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[399] nor shops for repairing arms or fixing ammunition, the effect of our keeping the field would be, not to harm the enemy, but to complete the devastation of our country and ruin of its people. I therefore urged that the President should exercise at once the only function of government still in his possession, and open negotiations for peace.

The members of the cabinet present were then desired by the President to express their opinions on the important question. General Breckenridge, Mr. Mallory, and Mr. Reagan, thought that the war was decided against us; and that it was absolutely necessary to make peace. Mr. Benjamin expressed the contrary opinion. The latter made a speech for war, much like that of Sempronius in Addison's play. The President replied to our suggestion as if somewhat annoyed by it. He said that it was idle to suggest that he should attempt to negotiate, when it was certain, from the attempt previously made, that his authority to treat would not be recognized, nor any terms that he might offer considered by the Government of the United States. I reminded him that it had not been unusual, in such cases, for military commanders to initiate negotiations upon which treaties of peace were founded; and proposed that he should allow me to address General Sherman on the subject. After a few words in opposition to that idea, Mr. Davis reverted to the first suggestion, that he should offer terms to the Government of the United States--which he had put aside; and sketched a letter appropriate to be sent by me to General Sherman, proposing a meeting to arrange the terms of an armistice to enable the civil authorities

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