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[152] I presumed he would; but if he objected, after hearing my report, they should be informed. They were then recommitted to the charge of Colonel Ould, with the understanding that they were to be reconducted to my office at the appointed hour, unless otherwise directed.

The interview, connected with the report previously made by Colonel Ould, left on my mind the decided impression that Mr. Lincoln was averse to sending formal commissioners to open negotiations, lest he might thereby be deemed to have recognized the independence of the Confederacy, and that he was anxious to learn whether the conditions on which alone he would be willing to take such a step would be yielded by the Confederacy; that with this view he had placed his messengers in a condition to satisfy us that they really came from him, without committing himself to anything in the event of a disagreement as to such conditions as he considered to be indispensable. On informing the President, therefore, of my conclusions, he determined that no question of form or etiquette should be an obstacle to his receiving any overtures that promised, however remotely, to result in putting an end to the carnage which marked the continuance of hostilities.

The President came to my office at nine o'clock in the evening, and Colonel Ould came a few moments later, with Messrs Jaques and Gilmore. The President said to them that he had heard from me that they came as messengers of peace from Mr. Lincoln; that as such they were welcome; that the Confederacy had never concealed its desire for peace; and that he was ready to hear whatever they had to offer on that subject.

Mr. Gilmore then addressed the President, and in a few minutes had conveyed the information that these two gentlemen had come to Richmond impressed with the idea that this Government would accept a peace on a basis of a reconstruction of the Union, the abolition of slavery, and the grant of an amnesty to the people of the States as repentant criminals. In order to accomplish the abolition of slavery, it was proposed that there should be a general vote of all the people of both federations in mass, and the majority of the vote thus taken was to determine that as well as all other disputed questions. These were stated to be Mr. Lincoln's views. The President answered that as these proposals had been prefaced by the remark that the people of the North were a majority, and that a majority ought to govern, the offer was, in effect, a proposal that the Confederate States should surrender at discretion, admit that they had been wrong from the beginning of the contest, submit to the mercy of their enemies, and avow themselves to be in need of pardon for their crimes; that extermination was preferable to dishonor.

He stated that if they were, themselves so unacquainted with the form of their own Government as to make such propositions, Mr. Lincoln ought to have known, when giving them his views, that it was out of the power of the Confederate Government to act on the subject of the domestic institutions of the several States, each State having exclusive jurisdiction on that point; still less to commit the decision of such a question to the vote of a foreign people; that the separation of the States was an accomplished fact; that he had no authority to receive proposals for negotiation, except by virtue of his office as President of an independent Confederacy; and on this basis alone must proposals be made to him.

At one period of the conversation, Mr. Gilmore made use of some language referring to these States as “rebels,” while rendering an account of Mr. Lincoln's views, and apologized for the word. The President desired him to proceed, that no offence was taken, and that he wished Mr. Lincoln's language to be repeated to him as exactly as possible. Some further conversation took place substantially to the same effect as the foregoing, when the President rose, to indicate that the interview was at an end. The two gentlemen were then recommitted to the charge of Colonel Ould, and left Richmond the next day.

This account of the visit of Messrs. Gilmore and Jaques to Richmond, has been rendered necessary by publications made by one or both of them since their return to the United States, notwithstanding the agreement that their visit was to be kept secret. They have, perhaps, concluded that, as the promise of secrecy was made at their request, it was permissible to disregard it. We had no reason for desiring to conceal what occurred, and have, therefore, no complaint to make of the publicity given to the fact of the visit. The extreme inaccuracy of Mr. Gilmore's narrative will be apparent to you from the foregoing statement.

You have no doubt seen in the Northern papers an account of another conference on the subject of peace, which took place in Canada, at about the same date, between Messrs. C. C. Clay and J. P. Holcombe, Confederate citizens of the highest character and position, and Mr. Horace Greeley, of New York, acting with authority of President Lincoln. It is deemed not improper to inform you that Messrs. Clay and Holcombe, although enjoying in an eminent degree the confidence and esteem of the President, were strictly accurate in their statement that they were without any authority from this Government to treat with that of the United States on any subject whatever.

We had no knowledge of their conference with Mr. Greeley, nor of their proposed visit to Washington, till we saw the newspaper publications. A significant confirmation of the truth of the statement of Messrs. Gilmore and Jaques, that they came as messengers from Mr. Lincoln, is to be found in the fact that the views of Mr. Lincoln, as stated by them to the President, are in exact conformity with the offensive paper addressed to “Whom it may concern,” which was sent by Mr. Lincoln to Messrs. Clay and Holcombe by the hands of his private secretary, Mr. Hay, and

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