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[522] positions, and, so far as there was any peace party there, might have been expected to have influence with its members; a more important inquiry, however, is: If Lincoln previously had determined to hear no proposition for negotiation, and to accept nothing less than an unconditional surrender, why did he propose to receive informally our agent? If there was nothing to discuss, the agent would have been without functions.

I think the views of Lincoln had changed after he wrote the letter to Blair of June 18th, and that the change was mainly produced by the report which he made of what he saw and heard at Richmond on the night he stayed there. Blair had many acquaintances among the members of the Confederate Congress; all those of the class who, of old, fled to the cave of Adullam, ‘gathered themselves unto him.’

Hunter, in a published article on the peace commission, referring to Blair's visit to Richmond, says: ‘He saw many old friends and party associates. Here his representations were not without effect upon his old confederates, who for so long had been in the habit of taking counsel with him on public affairs.’ He then goes on to describe Blair as revealing dangers of such overwhelming disaster as turned the thoughts of many Confederates toward peace more seriously than ever before. That Blair saw and noted this serious inclining of many to thoughts of peace, scarcely admits of a doubt; if he believed the Congress to be infected by a cabal undermining the executive in his efforts successfully to prosecute the war, Lincoln may be naturally supposed thence to have reached the conclusion that he should accept nothing but an unconditional surrender, and that he should not allow a commission from the Confederacy to visit the United States capital.

The report of the commissioners, dated February 5, 1865, was as follows:

To the President of the Confederate States:
Sir: Under your letter of appointment of the 28th ult. we proceeded to seek ‘an informal conference’ with Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, upon the subject mentioned in the letter. The conference was granted and took place on the 30th ult., on board of a steamer anchored in Hampton Roads, where we met President Lincoln and the Hon. Mr. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States. It continued for several hours, and was both full and explicit. We learned from them that the message of President Lincoln to the Congress of the United States, in December last, explains clearly and distinctly his sentiments as to the terms, conditions, and method of proceeding by which peace can be secured to the people, and we were not informed that they would be modified or altered to obtain that end. We understood from him that no terms or proposals of any treaty, or agreement looking to an ultimate settlement, would be entertained or made by him with the authorities of the Confederate States,

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