necessity.
For the rest, I would simultaneously defend and reinforce all the ports in the gulf, and have the navy recalled from foreign stations to be prepared for a blockade. Put the island of Key West under martial law.
This will raise distinctly the question of union or disunion. I would maintain every fort and possession in the South.
FOR FOREIGN NATIONS,
I would demand explanations from Spain and France, categorically, at once.
I would seek explanations from Great Britain and Russia, and send agents into Canada, Mexico, and Central America to rouse a vigorous continental spirit of independence on this continent against European intervention.
And, if satisfactory explanations are not received from Spain and France,
Would convene Congress and declare war against them.
But whatever policy we adopt, there must be an energetic prosecution of it.
For this purpose it must be somebody's business to pursue and direct it incessantly.
Either the President must do it himself, and be all the while active in it, or Devolve it on some member of his Cabinet. Once adopted, debates on it must end, and all agree and abide.
It is not in my especial province; But I neither seek to evade nor assume responsibility.