Chapter 10: Peace movements.--Convention of conspirators at Montgomery.
- Assembling of the Peace Convention at Washington City, 235.
-- Sincerity of the Virginia politicians suspected
-- instructions to Massachusetts and New York delegates, 236.
-- other delegates instructed
-- John Tyler President of the Convention, 237.
-- Mr. Guthrie's report, 238.
-- other propositions, 239.
-- adoption of Guthrie's report, 240.
-- Reverdy Johnson's resolution
-- proposed articles of amendment, 241.
-- action of Congress on compromises, 242.
-- the people and the failure of the Peace Conference, 243.
-- Tyler's treachery
-- General Scott's desire for Peace indicated, 244.
-- his letter to Mr. Seward
-- Professor Morse's plan for reconciliation, 245.
-- meeting of conspirators at Montgomery, 248.
-- policy of South Carolinians
-- a Confederacy of “seceded” States proposed, 250.
-- a Provisional Constitution adopted, 251.
-- South Carolinians rebellious
-- Jefferson Davis elected “President,” and Alexander H. Stephens “Vice-President” of the Confederacy, 252.
-- Stephens's speeches
-- committees appointed, 253.
-- action of the Convention concerning a flag for the “Confederacy,” 254.
-- first assumption of Sovereignty
-- South Carolinians offended, 256.
-- Davis journeys to Montgomery
-- his reception and inauguration, 257.
-- Davis's Cabinet, 258.
-- sketch of Davis and Stephens, 259.--“Confederate” Commissioners sent to Europe
-- Stephens expounds the principles of the New “Government,” 260.
On Monday, the 4th of February, 1861, the day on which Slidell
left the Senate, a Convention known as the Peace Congress, or Conference, assembled in Willard's Hall, in Washington City
, a large room in a building originally erected as a church edifice on F Street, and then attached to Willard's Hotel.
This Convention, as we have observed,1
was proposed by resolutions of the Virginia Legislature, passed on the 19th of January,
and highly approved by the President
of the Republic
The proposition met with favorable consideration throughout the country.
Omens of impending war were becoming more numerous every day; and at the time this proposition was made, it was evident that no plan for the adjustment of existing difficulties could be agreed upon by the National Legislature.
It was thought that a convention of conservative men, fresh from the people, might devise some salutary measures that should go before Congress with such weight of popular authority as to induce acquiescence, and lead to action that would secure pacification, the great object sought.
The Legislatures of most of the States were in session when the proposition went forth, and the response was so general and so prompt, that delegates from twenty-one States--fourteen of them Free-labor and seven of them Slave-labor States--appeared in the Convention
When they were not
appointed by Legislatures, they were chosen by the Governors
Many of these delegates were instructed, either by formal resolutions of the appointing power or by informal expressions of opinion.
Much caution was exercised, because there were well-grounded suspicions that the Virginia
politicians, who had proposed the Convention
, were adroitly playing into the hands of the conspirators.
One of the resolutions that accompanied their invitation to a conference declared that the Crittenden Compromise
, so modified as to apply to all the territory of the Republic
south of latitude 36° 30‘, and to provide that “Slavery of the African race” should be “effectually protected as property therein during the existence of the Territorial government ;” also, to secure to the holders of slaves the right of transit with this property, “between and through the non-slaveholding States and Territories,” constituted a basis of adjustment that would be acceptable to Virginia
This avowal of their demands at the outset was candid, if not modest and conciliatory.
instructed its delegates to confer with the General Government
, or with the separate States, or with any association of delegates from such States, and to report to the Legislature.
said:--“Agree, if practicable, upon some amicable adjustment of present difficulties, upon the basis and spirit of the National Constitution
Willard's Hall. |
New York wished it not to be understood that, in acceding to the request of Virginia
, it approved of Virginia
's desires, as expressed in the resolutions of its Legislature.
It was willing to do all in its power to bring about an honorable settlement of the national difficulties.
urged the adoption of the Crittenden Compromise
declared its willingness to make any honorable concession for the sake of peace, but did not desire any amendment or alteration of the Constitution
It was ready to fulfill every duty prescribed to it by that Constitution, even to the full execution of the Fugitive Slave Act
simply declared its devotion to the Union
, and instructed its delegates to do all in their power for its preservation.
was willing to meet its fellow States in convention, but felt satisfied with the Constitution
as it was; while Indiana
instructed its delegates not to commit that State to any action until nineteen of the States should be represented, and until they had communicated with the General Assembly of their State, and received permission to commit it to proposed measures.
wished it to be understood that its willingness to confer was not a committal of the State
to any proposed policy.
It was anxious for conciliation, but saw no reason for amending the Constitution
for the purpose.
would be satisfied with the Crittenden Compromise
, according to the Virginia
was willing to adjust all difficulties by the same process, but with enlarged franchises for the slaveholders; while Missouri
instructed its delegates to endeavor to agree upon some plan for the preservation or reconstruction of the Union
Its delegates were always to be subordinate to the General Assembly or the State Convention of Missouri
The Convention was permanently organized by the appointment of John Tyler
, of Virginia
of the Republic
as the presiding officer, and Crafts J. Wright
, of Ohio
, son of one of the delegates from that State, as secretary.
delivered a short address on taking the chair, in which he said:--“The eyes of the whole country are turned to this assembly, in expectation and hope.
I trust that you may prove yourselves worthy of the great occasion.
Our ancestors probably committed a blunder in not having fixed upon every fifth decade for a call of a general convention to amend and reform the Constitution
On the contrary, they have made the difficulties next to insurmountable to accomplish amendments to an instrument which was perfect for five millions of people, but not wholly so
for thirty millions.
Your patriotism will surmount the difficulties, however great, if you will but accomplish one triumph in advance, and that is a triumph over party
. And what is party, when compared to the work of rescuing one's country from danger?
Do this, and one long, loud shout of joy and gladness will resound throughout the land.”
At the conclusion of this address, Mr. Wickliffe
, of Kentucky
, offered a resolution that the Convention
should be opened with prayer.
It was agreed to, and the Rev. Dr. P. D. Gurley
The regular business of the Convention
was opened by Mr. Guthrie
, who offered a resolution that a committee of one from each State be appointed by the delegates thereof, to be nominated to the President
of the Convention
, and to be appointed by him, to whom should be referred the resolutions of the State of Virginia
, and the other States represented, and all propositions for the adjustment of existing difficulties between the States; the committee to have authority to report what it might deem right, necessary, and proper, to restore harmony and preserve the Union
The resolution was adopted; the committee was appointed,3
and the subjects laid before it were duly discussed, sometimes with warmth, but always with courtesy.
On the 15th, Mr. Guthrie
of the Committee
, made a report, in which several amendments to the Constitution
It was proposed-
, To re-establish the parallel of 36° 30‘ north latitude as a line, in the territory north of which Slavery should be prohibited; but in all territory south of it Slavery might live, without interference from any power, while a territorial government existed.
It also proposed that when any Territory north or south of that line should contain the requisite number of inhabitants to form a State, it should,4
if its form of government should be republican, be admitted into the Union
on an equal footing with the original States, either with or without Slavery, as the constitution of the new State might determine.