Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 8.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
Page  286

To the Senate [1]

To the Senate of the United States. February 10, 1865

In answer to the Resolution of the Senate of the 8th 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


10th February, 1865.


[1]   DS, DNA RG 46, Senate 38A F2. See Lincoln's communication to the House of Representatives, supra. The resolution introduced in the House by Thaddeus Stevens and the resolution introduced in the Senate by Charles Sumner were both adopted on February 8. Lincoln's reply was directed to the House as a result of the request of Schuyler Colfax. The report of Secretary Seward, dated February 10, 1865, pointed out 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. . . .''

The extract from Seward's letter to Adams, February 7, follows:

``On the morning of the 3d, the President, attended by the Secretary, received Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell on board the United States steam transport River Queen in Hampton Roads. The conference was altogether informal. There was no attendance of secretaries, clerks, or other witnesses. Nothing was written or read. The conversation, although earnest and free, was calm, and courteous, and kind on both sides. The Richmond party approached the discussion rather indirectly, and at no time did they either make categorical demands, or tender formal stipulations or absolute refusals. Nevertheless, during the conference, which lasted four hours, the several points at issue between the government and the insurgents were distinctly raised, and discussed fully, intelligently, and in an amicable spirit. What the insurgent party seemed chiefly to favor was a postponement of the question of separation, upon which the war is waged, and a mutual direction of efforts of the government, as well as those of the insurgents, to some extrinsic policy or scheme for a season during which passions might be expected to subside, and the armies be reduced, and trade and intercourse between the people of both sections resumed. It was suggested by them that through such postponement we might now have immediate peace, with some not very certain prospect of an ultimate satisfactory adjustment of political relations between this government and the States, section, or people now engaged in conflict with it.

``This suggestion, though deliberately considered, was nevertheless regarded by the President as one of armistice or truce, and he announced that we can agree to no cessation or suspension of hostilities, except on the basis of the disbandment of the insurgent forces, and the restoration of the national authority throughout all the States in the Union. Collaterally, and in subordination to the proposition which was thus announced, the antislavery policy of the United States was reviewed in all its bearings, and the President announced that he must not be expected to depart from the positions he had heretofore assumed in his proclamation of emancipation and other documents, as these positions were reiterated in his last annual message. It was further declared by the PresidentPage  287 that the complete restoration of the national authority was an indispensable condition of any assent on our part to whatever form of peace might be proposed. The President assured the other party that, while he must adhere to these positions, he would be prepared, so far as power is lodged with the executive, to exercise liberality. His power, however, is limited by the Constitution; and when peace should be made, Congress must necessarily act in regard to appropriations of money and to the admission of representatives from the insurrectionary States. The Richmond party were then informed that Congress had, on the 31st ultimo, adopted by a constitutional majority a joint resolution submitting to the several States the proposition to abolish slavery throughout the Union, and that there is every reason to expect that it will be soon accepted by three-fourths of the States, so as to become a party of the national organic law.

``The conference came to an end by mutual acquiescence, without producing an agreement of views upon the several matters discussed, or any of them. Nevertheless, it is perhaps of some importance that we have been able to submit our opinions and views directly to prominent insurgents, and to hear them in answer in a courteous and not unfriendly manner.'' (Thirty-eighth Congress, Second Session, Senate Executive Document No. 18).