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 26 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 26 of 41)
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sheet; and if you choose to pass on such understanding and so
notify me in writing, I will procure the Commanding General to pass
you through the lines and to Fortress Monroe, under such military
precautions a? he may deem prudent, and at which place you will
be met in due time by some person or persons for the purpose of
such informal conference. And further, that you shall have protec-
tion, safe-conduct, and safe return in all events.

Thos. T. Eckert, Major and Aide-de-Camp.

City Point, Virginia, February 1, 1865.

The letter referred to by Major Eckert. —

F. P. Blair, Esq.:

Sir : — 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 in-
fluential person now resisting the national authority, may informally
send to me with the view of securing peace to the people of our
common country. Yours, &c, A. Lincoln.

Afterwards, but before Major Eckert had departed, the following
dispatch was received from General Grant: —

Office U. S. Military Telegraph, War Department.
The following telegram was received at Washington, January 31,
1865, from City Point, Virginia, 10:30 a. m., January 31, 1865.

His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States :

The following communication was received here last evening:—

Petersburg, Virginia, January 30, 1865.
Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant, Commanding Armies U. S. :

$ IR: — We desire to pass your lines under safe-conduct, and to pro-
ceed to Washington tc hold a conference with President Lincoln
upon the subject of the existing war, and with a view of ascertaining
upon what terms it may be terminated, in pursuance of the course
indicated by him in his letter to Mr. Blair of January 18, 1865, of
which we presume you have a copy; and if not, we wish to see you
in person, if convenient, and to confer with you on the subject.
Very respectfully yours,

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

I have sent directions to receive these gentlemen, and expect to
have them at my quarters this evening awaiting your instructions.
U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General Commanding Armies U. S.

This, it will be perceived, transferred General Ord's agency in the
matter to General Grant. I resolved, however, to send Major Eckert
forward with his message, and accordingly telegraphed General Grant
as follows, to wit: —

Lieutenant-General Grant, City Point, Virginia:

Executive Mansion, Washington, January 31, 1865.
A messenger is coming to you on the business contained in your
dispatch. Detain the gentlemen in comfortable quarters until he ar-
rives, and then act upon the message he brings as far as applicable,
it having been made up to pass through General Ord's hands, and
when the gentlemen were supposed to be beyond our lines.

[Sent in cipher at 1.30 p. m.J A. Lincoln.

When Major Eckert departed he bore with him a letter of the Sec-
retary of War to General Grant, as follows, to wit : —

War Department, Washington, D. C, January 30, 1865.
Lieutenant-General Grant, Commanding, &c. :
General: — The President desires that you will please procure for


the bearer, Major Thos. T. Eckert, an interview with Messrs. Steph-
ens, Hunter, and Campbell; and if on his return to you he requests
it, pass them through our lines to Fortress Monroe, by such route
and under such military precautions as you may deem prudent, giving
them protection and comfortable quarters while there; and that you
let none of this have any effect upon your movements or plans.
By order of the President:

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

Supposing the proper point to be then" reached, I dispatched the
Secretary of State with the following instructions— Major Eckert,
however, going ahead of him : —

Executive Mansion, Washington, January 31, 1865.
Honorable William H. Seward, Secretary of State:

You will proceed to Fortress Monroe. Virginia, there to meet and
formally confer with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, on the
basis of my letter to F. P. Blair, Esq., of January 18, 1865, a copy
of which you have. You will make known to them that three things
are indispensable, to wit: First, the restoration of the national au-
thority throughout all the States. Second, no receding by the Ex-
ecutive of the United States on the slavery question from the posi-
tion assumed thereon in the late annual message to Congress and
in the preceding documents. Third, no cessation of hostilities short
of an end of the war, and the disbanding of all the forces hostile to
the Government. You will inform them that all the propositions
of theirs not inconsistent with the above will be considered and
passed upon in a spirit of sincere liberality. You will hear all they
may choose to say, and report it to me. You will not assume to
definitely consummate anything.

Yours, &c, Abraham Lincoln.

On the day of its date, the following telegram was sent to General
Grant : —

War Department, Washington, February 1, 1865.
Lieutenant-General Grant, City Point, Va. :

Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay our mili-
tary movements or plans. .

[Sent in cipher at 9.30 a. m.] A. Lincoln.

Afterwards the following dispatch was received from General
Grant : —

[In cipher.]
Office U. S. Military Telegraph, War Department.
The following telegram was received at Washington, at 2.30 p. m.
February 1, 1865, from City Point Va., February 1, 12.30 p. m., 1865: —

His Excellency A. Lincoln,

President of the United States:
Your dispatch received. There will be no armistice in consequence
of the presence of Mr. Stephens and others within our lines. The
troops are kept in readiness to move at the shortest notice, if occa-
sion should justify it. U. S. Grant, Lieut.-General.


To notify Major Eckert that the Secretary of State would be at
Fortress Monroe, and to put them in communication, the following
dispatch was sent:

War Department, Washington, February 1, 1865.
Major T. T. Eckert,

Care General Grant, City Point, Va. :
Call at Fortress Monroe, and put yourself under direction of Mr. S.,
whom you will find there. A. Lincoln.

On the morning of the 2nd instant, the following telegrams were
received by me respectively from the Secretary of War and Major
Eckert : —

Fort Monroe, Va., February 1, 1865 — IL30 p. m.
To the President of the United States:

Arrived at ten this evening. Richmond friends not here. I remain
here. W. H. Seward.

City Point, Va., February 1, 1865 — 10 p. m.
To his Excellency the President of the United States :

I have the honor to report the delivery of your communication and
my letter, at 4.15 this afternoon, to which I received a reply at six p.
m., but not satisfactory. At eight o'clock p. m. the following note,
addressed to General Grant, was received : —

City Point, Va., February 1, 1865.
To Lieutenant-General Grant:

Sir: — We desire to go to Washington City to confer informally
with the President personally in reference to the matters mentioned
in his letter to Mr. Blair of the 18th of January ultimo, without any
personal compromise on any question in the letter. We have the
permission to do so from the authorities at Richmond.
Very respectfully yours,

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

At 9.30 p. m. I notified them that they could not proceed further
unless they complied with the terms expressed in my letter. The
point of meeting designated in the above note would not, in my opin-
ion, be insisted upon. Fort Monroe would be acceptable. Having
complied with my instructions, I will return to Washington to-mor-
row, unless otherwise ordered. Thomas T. Eckert, Major, &c.

On reading this dispatch of Major Eckert, I was about to recall him
and the Secretary of State, when the following telegram of General
Grant to the Secretary of War was shown me:,—

[In cipher.]
Office of the U. S. Military Telegraph,
War Department.
The following telegram received at Washington at 4.35 p. m., Feb-
ruary 2, 1865, from City Point, Va., February 1, 10.30 p. m., 1865 : —

Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
Now that the interview between Major Eckert, under his written


instructions, and Mr. Stephens and party, has ended, I will state con-
fidentially, but not officially to become a matter of record, that I am
convinced, upon conversation with Messrs. Stephens and Hunter,
that their intentions are good, and their desire sincere to restore
peace and union. I have not felt myself at^ liberty to express even
views of my own, or to account for my reticence. This has placed
me in an awkward position, which I could have avoided by not see-
ing them in the first instance. I fear now their going back without
any expression to any one in authority will have a bad influence. At
the same time, I recognize the difficulties in the way of receiving
these informal commissioners at this time, and I do not know what
to recommend. I am sorry, however, that Mr. Lincoln cannot have
an interview with the two named in this dispatch, if not all three
now within our lines. Their letter to me was all that the President's
instructions contemplated to secure their safe-conduct, if they had
used the same language to Major Eckert.

U. S. Grant, Lieut-General.

This dispatch of General Grant changed my purpose, and accord-
ingly I telegraphed him and the Secretary of War, as follows: —

War Department, Washington, D. C., February 2, 1865.
Lieutenant-General Grant, City Point, Va. :

Say to the gentlemen that I will meet them personally at Fortress
Monroe, as soon as I can get there.

[Sent in cipher at 9 a. m.] A. Lincoln.

War Department, Washington, D. C., February 2, 1865.
Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Fortress Monroe, Va. :

Induced by a dispatch from General Grant, I join you at Fortress
Monroe as soon as I can come.

[Sent in cipher at 9 a. m.] A. Lincoln.

Before starting, the following dispatch was shown me. I proceeded,
nevertheless : —


Office U. S. Military Telegraph, War Department.
The following telegram, received at Washington, February 2, 1865,
from City Point, Va., 9 a. m., February 2, 1865: —
Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State.


Fort Monroe.
To Hon. Edwin M. Stanton,

Secretary of War, Washington:
The gentlemen here have accepted the proposed terms, and will
leave for Fortress Monroe at 9.30 a. m.

U. S. Grant, Lieut-General.

On the night of the 2d I reached Hampton Roads; found the Sec-
retary of State and Major Eckert on a steamer anchored off the
shore, and learned of them that the Richmond gentlemen were on
another steamer, also anchored off shore in the Roads, and that the


Secretary of State had not yet seen or communicated with them. I
ascertained that Major Eckert had literally complied with his in-
structions, and I saw for the first time the answer of the Richmond
gentlemen to him, which, in his dispatch to me of the 1st, he charac-
terized as not satisfactory. That answer is as follows, to wit : —

City Point, Va., February 1, 1865.
Thomas T. Eckert, Major and A. D. C. :

Major : — Your note delivered by yourself this day has been con-
sidered. In reply, we will have to say that we were furnished with a
copy of the letter of President Lincoln to Francis P. Blair, of the
18th of January ult., another copy of which is appended to your note.
Our instructions are contained in a letter of which the following is
a copy : —

Richmond, January 28, 1865.
In conformity with the letter of Mr. Lincoln, of which the fore-
going is a copy, you are to proceed to Washington City for informal
conference with him upon the issues involved in the existing war,
and for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries.
With great respect, your obedient servant,

Jefferson Davis.

The substantial object to be obtained by the informal conference,
is to ascertain upon what terms the existing war can be terminated
honorably. Our instructions contemplate a personal interview be-
tween President Lincoln and ourselves at Washington; but, with this
explanation, we are ready to meet any person or persons that Presi-
dent Lincoln may appoint, at such place as he may designate. Our
earnest desire is that a just and honorable peace may be agreed upon,
and we are prepared to receive or to submit propositions which may
possibly lead to the attainment of that end.

Very respectfully yours,

Alexander H. Stephens,
R. M. T. Hunter,
John A. Campbell.

A note of these gentlemen, subsequently addressed to General
Grant, has already been given in Major Eckert's dispatch of the 1st
inst. I also saw here for the first time the following note, addressed
by the Richmond gentlemen to Major Eckert: —

City Point, Va., February 2, 1865.
Thomas T. Eckert, Major and A. D. C. :

Major: — In reply to your verbal statement that your instructions
did not allow you to alter the conditions upon which a passport could
be given to us, we say that we are willing to proceed to Fortress
Monroe, and there to have an informal conference with any person
or persons that President Lincoln may appoint on the basis of his
letter to Francis P. Blair of the 18th of January ult., or upon any
other terms or conditions that he may hereafter propose, not in-
consistent with the essential principles of self-government and popu-
lar rights upon which our institutions are founded. It is our earnest


wish to ascertain, after a free interchange of ideas and information,
upon what principles and terms, if any, a just and honorable peace
can be established without the effusion of blood, and to contribute
our utmost efforts to accomplish such a result. We think it better
to add that, in accepting your passport, we are not to be understood
as committing ourselves to anything, but to carry into this informal
conference the views and feelings above expressed.
Very respectfully yours, &c,

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

Note. — The above communication was delivered to me at Fortress
Monroe, at 4.30 p. m., February 2, by Lieutenant-Colonel Babcock,
of General Grant's staff.

Thomas T. Eckert, Adj't and A. D. C.

On the morning of the 3d, the three gentlemen, Messrs. Stephens,
Hunter, and Campbell, came aboard of our steamer, and had an in-
terview with the Secretay of State and myself of several hours' dura-
tion. No question or preliminaries to the meeting was then and
there made or mentioned. No other person was present. No papers
were exchanged or produced; and it was in advance agreed that the
conversation was to be informal and verbal merely. On our part,
the whole substance of the instructions to the Secretary of State,
hereinbefore recited, was stated and insisted upon, and nothing was
said inconsistent therewith. While by the other party it was not
said that in any event, or on any condition, they ever would consent
to reunion; and yet they equally omitted to declare that they would
not so consent. They seemed to desire a postponement of that ques-
tion, and the adoption of some other course first, which, as some of
them seemed to argue, might or might not lead to reunion, but
which course we thought would amount to an indefinite postpone-
ment. The conference ended without result.

The foregoing, containing, as is believed, all the information sought,
is respectfully submitted. Abraham Lincoln.

In this instance, as in the previous case of Mr. Greeley,
the President had found himself constrained by the intru-
sive interference of an individual citizen, to open negotia-
tions for which, in his judgment, neither the rebels nor the
nation at large were at all prepared. No man in the country
was more vigilant than he in watching for the moment when
hopes of peace might wisely be entertained; but, as he had
resolved under no circumstances to accept anything short
of an unconditional acknowledgment of the supreme author-
ity of the Constitution and laws of the United States as the
basis of peace, he deemed it of the utmost consequence
that the rebel authorities should not be led to suppose that


we were discouraged by the slow progress of the war, or
that we were in the least inclined to treat for peace on any
other terms than those he had laid down. It was for this
reason that he had declined to publish his correspondence
with Mr. Greeley, unless expressions in the latter's letters,
calculated to create this impression in the rebel States, could
be omitted. Acting from the same motives, he had given
Mr. Blair no authority to approach the rebel authorities on
his behalf upon the subject of peace in any way whatever.
He gave him, to use his own words uttered in a subsequent
conversation, "no mission, but only per-mission." He
was probably not unwilling to learn, from so acute and ex-
perienced a political observer as Mr. Blair, something of
the temper and purpose of the leading men in the Rebel
Government, for their public declarations upon this subject
were not felt to be altogether reliable; and the knowledge
we had of their straitened means, and of the difficulty they
experienced in renewing the heavy losses in the ranks of their
army, strengthened the belief that they might not be indis-
posed for submission to the national authority.

Subsequent disclosures have proved the correctness of
these suspicions. It is now known that some of the more
sagacious and candid of the rebel leaders had even then
abandoned all hope of success, and were only solicitous
for some way of closing the war, which should not wound
too keenly the pride and self-respect of the people of the
rebel States. It was due to their efforts that, in spite of
the obstinacy with which Jefferson Davis insisted upon the
recognition of his official character, involving the recognition
of the South as an independent nation, an interview with the
President and Secretary Seward was obtained. But they
did not secure the consent of their Executive to negotiate
upon the only basis Mr. Lincoln would for a moment admit —
the absolute and acknowledged supremacy of the National
Government; and the whole scheme, therefore, fell to the

*Since the overthrow of the rebellion an account of this conference
has been published in the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, said to have been
prepared under the supervision of Mr. A. H. Stephens. It adds
nothing material to the facts already known, but the following para-
graphs are not without interest: —

"Davis had on this occasion, as on that of Mr. Stephen's visit to


The attempt at negotiation, however, served a useful pur-
pose. It renewed the confidence of the people throughout
the loyal States in the President's unalterable determination
to maintain the Union, while it proved his willingness to
end the war whenever that great and paramount object could
be secured; and, at the same time, it dispelled the delusive
hopes, with which the rebel leaders had so long inspired
the hearts of the great body of the Southern people, that
peace was possible with the independence of the Southern
States. The attempt of Mr. Davis, in the message we have
already cited, to "fire the Southern heart" afresh, by his
vivid picture of the tyrannical and insulting exactions of
President Lincoln, was utterly fruitless. His appeals fell
upon wearied ears and despondent hearts.

Other important affairs had also arisen to occupy the
thoughts of the people during the pendency of the peace
negotiations. The resolution which had passed the House
on January 31st, directing that the electoral votes of cer-
tain States which had joined the rebellion should not be
counted, came up before the Senate. An effort was made,
but failed, to strike out Louisiana from the list of the re-
jected States. Other amendments were offered, but rejected,
and the resolution was adopted as it passed the House. It

Washington, made it a condition that no conference should be had
unless his rank as commander or President should first be recognized.
Mr. Lincoln declared that- the only ground upon which he could, rest
the justice of the war — either with his own people or with foreign
powers — was, that it was not a war for conquest, but that the States
never had been separated from the Union. Consequently, he could
not recognize another government inside of the one of which he
alone was President, nor admit the separate independence of States
that were yet a part of the Union. 'That,' said he, 'would be doing
what you so long asked Europe to do in vain, and be resigning the
only thing the armies of the Union are fighting for.'

"Mr. Hunter made a long reply, insisting that the recognition of
Davis's power to make a treaty was the first and indispensable step
to peace, and referring to the correspondence between King Charles
the First and his Parliament as a reliable precedent of a constitutional
ruler treating with rebels.

"Mr. Lincoln's face then wore the indescribable expression which
generally preceded his hardest hits, and he remarked : 'Upon ques-
tions of history I must refer you to Mr. Seward, for he is posted in
such things, and I don't profess to be. But my only distinct recol-
lection of the matter is, that Charles lost his head.' That settled Mr.
Hunter for a while."


was also signed by the President, but he sent to Congress
the following message concerning it: —

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States : —

The joint resolution, entitled "A joint resolution declaring certain
States not entitled to representation in the Electoral College," has
been signed by the Executive in deference to the view of Congress
implied in its passage and presentation to me. In his own view, how-
ever, the two Houses of Congress convened under the twelfth article
of the Constitution have complete power to exclude from counting
all electoral votes deemed by them to be illegal, and it is not compe-
tent for the Executive to defeat or obstruct the power by a veto, as
would be the case if his action were at all essential in the matter. He
disclaims all right of the Executive to interfere in any way in the
matter of canvassing or counting the electoral votes, and he also dis-
claims that by signing said resolution he has expressed any opinion
on the recitals of the preamble, or any judgment of his own upon
the subject of the resolution. Abraham Lincoln.

Executive Mansion, February 8, 1865.

On Wednesday, the 8th of February, the Senate and the
House met in joint convention for the purpose of counting
the electoral votes. The two bodies having convened, the
certificates of election were opened by Vice-President Ham-
lin. Electoral votes from Louisiana and Tennessee were
presented, but, in obedience to the resolution just mentioned,
they were not counted. The total number of votes counted
was two hundred and thirty-three, of which Mr. Lincoln
and Mr. Johnson had received two hundred and twelve, and
they were accordingly declared to have been elected Presi-
dent and Vice-President for the ensuing four years, com-
mencing on the 4th of March. The new State of Nevada
had cast but two votes, her third elector having been absent
on the day of the meeting.

Prominent among the measures passed by Congress dur-
ing the remainder of the session was the bill establishing a
Freedmen's Bureau.

A resolution offered by Mr. Sumner, and passed, excited
a good deal of interest in England. It declared that the
rebel debt or loan was "simply an agency of the rebellion,
which the United States can never under any circumstances
recognize in any part, or in any way." To the parties who
had taken the rebel loan thinking that the South was sure
to succeed, or at least to secure some terms of peace which


would provide for the assumption of the rebel debt, this reso-
lution, coining as it did after such great military successes
on our part, was the reverse of cheering.

Two messages were sent to Congress by the President in
reference to approaching International Exhibitions in Nor-
way and in Portugal, and a resolution was passed requesting
the President to call upon the citizens to join in them.

The House passed a bill repealing so much of the Con-

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 26 of 41)