As a part of the history of the times we publish the following document. It will be seen that Lincoln's mercenary plainly told Gen. Buckner that the commerce of the citizens of Kentucky was no less exempt from seizure and confiscation than that of citizens of the seceded States.
HEADQUARTERS, KY., STATE GUARD,
LOUISVILLE, May 3, 1861.
Sir-On the 29th ult, in company with Senator Johnson, of McCracken county, I called on the commanding officer of the military force now stationed at Cairo, Illinois. The object of our visit was to ascertain, in an official form, the authority under which that force acted, and the object of occupying that station in reference to the citizens or to the State of Kentucky.
I informed the commanding officer that our purpose was to maintain with our neighbors relations of the most cordial friendship, to abstain, ourselves from any acts which might have even the appearance of an aggression upon their rights, and claim in return an equal respect from them; and,that I desire to obtain from him such assurances as would tend to quiet the excitement occasioned in Kentucky by the seizure and detention at Cairo of private property by an armed force under his command. I had previously, on the 19th of April, instructed the commander of the active militia in that section of Kentucky "to spare no exertions to prevent all lawless action or action calculated to precipitate difficulties."
In reply to my inquiries, the commanding officer at Cairo stated that he was then acting and had been acting under the orders of the Governor of Illinois, but expected very soon to be acting under the authority of the United States; that he had made no seizures of boats or property except under special instructions; that arms or ammunition belonging to the State of Kentucky, in passing from a United States arsenal would not be seized under the instructions under which he then acted.
I asked if arms or ammunition, the property of citizens of Kentucky, and procured for their own use, would under his instructions, be seized or detained at Cairo. He. replied that they would not, but qualified his reply by stating, that it would depend upon the point to which they might be destined; if for instance they were destined to Columbus, in Kentucky, he would not permit such property to pass his post. He further qualified his answer by remarking that he wished to be fully understood, and that "it would not be safe" for any large quantities of arms or ammunition, however destined, to attempt to
pass his post. I asked him, in reply, if I understood him to imply that the Governor of Illinois claimed the right to decide what citizens of Kentucky should, and what citizens should not be entitled to receive property which they had provided for their own use?
He replied that no such claim was asserted, but that he would seize such arms on the principle of self-defence, claiming the right to detain arms which he had reason to think would be used against himself. I asked if there was any reason to believe that any hostile purpose was designed by the citizens of Columbus or, its vicinity? He replied that he was satisfied such purpose was designed, both by the citizens of Columbus and persons from other States co-operating with them; that his post had been threatened from that quarter, and that the citizens of that place. had gone so far as to threaten to prevent the trips of the steamer which connected that point with Cairo. I asked if he had notified the authorities of Kentucky of the hostile purpose of its citizens, or of the designs of the citizens of other States to use her territory for aggressive purposes? He replied that he had not. I suggested that such a coarse would be advisable before adopting towards the citizens of Kentucky the policy which he indicated; that the policy of Kentucky was not to intermeddle with the affairs of any of her neighbors; and that she felt competent to prevent aggressions on her neighbors through her territory, if she were notified that such aggression was designed; and that she did not recognize the right of other parties to pass through her territories for the purpose of redressing their grievances against each other. He replied that the question of such a right would involve the discussion of many points; to which I replied that the question as between Kentucky and Illinois did not admit of argument; that the citizens of Kentucky recognized no authority in the Governor of Illinois to invade the jurisdiction of Kentucky or to interfere with the rights of her citizens.
I further assured the officer in command that I would visit Columbus, in order to ascertain the correctness of his information. My letter to Col. Prentiss, herewith enclosed, will show that he labored under an entire misapprehension of the facts.
In conclusion, I asked Col. Prentiss if his instructions contemplated the occupancy by his forces of any part of the soil of Kentucky; to which he replied, unhesitatingly, that they did not.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your ob't serv't,
S.B. Buckner, Inspector-General.
To the Adj't Gen. of Ky., Frankfort.
Sir: I have instituted proper inquiries at this point in reference to the subject of our interview yesterday. I assured you that I was of opinion that your information in regard to any aggressive purpose on your post or State from this point was incorrect, My inquiries amongst the citizens and authorities confirm me in my opinion. No hostile purpose has been attempted or conceived at this point or, as far as the citizens here know, by the people South of here with a view of directing it through this point or any other part of Kentucky against any part of Illinois.
Your information in reference to the proposed stopping of the steamer Cheeny by the citizens of this place is equally incorrect. Their indignation on that subject is confined entirely to what they regard as an unauthorized detention of that steamer under your authority at Cairo. It is to be regretted that you felt authorized on such imperfect information to express to me your purpose to prevent the passage of any arms or ammunition which the citizens of this place or vicinity might wish to provide for their own use. Under the circumstances such an act, when no aggressive purpose is even meditated here, would not even find its justification in the plea of self-defence, which you urged, much less in law, justice, or that comity which should exist between neighboring States.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant, S. B. Buckner,
Inspector-General of Kentucky.
- Nashville, Union And American, Nashville, Tenn. Wednesday, May 8, 1861. Vol. XXVI. Number 33. Pg. 1