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[183] effecting their separation from the mother country. It was upon this principle that the original thirteen coequal and co-sovereign States formed the Federal compact of the old Union in 1787. It is upon the same principle that the present coequal and co-sovereign States of our Confederacy formed their new compact of union.

The idea that the old Union or any union between sovereign States, consistently with this fundamental truth, can be maintained by force is preposterous. The war springs from an attempt to do this preposterous thing. Superior power may compel a union of some sort, but it would not be the Union of the old Constitution or of our new. It would be that sort of Union that results from despotism.

The subjugation of the people of the South by the people of the North would necessarily involve the destruction of the Constitution, and the overthrow of their liberties as well as ours. The men or party at the North, to whom you refer, who favor peace, must be brought to a full realization of this truth in all its bearings, before their efforts will result in much practical good. Any peace growing out of a union of States established by force will be as ruinous to them as to us.

The action of the Chicago Convention, so far as its platform of principles goes, presents, as I have said on another occasion, a ray of light, which under Providence, may prove the dawn of the day to this long and cheerless night, the first ray of light I have seen from the North since the war began. This cheers the heart, and toward it I could almost exclaim, “Hail, holy light, offspring of heaven, first born of the eternal coeternal beam. May I express thee unblamed, since God is light.”

Indeed, I could have quite so exclaimed, but for the sad reflection that whether it shall bring healing in its beams or be lost in a dark and ominous eclipse ere its good work be done, depends so much upon the action of others who may not regard it and view it as I do. So at best it is but a ray, a small and tremulous ray, though only to gladden the heart and quicken the hope.

The prominent and leading idea of that convention seems to have been a desire to reach a peaceful adjustment of our present difficulties and strife through the medium of a convention of the States. They propose to suspend hostilities, to see what can be done, if anything, by negotiations of some sort. This is one step in the right direction. To such a convention of the States I would have no objection, as a peaceful conference and interchange of views between equal and sovereign powers, just as the convention of 1787 was called and assembled.

The properly constituted authorities at Washington and Richmond, the duly authorized representatives of the two confederacies of States now at war with each other, might give their assent to such a proposition. Good might result from it. It would be an appeal on both sides from the sword to reason and justice. All wars which do not result in the extinction or extermination of one side or the other must be ended sooner or later by some sort of negotiation.

From the discussion or interchange of views in such a convention, the history, as well as the true nature of our institutions and the relation of the States toward each other and toward the federal head, would doubtless be much better understood generally than they now are; but I should favor such a proposition only as a peaceful conference, as the convention of 1787 was. I should be opposed to leaving the questions at issue to the absolute decision of such a body.

Delegates ought to be clothed with power to consult and agree, if they could, upon some plan of adjustment, to be submitted for subsequent ratification by the sovereign States whom it affected, before it should be obligatory or binding, and then binding only on such as should so ratify it. It becomes the people of the South, as well as the people of the North, to be quite as watchful and jealous of their rights, as their common ancestors were.

The maintenance of liberty in all ages, times, and countries, when and where it has existed, has required not only constant vigilance and jealousy, but it has often required the greatest privations, and sufferings, and sacrifices that people or States are ever subjected to. Through such an ordeal we are now passing. Through a like and even severer ordeal our ancestors passed in their struggle for the principles which it has devolved upon us thus to defend and maintain.

But great as our sufferings and sacrifices have been and are, to which you allude, they are as yet far short of the like sufferings and sacrifices which our fathers bore with patience, courage, and fortitude in the crisis that tried men's souls in their day. These are the virtues that sustained them in their hour of need. Their illustrious and glorious example bids us not to underestimate the priceless inheritance they achieved for us at such a cost of treasure and blood.

Great as are the odds we are struggling against, they are not greater than those against which they successfully struggled. In point of reverses, our condition is not to be compared with theirs. Should Mobile, Savannah, Charleston, Augusta, Macon, Montgomery, and even Petersburg and Richmond fall, our condition would not then be worse or less hopeful than theirs was in the darkest hour that rested on their fortunes.

With wisdom on the part of those who control our destiny in the Cabinet, and in the field, in husbanding and properly wielding our resources at their command, and in securing the hearts and affections of the people in the great cause of right and liberty for which we are struggling, we could suffer all these losses, and calamities, and greater even, and still triumph in the end.

At present, however, I do not see, as I stated in the outset, that you or I, or any number of persons in our position, can do anything toward inaugurating any new movement looking


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