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press his sympathies. He desired to preserve friendly relations with England, but was not willing to act without the co-operation of that country.
Through the war the Emperor had keenly watched every movement of the conflict. He was dreaming of empire and power. He longed to have his name known in future ages. He desired to see the great republic of the West divided, the government of the people overthrown. Its example and influence were threatening the stability of European governments. The United States, during the administration of President Monroe, declared to the world that there must be no interference on the part of European governments with affairs in the Western hemisphere. Each government must be left to itself in working out its wellbeing and destiny. Just before the secession of the Southern States the “Clerical” Party in the Republic of Mexico annulled the Constitution of that country and elected Miramon dictator, who seized $660,000, which had been set aside for the payment of interest on bonds held in England. The dictator issued $15,000,000 in bonds, which were sold to French brokers for $ 700,000 in gold. The Liberal Party elected Juarez President, who defeated Miramon in battle, and compelled him to flee the country. The Liberals, having obtained possession of the Government, confiscated a portion of the estates of the Church. Some of the bishops, who had made themselves very obnoxious, also the Papal Nuncio, were ordered to leave Mexico. The people had been plundered by the Clerical Party. The country was poor. Miramon had taken the last dollar from the national treasury. A law was passed suspending for two years payment of interest on the bonds held in England and in Europe. The ministers of England, France, and Spain informed President Juarez that unless it was annulled in twenty-four hours they would haul down their flags and suspend all intercourse. A convention was held in London by agents of the three countries, and it was agreed that each country should send a fleet and troops to Vera Cruz to hold that port, and collect the custom dues.
It probably never will be known just what inducements were brought to bear upon Emperor Louis Napoleon to induce him to enter upon a grand scheme for the extension of the influence and power of France in Mexico, but on February 14, 1862, Mr. Charles Francis Adams, at London, informed Secretary Seward that the Emperor of France intended to establish a monarchy in Mexico, with Maximilian, brother of the Emperor of Austria, and Carlotta, daughter of the King of Belgium, upon the throne.
The fleets of France crossed the Atlantic with several thousand troops, which landed at Vera Cruz, marched inland, but were confronted and defeated by the Mexicans. England and Spain, seeing Louis Napoleon had ulterior designs in Mexico, withdrew their troops. A form of election was held by the French commander, and Maximilian declared to be the choice of the Mexicans as ruler of the nation. The Monroe Doctrine had been set aside by the Emperor of France.
At this juncture Mr. Francis P. Blair thought he could render great service to the United States. He was a venerable gentleman, who had been influential in political affairs during the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren. He was intimately acquainted with Jefferson Davis and men holding high positions in the Confederate Government. Mr. Blair undoubtedly believed that he could bring about peace. He applied to President Lincoln for a pass beyond the lines of the army, which was granted. Mr. Blair addressed a letter to Mr. Davis, stating that when General Early's army was in the vicinity of Washington, the soldiers had access to his home in the suburbs of the city, and doubtless carried away some papers which were of value to himself, and he would like to visit Richmond to recover them. The letter furnished a reason to an inquiring public. Far different a personal letter to Mr. Davis, which set forth his true desire. He wished to explain his views upon the state of the country — to promote its welfare. He was not an accredited agent from President Lincoln, but desired, as an individual and a private citizen, to “unbosom his heart frankly and without reserve." (")
By flag of truce Mr. Blair reached Richmond, January 12, 1865, and was kindly received. He submitted a long communication to President Davis.
“Slavery,” Mr. Blair said, “no longer remains an insurmountable obstruction to pacification. ... The North and South speak one language, are educated in the same common law. ... They were coming together again. ... The few States remaining in arms against the Gov. ernment were ready to surrender slavery. ... Louis Napoleon had declared he intended to make the Latin race supreme in the southern section of the continent."
Mr. Blair told Mr. Davis he was in a position to drive Maximilian from his American throne and baffle the designs of Napoleon. (*)
Mr. Blair's plan was for the Confederacy to give up the struggle, unite with the North, and drive the French out of Mexico.
President Davis addressed a note to Mr. Blair, which he was at liberty to read to President Lincoln.
“I have no disposition,” said Davis, “ 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, and to receive a commission if the United States Government shall choose to send one."
Mr. Blair reached Washington, January 18th, and laid the letter from Davis before the President, who in turn wrote:
“You may say to Mr. Davis that I have constantly been and am now and shall continue ready to receive any agent whom he or any other influential persons now resisting the national authority may informally send to me with the view of securing peace to the people of our common country.”
Mr. Blair returned to Richmond, and informed President Davis that President Lincoln would not be able to make any direct movement towards peace. Were he to do so he would be hampered by Congress. It was Mr. Blair's excuse, not the President's.
The chief executive of the nation would receive any one accredited from the Confederate Government, but Grant, Sherman, and the soldiers were the agents upon whom he relied for securing lasting peace. He knew that in a few weeks the Confederacy would have no power to continue the war. It was known that the Confederate army had very little food. Governor Brown, of Georgia, was refusing to obey the laws passed by the Confederate Congress. The return of Mr. Blair to Richmond created a stir in that city. The people regarded it as a sign of approaching peace. Mr. Davis appointed Vice-president Alexander H. Stephens, Judge John A. Campbell, and R. M. T. Hunter commissioners to act under the letter written by President Lincoln to Mr. Blair.
“ You are requested,” said Mr. Davis, in his letter to them, “to proceed to Washington City for informal conference with Mr. Lincoln upon the issues involved in the existing war, and for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries." (0)
President Lincoln was ready to receive any one coming with a view of securing peace to the people of “our common country.” President Davis was for securing peace to the "two countries.” That was the difference.
The President commissioned (January 31, 1865) Secretary Seward to proceed to Fortress Monroe to meet the Confederate commissioners. Explicit and plain his letter of instructions.
“The following things," wrote Mr. Lincoln, “are indispensable :
“ First. The restoration of the national authority throughout all the States.
“ Second. No receding by the executive of the United States on the slavery question from the position assumed thereon in the late annual message to Congress and in preceding documents.
Feb. 1, 1865.
“Third. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war, and the disbanding of all forces hostile to the Government. You will inform them that all propositions of theirs, not inconsistent with the above, will be considered and passed upon in a spirit of sincere liberality; you will hear all they may choose to say and repeat to me; you will not assume to definitely consummate anything."
Equally explicit was the instruction of the President to General Grant, sent by special messenger Major Eckert : "Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay your military plans.”
General Grant had desired no armistice, and informed the President that the troops were in readiness to move at the shortest notice. The sentinels did not relax their vigilance. The sharp-shooters were still on the alert. The cannon of both armies thundered daily.
Secretary Seward visited Fortress Monroe to meet the agents of the Confederate Government. It was night when the commissioners,
under a flag of truce, reached the headquarters of General Grant at City Point. They found the commander of the Union army
in a log-cabin, busily writing at a small table. The cabin was lighted by a kerosene lamp. Mr. Stephens was impressed with the simplicity and naturalness of General Grant.
“There was nothing,” he says, “ to indicate his official rank. There were neither guards nor aids about him. He furnished us comfortable quarters on board one of his despatch-boats. The more I became acquainted with him, the more I became thoroughly impressed with the very extraordinary combination of rare elements of character which he exhibited. During the time he met us frequently, and conversed freely upon various subjects, not much upon our mission. I saw, however, very clearly that he was anxious for the proposed conference to take place." (0)
General Grant in turn was impressed by the sincerity and earnestness of the commissioners.
“I recognize," he telegraphed to Stanton, “the difficulties in the way of receiving these informal commissioners at this time, and do not know what to recommend. I am sorry, however, that Mr. Lincoln cannot have an interview with the two named in this despatch (Stephens and Hunter), if not with all three now within our lines." President Lincoln read the despatch. If the Confederates sincere
ly desired peace he was ready to see them, although they had Feb. 2.
been appointed by Jefferson Davis on a basis different from what he himself had stipulated. He did not know that Davis had charged