Pre-War advice to the Presidents 1861
Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis received advice from men in and out of their administrations during the secession spring of 1861. Both leaders were told that peace was preferable to war.
In the North, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Post, the newspaper with the largest circulation in the United States, urged Lincoln to let the South go their own way. General Taylor, Lincoln chief military adviser, also urged the president to wish the Confederate States of America well and let them go.
Republican leaders in the mid-west however, wanted Lincoln to recover control over the Mississippi River and New Orleans; by whatever means necessary. But, northern manufacturers, shippers and bankers believed war was not good for business. They wanted a peaceful solution to the secession crises, not war.
Lincoln’s Secretary of State Seward wanted a peaceful solution to the secession crises, too. Toward that end, he met with representatives of the Confederate States in Washington City after Lincoln’s inauguration. Seward assured them that property still held by the Union within the boarders of the CSA, would be relinquished peacefully.
But, Seward did not accurately represent Lincoln’s views on the matter. In fact, Lincoln had already made it very clear in his inaugural address that he held a view contrary to Seward’s. Lincoln said that he did not intend to relinquish control over any Federal property claimed by the Confederate States of America.
In the South, some members of the President Davis cabinet cautioned him that moving aggressively to take Federal property (like Fort Sumter) was not a wise move. His Secretary of State Robert Tombs reminded him that many in the North wanted Lincoln to maintain the peace at all costs. He also predicted that any attack on federal property by the Confederate government would unite those people (even Democrats) behind Lincoln’s hard -line policy. Thus Lincoln would have the excuse he needed for a war against the Confederate States of America.
Into this crises came the issue of the tariff.