« PreviousContinue »
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 Administration, 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, WASHINGTON, 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 Congress, 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
wards," had reference to the Emancipation Proclamation which he proposed to issue on that day, unless the offer of his preliminary proclamation should be accepted. That proclamation had been issued on the 22d of September, and the sense of responsibility under which this step was taken, was clearly indicated in the following remarks made by the President on the evening of the 24th of that month, in acknowledging the cumpliment of a serenade at the executive mansion :
FELLOW-CITIZENS: I appear before you to do little more than acknowledge the courtesy you pay me, and to thank you for it. I have not been distinctly informed why it is that on this occasion you appear to do me this honor, though I suppose it is because of the Proclamation. What I did, I did after a very full deliberation, and under a very heavy and solemn sense of responsibility. I can only trust in God I have made no mistake. I shall make no attempt on this occasion to sustain what I have done or said by any comment. It is now for the country and the world to pass judgment, and may be take action upon it. I will say no more upon this subject. In my position I am cnvironed with difficulties. Yet they are scarcely so great as the difficulties of those who, upon the battle-field, are endeavoring to purchase with their blood and their lives, the future happiness and prosperity of this country. Let us never forget them. On the 14th and 17th days of this present month, there have been battles bravely, skilfully, and successfully fought. We do not yet know the particulars. Let us be sure that, in giving praise to certain individuals, we do no injustice to others. I only ask you at the conclusion of these few remarks, to give three hearty cheers to all good and brave officers and men who fought those successful battles.
In November the President published the following order regarding the observance of the day of rest, and the vice of profanity, in the army and navy:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 1862. The President, commander-in-chief of the army and navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service. The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine will, demand that Sunday labor in the army and navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.
The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperilled, by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High. "At this time of public distress," adopting the words of Washington in 1776, "men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country, without abandoning themselves to vico and immorality." The first general order issued by the Father of his Country, after the Declaration of Independence, indicates the spirit in which our institutions were founded, and should ever be defended. "The general hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.”
THE CONGRESSIONAL SESSION OF 1862-'63.-MESSAGE OF THE
PRESIDENT, AND GENERAL ACTION OF THE SESSION.
The third session of the Thirty-seventh Congress opened on the first day of December, 1862—the supporters of the Administration having a large inajority in both branches. The general condition of the country, and the progress made in quelling the rebellion, are clearly set forth in the following Message of President LINCOLN, which was sent in to Congress at the beginning of the session :
FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Since your last annual assembling, another year of health and bountiful harvests has passed, and while it has not pleased the Almighty to bless us with a return of peace, we can but press on, guided by the best light He gives us, trusting that, in his own good time and wise way, all will be well.
The correspondence, touching foreign affairs, which has taken place during the last year, is herewith submitted, in virtual compliance with a request to that effect made by the House of Representatives near the close of the last session of Congress. If the condition of our relations with other nations is less gratifying than it has usually been at former periods, it is certainly more satisfactory than a nation so unhappily distracted as we are might reasonably have apprehended. In the month of June last there were some grounds to expect that the maritime Powers which, at the beginning of our domestic difficulties, so unwisely and unnecessarily, as we think, recognized the insurgents as a belligerent, would soon recede from that position, which has proved only less injurious to themselves than to our own country. But the temporary reverses which afterward befel the National arms, and which were