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 25 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 25 of 41)
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summate by the votes of the States that which Congress so nobly be-
gan yesterday. (Appkuse and cries, "They will do it," &c.) He had
the honor to inform those present that Illinois had already done the
work. Maryland was about half through, but he felt proud that Illi-
nois was a little ahead

He thought this measure was a very fitting if not an indispensable
adjunct to the winding up of the great difficulty. He wished the
reunion of all the States perfected, and so effected as to remove all
causes of disturbance in the future; and, to attain this end, it was
necessary that the original disturbing cause should, if possible, be
rooted out. He thought all would bear him witness that he had never
shrunk from doing all that he could to eradicate slavery, by issuing
an Emancipation Proclamation. But that proclamation falls short of
what the amendment will be when fully consummated. A question
might be raised whether the proclamation was legally valid. It might
be added, that it only aided those who came into our lines, and that
it was inoperative as to those who did not give themselves up; or
that it would have no effect upon the children of the slaves born
hereafter ; in fact, it would be urged that it did not meet the evil. But
this amendment is a king's cure for all evils. It winds the whole
thing up. He would repeat, that it was the fitting if not the indis-
pensable adjunct to the consummation of the great game we are
playing. He could not but congratulate all present — himself, the
country, and the whole world — upon this great moral victory.


In addition to the general satisfaction felt by the whole
country at the passage of this amendment, it carried special
joy to that very large class of people who had feared that
the war might end without securing the abolition of slavery.
From the very beginning there had been a powerful pres-
sure in favor of an adjustment with the dicontented and
rebellious South, and this had led, as we have already seen,
to repeated attempts at negotiation on behalf of the con-
tending forces. The organized authorities on either side
maintained their attitude of mutual defiance ; but individuals
on both sides kept up a steady and confident attempt, by
personal effort, to bring the parties into such a position that
they could not avoid negotiations for peace, without sub-
jecting themselves to the injurious imputation of preferring
war. It was remembered that during our war with Mexico,
while neither party sued for peace, and while both Govern-
ments repudiated all thought of desiring it, peace was forced
upon them by the unauthorized and irresponsible negotia-
tions of a private citizen,* who secured from the Mexican
Government terms which the American authorities, out of
deference to the sentiments of their own people, did not dare
refuse. The incident was a perpetual stimulant to personal
ambition, and the country was scarcely ever free, for a month
at a time, from rumors of pending negotiations for a speedy
peace. During the months of December and January these
rumors had been especially rife, and had created a good deal
of public anxiety.

The whole country had come to regard the strength of the
rebellion as substantially broken. In men, in resources of
every kind, in modes of communication, and in the spirit
with which the contest was carried on, the rebels were
known to be rapidly and fatally failing; and it was almost
universally believed that a vigorous and steady prosecution
of the war would speedily destroy the rebel organization,
capture its capital, disperse its armies, and compel an abso-
lute and unconditional submission to the national authority.
It was not, therefore, without a good deal of solicitude that
the public learned that Mr. Francis P. Blair, an able, resolute,
and experienced politician, had left Washington for Rich-

*Nicholas P. Trist.


mond, armed with a pass from President Lincoln, and that
the real object of. his visit was to prevail upon Jefferson
Davis to send, or receive, commissioners to treat of peace
between the contending parties. The rumor proved to be
substantially true. The President had given Mr. Blair a
pass through our lines and back. He had gone to Richmond,
and had held free conferences with Mr. Davis and other
members of the Rebel Government. He returned to Wash-
ington on the 16th of January, bringing with him a written
assurance, addressed to himself, from Jefferson Davis, of
his willingness to enter into negotiations for peace, to re-
ceive a commissioner whenever one should be sent, and of
his readiness, whenever Mr. Blair could promise that he
would be received, to appoint such a commissioner, minister,
or other agent, and thus "renew the effort to enter into a
conference with a view to secure peace between the two
countries." Mr. Blair presented this letter to President
Lincoln, who at once authorized him to return to Richmond,
carrying with him his written assurance that he had con-
stantly been, was then, and should continue to be, "ready to
receive any agent whom Mr. Davis, or any other influential
person now resisting the national authority, may informally
send me, with a view of securing peace to the people of our
common country." Mr. Blair left Washington on the 20th
of January for Richmond, and on the next day placed in the
hands of Mr. Davis this response of President Lincoln to
his previous assurance; and Mr. Davis then learned that
commissioners from him could be received to treat of peace,
only on the assumption that the people of the United States
still had one "common country," and not on the assumption,
which Mr. Davis had advanced, that they were divided into
two independent powers.

In consequence of these communications, on the 29th of
January, three persons, Alexander H. Stephens, R. M. T.
Hunter, and J. A. Campbell, made application to General
Ord, the commander of the advanced portion of the Army
of the Potomac, for permission to enter our lines, and to
proceed to Washington as peace commissioners. The appli-
cation was referred to the President, who granted permis-
sion for the three persons named to proceed to Fortress
Monroe and there hold an informal • conference, with some


person or persons to be designated for that purpose, on the
express condition that the peace proposed to be_secured
should be "for the people of our common country/ 5 This
response led the commissioners, on the 1st of February, to
make an application directly to Lieutenant-General Grant
for the permission they had solicited, viz., to go to Wash-
ington to confer with President Lincoln concerning peace
on the basis of his letter to Mr. Blair, but "without any per-
sonal compromise on any question in the letter." Not an-
ticipating such a proviso, which in effect waived entirely
what he had laid down as the sine qua non of even an in-
formal conference on the subject of peace, the President had
on the 31st of January directed Mr. Seward, the Secretary
of State, to proceed to Fortress Monroe for the purpose of
conferring with the three commissioners. He was instructed
to insist upon three things as indispensable: — 1. The restora^
tion of the national authority throughout all the States. 2.
No receding from the position of the National Executive on
the subject of slavery. 3. No cessation of hostilities short
of an end of the war and the disbanding of the forces hostile
to the Government. Upon this basis Mr. Seward was to
hear whatever the commissioners might have to say, and
report it to the President; but he was not to definitely con-
summate anything. Under these instructions, Mr. Seward
reached Fortress Monroe, where he arrived at ten o'clock
on the evening of the 1st of February. Upon the receipt
at the hands of Major Eckert, his messenger, of the terms
in which the rebel commissioners had couched their request
to General Grant for a conference, the President decided
to recall the Secretary of State and terminate the attempted
negotiation; but on the receipt of a dispatch from Genera!
Grant, expressing his personal belief that the commissioners
were sincere in their desire for peace, and his strong convic-
tion that a personal interview with them on the part of the
President was highly desirable, President Lincoln changed
his purpose and proceeded at once to Fortress Monroe,
where he arrived on the evening of February 2d. A letter
from the three commissioners to Major Eckert was here
shown to him, in which was embodied the note of their
instructions from Mr. Davis, in which they were directed to
confer concerning peace between the "two countries." But


a subsequent note, addressed by them to General Grant, de-
clared their readiness to confer with the President upon the
terms which he had prescribed, or any terms and conditions
which he might propose, "not inconsistent with the essential
principles of self-government and popular rights on which
our institutions are founded.'' They declared their earnest
wish to ascertain, after a free interchange of ideas and in-
formation, upon what principles and terms, if any, a just and
honorable peace might be secured without the further effusion
of blood; and they sought the conference for that purpose
and with these views.

On the morning of the 3d of February, President Lincoln
and Secretary Seward held a conference with the three com-
missioners of several hours' duration. It ended without
result. The most authentic statement of what occurred on
that occasion is given in the following extract from a dispatch
immediately transmitted by the Secretary of State to Mr.
Adams, our minister in England : —

The Richmond party approached the discussion rather indirectly,
and at no time did they make categorical demands, or tender formal
stipulations or absolute refusals. Nevertheless, during the conference,
which lasted four hours, the several points at issue between the Gov-
ernment and the insurgents were distinctly raised, and discussed fully,
intelligently, and in an amicable spirit. What the insurgent party
seemed chiefly to favor was a postponement of the question of sep-
aration upon which the war is waged, and a mutual direction of the
efforts of the Government, as weli as those of the insurgents, to some
extrinsic policy or scheme for a season, during which passions might
be expected to subside, and the armies be reduced, and trade and
intercourse between the people of the two sections be resumed. It
was suggested by them that through such postponement we might
now have immediate peace, with some not very certain prospect of an
ultimate satisfactory adjustment of political relations between the
Government and the States, section, or people now engaged in con-
flict with it.

The suggestion, though deliberately considered, was nevertheless
regarded by the President as one of armistice or truce, and he an-
nounced that we can agree to no cessation or suspension of hostili-
ties, except on the basis of the disbandment of the insurgent forces
and the recognition of the national authority throughout all the States
in the Union. Collaterally, and in subordination to the proposition
which was thus announced, the anti-slavery policy of the United
States was reviewed in all its bearings, and the President announced
that he must not be expected to recede from the positions he had
heretofore assumed in his Proclamation of Emancipation, and other
documents, as these positions were reiterated in his annual message.
It was further declared by the President that the complete restoration


of the national authority everywhere was an indispensable condition
of any assent on our part to whatever form of peace might be pro-
posed. The President assured the other party that while he musi
adhere to these positions, he would be prepared, so far as power is
lodged with the Executive, to exercise liberality. Its power, however,
is limited by the Constitution; and, when peace should be made, Con-
gress must necessarily act in regard to appropriations of money, and
to the admission of representatives from the insurrectionary States.

The Richmond party were then informed that Congress had, on the
31st ult, adopted by a constitutional majority a joint resolution sub-
mitting to the several States the proposition to abolish slavery
throughout the Union, and that there is every reason to expect that
it will be accepted by three-fourths of the States, so as to become a
part of the national organic law.

The report of the conference and its results, made by the
rebel authorities, is embodied in the following message from
Jefferson Davis, which was sent in to the rebel Legislature
on the 5th of February: —

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate
States of America :

Having recently received a written notification which satisfied me
that the President of the United States was disposed to confer in-
formally with unofficial agents that might be sent by me with a view
to the restoration of peace, I requested Hon. Alexander H. Stephens,
Hon. R. M. T. Hunter, and Hon. John A. Campbell to proceed
through our lines to hold a conference with Mr. Lincoln, or such
persons as he might depute to represent him.

I herewith submit, for the information of Congress, the report of
the eminent citizens above named, showing that the enemy refuse to
enter into negotiations with the Confederate States, or any one of
them separately, or to give our people any other terms or guarantees
than those which a conqueror may grant, or permit us to have peace
on any other basis than our unconditional submission to their rule,
coupled with the acceptance of their recent legislation, including an
amendment to the Constitution for the emancipation of negro slaves,
and with the right on the part of the Federal Congress to legislate
on the subject of the relations between the white and black popu-
lation of each State.

Such is, as I understand, the effect of the amendment to the Con-
stitution which has been adopted by the Congress of the United States.
(Signed) Jefferson Davis.

Office, Richmond, February 5, 1865.


Richmond, Virginia, February 5, 1865.
To the President of the Confederate States:

Sir: — Under your letter of appointment of 28th ult., we proceeded
to seek an informal conference with Abraham Lincoln, President of
the United States, upon the subject mentioned in your letter.


The conference was granted, and took place on the 3d inst., on
board a steamer anchored in Hampton Roads, where we met Presi-
dent Lincoln and Hon. Mr. Seward, Secretary of State of the United
States. It continued for several hours, and was both full and explicit.

We learned from them that the message of President Lincoln to
the Congress of the United States in December last explains clearly
and distinctly his sentiments as to terms, conditions, and method of
proceeding by which peace can be secured to the people, and we
were not informed that they would be modified or altered to obtain
that end. We understood from him that no terms or proposals of
any treaty or agreement looking to an ultimate settlement would be
entertained or made by him with the authorities of the Confederate
States, because that would be a recognition of their existence as a
separate power, which under no circumstances would be done; and
for like reasons, that no such terms would be entertained by him from
States separately; that no extended truce or armistice, as at present
advised, would be granted or allowed without satisfactory assurances
in advance of complete restoration of the authority of the Constitu-
tion and laws of the United States over all places within the States
of the Confederacy; that whatever consequences may follow from
the re-establishment of that authority must be accepted, but the indi-
viduals subject to pains and penalties under the laws of the United
States might rely upon a very liberal use of the power confided to him
to remit those pains and penalties, if peace be restored.

During the conference the proposed amendments to the Consti-
tution of the United States, adopted by Congress on the 31st ult,
were brought to our notice. These amendments provide that neither
slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for crime, should exist
within the United States, or any place within their jurisdiction, and
that Congress should have the power to enforce this amendment by
appropriate legislation.

Of all the correspondence that preceded the conference herein
mentioned and leading to the same, you have heretofore been in-
formed. Very respectfully, your obedient servants,

Alex. H. Stephens,
R. M. T. Hunter,
J. A. Campbell.

The public rumors which were current upon this subject
led to the adoption on the 8th, by the House of Repre-
sentatives, of a resolution calling upon the President for in-
formation concerning the conference. To this request
President Lincoln responded on the 10th, by transmitting
the following message: —

Washington, February 10.
To the Honorable trie House of Representatives:

In response to your resolution of the 8th inst., requesting informa-
tion in relation to a conference recently held in Hampton Roads, I


have the honor to state that on the day of the date, I gave Francis P.
Blair, Sr., a card written on as follows, to wit: —

Allow the bearer, F. P. Blair, Sr., to pass our lines, go South, and
return. A. Lincoln.

December 26, 1864.

That at the time, I was informed that Mr. Blair sought the card as
a means of getting to Richmond, Va., but he was given no authority
to speak or act for the Government, nor was I informed of any thing
he would say or do, on his own account or otherwise. Mr. Blair told me
that he had been to Richmond, and had seen Mr. Jefferson Davis, and
he (Mr. Blair) at the same time left with me a manuscript letter as
follows, to wit: —

Richmond, Va., January 12, 1865.

F. P. Blair, Esq. : Sir : — I have deemed it proper, and probably
desirable to you, to give you in this form the substance of the remarks
made by me to be repeated by you to President Lincoln, &c, &c.

I have no disposition to find obstacles in forms, and am willing now
as heretofore to enter into negotiations for the restoration of peace.

I am ready to send a commission, whenever I have reason to sup-
pose it will be received, or to receive a commission, if the United
States Government shall choose to send one.

Notwithstanding the rejection of our former offers, I would, if you

could promise that a commissioner, minister, or other agent would

be received, appoint one immediately, and renew the effort to enter

into a conference with a view to secure peace to the two countries.

Yours, &c, Jefferson Davis.

Afterwards, with the view that it should be shown to Mr. Davis, I
wrote, and delivered to Mr. Blair, a letter as follows, to wit: —

Washington, January 18, 1865.

F. P. Blair, Esq. : S'r . — You having shown me Mr. Davis's letter to
you of the 12th inst., you may say to him that I have constantly been,
am now, and shall continue ready to receive any agent whom he, or
any other influential person, now resisting the national authority, may
informally send me, with a view of securing peace to the people of
our common country. Yours, &c, A. Lincoln.

Afterwards Mr. Blair dictated for and authorized me to make an
entry, on the back of my retained copy of the letter last above re-
cited, which is as follows: —

January 28, 1865.
To-day Mr. Blair tells me that on the 21st inst. he delivered to Mr.
Davis the original, of which the within is a copy, and left it with
him; that at the time of delivering, Mr. Davis read it over twice, in
Mr. Blair's presence; at the close of which he (Mr. B.) remarked,
that the part about our one common country referred to the part of
Mr. Davis's letter about the two countries; to which Mr. D. replied
that he so understood it. A. Lincoln.


Afterwards the Secretary of War placed in my hands the follow-
ing telegram, indorsed by him, as appears: —


Office of U. S. Military Telegraph, War Department.
The following telegram was received at Washington, January 29,

Headquarters Army of the James, 6:30 p. m., January 29, 1865.
Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War:

The following dispatch is just received from Major-General Parke,
who refers to me for my action. I refer it to you, in lieu of General
Grant's absence. E. O. C. Ord, Major-General Commanding.

Headquarters Army of the Potomac, 4 p. m.. January 29, 1865.
Major-General E. O. C. Ord, Headquarters of the Army of the James:
The following dispatch is forwarded to you for your action, since I
have no knowledge of General Grant's having had any understanding
of this kind. I refer the matter to you as the ranking officer present
in the two armies. John G. Parke, Major-General Commanding.

From Headquarters Ninth Army Corps, January 29, 1865.

Major-General John C. Parke. Headquarters of the Army of the
Alexander H. Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and J. A. Campbell de-
sire to cross my lines, in accordance with an understanding claimed
to exist with Lieutenant-General Grant, on their way tc Washington
"as Peace Commissioners. Shall they be admitted? They desire an
early answer, so as to come through immediately. They would like
to reach City Point to-night if they can. If they cannot do this, they
would like to come through at 10 a. m. to-morrow.

O. B. Wilcox, Major-General Commanding Ninth Corps.

Respectfully referred to the President, for such instructions as he
may be pleased to give. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

Jan. 29th, 1865 — 8:30 p. m.

It appears that about the time of placing the foregoing telegram
in my hands, the Secretary of War dispatched General Ord as fol-
lows, to <vit : —

War Department, Washington City, January 29, 1865 — 10 p. m.

Major-General Ord: — This department has no knowledge of any
understanding by General Grant to allow any person to come within
his lines as commissioners of any sort. You will therefore allow no
one to come into your lines under such character or profession until
you receive the President's instructions, to whom your telegrams will
be submitted for his directions.

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

(Sent in cipher at 2 a. m.)


Afterwards, by my directions, the Secretary of War telegraphed
General Ord as follows, to wit: —

War Department, Washington City, D. C,
January 30, 1865—10 a. m.
Major-General E. O. C. Ord, Headquarters Army of the James:

By directions of the President, you are instructed to inform the
three gentlemen, Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, that a
messenger will be dispatched to them, at or near where they now are,
without unnecessary delay. Edwin M. Stanton,

Secretary of War.

Afterwards I prepared and put into the hands of Major Thomas T.
Eckert the following instructions and message: —

Executive Mansion, Washington, January 30, 1865.
Major T. T. Eckert:

Sir: — You will proceed with the documents placed in your hands,
and on reaching General Ord, will deliver him the letter addressed
him by the Secretary of War. Then, by General Ord's assistance,
procure an interview v/ith Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell,
or any of them. Deliver to him or them the paper on which your
own letter is written. Note on the copy which you retain the time
of delivery, and to whom delivered. Receive their answer in writ-
ing, waiting a reasonable time for it, and which, if it contains their
decision to come through without further conditions, will be your
warrant to ask General Ord to pass them through as directed in the
letter of the Secretary of War. If, by their answer, they decline to
come or propose other terms, do not have them passed through. And
this being your whole duty, return and report to

Yours truly, A. Lincoln.

Messrs. Alexander H. Stephens, J. A. Campbell and R. M. T.
Hunter :

Gentlemen : — I am instructed by the President of the United
States to place this paper in your hands, with the information that if
you pass through the United States military lines, it will be under-
stood that you do so for the purpose of an informal conference on
the basis of that letter, a copy of which is on the reverse side of this

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 25 of 41)