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by means of well-ordered and profound deliberation, whether these interests are definitively irreconcilable, whether separation is an extreme that can no longer be avoided, or whether the memories of a common existence, the ties of every kind which have made the North and the South one whole Federative State, and have borne them on to so high a degree of prosperity, are not more powerful than the causes which have placed arms in the hands of the two populations.
The suggestion is not an extraordinary one, and it may well have been thought by the Emperor of the French, in the earnestness of his benevolent desire for the restoration of peace, a feasible one. But when M. Drouyn de l’Huys shall come to review it in the light in which it must necessarily be examined in this country, I think he can hardly fail to perceive that it amounts to nothing less than a proposition that, while this Government is engaged in suppressing an armed insurrection, with the purpose of maintaining the constitutional national authority, and preserving the integrity of the country, it shall enter into diplomatic discussion with the insurgents upon the questions whether that authority shall not be renounced, and whether the country shall not be delivered over to disunion, to be quickly followed by ever-increasing anarchy.
If it were possible for the Government of the United States to compromise the national authority so far as to enter into such debates, it is not easy to perceive what good results could be obtained by them.
The commissioners must agree in recommending either that the Union shall stand or that it shall be voluntarily dissolved; or else they musto leave the vital question unsettled, to abide at last the fortunes of the
The Government has not shut out the knowledge of the present temper, any more than of the past purposes of the insurgents. There is not the least ground to suppose that the controlling actors would be persuaded at this moment, by any arguments which national commissioners could offer, to forego the ambition that has impelled them to the disloyal position they are occupying. Any commissioners who should be appointed by these actors, or through their dictation or influence, must enter the conference imbued with the spirit and pledged to the personal fortunes of the insurgent chiefs. The loyal people in the insurrectionary States would be unheard, and any offer of peace by this Government, on the condition of the maintenance of the Union, must necessarily be rejected.
On the other hand, as I have already intimated, this Government has not the least thought of relinquishing the trust which has been con
fided to it by the nation under the most solemn of all political sanctions; and if it had any such thought, it would still have abundant reason to know that peace proposed at the cost of dissolution would be immediately, unreservedly, and indignantly rejected by the American people. It is a great mistake that European statesmen make, if they suppose this people are demoralized. Whatever, in the case of an insurrection, the people of France, or of Great Britain, or of Switzerland, or of the Netherlands would do to save their national existence, no matter how the strife might be regarded by or might affect foreign nations, just so much, and certainly no less, the people of the United States will do, if necessary to save for the common benefit the region which is bounded by the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts, and by the shores of the Gulfs of St. Lawrence and Mexico, together with the free and common navigation of the Rio Grande, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio, St. Lawrence, Hudson, Delaware, Potomac, and other natural highways by wbich this land, which to them is at once a land of inheritance and a land of promise, is opened and watered. Even if the agents of the American people now exercising their power should, through fear or faction, fall below this height of the national virtue, they would be speedily, yet constitutionally, replaced by others of sterner character and patriotism.
I must be allowed to say, also, that M. Drouyn de l'Huys errs in his description of the parties to the present conflict. We have here, in the political sense, no North and South, no Northern and Southern States. We have an insurrectionary party, which is located chiefly upon and adjacent to the shore of the Gulf of Mexico; and we have, on the other hand, a loya! people, who constitute not only Northern States, but also Eastern, Middle, Western, and Southern States.
I have on many occasions heretofore submitted to the French Gov. ernment the President's views of the interests, and the ideas more effective for the time than even interests, which lie at the bottom of the determination of the American Government and poople to maintain the Federal Union. The President has done the same thing in his Messages and other public declarations. I refrain, therefore, from reviewing that argument in connection with the existing question.
M. Drouyn de l’Huys draws to his aid the conferences which took place between the Colonies and Great Britain in our Revolutionary War. He will allow us to assume that action in the crisis of a nation must accord with its necessities, and therefore can seldom be conformed to procedents. Great Britain, when entering on the negotiations, had manifestly come to entertain doubts of her ultimate success; and it is certain that the councils of the Colonies could not fail to take new courage, if not to gain other advantage, when the parent State compromised so far as to treat of peace on the terms of conceding their independence.
It is true, indeed, that peace must come at some time, and that conferences must attend, if they are not allowed to precede the pacification. There is, however, a better form for such conferences than the one which M. Drouyn de l'Huys suggests. The latter would be palpably in derogation of the Constitution of the United States, and would carry no weight, because destitute of the sanction necessary to bind either the disloyal or the loyal portions of the people. On the other hand, the Congress of the United States furnishes a constitutional forum for debates between the alienated parties. Senators and representatives from the loyal portion of the people are there already, freely empowered to confer; and seats also are vacant, and inviting senators and representatives of this discontented party who may be constitutionally sent there from the States involved in the insurrection. Moreover, the conferences which can thus be hold in Congress have this great advantage over any that could be organized upon the plan of M. Drouyn de l’Huys, namely, that the Congress, if it were thought wise, could call a national convention to adopt its recommendations, and give them all the solemnity and binding force of organic law. Such conferences between the alienated parties may be said to have already begun. Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri-States which are claimed by the insurgents—are already represented in Congress, and submitting with perfect freedom and in a proper spirit their advice upon the course best calculated to bring about, in the shortest time, a firm, lasting, and honorable peace. Representatives have been sent also from Louisiana, and others are understood to be coming from Arkansas.
There is a preponderating argument in favor of the Congressional form of conference over that which is suggested by M. Drouyn de l’Huys, namely, that while an accession to the latter would bring this Government into concurrence with the insurgents in disregarding and setting aside an important part of the Constitution of the United States, and so would be of pernicious example, the Congressional conference, on the contrary, preserves and gives new strength to that sacred writing which must continue through future ages the sheet anchor of the Republic.
You will be at liberty to read this dispatch M. Drouyn de l'Huys, and to givo him a copy if he shall desire it.
To the end that you may be informed of the whole caso, I transmit a copy of M. Drouyn de l'Huys's dispatch.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
The effect of this dispatch was very marked. It put an end to all talk of foreign intervention in any form, and met the cordial and even enthusiastic approbation of the people throughout the country. Its closing suggestions as to the mode in which the Southern States could resume their old relations to the Federal Government, were regarded as significant indications of the policy the Administration was inclined to pursue whenever the question of restoration should become practical; and while they were somewhat sharply assailed in some quarters, they commanded the general assent of the great body of the people.
The subject of appointing commissioners to confer with the authorities of the rebel Confederacy had been discussed, before the appearance of this correspondence, in the Northern States. It had emanated from the party most openly in hostility to the Admninistration, and those men in that party who had been most distinctly opposed to any measures of coercion, or any resort to force for the purpose of overcoming the rebellion. It was represented by these persons that the civil authorities of the Confederacy were restrained from abandoning the contest only by the refusal or neglect of the Government to give them an opportunity of doing so without undue humiliation and dishonor; and in December Hon. Fernando Wood, of New York, wrote to the President informing him that he had reason to believe the Southern States would " send representatives to the next Congress, provided a full and general amnesty should permit them to do so,” and asking the appointment of commissioners to ascertain the truth of these assurances.
To this request the President made the following reply:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASIIINGTON, Dec. 12, 1862. Hon. FERNANDO WOOD:
MY DEAR SIR:-Your letter of the 8th, with the accompanying note of same date, was received yesterday.
The most important paragraph in the letter, as I consider, is in these words: “On the 25th of November last I was advised by an authority which I deemed likely to be well informed as well as reliable and truthful, that the Southern States would send representatives to the next Congressy provided that a full and general amnesty should permit them to do so. No guarantee or terms were asked for other than the amnesty referred to."
I strongly suspect your information will prove to be groundless; nevertheless, I thank you for communicating it to me. Understanding the phrase in the paragraph above quoted—“the Southern States would send representatives to the next Congress "—to be substantially the same as that “the people of the Southern States would cease resistance, and would reinaugurate, submit to, and maintain the national authority within the limits of such States, under the Constitution of the United States," I say that in such case the war would cease on the part of the United States; and that if within a reasonable time" a full and general amnesty" were necessary to such end, it would not be withheld.
I do not think it would be proper now to communicate this, formally or informally, to the people of the Southern States. My belief is that they already know it; and when they choose, if ever, they can communicate with me unequivocally. Nor do I think it proper now to suspend military operations to try any experiment of negotiation.
I should nevertheless receive, with great pleasure, the exact information you now have, and also such other as you may in any way obtain. Such information might be more valuable before the 1st of January than afterward.
While there is nothing in this letter which I shall dread to see in history, it is, perhaps, better for the present that its existence should not become public. I therefore have to request that you will regard it as confidential. Your obedient servant,
The intimation in this letter that information concerning the alleged willingness of the rebels to resume their allegiance, "might be more valuable before the 1st of January than after