Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Reverdy Johnson (1861)

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Hon. Reverdy Johnson

My dear Sir: Your note of this morning is just received. I forebore to answer yours of the 22d because of my aversion (which I thought you understood,) to getting on paper, and furnishing new grounds for misunderstanding.

I do say the sole purpose of bringing troops here is to defend this capital

I do say the sole purpose to invade Virginia, with them or any other troops, as I understand the word invasion. But suppose Virginia sends her troops, or admits others through her borders, to assail this capital, as I not to repel them, even to the crossing of the Potomac if I can?

Suppose Virginia erects, or permits to be erected, batteries on the opposite shore, to bombard the city, are we to stand still and see it done? In a word, if Virginia strikes us, are we not to strike back, and as effectively as we can?

Again, are we not to hold Fort Monroe (for instance) if we can? I have not objection to declare a thousand times that I have no purpose to invade Virginia or any other State, but I do not mean to let them invade us without striking back.

Yours truly

A. Lincoln


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