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Doc. 92. the Niagara peace conference.

Clifton House, Niagara Falis, Canada West, July 12.
Dear sir: I am authorized to say that Honorable Clement C. Clay, of Alabama, Professor James B. Holcomb, of Virginia, and George N. Saunders, of Dixie, are ready and willing to go at once to Washington, upon complete and unqualified protection being given, either by the President or Secretary of War. Let the permission include the three names and one other.

Very respectfully,

Niagara Falls, N. Y., July 17, 1864.
gentlemen: I am informed that you are duly accredited from Richmond as the bearers of propositions looking to the establishment of peace; that you desire to visit Washington in the fulfilment of your mission, and that you further desire that Mr. G. N. Saunders shall accompany you. If my information be thus far substantially correct, I am authorized by the President of the United States to tender you his safe conduct in the journey proposed, and to accompany you at the earliest time that will be agreeable to you.

I have the honor to be, gentlemen,

Clifton House, Niagara Falls, July 18.
sir: We have the honor to acknowledge your favor of the seventeenth instant, which would have been answered on yesterday, but for the absence of Mr. Clay.

The safe conduct of the President of the United States has been tendered us, we regret to state, under some misapprehension of facts. We have not been accredited to him from Richmond as the bearers of propositions looking to the establishment of peace.

We are, however, in the confidential employment of our government, and entirely familiar with its wishes and opinions on that subject, and we feel authorized to declare that if the circumstances disclosed in this correspondence were communicated to Richmond, we would be at once invested with the authority to which your letter refers, or other gentlemen with full powers would immediately be sent to Washington with the view of hastening a consummation so much to be desired, and terminating at the earliest possible moment the calamities of war. We respectfully solicit, through your intervention, a safe conduct to Washington, and thence, by any route which may be designated, through your lines to Richmond. We would be gratified if Mr. Geo. N. Saunders was embraced in this privilege.

Permit us, in conclusion, to acknowledge our obligations to you for the interest you have manifested in the furtherance of our wishes ; and to express the hope that, in any event, you will afford us the opportunity of tendering them in person before you leave the Falls.

We remain, very respectfully, &c.,

P. S.--It is proper to add that Mr. Thompson is not here, and has not been staying with us since our sojourn in Canada.

international Hotel, Niagara Falls, N. Y., July 18, 1864.
Gentlemen: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of yours of this date, by the hand of Mr. W. C. Jewett. The state of affairs therein presented being materially different from that which was understood to exist by the President when he entrusted me with the safe conduct [534] required, it seems to me on every account advisable that I should communicate with him by telegraph, and solicit fresh instructions, which I shall at once proceed to do. I hope to be able to transmit the result this afternoon, and at all events I shall do so at the earliest moment.

Yours truly,

Clifton House, Niagara Falls, C. W., July 18, 1864.
To Hon. Horace Greeley, Niagara Falls, New York:
We have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of this date by the hands of Colonel Jewett, and will await the further answer which you promise to send to us.

Very respectfully, &c.,

international Hotel, Niagara Falis, July 19, 1864.
Gentlemen: At a late hour last evening, too late for communication with you, I received a despatch from the President, informing me that further instructions left Washington last evening, which must reach me, if there be no interruption, by noon to-morrow. Should you decide to await their arrival, I feel confident that they will enable me to answer definitely your note of yesterday morning. Regretting a delay which I am sure you will regard as unavoidable on my part, I remain, yours truly,

Horace Greeley. To Hon. Messrs. Clay and J. P. Holcomb, Clifton House.

Clifton House, July 19, 1864
sir: Colonel Jewett has just handed us your note of this date, in which you state that further instructions from Washington will reach you by noon to-morrow, if there be no interruption. One, or possibly both of us may be obliged to leave the Falls to-day, but will return in time to receive the communication which you propose to-morrow.

We remain, truly yours, &c.,

Executive mansion, Washington, July 18, 1864.
To whom it may Concern:
Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war against the United States, will be received and considered by the Executive Government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms in substantial and collateral points, and the bearer or bearers thereof shall have safe conduct both ways.

Major Hay would respectfully inquire whether Professor Holcomb, and the gentleman associated with him, desire to send to Washington by Major Hay any message in reference to the communication delivered to him on yesterday, and in that case, when he may expect to be favored with such message.

international Hotel, Thursday.

Mr. Holcomb presents his compliments to Major Hay, and greatly regrets if his return to Washington has been delayed by any expectation of an answer to the communication which Mr. Holcomb received from him yesterday, to be delivered to the President of the United States. This communication was accepted as a response to the letter of Messrs. Holcomb and Clay to Hon. Horace Greeley, and to that gentleman has been transmitted.

Clifton House, C. W., Thursday, July 21.
The following is a copy of the original letter held by me to deliver to Hon. Horace Greeley, and which duplicate I now forward to the Associated Press.

Clifton House, C. W., July 21.
To Hon. Horace Greeley:
sir: The paper handed to Mr. Holcomb on yesterday, in your presence, by Major Hay, A. A. G., as an answer to the application in our note of the eighteenth instant, is couched in the following terms:

Exeutive mansion, Washington, July 18, 1864.
To whom it may Concern:
Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war against the United States will be received and considered by the Executive Government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms on other and substantial and collateral points, and the bearer or bearers thereof shall have safe conduct both ways.

The application to which we refer was elicited by your letter of the seventeenth instant, in which you inform Mr. Jacob Thompson and ourselves that you were authorized by the President of the United States to tender us his safe conduct on the hypothesis that we were duly accredited from Richmond as bearers of propositions looking to the restoration of peace, and desired to visit Washington in the fulfilment of this mission. This assertion, to which we then gave, and still do, entire credence, was accepted by us as evidence of an unexpected but most gratifying change in the policy of the President; a change which we felt authorized to hope might terminate in the conclusion of a peace mutually just, honorable, and advantageous [535] to the North and to the South, exacting no condition but that we should be duly accredited from Richmond as bearers of propositions looking to the establishment of peace, thus proffering a basis for conference as comprehensive as we could desire. It seemed to us that the President opened a door which had previously been closed against the Confederate States, for a full interchange of sentiments, free discussion of conflicting opinions, and an untrammelled effort to remove all causes of controversy by liberal negotiation. We, indeed, could not claim the benefit of a safe-conduct which had been extended to us in a character we had no right to assume, and had never affected to possess, but the uniform declaration of our Executive and Congress, and their thrice-repeated, and as often repulsed attempts to open negotiations,furnished a sufficient pledge that this conciliatory manifestation on the part of the President of the United States would be met by them in a temper of equal magnanimity. We had, therefore, no hesitation in declaring that if this correspondence was communicated to the President of the Confederate States, he would promptly embrace the opportunity presented for seeking a peaceful solution of this unhappy strife. We feel confident you will join in our profound regret that the spirit which dictated the first step toward peace should not have continued to animate the councils of your President. Had the representatives of the two governments met to consider this question, the most momentous ever submitted to human statesmanship, in a temper of becoming moderation and equity, followed as their deliberations have been by the prayers and benedictions of every patriot and Christian on the habitable globe. Who is there so bold as to pronounce that the frightful waste of individual happiness and public prosperity which is daily saddening the universal heart, might not have been terminated; or if the desolation and carnage of war must still be endured through weary years of blood and suffering, that there might not at least have been infused into its conduct something more of the spirit which softens and partially redeems its brutalities. Instead of the safe-conduct which we solicited, and which your first letter gave us every reason to suppose would be extended, for the purpose of instituting negotiations in which neither government would compromise its rights or its dignity, a document has been presented which provokes as much indignation as surprise. It bears no feature of resemblance to that which was originally offered; as unlike any paper which ever before emanated from the constitutional Executive of a free people. Addressed to whom it may concern, it precludes negotiations, and prescribes in advance terms and conditions of peace. It returns to the original policy of no bargaining, no negotiations, no truce with rebels until every man shall have laid down his arms, submitted to the Government, and sued for mercy. What may be the explanation of this sudden and entire change in the views of the President; of this rude withdrawal of a courteous overture for negotiation at the moment it was likely to be accepted; of this emphatic recall of words of peace just uttered, and fresh blasts of war to the bitter end, we leave for the speculation of those who have the means or inclination to penetrate the mysteries of his Cabinet, or fathom the caprice of his imperial will. It is enough for us to say that we have no use whatever for the paper which has been placed in our hands. We could not transmit it to the President of the Confederate States without offering him an indignity, dishonoring ourselves, and incurring the well-merited scorn of our countrymen. While an ardent desire for peace pervades the people of the Confederate States, we rejoice to believe that there are few, if any, among them who would purchase it at the expense of liberty, honor, and self-respect. If it can be secured only by their submission to terms of conquest, the generation is yet unborn which will witness its restoration. If there be any military autocrat in the North who is entitled to proffer the conditions of this manifesto, there is none in the South authorized to entertain them. Those who control our armies are the servants of the people, not their masters; and they have no more inclination than they have right to subvert the social institutions of sovereign States to overthrow their established Constitution, and to barter away their heritage of self-government.

This correspondence will not, however, we trust, prove wholly barren of good results. If there is any citizen of the Confederate States who has clung to the hope that peace was possible with this Administration of the Federal Government, it will strip from their eyes the last film of such delusion; or if there be any whose heart has grown faint under the suffering and agony of this bloody struggle, it will inspire them with fresh energy to endure and brave whatever may yet be requisite to preserve to themselves and their children all that gives dignity and value to life, or hope and consolation to death; and if there are any patriots or Christians in your land who shrink appalled from the illimitable vista of private misery and public calamity which stretches before them, we pray that in their bosoms a resolution may be quickened to reclaim the abused authority and vindicate the outraged civilization of their country. For the solicitude you have manifested to inaugurate a movement which contemplates results the most noble and humane, we return our sincere thanks, and are most respectfully and truly, your obedient servants,

Clifton House, July 20.
Col. W. C. Jewett, Cataract House, Niagara Falls, New York:
sir: We are in receipt of your note advising us of the departure of Honorable Horace Greeley from the Falls; that he regrets the sad termination [536] of the initiatory steps taken for peace, in consequence of the change made by the President in his instructions to convey the Commissioners to Washington, for negotiation unconditionally, and that Mr. Greeley will be pleased to receive any answer we may have to make through you. We avail ourselves of this offer to enclose a letter to Mr. Greeley, which you will oblige us by delivering. We cannot take leave of you without expressing our thanks for your courtesy and kind offices, as the intermediary through whom our correspondence with Mr. Greeley has been conducted, and assuring you that we are very respectfully, your obedient servants,

Southern view of the affair.

For the first time we have the pleasure of heartily approving a State paper of Abraham Lincoln. It is his letter addressed “To whom it May Concern.” It concerns Messrs. Holcomb, C. C. Clay and George N. Saunders, and we would fondly believe, no other person, or persons whomsoever. When officious individuals go creeping round by back doors, asking interviews with Lincoln for “a full interchange of sentiments,” it gives us sincere gratification to see them spurned, yes kicked, from the said back door. To Abraham, we deliberately say “Bravo,” or, if he likes it better, “Bully.” Think of an ex-Senator from Alabama, and a Virginian member of Congress — for we say nothing of the third “negotiator” --exposing themselves gratuitously, idly and unbidden, to receive such an ignominious rebuff at the hands of the truculent buffoon of Illinois.

It is suggested that perhaps the cunning device of Mr. Saunders was only a contrivance for helping the peace party in the enemy's country; that the answer of Mr. Lincoln was just the very kind of answer which the “many-counselled” George expected, and that it is to be used to show how ferociously and unrelentingly the present Yankee administration is bent on war, and repulses the slightest hint of peace. As usual with such excessively cunning schemes, this one not only defeats itself, but helps the cause which it was possibly intended to damage. To exhibit an ex-Senator and member of Congress of the rebel States thus timidly crawling by a roundabout way to the footstool of the Emperor of the Yahoos, whining and snivelling about peace and “liberal negotiations,” and haughtily refused even admittance to the sovereign presence, will serve, not the peace, but the war party, because it will be used to create the impression that the Confederacy must be in the agonies of death when two such distinguished legislators make so pitiful an attempt to reach the ear of offended majesty. If such was the idea, then, in this case, as in the other, “those whom it may concern” have got what they deserve.

Has any one seen the Reverend Colonel Jacques and one Edmund Kirke? What are the detectives about? Here have been two spies, manifestly spies, “at the Spottswood Hotel, Richmond, on a secret mission,” and now, instead of being in Castle Thunder, Kirke and the Reverend Colonel are again in their own country, giving mysterious hints to the Washington correspondents about their three days entertainment in Richmond, and about two “interviews” which they say they had with Mr. Davis. They cannot disclose “for the present” --those deep diplomats — what passed at these interviews, but “it is intimated” --and here is truly a startling fact--“that Mr. Davis would consent to nothing short of the recognition of the Southern Confederacy.” Of course, these two Yankees were spies, or else they wanted to sell something in Richmond which they had run through the lines; or probably they combined the two objects. Our passport system, we fear, is but little protection, and the detectives are not sufficiently vigilant.

Howsoever that may be, there is now certainly a renewal of these vague whisperings of peace which have several times before circulated through society. Many think that peace is in the air. Peace and rumors of peace float around us, and men dream of peace at night. We have seen here unauthorized persons, both Union and rebel, repair respectively North and South, about the same moment, as it were, snuffing peace, as horses snuff water in the desert. If gold declines a little in New York, even in the teeth of military disaster, the News says it is because there is a sort of instinctive feeling that we are on the eve of peace. This is not unnatural; the plain avowals of the enemy's press four months ago, that this year's campaign must be the final one, the near approach of Lincoln's bloody term, the imminent financial ruin of the United States, all combine to produce, not so much a conviction as a presentiment, that we are soon to have peace.

And it may be so. Peace may be nearer to us than we think, and may come suddenly, though one cannot see precisely how. One thing, however, is clear. So desirable an event cannot be hastened by amateur negotiators “exchanging sentiments” with Mr. Lincoln; nor by blockade runners thrusting “interviews” on Mr. Davis; nor by any possible or conceivable correspondence between George Saunders and Horace Greeley.

Statement of Horace Greeley.

Mr. Greeley in the Independent of July twenty-sixth, 1864, gives the following account of his negotiation:

* * * In the other effort for peace I was a participant, as follows:

Some time since it was announced by telegraph from Halifax that Messrs. C. C. Clay, of Alabama, Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi (ex-United States Senators), Professor J. P. Holcombe of the University of Virginia, and George N. Saunders of Kentucky, had reached that city [537] from Dixie, via Bermuda on important business; and all of these but Mr. Thompson (who is in Toronto), were soon quartered at the Clifton, on the Canada side of Niagara Falls. I heard soon after of confidential interviews between some or all of these gentlemen and leading democrats from our own and the neighboring States, and there were telegraphic whispers of overtures for “reconstruction,” and conditions were set forth as those on which the Confederates would consent to reunion. (I cannot say that any of these reports were authentic.) At length, after several less direct intimations, I received a private letter from Mr. Saunders, stating that Messrs. Clay, Holcombe, himself, and another, desired to visit Washington, “upon complete and unqualified protection being given by the President or the Secretary of War.”

As I saw no reason why the opposition should be the sole recipients of these gentlemen's overtures, if such there were (and it is stated that Mr. Clay aforesaid is preparing or to prepare an important letter to the Chicago Convention), I wrote the President, urging him to invite the rebel gentlemen aforesaid to Washington, there to open their budget. I stated expressly that I knew not what they would propose if so invited, but I could imagine no offer that might be made by them which would not conduce, in one way or another, to a restoration of the integrity and just authority of the Union.

The President ultimately acquiesced in this view, so far as to consent that the rebel agents should visit Washington, but directed that I should proceed to Niagara and accompany them thence to the capital. This service I most reluctantly undertook, feeling deeply and observing that almost any one else might better have been sent on this errand. But time seemed precious, and I immediately started.

Arrived on this side of the Falls, I wrote across to Messrs. Clay & Co., stating that, on the understanding that they had the needful powers from the authorities at Richmond, I was authorized and ready to give them a safe conduct to Washington. They responded that though in the confidential employment of their government, and fully conversant with its views and purposes, they had not the specific powers I required, but would get them, if permitted, and desired, in order to save time, to proceed at once to Washington, and be permitted thence to communicate with Richmond for the purpose. Not feeling at liberty to concede this, I telegraphed to Washington for further instructions, and was duly informed that Major Hay, the President's Private Secretary, would soon be on his way to me. He reached the Falls on the twentieth, and we crossed over to the Clifton, where Major Hay, after mutual introductions, handed Professor Holcombe the following paper, in the handwriting of the President:

Executive mansion, Washington, July 18, 1864.
To whom it may concern:
Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war against the United States, will be received and considered by the executive government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms on substantial and collateral points; and the bearer thereof shall have safe conduct both ways.

I left the Falls by the next train, leaving Major Hay to receive any response to the President's proffer, should any be made; but there was none. Messrs. Clay and Holcombe addressed to me a letter of sharp criticism on the President's proffer above quoted, which I first read in the columns of the daily journals of this city. And here the matter closed, despite all rumors of further or other negotiations. Messrs. Clay, Holcombe and Saunders remain at the Falls, or at the adjacent watering place of St. Catherine's, and are still in the receipt of many visits from democratic politicians, who cross the border on purpose.

I heartily approve the President's bases of negotiation, and think them calculated to exert a salutary influence at the South; and yet I think it would have been wiser to have interposed no conditions, but asked the Confederates to perfect and verify their credentials, and then make their proposition. For, thus brought to book, what could they have proffered that would not have strengthened the upholders of the Union cause? It looks to me as though a rare opportunity was lost for compelling either the democracy of the loyal States or the despots of Europe to forego further manifestations of sympathy with the rebels in their desperate struggle. I may be mistaken in this, but I cannot be in my conviction that every indication of a desire on our part to arrest bloodshed and restore amity tends to disabuse and conciliate the great perverted mass of those now fighting to divide and destroy their and our country.

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