"Fort Sumter," Chicago (IL) Tribune, March 15, 1861, p. 2.
James Chapnick, Dickinson College
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
We still cling to the hope that Fort Sumter will not be evacuated. Its present condition is undoubtly critical in the extreme. It must be victualed or evacuated within a few days, or the command of Major Anderson will be compelled by starvation to surrender. But desperate as the case now seems to be, we shall believe with great reluctance that wise and patriotic councils at Washington cannot devise means for retaining possession of that symbol of Federal Sovereignty in the midst of rebellion.
The great and seemingly insurmountable difficulty consists in the fact that the President is without adequate means for meeting the emergency. Through the imbecility, if not actual treason, of the late Administration, the opportunity to reinforce and re-provision the fort was wickedly thrown away; the army and navy were so widely separated that a sufficient force cannot be concentrated for that purpose now before starvation would have destroyed the garrison or compelled its surrender; and Congress adjourned without providing for the emergencies through which the country is passing. The hands of the President are effectually tied. He can only proceed by those steps pointed out in the Constitution and through the laws of Congress. Had Congress clothed him with the necessary power to call upon the country for assistance, instead of holding Cabinet councils over the question of the evacuating of Fort Sumter, Mr. Lincoln would “put his foot down firmly,” and every loyal citizen would rally to his support.
We apprehend that no man who is a friend of the Government, whatever may have been his political antecedents, desires the withdrawal of Major Anderson’s command. Those who profess to favor that policy on the ground that it would conciliate the secessionists, are not Union men at heart. The reverse would be the fact. The secessionists of the South would recognize the evacuation as evidence of the weakness of the Government and of their own strength. It would inspire them with renewed zeal in the prosecution of their treasonable projects; while it would produce a corresponding depression among the people of the loyal States.
This journal has favored an extra session of Congress with express reference to such emergencies as that in which the Administration is now placed. That body, however, could not be called together in time to meet the case of Fort Sumter. Its fate will have been determined within the next ten days. We notice a suggestion in one of our exchanges to send a ship with provisions, but not with reinforcements, to the relief of the Fort, Government making no secret of its undertaking. This would place upon Mr. Jeff Davis the responsibility for firing upon a provision-ship going to the relief of American citizens, or suffering it to quietly accomplish the object of its mission. In the event of the former policy being adopted, the effect upon Southern sentiment, it is thought, would not be favorable to the new Confederacy; while should the latter be adopted the necessity for evacuating the Fort would be removed.
Popular sentiment demands the holding of the Fort until competent military authority pronounces all plans for its relief absolutely impracticable. In this feeling we know the President participates. It is safe to say, therefore, that if it is evacuated at all, it will not be for any purpose of conciliation, but from a sheer military necessity. In the meanwhile, to guard against any subsequent difficulty of a like character, an extra session of Congress seems to be an absolute necessity.