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[375]

Our fortified positions have everywhere been much strengthened and improved, affording assurance of our ability to meet with success the utmost efforts of our enemies, in spite of the magnitude of their preparations for attack. A review of our history of the two years of our national existence affords ample cause for congratulation, and demands the most fervent expression of our thankfulness to the Almighty Father who has blessed our cause. We are justified in asserting, with a pride surely not unbecoming, that these confederate States have added another to the lessons taught by history for the instruction of man, that they have afforded another example of the impossibility of subjugating a people determined to be free, and have demonstrated that no superiority of numbers or available resources can overcome the resistance offered by such valor in combat, such constancy under suffering, and such cheerful endurance of privation as have been conspicuously displayed by this people in the defence of their rights and liberties. The anticipations with which we entered into the contest have now ripened into a conviction, which is not only shared with us by the common opinion of neutral nations, but is evidently forcing itself upon our enemies themselves. If we but mark the history of the present year by resolute perseverance in the path we have hitherto pursued, by vigorous effort in the development of all our resources for defence, and by the continued exhibition of the same unfaltering courage in our soldiers and able conduct in their leaders as have distinguished the past, we have every reason to expect that this will be the closing year of the war.

The war, which in its inception was waged for forcing us back into the Union, having failed to accomplish that purpose, passed into a second stage, in which it was attempted to conquer and rule these States as dependent provinces. Defeated in this second design, our enemies have evidently entered upon another, which can have no other purpose than revenge, and thirst for blood, and plunder of private property.

But however implacable they may be, they can have neither the spirit nor the resources required for a fourth year of a struggle uncheered by any hope of success, kept alive solely for the indulgence of mercenary and wicked passions, and demanding so exhausting an expenditure of blood and money as has hitherto been imposed on their people. The advent of peace will be hailed with joy; our desire for it has never been concealed; our efforts to avoid the war, forced on us as it was by the lust of conquest and the insane passions of our foes, are known to mankind. But, earnest as has been our wish for peace, and great as have been our sacrifices and sufferings during the war, the determination of this people has, with each succeeding month, become more unalterably fixed to endure any sufferings and continue any sacrifices, however prolonged, until their right to self-government and the sovereignty and independence of these States shall have been triumphantly vindicated and firmly established.

In this connection, the occasion seems not unsuitable for some reference to the relations between the Confederacy and the neutral powers of Europe since the separation of these States from the former Union. Four of the States now members of the Confederacy were recognized by name as independent sovereignties in a treaty of peace concluded in the year 1783, with one of the two great maritime Powers of Western Europe, and had been prior to that period allies in war of the other. In the year 1778 they formed a union with nine other States under Articles of Confederation. Dissatisfied with that Union, three of them — Virginia, Carolina, and Georgia--together with eight of the States now members of the United States, seceded from it in 1789, and these eleven seceding State formed a second Union, although by the terms of the Articles o?? Confederation express provision was made that the first Union should be perpetual. Their right to secede, notwithstanding this provision, was never contested by the States from which they separated, nor made the subject of discussion with any third power. When, at a later period, North-Carolina acceded to that second Union, and when, still later, the other seven States, now members of this Confederacy, became also members of the same Union, it was upon the recognized footing of equal and independent sovereignties; nor had it then entered into the minds of men that sovereign States could be compelled by force to remain members of a confederation into which they had entered of their own free will, if at a subsequent period the defence of their safety and honor should, in their judgment, justify withdrawal.

The experience of the past had evinced the futility of any renunciation of such inherent rights, and accordingly the provision for perpetuity contained in the Articles of Confederation of 1778 was emitted to the Constitution of 1789. When, therefore, in 1861, eleven of the States again thought proper, for reasons satisfactory to themselves, to secede from the second Union, and to form a third one, under an amended constitution, they exercised a right which, being inherent, required no justification to foreign nations, and which international law did not permit them to question. The usages of intercourse between nations do, however, require that official communication be made to friendly powers of all organic changes in the constitution of States, and there was obvious propriety in giving prompt assurance of our desire to continue amicable relations with all mankind.

It was under the influence of these considerations that your predecessors, the provisional government, took early measures for sending to Europe commissioners charged with the duty of visiting the capitals of the different powers, and making arrangements for the opening of more formal diplomatic intercourse. Prior, however, to the arrival abroad of these commissioners, the United States had commenced hostilities against the Confederacy by despatching a secret expedition for the reinforcement of Fort Sumter after


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