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[681] loose conversations of the people; and the favourite cantatrice of the Richmond Theatre sung to nightly plaudits, “Farewell forever to the star-spangled banner!” Then there were those rumours of extravagant fortune, always indicative of a weak and despairing condition of the public mind; among them endless stories of peace negotiations and European “recognition.” A few weeks before Richmond fell, the report was credited for the space of three or four days by the most intelligent persons in the city, including some of the editors of the newspapers and President Davis' pastor, that a messenger from France had arrived on the coast of North Carolina, and was making his way overland to Richmond, with the news of the recognition of the Southern Confederacy by the Emperour Napoleon!

But in this dull condition of the public mind there came a well-defined rumour of “peace;” an event in which another and last appeal was to be made to the resolution of the South.

The Fortress Monroe conference.

At different periods of the war the ambition of individuals on both sides had attempted certain propositions of peace, and sought to bring the parties at Richmond and Washington into such a position that they could not avoid negotiations, without subjecting themselves to the injurious imputation of preferring war. In pursuance of this diplomatic errantry, Mr. Francis P. Blair, a skilful politician, in January, 1865, obtained a passport from President Lincoln to go through the Federal lines, visited Richmond, and while disclaiming any official instructions or countenance from Washington, sought to prevail upon President Davis to send, or receive, commissioners to treat of peace between the contending parties. On the 19th January, Mr. Blair returned to Washington, taking with him a written assurance, addressed to himself, from President Davis, of his willingness to enter into negotiations for peace, to receive a commissioner whenever one should be sent, and of his readiness, whenever Mr. Blair could promise that he would be received, to appoint such a commissioner, minister, or other agent, and thus “renew the effort to enter into a conference with a view to secure peace between the two countries.” The reply of Mr. Lincoln was no less diplomatic. He wrote that he was “ready to receive any agent whom Mr. Davis or any other influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send me, with a view of securing peace to the people of our common country.”

While the intermediation of Mr. Blair was taking place in Richmond, a number of Congressmen and leading politicians of the Confederacy had been exerting themselves to use the peculiar influence of the Vicedent,

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