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with lightning speed from state to state, from city to city, from village to village, and in less than thirty-six hours the whole South seemed to have been electrified. If there were at that time ten men in the city of Richmond who had not for the instant inhaled the poison, I did not know them; for those who did not, under the reign of terror that was instantaneously inaugurated, thought it most prudent to keep their opinions to themselves.
It was in this condition of things, and under these circumstances, that, apprehending and foreshadowing what has since become a painful and frightful reality, the firm conviction was forced upon my mind that a temporary and partial separation, authorized by an amendment to the Constitution to that effect, could alone prevent the other Southern States from following in the wake of Virginia, which would give to the rebellion such gigantic proportions as would lead to the most disastrous war recorded on the page of history. To save these Border States to the Union, including Virginia—for in that event the people would have repudiated the action of their Convention--to avert the evils that have since resulted, I addressed the following letter to my valued friend, Hon. Edward Bates, Attorney General of the United States.
By the suggestions contained in this correspondence, it was my purpose, if war was inevitable, to make it a foreign instead of a civil war, in which other states would have no pretext for taking part with the revolted states in the Gulf. I believed then, as I believe now, that such a course, if adopted, would have cut off all co-operation between the Border and Cotton States, which would speedily bring the Cotton States to their senses, and that these people would themselves in a short time ask for readmission into the Union; and that, overwhelming their faithless rulers, they would return to their allegiance with an increased spirit of fidelity to the country; and that if they did not, that then the application of some of their own cherished principles, as contained in the " Monroe Doctrine," or in the celebrated “Ostend Manifesto," which was the exclusive work of Southern Democracy, or that the difficulties growing out of the navigation of the Mississippi, or some other of the thousand causes that would necessarily arise, would furnish the occasion of reducing them to subjection and obedience to the authorities of the United States.
I did think if all that has followed could have been foreseen, such a settlement would have been eagerly embraced by nine tenths of the friends of the Union in all quarters, independent of the immense sacrifice of life, and the amount of misery that has been entailed upon the human family. I think the Cotton States would have been dearly paid for at half the amount of money that has been expended, throwing every other consideration out of the question. Here, however, is my letter to Mr. Bates:
THE BATLS LETTERS.
Richmond, April 19, 1861. MY DEAR SIR, --Your letter of yesterday has been received. Before this you will have learned through the press all that has occurred at Norfolk and at this place; but I can not begin to give you a just conception of the excitement created, not only here but throughout the whole Southern country, by the proclamation of the 15th, which in many respects may be regarded as the most unfortunate document that ever issued from the government. In the absence of that paper, this state could not have been carried out of the Union; with it, the Union party and the Union feeling has been almost entirely swept out of existence. You can not meet with one man in a thousand who is not influenced with a passion for war; and every one seems to regard the proclamation as a declaration of war for the subjugation of the entire South, and for the extermination of slavery. Reason (with them on this point) would as soon arrest the motion of the Atlantic as it would check the current of their passions.
When I saw you in Washington some ten days since, I had the honor to lay before you and other members of the Cabinet, as well as before Mr. Lincoln himself, a plan for the settlement of our troubles through the medium of a national convention, to give to the seceded states leave to withdraw. I thought then, as I do now, that the plan then suggested was the only solution to the dreadful crisis which was upon us. Since that time matters have assumed a far more frightful aspect, and I now venture to make one more effort to save the unnecessary effusion of brothers' blood, and, in the name of liberty, humanity, and Christianity, I implore you to give it your earnest and solemn deliberation.
I need hardly say that no man in this nation has held in higher appreciation the value of our blessed Union. No man has labored more con- ' stantly and earnestly for its perpetuation than I; no man's heart can bleed more freely for its loss than mine; no man can mourn more sorrowfully for its overthrow than I will; no man can condemn more severely the immediate causes that have so unnecessarily led us into this awful and terrible catastrophe than I do. Yet, for the first time, after an entire night of sleepless reflection, when I prayed as I never prayed before for wisdom
and strength to do my duty, my mind has been brought to the conclusion that a dissolution is an inevitable decree of fate.
I am satisfied that a contest on the part of the general government, with its perfect military organization, powerful naval forces, its command of money, and its credit without limit, backed by eighteen or twenty millions of people, against eight millions, without military organization, without naval forces, and without money or credit, is not likely to be of doubtful result in the end. But after that, what then? Can the Union be preserved on such terms, or would it be worth preserving if it could ? After the best blood of the country has been shed in a war which has passion, prejudice, and unnatural but mutual hate for its foundation, intensified by the conflict, could the two sections ever be brought together as one people again ? And would it not require large standing armies, in constant, active service, to conquer and maintain a peace? And would not that end at last in a hateful, loathsome military despotism ?
If I am right in all this, would not a peaceful separation, not as a military necessity, but as a triumph of reason, order, law, liberty, morality, and religion, over passion, pride, prejudice, hatred, disorder, and the force of the mob, be a far wiser and more desirable solution of the problem than such scenes as will result from a purely sectional warfare (result as it may), and from which the heart sickens and the soul recoils with horror ?
You may cut, maim, kill, and destroy; you may sweep down battalions with your artillery; you may block up commerce with your fleets; you may starve out the thousands and tens of thousands of the enemies of the government; you may overrun, but you can not subjugate the united South. And, if you could do all this, you could not do it without inflicting an equal amount of misery upon those who are its best friends, and who have stood as long as there was a plank to stand upon by the side of the Union, the Constitution, and the laws. Our streets may run red with blood; our dwellings may be leveled with the earth ; our fields may be laid waste; our hearth-stones may be made desolate; and then, at the last, what end has been gained? Why, the government has exhibited its power, which has never been questioned but by the idle, the ignorant, and the deluded, and for the display of which there will be abundant opportunities, without an effort now on either side to cut each other's throats !
So far from its being regarded as a betrayal of weakness by the other powers of the globe, will it not be looked upon in the present emergency as an act of magnanimity and heroism on the part of the more powerful party to propose terms of peace? Let me, then, as a strong, devoted, unalterable friend of the Union (if it could be maintained), let me, as a conscientious and unchangeable opponent of the fatal heresy of secession, urge upon this administration the policy of issuing another proclamation proposing a truce to hostilities, and the immediate assembling of a national convention to recognize the independence of such of the states as desire to withdraw from the Union and make the experiment of separate government, which it will not, as I think, take them long to discover is the most egregious error that man, in his hour of madness, ever committed.
In five years from this time the remaining United States would be stronger and more powerful than the thirty-four states were six months ago, and you will have a government permanent and enduring for all time to come, to which all who seek an asylum from oppression may rcsort hereafter.
I will not undertake to speculate on the experiment of a Southern republic; my opinions on that subject are well defined, and too well understood to make it necessary that they should be canvassed here. Let it be tried, and let it work out its own salvation.
If this policy can be adopted, all I shall ask for myself will be the privilege of retiring to some secluded spot, where I can live in peace, and mourn over the downfall of the best government, wisely administered, with which man was ever blessed.
For God's sake, let me implore you to let wisdom, magnanimity, true courage, and humanity prevail in your councils, and give peace to a distracted and dissevered country.
I write as one who feels that he is standing on the brink of the grave of all he has cherished on earth; my head is bowed down with grief over the madness that rules the hour, and I pray God to give me the wisdom to know and the strength to perform my duty, my whole duty to my country, my state, and
JOHN M. BOTTS. Hon. EDWARD BATES, Attorney General, etc. Will you grant me the favor to lay this last effort to serve my country before the Cabinet at its first meeting? I appeal to you, as a native son of Virginia, to do it.
J. M. B.
As indicative of the temper and spirit with which this letter was received by the secessionists, I append the following editorial from the Petersburg Express, being, perhaps, the most decent and temperate of all the comments made upon it:
" Hon. John M. Botts.---This gentleman, it seems, has been recently engaged in efforts to bring about a peaceful solution of the present disturbances in the country by appeals to the wicked authors of these disturbances, the Rump administration in Washington. A letter which he addressed to Edward Bates, the Rump Attorney General, has just been published, and we have read it with vastly more amazement than satisfaction, because sentiments are breathed in it which are unworthy of a hightoned Virginian in a crisis like the present, when his liberty is assailed in a manner utterly disgraceful to the age we live in. Mr. Botts is doubtless very anxious to bring the two sections to a halt in their preparation
He is doubtless a friend to peace, and would use all his power and influence to commend it. But he has adopted the very worst course that he could well have done to effect the end he has in view. The letter to Bates betrays a spirit of rank disaffection to the cause of the South which is too obvious to escape notice, and a fear of the Northern millions which is conspicuously apparent in a portion of it. Now Mr. Botts is (no thanks to Lincoln) a citizen of a free republic, and has a right to his own thoughts. We hope never to see any where in the South an attempt made to muzzle the tongue, pen, or conscience of the citizen.
“Mr. Botts is still an ardent Union man, strange to say; and although he counsels the call of a national convention to give the states leave to withdraw,' it is evident that their withdrawal is to him a most unpalatable thing to contemplate. The horror which he feels at this picture is only exceeded by that which fills him at the contemplation of the picture of a bloody civil war. Had we set about the work that Mr. Botts has undertaken of impressing upon the Rump government a pacific policy, the first thing that we would have studiously guarded against would have been the use of any expression which could be tortured into the signification that there was the slightest apprehension at the South of the consequences of war, because it has been a fixed and inflexible principle of the Black Republicans, ever since the secession movement began, to interpret every such expression into a sign of backing down, or, in other words, into a disposition to return into the Union upon any terms; and this interpretation has uniformly steeled them against all conciliation and adjustment. We should have spoken in a very different tone to Lincoln from that in which Mr. Botts has thought fit to address him. We would have in a manly way told him that the South had separated from the North because her constitutional rights had been trodden down, and her liberties were threatened ; that she demanded the recognition of her sep