The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5 by Abraham Lincoln
Reply to Secretary Seward's Memorandum, Executive Mansion, April 1, 1861
HON. W. H. SEWARD.
MY DEAR SIR:--Since parting with you I have been considering your paper dated this day, and entitled "Some Thoughts for the President's Consideration." The first proposition in it is, "First, We are at the end of a month's administration, and yet without a policy either domestic or foreign."
At the beginning of that month, in the inaugural, I said: "The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to Collect the duties and imposts." This had your distinct approval at the time; and, taken in connection with the order I immediately gave General Scott, directing him to employ every means in his power to strengthen and hold the forts, comprises the exact domestic policy you now urge, with the single exception that it does not propose to abandon Fort Sumter.
Again, I do not perceive how the reinforcement of Fort Sumter would be done on a slavery or a party issue, while that of Fort Pickens would be on a more national and patriotic one.
The news received yesterday in regard to St. Domingo certainly brings a new item within the range of our foreign policy; but up to that time we have been preparing circulars and instructions to ministers and the like, all in perfect harmony, without even a suggestion that we had no foreign policy.
Upon your Closing propositions--that,
"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"--
I remark that if this must be done, I must do it. When a general line of policy is adopted, I apprehend there is no danger of its being changed without good reason, or continuing to be a subject of unnecessary debate; still, upon points arising in its progress I wish, and suppose I am entitled to have, the advice of all the Cabinet.
Your obedient servant,