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T. Hunter, and J. A. Campbell, made application to Gen. eral Ord, the commander of the advanced portion of the Army of the Potomac, for permission to enter our lines, and to proceed to Washington as peace commissioners. The application was referred to the President, who granted permission for the three persons named to proceed to Fortress Monroe and there hold an informal conference, with some person or persons to be designated for that purpose, on the express condition that the peace proposed to be secured should be “ for the people of our coinmon country.” This response led the commissioners, on the 1st of February, to make an application directly to LieutenantGeneral Grant for the permission they had solicited, viz., to go to Washington to confer with President Lincoln concerning peace on the basis of his letter to Mr. Blair, but " without any personal compromise on any question in the letter.” Not anticipating such a proviso, which in effect waived entirely what he had laid down as the sine quâ non of even an informal conference on the subject of peace, the President had on the 31st of January directed Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, to proceed to Fortress Monroe for the purpose of conferring with the three commissioners. He was instructed to insist upon three things as indispensable :-1. The restoration of the national authority throughout all the States. 2. No receding from the position of the National Executive on the subject of slavery. 3. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war and the disbanding of the forces hostile to the Government. Upon this basis Mr. Seward was to hear whatever the commissioners might have to say, and report it to the President; but he was not to definitely consummate any thing. Under these instructions, Mr. Sward reached Fortress Monroe, where he arrived at ten o'clock on the evening of the 1st of February. Upon the receipt at the hands of Major Eckert, his messenger, of the terms in which the rebel commissioners had couched their request to General Grant for a conference, the President decided to recall the Secretary of State and terminate the attempted negotiation; but on the receipt of a dispatch from Gen.
eral Grant, expressing his personal belief that the commissioners were sincere in their desire for peace, and his strong conviction that a personal interview with them on the part of the President was highly desirable, President Lincoln changed his purpose and proceeded at once to Fortress Monroe, where he arrived on the evening of February 2d. A letter from the three commissioners to Major Eckert was here shown to him, in which was embodied the note of their instructions from Mr. Davis, in which they were directed to confer concerning peace between the “two countries." But a subsequent note, addressed by them to General Grant, declared their readiness to confer with the President upon the terms which he had prescribed, or any terms and conditions which he might propose, “not inconsistent with the essential principles of self-government and popular rights on which our institutions are founded." They declared their earnest wish to ascertain, after a free interchange of ideas and information, upon what principles and terms, if any, a just and honorable peace might be secured without the further effusion of blood; and they sought the conference for that purpose and with these views.
On the morning of the 3d of February, President Lincoln and Secretary Seward held a conference with the three commissioners of several hours' duration. It ended without result. The most authentic statement of what occurred on that occasion is given in the following extract from a dispatch immediately transmitted by the Secretary of State to Mr. Adams, our minister in England :
The Richmond party approached the discussion rather indirectly, and at no time did they make categorical demands, or tender formal stipulations or absolute refusals. Nevertheless, during the conference, which lasted four hours, the several points at issue between the Government ard the insurgents were distinctly raised, and discussed fully, intelligently, and in an amicable spirit. What the insurgent party seemed chiefly to farnir was a postponement of the question of separation upon which the war is waged, and a mutual direction of the efforts of the Government, as well as those of the insurgents, to some extrinsic policy or scheme for a season, during which passions might be expected to subside, and the armies be reduced, and trade and intercourse between the people of the two sections be resumed. It was suggested by them that throagh such postponoment we might now have immediate peace, with some not very cortain prospect of an ultimate satisfactory adjustment of political relations between the Governinent and the States, section, or people now engaged in conflict with it.
The suggestion, though deliberately considered, was nevertheless rogarded by the President as one of armistice or truon, and lie andounced that we can agree to no cessation or suspension of hostilities, except on the basis of the disbandment of the insurgent forces and the recognition of the national authority throughout all the States in the Union. Collaterally, and in subordination to the proposition which was thus announced, the anti-slavery policy of the United States was reviewed in all its bearings, and the President announced that he must not be expected to recede from the positions he had heretofore assumed in his Proclamation of Emancipation, and other documents, as these positions were reiterated in his annual message. It was further declared by the President that the completo restoration of the national authority everywhere was an indispensablo condition of any assent on our part to whatever form of peace might be proposed. The President assured the other party that while he must adhere to these positions, he would be prepared, so far as power is lodged with the Executive, to exercise liberality. Its power, however, is limited by the Constitution; and, when peace should be made, Congress must necessarily act in regard to appropriations of money, and to the admission of representatives from the insurrectionary States.
The Richmond party were then informed that Congress had, on the 81st alt., adopted by a constitutional majority a joint resolution submitting to the several States the proposition to abolish slavery throughout the Union, and that there is every reason to expect that it will be acceptod by three-fourths of the States, so as to become a part of the national organic law.
The report of the conference and its results, made by the rebel authorities, is embodied in the following message from Jefferson Davis, which was sent in to the rebel Legislature on the 5th of February :To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate Status of
America : Having recently received a written notification which satisfied me that the President of the United States was disposed to confor informally with unofficial agents that might be sent by me with a view to the restoration of peace, I requested Hon. Alexander H. Stephens, Hon. R. M. T. Hunter, and Hon. John A. Campbell to proceed through our lines to hold a conference with Mr. Lincoln, or such persons as he might depote to represent him.
I herewith submit, for the information of Congress, the report of the eminent citizens above named, showing that the enemy refuse to enter into negotiations with the Confederate States, or any one of them separately, or to give our people any other terms or guarantees than those which a conqueror may grant, or permit us to have peace on any other basis than our unconditional submission to their rule, coupled with the acceptance of their recent legislation, including an amendment to the Constitution for the emancipation of negro slaves, and with the right on the part of the Federal Congress to legislato on the subject of the relations between the white and black population of each State.
Such is, as I understand, the effect of the amendment to the Constitution which has been adopted by the Congress of the United States. (Signed)
JEFFERSON Davis. EXECUTIVE OFFIDE, RICHMOND, February 5, 1865. REPORT OF THE REBEL COMMISSIONERS.
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, February 5, 1865. To the President of the Confederate States :
Sır::-Under your letter of appointment of 28th ult., we proceeded to seek an informal conference with Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, upon the subject mentioned in your letter.
The conference was granted, and took place on the 3d inst., on board a steamer anchored in Hampton Roads, where we met President Lincoln and Hon. Mr. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States. It continued for several hours, and was both full and explicit.
We learned from them that the message of President Lincoln to tho Congress of the United States in December last explains clearly and distinctly his sentiments as to terms, conditions, and method of proceeding by which peace can be secured to the people, and we were not informed that they would be modified or altered to obtain that end. We understood from him that nu terms or proposals of any treaty or agreement looking to an ultimate settlement would be entertained or made by him with the authorities of the Confederate States, because that would be a recognition of their existence as a separate power, which under no circumstances would be done; and for like reasons, that no such terins would be entertained by him from States separately; that no extended truce or armistice, as at present advised, would be granted or allowed without satisfactory assurances in advance of complete restoration of the authority of the Constitution and laws of the United States over all places within the States of the Confederacy; that whatever consequences may follow from the re-establishinent of that authority must be accepted, but the individuals subject to pains and penalties under the laws of the United States might rely upon a very liberal use of the power confided to him to remit those pains and penalties, if peace be restored.
During the conference the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States, adopted by Congress on the 31st ult., were brought to our notice. These amendments provide that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for crime, should exist within the United States, or any place within their jurisdiction, and that Congress should have the power to enforce this amendment by appropriate legislation.
Of all the correspondence that preceded the conference herein mentioned, and leading to the same, you have heretofore been inforined. Very respectfully, your obedient servants,
ALEX. H. STEPHENS,
The public rumors which were current upon this subject led to the adoption on the 8th, by the House of Representatives, of a resolution calling upon the President for information concerning the conference. To this request President Lincoln responded on the 10th, by transmitting the following message :
WABIINGTON, February 10. To the Honorable the House of Representatives :
In response to your resolution of the 8th inst., requesting information in relation to a conference recently held in Hampton Roads, I have the honor to state that on the day of the date, I gave Francis P. Blair, Sr., a card written on as follows, to wit:
Allow the bearer, F. P. Blair, Sr., to pass our lines, go Soath, and return.
A. LINCOLN. December 26, 1864.
That at the time, I was inforined that Mr. Blair sought the card as a means of getting to Richmond, Va., but he was given no authority to speak or act for the Government, nor was I informed of any thing he would say or do, on his own account or otherwise. Mr. Blair told me that he had been to Richmond, and had seen Mr. Jefferson Davis, and he (Mr. Blair) at the same time left with me a manuscript letter as follows, to wit:
Rionmond, VA., January 12, 1365. F. P. BLAIR, Esq.: Sir:- I have deemed it proper, and probably desirable to you, to give you in this form the substance of the remarks made by me to be repeated by you to President Lincoln, &c., &c.
I have no disposition to find obstacles in forms, and am willing now as heretofore to enter into negotiations for the restoration of peace.
I am ready to send a commission, whenever I have reason to suppose it will be received, or to receive a commission, if the United States Government shall choose to send one.