Lincoln Anticipates Conflict

Sunday February 3, 1861

President-elect Lincoln writes Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne: “In an interview which I had last night with Col. Keyes, the Military Secretary of Genl [Winfield] Scott, and one of his staff, a man of high character, and of course, an officer of distinguished reputation, I was startled to learn his views in relation to the dangers which threaten the capital. By his position he is particularly charged with finding out everything appertaining to that matter, sifting, weighing, comparing all the testimony in the military department. He is the only man that reads and examines all there is on the subject…He says the evidences in his possession of a widespread and powerful conspiracy to seize the capitol are overwhelming, and he has no doubt whatever on the subject….He has the gravest apprehensions that this capitol will be taken. Al the Departments are now filled with traitorous clerks, who would do all in their power to surrender up the building to a hostile force…”

Lincoln shows his increasing pessimism about secession: “I have been slow to believe, as you know, but I am satisfied that we must soon begin to prepare for the worst.” In a post-script he writes: “P.S. If our Legislature does not immediately put our State on a war footing, it will be guilty of criminal neglect. Not a moment is to be lost. I think you ought to advise with some of the members on this subject, and have action taken without delay. The time has come when bold and decisive action must be taken, or al will be lost, as everything is lost in revolutions by timidity and temporising.”

Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 8:57 am  Leave a Comment  

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