The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

THOMAS T. ECKERT,
Major and Aide-de-Camp.

WASHINGTON, January 18, 1865.
F. P. BLAIR, ESQ.

SIR:--Your having shown me Mr. Davis's letter to you of the twelfth
instant, you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and
shall continue ready to receive any agent whom he or any other
influential person now resisting the national authority may
informally send to me with the view of securing peace to the people
of our one common country.
Yours, etc., A. LINCOLN.

Afterwards, but before Major Eckert had departed, the following
dispatch was received from General Grant:

OFFICE UNITED STATES MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
WAR DEPARTMENT.

The following telegram received at Washington January 3J, 1865, from
City Point, Va., 10.30 A.M., January 30, 1865:

"His EXCELLENCY ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
President of the United States:

"The following communication was received here last evening:

'PETERSBURG, VA., January 30, 1865.
'LIEUTENANT-GENERAL U.S. GRANT,
Commanding Armies United States.
'SIR: We desire to pass your lines under safe conduct, and to proceed
to Washington to hold a conference with President Lincoln upon the
subject of the existing war, and with a view of ascertaining upon
what terms it may be terminated, in pursuance of the course indicated
by him in his letter to Mr. Blair of January 18, 1865, of which we
presume you have a copy; and if not, we wish to see you in person, if
convenient, and to confer with you upon the subject.
'Very respectfully, yours,
'ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS.
'J. A. CAMPBELL.
'R. M. T. HUNTER.'

"I have sent directions to receive these gentlemen, and expect to
have them at my quarters this evening, awaiting your instructions.
U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General, Commanding
Armies United States."

This, it will be perceived, transferred General Ord's agency in the
matter to General Grant. I resolved, however, to send Major Eckert
forward with his message, and accordingly telegraphed General Grant
as follows, to wit:

EXECUTIVE MANSION
WASHINGTON, January 13, 1865
(Sent at 1.30 P.M.)

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GRANT, City Point, Va.:

A messenger is coming to you on the business contained in your
despatch. Detain the gentlemen in comfortable quarters until he
arrives, and then act upon the message he brings as far as
applicable, it having been made up to pass through General Ord's
hands, and when the gentlemen were supposed to be beyond our lines.

A. LINCOLN.

When Major Eckert departed, he bore with him a letter of the
Secretary of War to General Grant, as follows, to wit:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
WASHINGTON, D. C., January 30, 1865.

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GRANT, Commanding, etc.

GENERAL:--The President desires that you will please procure for the
bearer, Major Thomas T. Eckert, an interview with Messrs. Stephens,
Hunter, and Campbell, and if on his return to you he requests it pass
them through our lines to Fortress Monroe by such route and under
such military precautions as you may deem prudent, giving them
protection and comfortable quarters while there, and that you let
none of this have any effect upon your movements or plans.

By order of the President:
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

Supposing the proper point to be then reached, I dispatched the
Secretary of State with the following instructions, Major Eckert,
however, going ahead of him:

EXECUTIVE MANSION,
WASHINGTON, January 31, 1865.

HON. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State:

You will proceed to Fortress Monroe, Va., 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 the 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.

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
report it to me.

You will not assume to definitely consummate anything.

Yours, etc.,

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

On the day of its date the following telegram was sent to General
Grant:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 1,1865
(Sent at 9.30 A.M.)

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GRANT, City Point, Va.:

Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay your
military movements or plans.

A. LINCOLN.

Afterwards the following despatch was received from General Grant:

OFFICE UNITED STATES MILITARY TELEGRAPH
WAR DEPARTMENT.
The following telegram received at Washington, 2.30 P.M., February 1,
1865, from City Point, Va., February 1, 12.30 PM., 1865:

"His EXCELLENCY A. LINCOLN, President United States:

Your despatch received. There will be no armistice in consequence of
the presence of Mr. Stephens and others within our lines. The troops
are kept in readiness to move at the shortest notice if occasion
should justify it.

U.S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

To notify Major Eckert that the Secretary of State would be at
Fortress Monroe, and to put them in communication, the following
despatch was sent:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 1, 1865.

MAJOR T. T. ECKERT,
Care of General Grant, City Point, Va.:

Call at Fortress Monroe and put yourself under direction of Mr. S.,
whom you will find there.

A. LINCOLN.

On the morning of the 2d instant the following telegrams were
received by me respectively from the Secretary of State and Major
Eckert:

FORT MONROE, VA.,
February 1,1865. 11.30 PM.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:

Arrived at 10 this evening. Richmond party not here. I remain here.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD.

CITY POINT, VA.,
February 1, 1865. 10 P.M.

HIS EXCELLENCY A. LINCOLN, President of the United States:
I have the honor to report the delivery of your communication and my
letter at 4.15 this afternoon, to which I received a reply at 6 P.M.,
but not satisfactory.

At 8 P.M. the following note, addressed to General Grant, was
received:

CITY POINT, VA.,
February 1, 1865

"LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GRANT.
"SIR:-We desire to go to Washington City to confer informally with
the President personally in reference to the matters mentioned in his
letter to Mr. Blair of the 18th January ultimo, without any personal
compromise on any question in the letter. We have the permission to
do so from the authorities in Richmond.
Very respectfully yours,
ALEX. H. STEPHENS
R. M. T. HUNTER.
J. A. CAMPBELL."

At 9.30 P.M. I notified them that they could not proceed further
unless they complied with the terms expressed in my letter. The
point of meeting designated in the above note would not, in my
opinion, be insisted upon. Think Fort Monroe would be acceptable.
Having complied with my instructions, I will return to Washington to-
morrow unless otherwise ordered.

THOS. T. ECKERT, Major, etc.

On reading this despatch of Major Eckert I was about to recall him
and the Secretary of State, when the following telegram of General
Grant to the Secretary of War was shown me:

OFFICE UNITED STATES MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
WAR DEPARTMENT.

The following telegram received at Washington
4.35A.M., February 2, 1865, from City Point, Va., February 1, 10.30
P.M., 1865:

"HON. EDWIN M. STANTON, "Secretary of War:

"Now that the interview between Major Eckert, under his written
instructions, and Mr. Stephens and party has ended, I will state
confidentially, but not officially to become a matter of record, that
I am convinced upon conversation with Messrs. Stephens and Hunter
that their intentions are good and their desire sincere to restore
peace and union. I have not felt myself at liberty to express even
views of my own or to account for my reticency. This has placed me
in an awkward position, which I could have avoided by not seeing them
in the first instance. I fear now their going back without any
expression from anyone in authority will have a bad influence. At
the same time, I recognize 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 can not have an
interview with the two named in this despatch, if not all three now
within our lines. Their letter to me was all that the President's
instructions contemplated to secure their safe conduct if they had
used the same language to Major Eckert.

"U.S. GRANT
"Lieutenant-General,"

This despatch of General Grant changed my purpose, and accordingly I
telegraphed him and the Secretary of State, respectively, as follows:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 2, 1865. (Sent at 9 A.M.)

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GRANT, City Point, Va.:

Say to the gentlemen I will meet them personally at Fortress Monroe
as soon as I can get there.

A. LINCOLN.

WAR DEPARTMENT,
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 2, 1865. (Sent at 9 A.M.)

HON. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Fortress Monroe, Va.:

Induced by a despatch from General Grant, I join you at Fort Monroe
as soon as I can come.

A. LINCOLN.

Before starting, the following despatch was shown me. I proceeded,
nevertheless:

OFFICE UNITED STATES MILITARY TELEGRAPH,
WAR DEPARTMENT.
The following telegram received at Washington, February 2, 1865, from
City Point, Va., 9 A.M., February2, 1865:

"HON. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State, Fort Monroe:

"The gentlemen here have accepted the proposed terms, and will leave
for Fort Monroe at 9.30 A.M.

"U. S. GRANT, "Lieutenant-General."

(Copy to HON. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington.)

On the night of the 2nd I reached Hampton Roads, found the Secretary
of State and Major Eckert on a steamer anchored offshore, and learned
of them that the Richmond gentlemen were on another steamer also
anchored offshore, in the Roads, and that the Secretary of State had
not yet seen or communicated with them. I ascertained that Major
Eckert had literally complied with his instructions, and I saw for
the first time the answer of the Richmond gentlemen to him, which in
his despatch to me of the 1st he characterizes as "not satisfactory."
That answer is as follows, to wit:

CITY POINT, VA., February 1, 1865.
THOMAS T. ECKERT, Major and Aid-de-Camp.
MAJOR:-Your note, delivered by yourself this day, has been
considered. In reply we have to say that we were furnished with a
copy of the letter of President Lincoln to Francis P. Blair, Esq., of
the 18th of January ultimo, another copy of which is appended to your
note. Our instructions are contained in a letter of which the
following is a copy:

RICHMOND, January 28, 1865.
In conformity with the letter of Mr. Lincoln, of which the foregoing
is a copy, you are to proceed to Washington City for informal
conference with him upon the issues involved in the existing war, and
for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries.
"With great respect, your obedient servant,
"JEFFERSON DAVIS."

The substantial object to be obtained by the informal conference is
to ascertain upon what terms the existing war can be terminated
honorably.

Our instructions contemplate a personal interview between President
Lincoln and ourselves at Washington City, but with this explanation
we are ready to meet any person or persons that President Lincoln may
appoint at such place as he may designate.

Our earnest desire is that a just and honorable peace may be agreed
upon, and we are prepared to receive or to submit propositions which
may possibly lead to the attainment of that end.

Very respectfully, yours,
ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS.
R. M. T. HUNTER.
JOHN A. CAMPBELL.

A note of these gentlemen, subsequently addressed to General Grant,
has already been given in Major Eckert's despatch of the 1st instant.

I also here saw, for the first time, the following note, addressed by
the Richmond gentlemen to Major Eckert:

CITY POINT, VA., February 2, 1865.
THOMAS T. ECKERT, Major and Aid-de-Camp.
MAJOR:--In reply to your verbal statement that your instructions did
not allow you to alter the conditions upon which a passport could be
given to us, we say that we are willing to proceed to Fortress Monroe
and there to have an informal conference with any person or persons
that President Lincoln may appoint on the basis of his letter to
Francis P. Blair of the 18th of January ultimo, or upon any other
terms or conditions that he may hereafter propose not inconsistent
with the essential principles of self-government and popular rights,
upon which our institutions are founded.

It is our earnest wish to ascertain, after a free interchange of
ideas and information, upon what principles and terms, if any, a just
and honorable peace can be established without the further effusion
of blood, and to contribute our utmost efforts to accomplish such a
result.

We think it better to add that in accepting your passport we are not
to be understood as committing ourselves to anything but to carry to
this informal conference the views and feelings above expressed.

Very respectfully, yours, etc.,

ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS,
J. A. CAMPBELL,
R. M. T. HUNTER.

Note.-The above communication was delivered to me at Fort Monroe at
4.30 P.M. February 2 by Lieutenant-Colonel Babcock, of General
Grant's staff.
THOMAS T. ECKERT
Major and Aid-de-Camp.

On the morning of the third the three gentlemen, Messrs. Stephens,
Hunter, and Campbell, came aboard of our steamer and had an interview
with the Secretary of State and myself of several hours' duration.
No question of preliminaries to the meeting was then and there made
or mentioned; no other person was present; no papers were exchanged
or produced; and it was in advance agreed that the conversation was
to be informal and verbal merely. On our part the whole substance of
the instructions to the Secretary of State hereinbefore recited was
stated and insisted upon, and nothing was said inconsistent
therewith; while by the other party it was not said that in any event
or on any condition they ever would consent to reunion, and yet they
equally omitted to declare that they never would consent. They
seemed to desire a postponement of that question and the adoption of
some other course first, which, as some of them seemed to argue,
might or might not lead to reunion, but which course we thought would
amount to an indefinite postponement. The conference ended without
result.

The foregoing, containing, as is believed, all the information sought
is respectfully submitted.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

MESSAGE TO THE SENATE.

WASHINGTON, February 10, 1865

To THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES:

In answer to the resolution of the Senate of the eighth instant,
requesting information concerning recent conversations or
communications with insurgents, under executive sanction, I transmit
a report from the Secretary of State, to whom the resolution was
referred.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

TO THE PRESIDENT:

The Secretary of State, to whom was referred a resolution of the
Senate of the 8th instant, requesting "the President of the United
States, if, in his opinion, not incompatible with the public
interests, to furnish to the Senate any information in his possession
concerning recent conversations or communications with certain
rebels," said to have taken place under executive sanction, including
communications with the rebel Jefferson Davis, and any correspondence
relating thereto," has the honor to report that the Senate may
properly be referred to a special message of the President bearing
upon the subject of the resolution, and transmitted to the House this
day. Appended to this report is a copy of an instruction which has
been addressed to Charles Francis Adams, Esq., envoy extraordinary
and minister plenipotentiary of the United States at London, and
which is the only correspondence found in this department touching
the subject referred to in the resolution.

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