Official Records

Virginia's Baldwin with Lincoln April 1861

4 APRIL 1861
Colonel Baldwin of Virginia Warns Lincoln
On 4 April 1861 Colonel Baldwin of Virginia was selected by the Virginia convention, a convention of Pro- Union men, to represent them in the presence of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had requested that a Virginia Union man visit his office and speak the sentiments of the Virginia convention.
Baldwin urged President Lincoln to appeal to the American people to settle the questions disturbing the Union in the spirit in which the Constitution was made. He also urged him to withdraw the forces from Sumter and Pickens and declare that he was doing so for the sake of peace.
Baldwin said, " If you take that position, there is national feeling enough in the seceded States themselves and all over the country to rally to your support, and you would gather more friends than any man in the country ever has."
Lincoln replied, " That is not what I am thinking about. If I could be satisfied that I am right, and that I do what is right, I do not care whether people stand by me or not."
Colonel Baldwin continued to plead for a peaceful settlement, but Lincoln's main concern was for revenue:
"What about the revenue? What would I do about the collection of duties?" queried Lincoln.
Baldwin asked him how much he expected to collect.
"Fifty or sixty millions, " answered Lincoln.
Baldwin commented, " Why, sir, four times sixty is two hundred and forty. Say $250,000,000 would be the revenue of your term of the presidency; what is that but a drop in the bucket compared with the cost of such a war as we are threatened with? Let it all go, if necessary, but I do not believe it will be necessary, because I believe you can settle it on the basis I suggest."
Lincoln expressed concern about feeding the troops at Ft Sumter and Baldwin told him. "You know perfectly well that the people of Charleston have been feeding them already."
Baldwin ended his plea with,
"Sir, I tell you, before God and man, that if there is a gun fired at Ft Sumter this thing is gone. And I wish to say to you, Mr. President, with all the solemnity I can possibly summon, that if you intend to do anything to settle this matter you must do it promptly. I think another fortnight will be too late. You have the power now to settle it. You have the choice to make, and you have got to make it very soon. You have, I believe, the power to place yourself up by the side of Washington himself, as the savior of your country, or, by taking a different course of policy, to send down your name on the page of history notorious forever as a man so odious to the American people that, rather than submit to his domination, they would overthrow the best government that God ever allowed to exist."
To his urgings for a peaceful settlement Abraham Lincoln made no pledge or reply. Colonel Baldwin went back to Virginia with no assurance for a step in the direction of a peaceful settlement.
This entire document, which was recorded as The Sworn Testimony of John B. Baldwin, Washington, D.C., February 10th, 1866,

Posted By: Joe Elia
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