1861 March 14 Virginia State Convention, Richmond

Ex-President Tyler resumed his remarks, and said:

(a lengthy examination of the unfavorable/unacceptable terms of the Peace Convention in Washington)

Now, Mr. President, I want seriously to know of this Convention, what are you going to do? You cannot stand still….Events are moving too rapidly around you….You must do something. and what is that something? On one day there comes forth a smile from the White House; but, lo! the next day it is chased away with a frown. On one day we hear that Fort Sumpter [sic] is to be abandoned–the next that the Star of the West with supplies is ready to sail from Hew York for some point on the Southern coast. I would fain hope that the news is authentic that Fort Sumter is to be evacuated and that that gallant man, Major Anderson, is to be relieved from a condition which becomes more desperate every day….

And a newspaper paragraph announced that Gen. Scott has been studying out a plan by which Fort Sumter can be reinforced. This paragraph I do not altogether credit, because I do ot believe that the old war-worn chieftain, although he may have lost some of the chivalric spirit which formerly illustrated his character and his fame, has yet gone to that desperate extremity of trying by shift and cunning to accomplish what noble-hearted men will ever try to accomplish only by direct action. Mr. President, I wish not only tat Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens might be abandoned, but that the President would lift himself up to a higher and loftier pinnacle of statesmanship and at once yield to the propriety of a recognition of the Southern Confederacy. A commercial treaty and a treaty of alliance offensive and defensive with them, would save much of the Union under which we have all lived so long and happily. If all cannot be saved, save as much as can be saved, even of the fragments; for every fragment will be a gem glorious and priceless….

I stand up for our rights as the only way to vindicate them. Watchman, what time of the night? the hour has almost struck. Put down your ultimatum, and don’t stop there. Go a little further. You have already reported an anti-coercion bill. Let it be strong; let there be no sort of reserve upon its face. Let it say to these gentlemen in Washington as King Canute said to the waters of the great deep, “Thus far, and no farther.” Arrest their warlike movements, if possible. Go a step further. Insist upon the observance of the statu quo precisely as it is. Not an additional man to garrison Fortress Monroe; not another to Harper’s Ferry; not another to Fort Washington; not another at the city of Washington. Do that and you will do right. Then you can give time, reasonable time, for action on your ultimatum. Revolutions never go backward. Ponder on this and be ready….

Sir, I am done. I know that I have presented my views to you most feebly. I have presented them, however, with all the frankness with which one Virginian should talk to another upon this great occasion. You have much more wisdom than I possess. I look with fear and trembling, to some extent, at the condition of my country. But I do want to see Virginia united–I wish to see her carrying her head as she carried it in former times. The time was, when she did not fear. I have entire confidence that her proud crest will yet be seen waving in that great procession of States that go up to the temple to make their vows to maintain their liberties, “peaceably if they can, forcibly if they must.” Sir, I am done.

AB v. 64

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