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Last Annual Message.
The Distinct Issue.
Conditions of Peace.
evidence accessible, it seems to me that no attempts at negotiation with the insurgent leader could result in any good.
“ He would accept of nothing short of the severance of the Union. His declarations to this effect are explicit and oftrepeated. He does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. We cannot voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war, and decided by victory.
“If we yield, we are beaten; if the Southern people fail him, he is beaten-either way, it would be the victory and defeat following war What is true, however, of him who heads the insurgent cause, is not necessarily true of those who follow. Although he cannot reaccept the Union, they can. Some of them, we know, already desire peace and reunion. The number of such may increase.
They can at any moment have peace simply by laying down their arms and submitting to the National authority under the Constitution. After so much, the Government could not, if it would, maintain war against them. The loyal people would not sustain, or allow it, If questions should remain, we would adjust them by the peaceful means of legislation, conference, courts, and votes.
Operating only in constitutional and lawful channels, some certain and other possible questions are and would be beyond the Executive power to adjust; for instance, the admission of members into Congress, and whatever might require the appropriation of money.
“The Executive power itself would be really diminished by the cessation of actual war. Pardons and remissions of forfeiture, however, would still be within Executive control. In what spirit and temper this control would be exercised, can be fairly judged of by the past. A year ago general pardon and amnesty upon specified terms were offered to all except certain designated classes, and it was at this same time made
Last Annual Message.
Conditions of Peace.
known that the excepted classes were still within contemplation of special clemency.
"During the year many availed themselves of the general provision, and many more would, only that the sign of bad faith in some led to such precautionary measures as rendered the practical power less easy and certain. During the same time, also, special pardons have been granted to individuals of excepted classes, and no voluntary individual application has been denied.
“Thus, practically, the door has been for a full year open to all, except such as were not in condition to make free choice; that is, such as were in custody or under constraint. It is still so open to all; but the time may come, probably will come, when public duty shall demand that it be closed, and that, in lieu, more vigorous measures than heretofore shall be adopted.
In presenting the abandonment of armed resistance to the National authority, on the part of the insurgents, as the only indispensable condition to ending the war on the part of the Government, I retract nothing heretofore said as to slavery. I repeat the declaration made a year ago, that while I remain in my present position I shall not attempt to retract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation, nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation or by any of the acts of Congress.
"If the people should, by whatever mode, or means, make it an Executive duty to re-enslave such persons, another, and not I, must be their instrument to perform it.
"In stating a single condition of peace, I mean simply to say that the war will cease on the part of the Government whenever it shall have ceased on the part of those who began it.
Speech at a Serenade.
Reply to a Presentation Address.
TIGHTENING THE LINES.
Speech at a Serenade Reply to a Presentation Address-Peace Rumors-Rebel Commis
sioners-Instructions to Secretary Seward-The Conference in Hampton RoadsResult-Extra Session of the Senate Military Situation-Sherman-Charleston-Columbia-Wilmington-Fort Fisher-Sheridan-Grant-Rebel Congress-Second Inauguration-Inaugural-English Comment Proclamation to Deserters.
As illustrative of the genial, pleasant manner of the President, take the following, in response to a serenade, December 6th, 1864 :
" FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS :-I believe I shall never be old enough to speak without embarrassment when I have nothing to talk about. I have no good news to tell you, and yet I have no bad news to tell. We have talked of elections until there is nothing more to say about them. The most interesting news we now have is from Sherman. We all know where he went in at, but I can't tell where he will come out at. I will now close by proposing three cheers for General Sherman and his army.”
On the 24th of January, 1865, having been made the recipient of a beautiful vase of skeleton leaves, gathered from the battle-field of Gettysburg, which had been subscribed for at the great Sanitary Fair, held in Philadelphia during the previous summer, in reply to the warmly sympathetic and appreciative address of the Chairman of the Committee entrusted with the presentation, he said :
'REVEREND SIR, AND LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :-I accept, with emotions of profoundest gratitude, the beautiful gift you have been pleased to present to me. You will, of course,
Reply to a Presentation Address.
Women of America.
expect that I acknowledge it. So much has been said about Gettysburg, and so well said, that for me to attempt to say more may, perhaps, only serve to weaken the force of that which has already been said.
“A most graceful and eloquent tribute was paid to the patriotism and self-denying labors of the American ladies, on the occasion of the consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, by our illustrious friend, Edward Everett, now, alas ! departed from earth. His life was a truly great one, and, I think, the greatest part of it was that which crowned its closing years.
“I wish you to read, if you have not already done so, the glowing, and eloquent, and truthful words which he then spoke of the women of America. Truly the services they have rendered to the defenders of our country in this perilous time, and are yet rendering, can never be estimated as they ought to be.
“For your kind wishes to me, personally, I beg leave to render you, likewise, my sincerest thanks. I assure you they are reciprocated. And now, gentlemen and ladies, may God bless you all.”
With the opening of the new year, the air-as often before was filled with rumors that the insurgents were anxious to negotiate for peace.
Some there were, even among Mr. Lincoln's friends and supporters, who were apprehensive that his “ To whom it may concern” announcement of the previous year, was somewhat too curt and blunt. Without claiming to have as good an opportunity as the President for judging in the premises, they could not yet divest themselves of the idea that something definite and tangible might result from an interview with representatives from rebeldom; if nothing more, at least a distinct understanding that no peace could be attained, without separation, unless it were conquered.
Secretary Seward's Instructions.
Thoroughly familiar with the designs and purposes of the leading rebels as Mr. Lincoln was, and well aware that any such attempt must prove futile, he was nevertheless determined that no valid ground for censure should be afforded by himself, in case a favorable opening presented itself.
Accordingly, when he learned-as he did during the last week of January, from his friend, Francis P. Blair, who had visited Richmond, with the President's permission that the managers there were desirous of sending certain persons as commissioners to learn from the United States Government upon what terms an adjustment of difficulties could be made, and that A. H. Stephens, of Georgia, R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia, and J. A. Campbell, of Alabama, had been sent through the enemy's lines by Davis for the purpose of a conference upon the subject, Mr. Lincoln, not choosing that the commissioners should visit Washington, entrusted the matter to Secretary Seward, furnishing him with the following letter of instructions, dated Executive Mansion, Washington, January 31st, 1865 :
“Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State :-You will proceed to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, there to meet and informally confer with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, on the basis of my letter to F. P. Blair, Esq., of January 18, 1865, a copy of which you have.
“ You will make known to them that three things are indispensable, to wit:
"1. The restoration of national authority throughout all the States.
*2. 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.
“3. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war and the disbanding of all forces hostile to the Government.