Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

Lincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) online

. (page 19 of 41)
Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 41)
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tion, renewed their solicitations for a safe-conduct to Wash-
ington. On the 1 8th, Mr. Greeley wrote to the President
communicating this information, but still making no allusion
whatever to the conditions imposed upon their being re-

The President, meantime, not understanding the cause of
delay in their arrival, sent Major Hay, his private secretary,
to communicate directly with "any persons" professing to
have authority from Davis to treat for peace, and to inform
them, as he had twice before instructed Mr. Greeley to in-
form them, that any proposition for peace, in order to be
received and considered by him, must embrace "the restora-
tion of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the
abandonment of slavery." These instructions were embod-
ied in the letter addressed "to whom it may concern" — and
were delivered by Major May in person to the rebel agents.
As it was the first they had ever heard of any "conditions,"
and as they had been informed by Mr. Greeley that he was
instructed by the President to tender them safe-conduct to
Washington, without any mention of conditions — they were
of course taken by surprise, and naturally enough attributed
to the President the "sudden and entire change of views"
with which they reproach him in their letter to Mr. Greeley
to July 2 1 st. And strangely enough, even after receiving this
letter and being thus apprised of the charge brought against
the President, Mr. Greeley not only failed to relieve him
from it by making public the facts, but joined in ascribing
to Mr. Lincoln the failure of negotiations for peace and the
consequent prolongation of the war. And, according to Mr.
Jewett's statement, Mr. Greeley also authorized him to ex-
press to the rebel commissioners his regrets, that the nego-
tiation should have failed in consequence of the President's
"change of views."

It is not easy now, any more than it was then, to reconcile
Mr. Greeley's action in this matter with fidelity to the Union
cause, or with good faith to the Administration, by which
alone that cause was maintained. The Opposition press made
Mr. Lincoln's alleged tergiversation the ground of fresh and
Vehement attack, while it was used throughout the rebel
States as fresh proof of the faithless character of the Federal


Government, and of the absolute impossibility of making
peace except by successful war. The commissioners them-
selves made a very adroit use of the advantage which Mr.
Greeley's extraordinary course had placed in their hands,
and, in their letter of July 21 st, addressed to him, but in-
tended to be a public impeachment of President Lincoln's
honor and good faith, made a powerful and effective appeal
to the indignant pride of the Southern people and the sym-
pathy of their friends in the Northern States.

The President felt very sensibly the injustice done to him-
self, and the injury done the country, by Mr. Greeley's sup-
pression of these most essential facts, in his intercourse with
the rebel commissioners. As the only mode of placing the
whole subject properly before the people, he applied to Mr.
Greeley for permission to publish the whole correspondence
— omitting only certain passages not at all essential to a full
understanding of the subject, and likely seriously to injure
the Union cause by infusing into the public mind something
of the despondency, which Mr. Greeley himself felt and
openly avowed, concerning the prospects of the country. The
words which Mr. Lincoln desired to have omitted, in the
publication of the correspondence, were the following. In
the letter of July 7 : —

In the second paragraph: the words "and therefore I venture to
remind you that our bleeding, bankrupt, almost dying country also
longs for peace, shudders at the prospect of fresh conscriptions, of
further wholesale devastations, and of new rivers of human blood,
and :" — also the words "now, and is morally certain, unless removed,
to do far greater in the approaching elections."

In the fourth paragraph, the words "If only with a view to the
momentous election soon to occur in North Carolina and of the
draft to be enforced in the Free States, this should be done."

In the last paragraph, the words "It may save us from a Northern

In the letter of July 10th, second paragraph, the words "in season
for effect on the approaching North Carolina election;" and in the
last paragraph, the words "especially those of North Carolina."

And in the letter of July 13th, last paragraph, the words "that a
good influence may even yet be exerted on the North Carolina elec-
tion next month."

Mr. Greeley declined to give his assent to the publication
of the correspondence, unless these phrases should be pub-
lished also. The President accordingly submitted in silence


to the injustice which had been done him, and committed the
whole subject, in the following letter, to the judgment of a
personal and political friend : —

Hon. Henry J. Raymond:

Executive Mansion, Wilmington, August 15, 1864.
My Dear Sir: — I have proposed to Mr. Greeley that the Niagara
correspondence be published, suppressing only the parts of his
letters over which the red-pencil is drawn in the copy which I here-
with send. He declines giving his consent to the publication of his
letters unless these parts be published with the rest. I have con-
cluded that it is better for me to submit, for the time, to the conse-
quences of the false position in which I consider he has placed me,
than to subject the country to the consequences of publishing these
discouraging and injurious parts. I send you this, and the accom-
panying copy, not for publication, but merely to explain to you, and
that you may preserve them until their proper time shall come.
Yours truly, Abraham Lincoln.

This public statement of the facts of this case is deemed by
the author due to the memory of Mr. Lincoln. He Has been
widely censured for entering into communication with rebel
agents at all; — but this conespondence shows that Mr.
Greeley's assurances, and his pressing entreaties, had made it
necessary for him, either to open the way for peace negotia-
tions or reject the opportunity, which one of the most influ-
ential leaders of his own party thus assured him was offered,
for an honorable termination of the war. He was charged
with having finally insisted upon certain concessions as the
basis of an interview, after having first promised it un-
conditionally; but this correspondence shows that these con 1
ditions were distinctly stated at the very outset, but were
withheld by Mr. Greeley from the knowledge of the rebel
commissioners. It is due to justice, as well as to Mr. Lin-
coln, that impressions so injurious and so false should no
longer prevail.

The effect of this attempt at negotiation upon the public
mind was, for the moment, unfavorable to the Union cause.
The people, responding heartily to the demand of the Balti-
more Platform, that no peace should be accepted by the Gov-
ernment on any terms sort of an unconditional surrender,
were distrustful of negotiations which might look to some
other issue. The charge of bad faith urged against the Presi-
dent stimulated the Opposition, and, in the absence of the
facts, embarrassed his supporters ; while the fact that Mr.


Lincoln insisted upon the abandonment of slavery as one of
the conditions of peace, was cited by the opponents of his
Administration as proof that the object of the war was
changed, and that it was to be waged hereafter, not solely for
the preservation of the Union, but for the emancipation of
the slaves. In the absence of any opposing candidate, these
and countless other charges were urged against the Adminis-
tration with marked effect, and added very materially to the
popular despondency which the lack of military success had
naturally engendered.

Eager to avail themselves to the utmost of this auspicious
condition of political affairs, and embarrassed not a little by
discordant sentiments in their own ranks, the Democratic
party had postponed their National Convention for the nom-
ination of a President from the 2d of June to the 29th of
August. But the delay from which they expected so much,
in fact,' betrayed them into a confidence which proved fatal to
their hopes. Their expectations, however, were not without
reason. The state of the public mind was favorable to the
success of their plans. The assaults upon the Administration
had grown more virulent, and seemed to produce more effect.
Many of its friends, who, when Mr. Lincoln was renominated,
had considered the main work of the political campaign over,
had grown gradually doubtful. The uncertainty as to the
course which the Democratic party would pursue compelled
them almost to inaction, at least so far as offensive warfare
was concerned, while they were themselves exposed to every
kind of attack. And when the time for the Chicago Con-
vention came, its managers gathered to it with high hopes,
believing that if they could only unite upon a candidate and
a platform which should not violently offend either wing of
the party, their success was certain. The peace wing of the
party, however, had been relatively strengthened in the in-
terim. The delays and losses of the armies, the hope de-
ferred to which the long and bloody struggle in Virginia and
in Georgia had familiarized but not inured the popular heart,
the rise in gold, the call for five hundred thousand more men
— all these things had given them strength, and made them
more vehement and more exacting. Their great champion,
Mr. Vallandigham, had surreptitiously returned from Can-
ada, in violation of the sentence which ordered his banish-


ment from the lines during the war, and had remained in
open defiance of the Government, whose failure to arrest and
send him back, or otherwise to punish him, was treated then
as an indication of weakness rather than of wisdom. He and
his friends were active everywhere, and did not hesitate to
declare that they must have a peace candidate, or platform,
one or both, at all hazards, and threatened to nominate a can-
didate of their own, if this course was not pursued. It can-
not be doubted that the fatal course which was finally adopted
by the Convention was largely due to the efforts of Mr. Val-
landigham, and to the encouragement which his friends re-
ceived from the apparent unwillingness of the Government to
molest him on his return.

The Convention met in Chicago on Monday, August 29.
It was called to order by August Belmont, of New York, the
Chairman of the National Committee, on whose motion Ex-
Governor Bigler, of Pennsylvania, was appointed temporary
Chairman. The business transacted on the first day em-
braced the appointment of Committees on Credentials, Or-
ganization, and Resolutions, of which latter committee Mr.
Vallandigham was chosen chairman.

On Tuesday the committees reported. There were no con-
tested delegations except from Kentucky, and this question
the committee settled by admitting both delegations and di-
viding the vote between them. Louisiana and the Territories
had sent delegates, but these were at once excluded. Gover-
nor Horatio Seymour, of New York, was chosen President
of the Convention, with twenty-one vice-presidents and secre-
taries. In the afternoon, the platform was reported.

The second resolution, which embodied the spirit of the
Convention, and shaped the succeeding canvass, was as fol-
lows : —

Resolved, That this Convention does explicitly declare, as the
sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to re-
store the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the
pretence of military necessity or war power higher than the Consti-
tution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part,
and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the
material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, hu-
manity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts
be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate
convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that,


at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the
basis of the Federal Union of the States.

The other resolutions assailed the Administration for its
military interference in elections, its arbitrary arrests, sup-
pression of freedom of speech and of the press, denial of the
right of asylum, imposing test-oaths, taking away arms from
the people (as had been done where there was danger of
armed insurrection on the part of local associations), and
disregard of duty towards our soldiers who were prisoners
of war ; and they extended "the sympathy of the Democratic
party" to the soldiers and the sailors.

Mr. Long, of Ohio, who, as will be recollected, had been
publicly censured by Congress for a speech bordering upon
treason, endeavored to amend the resolutions so as to "place
the Convention in a position favoring peace beyond the mis-
takes of any equivocal language." Under the working of the
previous question, however, Mr. Long was silenced, and the
resolutions were adopted with but four dissenting votes.

The Convention then proceeded to the nomination of a
candidate for President. The nomination of General Mc-
Clellan was the signal for a fierce attack upon him by some
of the ultra peace men, but he was vigorously defended, and
the debate lasted till dark, compelling an adjournment. The
vote was taken as soon as the Convention met in the morn-
ing, and General McClellan received one hundred and sixty-
two votes out of two hundred and twenty-eight, and this
number was increased to two hundred and two and a half
before the ballot was announced; the rest having been cast
for Thomas H. Seymour, of Connecticut.

For Vice-President, the Convention nominated George H.
Pendleton, of Ohio, whose position was unqualifiedly among
the ultra peace men.

Mr. Wickliffe, of Kentucky, saying that "the delegates
from the West were of the opinion that circumstances may
occur between noon of to-day and the fourth of March next,
which will make it proper for the Democracy of the country
to meet in convention again," moved the following resolu-
tion : —

Resolved, That this Convention shall not be dissolved by ad-
journment at the close of its business, but shall remain organized,
subject to be called at any time and place that the Executive Na-
tional Committee shall designate.


This suggestive resolution was unanimously adopted, and
the Convention then separated.

The action of the Convention was eminently cheering to
the friends of the Administration. It was more open and
honest than they had anticipated; it avowed sentiments
which, though entertained, it was feared would be concealed.
The whole tone of the Convention had been in opposition to
the popular feeling on the war. The ultra peace men had
been prominent in its deliberations. Vallandigham, Harris,
Long, Pendleton, men who had done their utmost to help on
the rebellion and hamper the Government, had been its ruling
spirits. The tone of its speeches had been in entire sym-
pathy with the rebels, for whom no words of reproof were
uttered, while they were unmeasured in their denunciation of
Mr. Lincoln and his Administration. The news of the fall of
Fort Morgan had come in upon them as they sat in conclave,
but it won no cheers from that assembly for the success of
the Old Flag and the leaf of imperishable renown which
added to the full wreath of laurel, which already crowned our
army and our navy. Its resolutions had declared that the
war was a failure, and called for an immediate cessation of
hostilities; while, as a striking commentary upon this decla-
ration, the very day after the Convention adjourned brought
the news of the fall of Atlanta and the glorious success of
that grand march of Sherman's army which turned the tide
of war, and contributed so largely to its final success.

The Union party instantly and joyfully accepted the issue
thus boldly tendered. They knew that, once fairly before the
country, the result could not be doubtful. The people did
not believe that the effort to maintain the Union by force of
arms had yet proved "a failure." They did not believe that
the Union could be preserved by negotiation, and they were
not in favor of a cessation of hostilities until victory should be
secured. The issue had been fairly made between the two
parties in their respective declarations at Baltimore and Chi-
cago. The former demanded a vigorous prosecution of the
war, and denounced all terms of peace short of an uncondi-
tional surrender of the rebels; the latter demanded a suspen-
sion of hostilities and a resort to negotiation.

The great body of the Democratic party throughout the
country, sympathizing with the national sentiment, felt that


they had been placed in a false position by the action of their
convention. An effort was made to stem the rising tide of
public condemnation by General McClellan, their candidate
for the Presidency, in his letter of acceptance. He declared
himself in favor of preserving the Union by a vigorous prose-
cution of the war, if all the "resources of statesmanship,"
which should be first employed, should prove inadequate.
The letter, however, was without effect. It did something to
alienate the peace men who had controlled the Chicago Con-
vention, but nothing to disturb the conviction of the people
that the same men would control General McClellan also in
the event of his election.

The political campaign was thus fairly opened. The Fre-
mont movement, which had but little strength from the start,
now came to an inglorious end. Shortly before the meeting
of the Chicago Convention, some friends of General Fre-
mont, with some faint hope of compelling Mr. Lincoln to
withdraw, had written to the General to know if he would
withdraw from, the canvass, provided Mr. Lincoln would do
so. In reply, General Fremont, saying that he had no right
to act independently of the men who nominated him, sug-
gested that some understanding should be had between the
supporters of the Baltimore and Cleveland Conventions, with
a view to the convocation of a third convention ; for, as he
said, "a really popular convention, upon a broad and liberal
basis, so that it could be regarded as a convocation in mass
of the people, and not the work of politicians, would com-
mand public confidence." The proposition, however, com-
manded not the slightest attention; and after the Demo-
cratic nomination was made, the lines were drawn so closely
that the pressure of public sentiment compelled the absolute
withdrawal of General Fremont, which took place on the 21st
of September. From that time forward the contest was be-
tween Mr. Lincoln, representing the sentiments of the Balti-
more Platform on the one hand, and General McClellan, rep-
resenting the sentiments of the Chicago Platform on the
other. The lines were withdrawn, and the canvass was prose-
cuted with earnestness, but with less than the usual acrimony
and intemperate zeal. It was felt to be a contest of principle,
and was carried on with a gravity and decorum befitting its


One of the incidents upon which great stress was laid by
the Opposition in the canvass, arose out of some proceedings
in Tennessee, of which Andrew Johnson still remained mili-
tary governor, with reference to the calling of a convention
and holding an election in the State. Several efforts had
been made in that direction during the year. As early as
January 26th, Governor Johnson had issued a proclamation,
ordering an election for county officers, and in his proclama-
tion had prescribed stringent qualifications for voters, and a
stringent oath which every voter must take. Some of the
judges of election thought, however, that it was enough to
require of voters to take the oath of the President's amnesty
proclamation. Accordingly, one of them wrote to Washing-
ton on the subject, as follows : —

Nashville, February 20, 1864.
Hon. W. H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C. :

In county and State elections, must citizens of Tennessee take the
oath prescribed by Governor Johnson, or will the President's oath
of amnesty entitle them to vote? I have been appointed to hold the
March election in Cheatham County, and wish to act understand-
ing^. Warren Jordan.

The President himself answered by telegraph as follows : —

Washington, February 20, 1864.
Warren Jordan, Nashville :

In county elections you had better stand by Governor Johnson's
plan; otherwise you will have conflict and confusion. I have seen
his plan. A. Lincoln.

This election was held with but indifferent success. A con-
vention was also held in May at Knoxville, but took no im-
portant action. But, in September, another convention was
called together for the purpose of reorganizing the State and
taking part in the approaching Presidential election. The
convention met, and determined that the election should
be held. They adopted an electoral ticket, and provided for
ascertaining the qualifications of voters. Among other
things, they provided a stringent oath, to be administered to
registers and officers holding the elections, and requested
Governor Johnson to execute the resolutions which they had
adopted "in such manner as he might think would best sub-
serve the interests of the Government."

Governor Johnson accordingly, on the 30th of September,


issued a proclamation, directing that the election be opened
and held, and that at such election "all citizens and soldiers,
being free white men, twenty-one years of age, citizens of the
United States, and for six months prior to the election citi-
zens of the State of Tennessee, who have qualified themselves
by registration and who take the oath prescribed" by the con-
vention, should be entitled to vote. The oath prescribed was
as follows: —

"I solemnly swear that I will henceforth support the Constitution
of the United States, and defend it against the assaults of all ene-
mies; that I am an active friend of the Government of the United
States, and the enemy of the so-called Confederate States^ that I
ardently desire the suppression of the present rebellion against the
Government of the United States; that I sincerely rejoice in the
triumph of the armies and navies of the United States, and in the
defeat and overthrow of the armies, navies, and of all armed com-
binations in the interest of the so-called Confederate States; that
I will cordially oppose all armistices and negotiations for peace with
rebels in arms, until the Constitution of the United States, and all
laws and proclamations made in pursuance thereof, shall be estab-
lished over all the people of every State and Territory embraced
within the National Union; and that I will heartily aid and assist
the loyal people in whatever measures may be adopted for the at-
tainment of these ends; and further, that I take this oath freely and
voluntarily, and without mental reservation. So help me God."

An electoral ticket in favor of General McClellan had
previously been nominated by persons not in sympathy with
the State Convention, nor with the National Administration,
and these gentlemen, on the appearance of this proclamation,
drew up a protest, which they addressed to the President.
They protested against Governor Johnson's assuming to dic-
tate the qualifications of voters, which they said were pre-
scribed by the laws of Tennessee, a copy of which they an-
nexed ; and they protested against the oath.

This protest was presented to the President by Mr. J. Lellyet,
one of the signers, who sent to a New York newspaper the fol-
lowing account of the interview: —

Washington, October 15.

I called upon the President to-day, and presented and read to him
the subjoined protest. Having concluded, Mr. Lincoln responded: —

"May I inquire how lcng it took you and the New York politicians
to concoct that paper?"

I replied, "It was concocted in Nashville, without communication
with any but Tennesseeans. We communicated with citizens of


Tennessee outside of Nashville, but not with New York politicians."

"I will answer," said Mr. Lincoln, emphatically, "that I expect to

Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and times : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 41)