WASHINGTON CITY, Jan. 15, 1861.
Hon. Isaac W. Hayne:
SIR: We are apprised that you visit Washington as an Envoy from the State of South Carolina, bearing a communication from the Governor of your State to the President of the United States in relation to Fort Sumter. Without knowing its contents, we venture to request you to defer its delivery to the President for a few days, or until you and he have considered the suggestions which we beg leave to submit.
We know that the possession of Fort Sumter by troops of the United States, coupled with the circumstances under which it was taken, is the chief, if not only, source of difficulty between the Government of South Carolina and that of the United States. We would add, that we, too, think it a just cause of irritation and of apprehension on the part of your State. But we have also assurances, notwithstanding the circumstances under which Maj. ANDERSON left Fort Moultrie and entered Fort Sumter with the forces under his command, that it was not taken, and is not held, with any hostile or unfriendly purpose towards your State; but merely as property of the United States, which the President deems it his duty to protect and preserve.
We will not discuss the question of right or duty on the part of either Government touching that property, of the late acts of either in relation thereto; but we think that, without any compromise of right or breach of duty on either side, an amicable adjustment of the matter of differences may and should be adopted. We desire to see such an adjustment, and to prevent war or the shedding of blood. We represent States which have already seceded from the United States, or will have done so before the first of February next, and which will meet your State in Convention on or before the 15th of that month. Our people feel that they have a common destiny with your people, and expect to form with them, in that Convention a new Confederation and Provisional Government. We must and will share your fortunes, suffering with you the evils of war, if it cannot be avoided; and enjoying with you the blessings of peace, if it can be preserved. We, therefore, think it especially due from South Carolina to our States -- to say nothing of other Slaveholding States -- that she should, so far as she can consistently with her honor, avoid initiating hostilities between her and the United States or any other Power. We have the public declaration of the President, that he has not the constitutional power or the will to make war on South Carolina, and that the public peace shall not be disturbed by any act of hostility towards your State.
We therefore, see no reason why there may not be a settlement of existing, difficulties, if time be given for calm and deliberate counsel with those States which are equally involved with South Carolina. We, therefore, trust that an arrangement will be agreed on between you and the President, at least till the 15th of February next; by which time your and our States may, in Convention, devise a wise, just and peaceable solution of existing difficulties.
In the meantime, we think your State should suffer Major ANDERSON to obtain necessary supplies of food, fuel or water, and enjoy free communication, by post or special messenger, with the President, upon the understanding that the President will not send him reinforcements during the same period. We propose to submit this proposition and your answer to the President.
If not clothed with power to make such arrangement, then we trust that you will submit our suggestions to the Governor of your State for his instructions. Until you have received and communicated his response to the President, of course your State will not attack Fort Sumter, and the President will not offer to reinforce it.
We most respectfully submit these propositions, in the earnest hope that you, or the proper authority of your State may accede to them. We have the honor to be, with profound esteem, your obedient servants,
LOUIS T. WIGFALL, C.C. CLAY, JR.,
JOHN HEMPHILL, BENJ. FITZPATRICK,
D.L. YULEE, A. IVERSON.
S.R. MALLORY, JOHN SLIDELL,
JEFFERSON DAVIS, J.P. BENJAMIN.