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TIE MEETING OF CONGRESS AND PROGRESS OF THE WAR.

CONDITION OF THE COUNTRY AT THE MEETING OF CONGRESS.—THE ME3

BAGE.-PROCEEDINGS IN CONGRESS. -Fort Fisner.---DEATH OP EDWARD EVERETT.-PEACE CONFERENCE IN HAMPTON ROADs.-MILITARY AF

FAIRS.

TIE condition of the country when Congress met in December, 1864, was in every way encouraging. At the South, General Sherman, taking advantage of Hood's having left the way clear for his march to the sea, had destroyed Atlanta and plunged into the heart of Georgia.

His plans were not positively known, but it was known that he was making good progress, and the greatest confidence was felt in his accomplishing his designs, whatever they were. The President described the position of affairs exactly in the following little speech, which he made, on December 6th, in response to a serenade:

FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS :—I believe I shall never be old enough to speak without embarrassment when I have nothing to talk aboat. I have no good news to tell you, and yet I have no bad news to tell. We have talked of elections until there is nothing snore to say about them. The most interesting news we now have is from Sherman. We all know where he went in at, but I can't tell where he will come out at. I will now close by proposing three cheers for General Sherman and his army.

Hood had marched into Tennessee with the hope of overrunning the State, now that Sherman's army was out of his way, but found General Thomas an opponent not to be despised, and had already, in his terrible repulse at Franklin, received a foretaste of the defeats which were about to fall upon him in front of Nashville.

In the East, Grant still held Lee's army with deadly gripe. He had cut off the Weldon Railroad and was slowly working to the southward, while Sheridan was

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undisputed master in the Shenandoah Valley. In North Carolina a decided advantage had been gained by the bold exploit of Lieutenant Cushing, who, with a torpedo-boat, sunk the rebel ram Albemarle at her moorings, and opened the way for the recapture of Plymouth, with many guns.

Many different schemes of the rebels, not precisely military in their character according to the ordinary rules of war, had been found out and foiled. A plot to capture steamers on the Pacific coast was discovered in time to take measures not only to break it up, but to capture those who had undertaken it. Other attempted raids upon cities and towns near the northern frontier had also been prevented. And a plot'to set fire to the city of New York failed of success, although fires were set in thirteen of the principal hotels.

The St. Albans raiders were in custody, and reasonable hopes were entertained that they would be delivered over to our authorities. The whole condition of the country was favorable, and the Thanksgiving Day appointed by the President for the 24th of November had been kept with joy and gladness of heart. Gold, which had been np as high as 280, had worked down nearly to 200, with every indication of going steadily lower. The prospects of a relief from any further draft were bright. And measures had been taken to effect the exchange of some of our prisoners, whose dreadful sufferings at the hands of the rebel authorities had shocked the public heart and given a deeper tone to public indignation.

One slight indication of the progress which we were making in the restoration of the authority of the Union was the opening of the ports of Norfolk, Virginia, and Fernandina, Florida, by a proclamation issued on November 19th.

A PROCLAMATION BY TIIE PRESIDENT.

Whereas, by my proclamation of the 19th of April, 1861, it was declared that the ports of certain States, including those of Norfolk, in the State of Virginia, and Fernandina and Pensacola, in the State of Florida, were for reasons therein set forth inten'led to be placed under blockade, and whereas the said ports were subsequently blockaded accordingly, but having for some time past been in the military possession of the United. States, it is deemed advisable that they should be opened to domestic and foreign commerce.

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, pursuant to the authority in me vested by the fifth section of the act of Congress approved on the 13th of July, 1861, entitled “An act further to provide for the collection of duties on imports and for other purposes,” do hereby declare that the blockade of the said ports of Norfolk, Fernandina, and Pensacola shall so far cease and determine, from and after the first day of December next, that commercial intercourse with those ports, except to persons, things, and information contraband of war, may from time to time be carried on, subject to the laws of the United States, to the limitations and in pursuance of the regulations which inay be prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury, and to such military and naval regulations as are now in force.or may hereafter be found necessary.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington this nineteenth day of November, in

the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sisty. (... s.] four, and of the independence of the United States the eightyninth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, By the President:

William H. SEWARD, Secretary of State. Our foreign relations were also in a satisfactory condition. Our relations with Brazil had been for a moment threatened by the capture of the rebel armed vessel Florida, by the Wachusett, under Captain Collins, while lying at anchor in the harbor of Bahia, in the early morning of October 5th. The act was unauthorized by our Government. It caused a great outcry from the friends of the rebels abroad, who used every effort to have the European powers take up the matter. No apprehension, however, was felt of this, by our people, and while they regretted that any apparent insult should have been offered to Brazil, they were not insensible to the advantage of having thus got rid of one of the rebel pests of the sea. The vessel was bronght to Hampton Roads, where, owing to injuries received by an accidental collision with a vessel going out of the harbor, coupled with the damage she had received when taken by the Wachusett, she sank in spite of every effort that could be made to save her.

Those of her crew who were on board when she was · taken were afterwards restored to Brazil, and an ample apology made for the affair.

Our relations with the Hawaiian Islands had been drawn more close by the presence of an envoy extraordinary from that State. The President on the 11th of June, gave audience to the envoy, Hon. Elisha H. Allen, and in reply to the address made by him, on presenting his credentials, spoke as follows:

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Sır:-In every light in which the State of the Hawaiian Islands can be contemplated, it is an object of profound interest for the United States. Virtually it was once a colony. It is now a near and intimate neighbor. It is a haven of shelter and refreshment for our inerchants, fishermen, seamen, and other citizens, when on their lawful occasions they are navigating the eastern seas and oceans. Its people are free, and its laws, language, and religion are largely the fruit of our own teaching and example. The distinguished part which you, Mr. Minister, have acted in the history of that interesting country, is well known here. It gives me pleasure to assure you of my sincere desire to do what I can to render now your sojourn in the United States agreeable to yourself, satisfactory to your sovereign, and beneficial to the Hawaiian people.

In our relations with the other smaller powers there was nothing especially worthy of mention.

It was manifest, however, that the Great Powers of Europe were less inclined to interfere with us than they had ever been. The St. Albans raid and the proceedings for the extradition of the raiders, were leading to a good deal of diplomatic correspondence between our Government and that of England. But the readiness of the Canadian authorities to take measures to deliver

up

the offenders and to prevent such incursions for the future, gave great encouragement to the belief that no serious difficulty would arise.

There had been another change in the Cabinet, in addi. tion to that which occurred upon the resignation of Mr. Blair. Attorney-General Bates, on the 25th of Novem ber, tendered his resignation, to take effect on December 1st. The post was afterwards filled by the appointment of the Hon. James Speed, of Kentucky.

The death of Chief-Justice Taney, which occurred on the 12th of October, had left a vacancy in one of the most important offices in the country. The office was filled on the 6th day of December, by the appointment of Mr. Chase, the late Secretary of the Treasury.

Congress met on Monday, the 5th of December, but the President's message was not sent in till the next day. It was as follows:

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE.
Fellow-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND House of RepRESENTATIVES:

Again the blessings of health and abundant harvests claim our profoundest gratitude to Almighty God.

The condition of our foreign affairs is reasonably satisfactory.

Mexico continues to be a theatre of civil war. While our political relations with that country have undergone no change, we have at the same time strictly maintained neutrality between the belligerents. At the request of the States of Costa Rica and Nicaraugua, a competent engineer has been authorized to make a survey of the River San Juan and the port of San Juan. It is a source of much satisfaction that the difficulties which, for a moment, excited some political apprehension, and caused a closing of the interoceanic transit route, have been amicably adjusted, and that there is a good prospect that the route will soon be reopened with an increase of capacity and adaptation. We could not exagger ate either the commercial or the political importance of that great improvement. It would be doing injustice to an important South American State not to acknowledge the directness, frankness, and cordiality with which the States of Colombia have entered into intimate relations with this Government. A claims convention has been constituted to complete the unfinished work of the one which closed its session in 1861.

The new liberal Constitution of Venezuela having gone into effect with the universal acquiescence of the people, the Government under it has been recognized, and diplomatic intercourse with it has been opened in a cordial and friendly spirit.

The long deferred Aves Island claim has been satisfactorily paid and discharged. Mutual payments have been made of the claims awarded by the late joint commission for the settlement of claims between the United States and Peru. An earnest and cordial friendship continues to exist between the two countries, and such efforts as were in my power have been used to remove misunderstanding, and avert a threatened war between Peru and Spain. Our relations are of the most friendly nature with Chili, the Argentine Republic, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Paraguay, San Salvadur, and Hayti. During the past year no differences of any kind have arisen with any of these republics• and on the other hand, their sympa

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