Compromise Stalled

Thomas Corwin

Wednesday January 16, 1861

Ohio Congressman Thomas Corwin writes Lincoln about compromise efforts in the House of Representatives: “I have been for thirty days in a Committee of Thirty-Three. If the States are no more harmonious in their feelings and opinions than these thirty-three representative men, then, appalling as the idea is, we must dissolve, and a long and bloody civil war must follow. I cannot comprehend the madness of the times. Southern men are theoretically crazy. Extreme Northern men are practical fools. The latter are really quite as mad as the former. Treason is in the air around us everywhere. It goes by the name of patriotism. Men in Congress boldly avow it, and the public offices are full of acknowledged secessionists. God alone, I fear, can help us. Four or five States are gone, others are driving before the gale. I have looked on this horrid picture till I have been able to gaze on it with perfect calmness. I think, if you live, you may take the oath.”
New York delegation visits Lincoln in opposition to a Cabinet post for Pennsylvania’s Simon Cameron. As a result of this visit, Hiram Barney writes back to New York about Lincoln’s Cabinet appointments: “He wants to take [Norman] Judd; but this selection will offend some of his friends and he does not decide upon it. Wells [sic] of Connecticut is his preference for New England – Blair of Maryland is favorably considered….Caleb B. Smith of Indiana is urged upon him and he may have to take him instead of Judd. Caleb is almost as objectionable as Cameron, & for similar reasons……What he [Lincoln] will ultimately do after reaching Washington no one not even himself can tell. He wants to please & satisfy all his friends.”
Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull writes Lincoln about Cameron’s annoyance with President-elect Lincoln. He concluded with a warning about potential security dangers for Lincoln: “A very prudent Friend, who is better posted in regard to matters here in the District than any other man, & knows more of the designs of the conspirators than anybody else, has suggested that you ought not to have it given out here, on when you were coming here but to let some of us here know the time & the route.”
Secretary of War Joseph Holt writes Fort Sumter commander Robert Anderson: “You rightly designate the firing into the Star of the West as an `act of war,’ and one which was actually committed without the slightest provocation. Your forbearance to return the fire is fully approved by the President. Unfortunately, the Government had not been able to make known to you that the Star of the West had sailed from New York for your relief.”

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