IN THE FIRST STAGES OF ITS EXISTENCE CONGRESS BELIEVED THAT ONE of its most urgent tasks was to establish the Confederacy and make the new country known in the family of nations. Most Southerners felt confident that, because of their cotton, the new nation would be universally welcomed. During the first two months Congress thereupon organized a State Department and authorized the President to appoint consuls and commissioners to other countries and to instruct them as he thought advisable. Rhett wanted the post of Secretary of State, but his cooperationist delegation would not support him and Davis offered it to Robert W. Barnwell of South Carolina. Barnwell, however, wished to concentrate his influence on making Memminger Secretary of the Treasury and declined. Though Davis preferred Toombs for this position, he yielded to South Carolina and made Toombs Secretary of State.
On February 12, 1861, Congress took charge of the questions and difficulties between the Southern states and the United States relating to occupation of forts, arsenals, navy yards, and the like; it then authorized the President to appoint three commissioners to settle the problems amicably and to seek recognition from the United States.1 Lincoln thoroughly snubbed these commissioners, and when the Fort Sumter fracas precipitated a shooting war Davis called a special session of Congress for April 29 and described the complete breakdown of relations between the neighboring countries. On May 6 Congress recognized the existence of war and instructed Davis to use the whole land and naval force.2 Finally, Congress ordered that all citizens of hostile nations be declared alien enemies and be either removed or jailed unless they showed intent to become Confederates.3 From then on intercourse between the two nations was largely on matters over which Congress legally had no control.