-- Hesitation and Decision --

Friday March 29, 1861

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The Cabinet Meets

With a critical cabinet meeting scheduled for this day, Lincoln passed a sleepless night and arose on this Good Friday feeling "in the dumps."

The cabinet meeting began at noon. All the issues associated with Sumter and Pickens were before them, including an idea of Lincoln's which modified Fox's plan. Instead of undertaking a military expedition to reinforce and resupply the fort, an attempt would be made to peaceably land only provisions. There would be no reinforcement of Sumter unless this effort to send "bread" to the beleaguered garrison was resisted. The government would also communicate to South Carolina officials its intentions "to provision the fort peaceably if unmolested."

The discussion ranged so widely that Attorney General Bates complained that it was hard to arrive at definite conclusions. He, therefore, suggested that the President state his questions in order, and require the members to respond directly. Bates led the way by writing and, then, reading his opinions. One by one, the other cabinet officers presented their recommendations, with the exception of Secretary of War Cameron, who was absent.


Bibliography: Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 3:429, 4: 33-34; Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 77-80; Potter, Lincoln and His Party, pp. 371-72; Beale, ed., Diary of Edward Bates, p. 180.

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