Letters between Governor Francis W. Pickens and President James Buchanan, 17-18 December 1860

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In this letter dated 17 December 1860 and marked "strictly confidential," Governor Francis W. Pickens wrote to President James Buchanan, "with a sincere desire to prevent a collision of force," asking him to allow South Carolina to take over Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.He asked that a small force, "not exceeding twenty-five men and an officer", be allowed to take possession to ease tensions "and give a feeling of safety to the community."With the Convention of the People of South Carolina in session to deliberate "upon the gravest and most momentous questions," Pickens noted the "excitement of the great masses" and urged the president to help him "spare the effusion of blood." Pickens informed Buchanan that United States troops were currently stationed at Fort Moultrie and that transferring Fort Sumter to the state "could be done with perfect propriety."

In the Buchanan’s reply to Governor Pickens, dated 18 December, the president did not respond directly about the question of Fort Sumter. Instead, he stated that he assumed South Carolina was "deliberating on the question of seceding from the Union" and that he would do all possible "to avert so dread a catastrophe" as secession. In an effort to try to avoid secession, Buchanan offered the services of Caleb Cushing to come to South Carolina to act as a negotiator on his behalf.

Citation:

Governor Francis W. Pickens to President James Buchanan. 17 December 1860. S511001.  Letters, Telegrams, and Proclamations.  Governor Francis W. Pickens papers.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

President James Buchanan to Governor Francis W. Pickens. 18 December 1860. S511001.  Letters, Telegrams, and Proclamations.  Governor Francis W. Pickens papers.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.

Indicator 3-4.4 Outline the course of the Civil War and South Carolina’s role in significant events, including the Secession Convention, the firing on Fort Sumter, the Union blockade of Charleston, and Sherman’s march through South Carolina.

Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.

Indicator 4-6.3 Explain how specific events and issues led to the Civil War, including the sectionalism fueled by issues of slavery in the territories, states’ rights, the election of 1860, and secession.

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.

Indicator 8-3.4 Compare the attitudes of the unionists, cooperationists, and secessionists in South Carolina and summarize the reasons that the members of the South Carolina secession convention in 1860 voted unanimously to secede from the Union, including concerns about states’ rights and fears about abolition.

Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.

Indicator USHC-4.2 Explain how the political events and issues that divided the nation led to civil war, including the compromises reached to maintain the balance of free and slave states, the successes and failures of the abolitionist movement, the conflicting views on states’ rights and federal authority, the emergence of the Republican Party and its win in 1860, and the formation of the Confederate States of America.

Additional Flash Documents:

Buchanan Letter

Related Documents:

A.G. Magrath Letter to J.W. Hayne concerning Fort Sumter

Governor Pickens Letter to President Jefferson Davis as to R.E. Lee

Pickens Proclamation

 

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