Congress Decides Nothing – War & Peace from the South

Wednesday, February 27, 1861

The Peace Convention taking place at the Willard Hotel in Washington had come to something as close to an agreement as they possibly could concerning the compromises and suggestions the delegates would submit to Congress.

The members of Congress, however, were up to their necks in compromise proposals. Most were variations of the Crittenden compromise, allowing slavery in some territories but not others. There was also a constitutional amendment proposed to guarantee slavery where it existed.

The bill submitted by the Peace Convention offered an array of constitutional amendments of its own: from strengthening the Fugitive Slave Law to yet another version of the Missouri Compromise, to taking the Federal government completely out of the slavery question.

The House couldn’t agree on any compromise and didn’t even bother with the lengthy and redundant Peace Conference proposals.

Every single bill from both Congress and the Peace Convention had to do with slavery. Though nobody seemed to be able to agree on any compromise, they all seemed to agree that fiddling with the slavery question would keep the South from leaving.1

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In some peace-keeping of their own, Jefferson Davis sent three commissioners, Martin Crawford from Georgia, John Forsyth from Alabama and A.B. Roman from Louisiana, to Washington in order to hopefully work out a situation in which the United States recognized the Confederate States. He was hoping that Buchanan might do so prior to Lincoln taking the White House.

Davis first suggested that Vice-president Alexander Stephens make the trip, but Stephens was convinced that Buchanan would have none of it.2

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Governor Pickens of South Carolina, on this date, wrote to President Jefferson Davis asking for military advice. “Of course we feel that our honor and safety require that Fort Sumter should be in our possession at the very earliest moment possible.”

He explained to Davis that he did not want to start a war, but was seriously considering taking Fort Sumter. Should he do it on his own or would he have to wait for Davis to order it?

He had apparently asked for General Daniel Twiggs, who was just relieved of his duties to the United States because he had handed over the Department of Texas to the state of Texas.

Pickens wanted military advice almost as much as he wanted to take Fort Sumter.3



  1. Days of Defiance by Maury Klein. []
  2. Days of Defiance by Maury Klein. []
  3. Official Records, Vol. 1, p 258-259. []
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Congress Decides Nothing – War & Peace from the South by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International

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