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[521] peace. I responded that I would willingly entrust to General Lee such negotiation as was indicated.

The conference then ended, and to report to Lincoln the result of his visit, Blair returned to Washington. He subsequently informed me that the idea of a military convention was not favorably received at Washington, so it remained only for me to act upon the letter of Lincoln.

I determined to send, as commissioners or agents for the informal conference, Messrs. Alexander H. Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter and John A. Campbell.

A letter of commission or certificate of appointment for each was prepared by the Secretary of State in the following form:

In compliance with the letter of Mr. Lincoln, of which the foregoing is a copy, you are hereby requested to proceed to Washington City for conference with him upon the subject to which it relates. . . .

This draft of a commission was, upon perusal, modified by me so as to read as follows:

Richmond, January 28, 1865.
In conformity with the letter of Mr. Lincoln, of which the foregoing is a copy, you are requested to proceed to Washington City for an informal conference with him upon the issues involved in the existing war, and for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries.


Some objections were made to this commission by the United States officials, because it authorized the commissioners to confer for the purpose ‘of securing peace to the two countries’; whereas the letter of Lincoln, which was their passport, spoke of securing peace to the people of “our one common country.” But these objections were finally waived.

The letter of Lincoln having expressed a willingness to receive any agent I might send to Washington city, a commission was appointed to go there; it was not allowed to proceed further, however, than Hampton Roads, where Lincoln, accompanied by Seward, met the commissioners. Seward craftily proposed that the conference should be confidential, and the commissioners regarded this so binding on them as to prevent them from including in their report the discussion which occurred. This enabled Seward to give his own version of it in a dispatch to the United States Minister to the French government, which was calculated to create distrust of, if not hostility to, the Confederacy on the part of the power in Europe most effectively favoring our recognition.

Why Lincoln changed his purpose and, instead of receiving the commissioners at Washington, met them at Hampton Roads, I cannot, of course, explain. Several causes may be conjecturally assigned. The commissioners were well known in Washington, had there held high

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