« AnkstesnisTęsti »
The immediate object of his letter became evident in the following paragraph:
Now, therefore, Mr. President, I suggest that genwith the leaders of the Southern revolt [sic] may be tlemen whose former political and social relations allowed to hold unofficial correspondence with them on this subject-the correspondence to be submitted to you. It may be thus ascertained what, if any, credence may be given to these statements, and also whether a peaceful solution of the present struggle may not be attainable.2
The President answered on the 12th of De
cember. Referring to the first paragraph above quoted, he said:
I strongly suspect your information will prove to be groundless; nevertheless, I thank you for communicating it to me. Understanding the phrase in the paragraph above quoted, "the Southern States would send representatives to the next Congress," to be substantially the same as that the people of the Southern States would cease resistance, and would re-inaugurate, submit to, and maintain the national authority within the limits of such States, under the Constitution of the United States, I say that in such case the war would cease on the part of the United States, and that if, within a reasonable time, "a full and general amnesty" were necessary to such end, it would not be withheld. I do not think it would be proper now for me to communicate this formally or informally to the people of the Southern States. My belief is that they already know it; and when they choose, if ever, they can communicate with me unequivocally. Nor do I think it proper now to suspend military operations to try any experiment of negotiation. I should nevertheless receive with great pleasure the exact information you now have, and also such other as might be more valuable before the 1st of January you may in any way obtain. Such information than afterwards.
These last words refer, of course, to the impending proclamation of emancipation.
Between the date of Mr. Lincoln's letter
and Mr. Wood's reply came the frightful carnage at Fredericksburg, which emboldened Mr. Wood to say that the President's reply had filled him with profound regret.
It declines [he said] what I had conceived to be information in my possession of a desire in the South an innocent effort to ascertain the foundation for to return to the Union. It thus appears to be an which, in my judgment, is not only unwise, but, indication on your part [sic] to continue a policy in the opinion of many, is in conflict with the constitutional authority vested in the Federal Govern
nevertheless tried to keep up a sort of furtive confidential relation with the leading members of the Government. He frequently visited the White House, the State Department, and the Treasury Department, but emulated the discretion of Nicodemus as to the hour of his visits. No rebuffs daunted him; he apparently cared nothing for the evident distrust with which his overtures were received. He kept them up as long as the war lasted, probably in the hope that the time might come for him to play a conspicuous and important part in the final negotiations for peace. He used every occasion to ingratiate himself with the President. He wrote, congratulating him on the change in the War Department in the beginning of 1862, as indicating the President's "ability to govern, and also his executive power and will." I Later in the same year he wrote complaining that the radical abolitionists of New York represented him as hostile to the Administration and as in sympathy with the States in rebellion against the Government. He denied these charges, and begged the President to "rely upon his support in his efforts to maintain the integrity of the Union."1 In September, after making a speech furiously denouncing the Government for its arbitrary arrests, he wrote a confidential note to the President, making the usual explanation that he had been incorrectly reported: "All I said applied to those arrests that had been made through error or misrepresentation, and exclusively as to the truly loyal." In November, after a similar tirade, he wrote to Mr. Seward, with a striking lack of originality, making the same plea of an incorrect report. "I did not," he said, "utter the treasonable sentiments reported." Having in this way, as he thought, established himself in the confidence of the President, he wrote him a letter on the 8th of December, 1862, pretending that he had "reliable and truthful authority" to say that the Southern States would send representatives to the next Congress provided that a full and general amnesty should permit them to do so, no guaranty or terms being asked for other than the amnesty referred to.
As an humble but loyal citizen [he said], deeply impressed with the great necessity of restoring the Union of these States, I ask your immediate attention to this subject. The magnitude of the interests at stake warrant some executive action predicated upon this information, if it be only to ascertain if it be grounded upon even probable foundation. If it shall prove groundless no harm shall have been done, provided the inquiry be made, as it can be, without compromising the Government or injury to the cause in which it is now engaged. If, however, it shall prove well founded, there is no estimate too high to place upon its national value.
He protested earnestly against this policy, and felt encouraged to renew the suggestions of his letter of the 8th.
I feel [he said] that military operations so bloody and exhausting as ours must sooner or later be sus
2 McPherson, "History of the Rebellion," p. 296. pended. The day of suspension must come.
only question is whether it shall be before the whole American people, North and South, shall be involved in general ruin, or whether it shall be whilst there is remaining sufficient of the recuperative ele
ment of life by which to restore our once happy, prosperous, and peaceful American Union.
proper presentation of the question to the authorities at Washington. "While, therefore," he says, "a mission might be dispatched on with prudence, discretion, and skill, be opened a minor point, the greater one could possibly, to view and brought in discussion, in a way that would lead eventually to successful results. This would depend upon many circumstances," he adds complacently, "but no little upon the character and efficiency of the agent.
To this letter the President made no reply. Other volunteers from time to time tendered their services in the same field. Mr. Duff Green, a Virginia politician, wrote to the President from Richmond as early as the 20th... So feeling, I have been prompted to adof January, asking permission to visit Washington. He said that if he could see Mr. Lincoln and converse with him on the subject he could do much to pave the way for an early termination of the war. Receiving no encouragement from Washington, he asked the same permission from Richmond, but this request came to nothing. In the summer of 1863, however, an effort for peace negotiations was made, which came with such high sanction and involved personages of such individual and political importance that it requires particular mention.
About the middle of June, Mr. Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Southern Confederacy, became convinced that the time was auspicious for initiating negotiations for peace. He thought he saw reasons for great encouragement in the attitude of the North; the great gains of the Democratic party in the last autumnal elections, the pamphlet of Mr. George Ticknor Curtis attacking the measures of the Administration, a public meeting in favor of peace held without disturbance in the city of New York in which violent speeches were made by Mr. Fernando Wood and others, and the nomination for governor of Ohio of Vallandigham are all mentioned by him as facts going to show that the people of the North were wearying of the war. On this insufficient evidence he wrote to Mr. Davis proposing that he should go to Washington, ostensibly to negotiate some questions involving the exchange of prisoners, but saying that he "was not without hopes that indirectly he could now turn attention to a general adjustment, upon such basis as might ultimately be acceptable to both parties, and stop the further effusion of blood in a contest so irrational, unchristian, and so inconsistent with all recognized American principles." He assured Mr. Davis that he entertained but one idea of the basis of final adjustment-the recognition of the sovereignty of the States, and the right of each in its sovereign capacity to determine its own destiny. He did not believe the Federal Government was yet ripe for such acknowledgment, but he did believe that the time had come for a 1 Stephens, "War between the States," Vol. II., P. 558.
dress you these lines." Upon the receipt of this letter Mr. Davis sent a telegram requesting his Vice-President to go immediately to Richmond. He arrived there on the 22d of June; but in the ten days which had elapsed since his letter was written he found that changes of the utmost importance had taken place in the military situation. On the one hand the Confederate authorities had despaired of the condition of Pemberton at Vicksburg, and expected that any day might bring them tidings of his surrender, but on the other hand they were anticipating with sanguine enthusiasm the most magnificent results from Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania. Mr. Stephens, in the work which he wrote at his leisure after the war was ended, represents that in these changed conditions he was inclined to give up his mission, thinking that no good could result from it, as the movement of Lee into Pennsylvania would greatly excite the war spirit and strengthen the war party—a view of the case in which Mr. Davis positively declined to agree. He thought Mr. Lincoln would be more likely to receive a commissioner for peace if General Lee's army was actually threatening Washington than if it was lying quietly south of the Rappahannock. The Confederate Cabinet being called together, they agreed with Mr. Davis; they thought the Federal Government might be best approached while under the threat of the guns of Lee, and before they should receive fresh hope and encouragement from the surrender of Pemberton, which was now considered inevitable. An arrangement was made for Stephens to proceed by land on the route taken by Lee's army, and to communicate with the Washington authorities from his headquarters; 2 but excessive rains and the badness of the roads caused a change of route, and the invalid Vice-President was therefore saved a most distressing journey, from which he would have come "bootless home and weather-beaten back." Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of the Confederate Navy, gave him a small steamer, and accompanied by Mr. Robert Ould as his secretary, he steamed away to Fort Monroe. In any case his mission 2 Stephens, "War between the States," Vol. II.,
would probably have been fruitless, but he states only the truth when he claims that he arrived at an unlucky moment. He communicated with Admiral Lee in Hampton Roads on the Fourth of July, just after Lee's march to the North had ended in disastrous failure at Gettysburg. He sent the admiral a letter stating that he was "bearer of a communication in writing from Jefferson Davis, Commanderin-Chief of the Confederate land and naval forces, to Abraham Lincoln, Commander-inChief of the Army and Navy of the United States," and that he desired to proceed directly to Washington in his own steamer, the Torpedo. The titles by which Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis were designated in this note had been the subject of anxious consultation in Richmond. Stephens's commission from the Confederate President gave Mr. Lincoln the title above quoted to avoid the necessity of claiming the style of President for Mr. Davis; but in case Mr. Lincoln should stand upon his dignity and refuse the letter addressed to him as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, Mr. Davis had prepared for Mr. Stephens a duplicate letter addressed to Mr. Lincoln as President and signed by Mr. Davis in the same style; if to this letter objections were made, on the ground that Mr. Davis was not recognized to be President of the Confederacy, Mr. Stephens's mission was then to be at an end, "as such conference," Mr. Davis said, "is admissible only on a footing of perfect equality." But all this care, foresight, and punctilio went for nothing. As soon as Mr. Lincoln received the telegram in which Admiral Lee announced to the Secretary of the Navy the arrival of Mr. Stephens, he immediately wrote on the back of the dispatch a note to be sent by Mr. Welles to Admiral Lee, in which, without paying any attention whatever to the style of Mr. Stephens's application, he went directly to the heart of the matter. This draft of an order ran:
You will not permit Mr. Stephens to proceed to Washington or to pass the blockade. He does not make known the subjects to which the communication in writing from Mr. Davis relates, which he bears and seeks to deliver in person to the President, and upon which he desires to confer. Those subjects can only be military, or not military, or partly both. Whatever may be military will be readily received if offered through the well understood military channel. Of course nothing else will be received by the President when offered, as in this case, in terms assuming the independence of the socalled Confederate States, and anything will be received and carefully considered by him when offered by any influential person, or persons, in terms not assuming the independence of the so-called Confederate States.1
This note he afterwards evidently considered as entering too much into detail, and he there
fore caused the Secretary of the Navy to send this brief reply to Admiral Lee:
The request of A. H. Stephens is inadmissible. The customary agents and channels are adequate for all needful communication and conferences between the United States forces and the insurgents.
Mr. Stephens, when he came afterwards to relate the history of this abortive mission,2 frankly admitted that his ulterior purpose was not so much to act upon Mr. Lincoln and the then ruling authorities at Washington as through them, when the correspondence should be published, upon the great mass of the people in the Northern States, who were becoming, he thought, so sensitively alive to the great danger of their own liberties. He wanted, he said, "to deeply impress the growing constitutional party at the North with a full realization of the true nature and ultimate tendencies of the war"; to show them "that the surest way to maintain their liberties was to allow us the separate enjoyment of ours."
Though this hope was baffled by the rebuff which Mr. Stephens received at Fort Monroe, which prevented him from laying before his sympathizing friends of the North his view of their endangered liberties and the best means of preserving them, it may be doubted whether the partisans of peace at the North lost anything by this incident. Certainly, throughout the whole summer of 1863, they fought their losing battle with a courage and a determination equal to that which their sympathizers were displaying in the South. But the very energy and malice with which they carried on the contest roused the loyal people of the North to still greater efforts and increased the dimensions of their ultimate triumph. The election in New Hampshire, the first which took place in the spring of 1863, while it brought victory to the Republicans, still gave painful evidence of the bitter hostility of the Democratic party to the prosecution of the war. Senator Daniel Clark, writing to Mr. Lincoln,3 said:
Scarcely a Democrat supported the Administration. Almost every one who had heretofore avowed himself for the Union and the country turned in for peace and party. Yet we have beaten them. They have retired from the field. The two houses in convention will choose a Republican governor, and Frank Pierce in retirement will not have beaten Abraham Lincoln in office.
There were after this, during the summer and early autumn, moments of depression and discouragement in which it seemed that the malignant energy displayed by the opposition
could not be without disastrous effect, and as majority of one hundred thousand votes. This the day of election drew near in the " October overwhelming triumph of the Union party in States" both sides felt justified in renewing the October States made success certain in their utmost efforts. In Pennsylvania the contest the general election of the next month. The presented features of special interest. Andrew tide had turned, and the current now swept G. Curtin,1 who, as governor of the State, had steadily onward in one way. The great State given not only efficient but enthusiastic sup- of New York, which had been shaken to its port to the war, was opposed by Judge George center by the frightful crimes and excitement W. Woodward, who, as one of the Democratic incident to the draft riots, now witnessed a justices of the Supreme Court of the State, had great popular political reaction; and reversing just aimed a blow at the prosecution of the the majority of ten thousand given to Seymour war which would have been fatal if followed in 1862, the Republican State ticket was up and sustained by other courts. He had de- elected by thirty thousand, and the legislature clared the enrollment law unconstitutional, and also passed into the hands of the Unionists. upon the record thus made had been nomi- The success of the year which was dearest to nated for governor. The friends of Mr. Curtin the heart of the President was that attained in relied on the war spirit to carry their candi- Maryland. The second passage of rebel armies date through, and towards the close of the over her territory seemed at last to have purged campaign they claimed, most unjudiciously, the secession sentiment from that State, and that General McClellan, whose popularity four Unionists out of her five districts were was still great among the Democrats of Penn- elected to Congress, and an emancipation State sylvania, was in favor of the election of Curtin, ticket was carried by twenty thousand majority. with whom he had always sustained friendly personal relations. Just on the eve of election this matter came to the attention of McClellan. Desiring to keep his political standing with his party intact, he sought an interview with Judge Woodward and published a letter declaring that, "having had a full conversation with the judge, he found that their views agreed, and that he regarded his election as governor of Pennsylvania called for by the interests of the nation." But even this dilatory reenforcement of the peace party was not enough to save their canvass; the Republicans of the State were as thoroughly alive to the emergency as their opponents, and the vote polled was greater by many thousands than had ever been cast before. Governor Curtin was reelected by a majority of over fifteen thousand, and Chief-Justice Lowrie, who with Woodward had aimed from the bench the most mischievous blow ever dealt at the enrollment bill, was defeated for reëlection by Daniel Agnew, and the court, thus reconstituted, reversed its previous judgment.
In Ohio the contest was marked with equal bitterness and enthusiasm. The Democrats, working against hope, but with undaunted persistency for their banished candidate, Valİandigham, were buried under the portentous
1 To show how the political emergency overcame the most inveterate personal hostilities, we give a characteristic letter which Simon Cameron wrote to Lincoln September 18, 1803. He said that Curtin would be reëlected, and that all his friends would support him, but that "if the result were to operate simply on his own private fortunes, there are many good Republicans and pious Christians who would see him in first. He will cheat us when it is over, and, if he can, sell us to our enemies. But he is now, by one of those accidents which sometimes control great events, the rep
Throughout the West the Union sentiment asserted itself with irresistible strength. An attempt marked with singular boldness and energy had been made during the year by the leaders of the peace party to gain control of the great States of the North-west, which for a time seemed to them so promising that the rebel emissaries in Canada, being informed of it, gave encouragement to their principals in Richmond to hope for the formation of a North-western Confederacy in opposition to the National Government. Meetings were continually held, secret societies were everywhere active, and every effort was made in public and in private to form a basis of organized hostility against the Government. The culmination of this important and dangerous movement may be regarded as having taken place at Springfield, Illinois, on the 17th of June. A great mass meeting, enormous in numbers and wild with enthusiasm, under the presidency of Senator Richardson, listened during all a summer's day to the most furious and vehement oratory, and at last passed resolutions demanding nothing less than submission to the South. They resolved "that a further offensive prosecution of this war tends to subvert the Constitution and the Government, and entails upon this nation all the disastrous conse
resentative of the loyalty of this State, and his defeat might be disastrous to the country. My heart is too much engaged in the struggle for ending the rebellion to allow me to hesitate at even the support of Mr. Curtin."
2 This letter of McClellan was a severe disappointment to Curtin, who had regarded him as his friend. A friend (now Sir John Puleston, M. P.) who was with him when the newspaper containing McClellan's letter was received said, “Et tu, Brute!" was not a circumstance to it." [J. H., Diary.]
quences of misrule and anarchy"; that they were "in favor of peace upon a basis of restoration of the Union "; for the accomplishment of which they proposed "a national convention to settle upon terms of peace, which should have in view the restoration of the Union as it was, and the securing by constitutional amendment of such rights of the several States and people thereof as honor and justice demand."
continuously at many stands from morning until twilight. The speeches were marked by the most advanced and unflinching Republican doctrine; the proclamation of emancipation, the arming of negroes, received universal adhesion, and of course every reference to Mr. Lincoln's name was received with thunders of applause; but with all these features of the highest interest and importance, the meeting can only live in the memories of men as the occasion of the letter which Mr. Lincoln wrote to its chairman:
received. It would be very agreeable to me to thus meet my old friends at my own home, but I cannot just now be absent from here so long as a visit there would require.
This bold challenge was accepted by the Republicans with equal determination and superior means. The guns of Vicksburg and Your letter, inviting me to attend a mass meeting of Gettysburg might have been regarded as of unconditional Union men, to be held at the capisufficient answer to the resolutions of the Spring-tal of Illinois on the 3d day of September, has been field mass meeting, but the Copperheads1 of that State only clamored the louder for peace after these great victories, and the political canvass went on with tenfold vehemence in the tacit truce of arms that followed the battles of July. The Republicans prepared for the beginning of September the greatest mass meeting of the campaign; and to give especial significance to the occasion, it was to take place at the home of Lincoln, on the very spot where defiant treason had trumpeted to the world its challenge in June.
It was the ardent wish of the Illinois Republicans that Mr. Lincoln might be with them on this important day. Mr. James C. Conkling, chairman of the committee of arrangements, wrote urging him to come in person.
There is a bad element [he said] in this State, as well as others, and every public demonstration in favor of law and order and constitutional government will have a favorable influence. The importance of our meeting, therefore, at the capital of a State which has sent so many soldiers into the army, and which exercises such a controlling power in the West, cannot be overestimated.2
For a moment the President cherished the hope of going to Springfield and once more in his life renewing the sensation, so dear to politicians, of personal contact with great and enthusiastic masses, and of making one more speech to shouting thousands of his fellowcitizens. The temptation, however, only lasted for a moment, and instead of going he wrote a letter which was read amid the hushed attention of an immense auditory, and passed in a moment into the small number of American political classics. The meeting was an enormous one in numbers and in hot, tumultuous feeling; it was addressed by the greatest orators of the Republican party; speaking went on 1 The "peace Democrats" of the North were variously nicknamed "Butternuts" and "Copperheads." The former name referred to the domestic dye which gave color to the uniforms of the Confederate soldiers, and the latter was the name of the most venomous snake in the West. In each case the nickname was assumed and borne with bravado by the younger
unconditional devotion to the Union, and I am sure The meeting is to be of all those who maintain my old political friends will thank me for tendering, as I do, the nation's gratitude to those other noble men whom no partisan malice or partisan hope can make false to the nation's life.
There are those who are dissatisfied with me. To such I would say: You desire peace, and you blame me that we do not have it. But how can we First, to suppress the rebellion by force of arms. attain it? There are but three conceivable ways. This I am trying to do. Are you for it? If you are, so far we are agreed. If you are not for it, a second way is to give up the Union. I am against this. Are you for it? If you are, you should say so plainly. If you are not for force, nor yet for dissolution, there only remains some imaginable compromise. I do not believe any compromise embracing the maintenance of the Union is now possible. All I learn leads to a directly opposite belief. The strength of the rebellion is its military-its army. That army dominates all the country and all the people within its range. Any offer of terms made by any man or men within that range, in opposition to that army, is simply nothing for the present, because such man or men have no power whatever to enforce their side of a compromise if one were made
To illustrate: Suppose refugees from the South and peace-men of the North get together in convention and frame and proclaim a compromise embracing a restoration of the Union; in what way can that compromise be used to keep Lee's army out of Pennsylvania? Meade's army can keep Lee's army out of Pennsylvania, and I think can ultimately drive it out of existence. But no paper compromise to which the controllers of Lee's army are not agreed can at all affect that army. In an effort at such compromise we should waste time which the enemy would improve to our disadvantage, and that would be all.
Democrats, who in some instances wore butternuts as breastpins, and in others, with a clever return upon their opponents, cut the copper head of the Goddess of Liberty from the old-fashioned red cent and bore it as their cognizance.
2 Conkling to Lincoln, Aug. 21. MS.