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The Senate passed the House resolution requesting the President to give notice of the termination of the Reciprocity Treaty, but with amendments, in which the House concurred.
The question of retaliation came up in the Senate, and after a lengthy debate a resolution passed the Senate, on the 31st of January, advising retaliation, but such as was conformable to the usages of war as practised among civ. ilized nations.
Great excitement was aroused in the House by a debate upon the conduct of General Butler in New Orleans, arising out of a speech by Mr. Brooks, of New York, in which he spoke of the General as “a gold robber." General Butler, hearing of this, sent one of his aids to Mr. Brooks with a letter, asking whether he was correctly reported, and whether there was any explanation, other than what appeared in the report, of his language, saying that the bearer would call for his answer at any place or time he might designate. Mr. Brooks chose to regard this as a challenge, and therefore an invasion of his privileges as a member of the House, and he accordingly sought to bring it before that body. The Speaker decided that the letter was no invasion of privilege. Mr. Brooks appealed from the decision of the chair, and a heated debate followed, which was closed by the withdrawal of the appeal. '
A very important resolution, reported by the Judiciary Committee, passed the House on the 30th of January, setting forth that as the local authorities of the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas had rebelled against the Government, and were in rebellion on the 9th of November, 1864, therefore,
Resoloed, That the States mentioned in the preamble to this resolution shall not be entitled to representation in the Electoral College for the choice of President and Vice-President of the United States, for the term of office commencing on the 4th of March next, and no electoral rotes shall be received or counted from those States.
But by far the most important action which was taken
during the whole session was the passage, on the 31st of January, of the resolution for the constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery. This resolution, as will be recollected, passed the Senate early in the previous session, but coming up in the House, it failed at that time to receive the requisite two-thirds vote. A motion for a reconsideration was made and laid upon the table. It was taken from the table early in this session, and was debated at great length. It was very soon manifest that by the progress of events the amendment had gained strength since the previous attempt to pass it. The debate was closed by a call for the previous question, for it was a subject on which debate could never be exhausted. The motion to reconsider was carried, by a vote of one hundred and twelve to fifty-seven. The question then recurred on the passage of the resolution, on which the vote was taken amid the deepest interest. The Speaker directed his own name to be called as a member of the House, and voted aye. His vote was received with loud applause, which he promptly checked ; and when the votes of several Democrats were given in favor of the resolution, they were also greeted with applause, and the hopes of the friends of the measure rose, for although two-thirds had not voted in favor of the reconsideration, it was manifest that the vote on the resolution was gaining in strength. When the vote was declared, and it was announced that the resolution was passed by a vote of one hundred and nineteen yeas to fifty-six nays, tumultuous applause broke forth, not only in the galleries, but also on the floor of the House, which immediately adjourned.
The adoption of this amendment was hailed with universal satisfaction. Those who had from the beginning regarded slavery as the cause of the rebellion, and had, therefore, made its extinction the indispensable condition of peace, saw in the action of Congress the fruition of their hopes and labors; while the great body of the people, wearied by the protracted contest and satisfied that none but the extremest measures would bring it to a close, acquiesced in the prohibition of slavery as a legitimate consequence of the rebellion, and as promising substantial corn pensation to the nation for the ravages of war.
President Lincoln had regarded the passage of the amendment with special interest. He regarded it as cov. ering whatever defects a rigid construction of the Consti. tution might find in his proclamation of emancipation, and as the only mode in which the perpetual prohibition of slavery could be placed beyond doubt or cavil. His view of the subject was indicated in the remarks which he addressed to an enthusiastic crowd, which gathered before the executive mansion, on the evening of the adoption of the resolution, to congratulate him upon this auspicious triumph. In response to their calls, he said :
He supposed the passage through Congress of the constitutional amend
occasion to which he was indebted for the honor of this call.
The occasion was one of congratulation to the country, and to the whole world. But there is a task yet before us to go forward and consummate by the votes of the States tbat which Congress so nobly began yesterday. (Applause and cries, “They will do it," &c.) He had the honor to inform those present that Illinois had already done the work. Maryland was about half through, but he felt proud that Illinois was a little ahead.
He thought this measure was a very fitting if not an indispensable adjunct to the winding up of the great difficulty. He wished the reunion of all the States perfected, and so effected as to remove all causes of disturbance in the future; and, to attain this end, it was necessary that the original disturbing cause should, if possible, be root
shrunk from doing all that he could to eradicate slavery, by issuing an Emancipation Proclamation. But that proclamation falls short of wbat the amendment will be when fully consummated. A question might be raised whether the proclamation was legally valid. It might be added, that it only aided those who came into our lines, and that it was
would have no effect upon the children of the slaves born hereafter; in fact, it would be urged that it did not meet the evil. But this amendment is a king's cure for all evils. It winds the whole thing up. He would repeat, that it was the fitting if not the indispensable adjunct to the consummation of the great game we are playing. He could not bat congratulate all present--bimself, the country, and the whole world-upon this great moral victory.
In addition to the general satisfaction felt by the whole country at the passage of this amendment, it carried special joy to that very large class of people who had feared that the war might end without securing the abolition of slavery. From the very beginning there had been a powerful pressure in favor of an adjustment with the discontented and rebellious South, and this had leil, as we have already seen, to repeated attempts at negotiation on behalf of the contending forces. The organized authorities on either side maintained their attitude of mutual defiance; but individuals on both sides kept up a steady and confident attempt, by personal effort, to bring the parties into such a position that they could not avoid negotiations for peace, without subjecting themselves to the injurious imputation of preferring war. It was remembered that during our war with Mexico, while neither party sued for peace, and while both Governments repudiated all thought of desiring it, peace was forced upon them by the unauthorized and irresponsible negotiations of a private citizen, * who secured from the Mexican Government terins which the American authorities, out of deference to the sentiments of their own people, did not dare refuse. The incident was a perpetual stimulant to personal ambition, and the country was scarcely ever free, for a month at a time, from rumors of pending negotiations for a speedy peace. During the months of December and January these rumors had been especially rife, and had created a good deal of public anxiety.
The whole country had come to regard the strength of the rebellion as substantially broken. In men, in resources of every kind, in modes of communication, and in the spirit with which the contest was carried on, the rebels were known to be rapidly and fatally failing; and it was almost universally believed that a vigorous and steady prosecution of the war would speedily destroy the rebel organization, capture its capital, disperse its armies, and compel an absolute and unconditional submission to
* Nicholas P. Trist.
the national authority. It was not, therefore, without a good deal of solicitude that the public learned that Mr. Francis P. Blair, an able, resolute, and experienced politician, had left Washington for Richmond, armed with a pass from President Lincoln, and that the real object of his visit was to prevail upon Jefferson Davis to send, or receive, commissioners to treat of peace between the contending parties. The rumor proved to be substantially true. The President had given Mr. Blair a pass through our lines and back. He had gone to Richmond, and had held free confi-rences with Mr. Davis and other members of the Rebel Government. He returned to Washington on the 16th of January, bringing with him a written assurance, addressed to himself, from Jefferson Davis, of his willingness to enter into negotiations for peace, to receive a commissioner whenever one should be sent, and of his readiness, whenever Mr. Blair could promise that he would be received, to appoint such a commissioner, minister, or other agent, and thus “renew the effort to enter into a conference with a view to secure peace between the two countries." Mr. Blair presented this letter to President Lincoln, who at once authorized him to return to Richmond, carrying with him his written assurance that he had constantly been, was then, and should continue to be,“ ready to receive any agent whom Mr. Davis, or any other influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send me, with a view of securing peace to the people of our common country." Mr. Blair left Washington on the 20th of January for Richmond, and on the next day placed in the hands of Mr. Davis this response of President Lincoln to his previous assurance; and Mr. Davis then learned that commissioners from him could be received to treat of peace, only on the assumption that the people of the United States still had one “common country,” and not on the assumption, which Mr. Davis had advanced, that they were divided into two independent powers.
In consequence of these communications, on the 29th of January, three persons, Alexander H. Stephens, R. M.