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EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, December 27, 1861. MY DEAR SIR:-I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of your note of the 20th of December, conveying the announcement that the Trustees of the College of New Jersey had conferred upon me the degree of Doctor of Laws.
The assurance conveyed by this high compliment, that the course of the Government which I represent has received the approval of a body of gentlemen of such character and intelligence, in this time of public trial, is most grateful to me.
Thoughtful men must feel that the fate of civilization upon this continent is involved in the issue of our contest. Among the most gratifying proofs of this conviction is the hearty devotion everywhere exhibited by our schools and colleges to the national cause.
I am most thankful if my labors have seemed to conduct to the preservation of those institutions, under which alone we can expect good government, and in its train sound learning, and the progress of the liberal arts.
I am, sir, very truly, your obedient servant,
Dr. JOHN MACLEAN.
It was with no ordinary interest that the "good Christian people" of the North had in the political campaign. And it was with satisfaction that they saw the triumph of the cause, which was so dear to their hearts, secured by the re-election of a man so true, so pure, so honest, so kindly, so thoroughly Christian in the true sense of the word, as President Lincoln.
THE MEETING OF CONGRESS AND PROGRESS OF THE WAR
CONDITION OF THE COUNTRY AT THE MEETING OF CONGRESS.-THE MESSAGE.-PROCEEDINGS IN CONGRESS.-FORT FISHER.-DEATH OF EDWARD EVERETT.-PEACE CONFERENCE IN HAMPTON ROADS.-MILITARY AF
THE 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 about. 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 more 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
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 up 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 THE 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 intended 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 may 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 sixty[L. s.] four, and of the independence of the United States the eightyninth. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
By the President:
WILLIAM II. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
Our foreign relations were also in a satisfactory condi tion. 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 brought 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:
SIR: 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 merchants, 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 addition 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.