One month only of the session of Congress remained.
Within this brief period it was necessary that the Convention
should recommend amendments to the Constitution
in sufficient time to enable both Houses to act upon them before their final adjournment.
It was also essential to success that these amendments should be sustained by a decided majority of the commissioners both from the Northern
and the border States.
It was, however, soon discovered that the same malign influence which had caused every Republican member of Congress to oppose the Crittenden Compromise
, would probably defeat the patriotic purpose for which the Convention
On Wednesday, the 6th February, a resolution was adopted,1
on motion of Mr. Guthrie
, of Kentucky
, to refer the resolutions of the General Assembly of Virginia
, and all other kindred subjects, to a committee to consist of one commissioner from each State, to be selected by the respective State delegations; and to prevent delay they were instructed to report on or before the Friday
following (the 8th), ‘what they may deem right, necessary, and proper to restore harmony and preserve the Union
This committee, instead of reporting on the day appointed, did not report until Friday, the 15th February,2
and thus a precious week was lost.
The reason for this delay shall be expressed in the language of Mr. Reverdy Johnson
, a member of the committee and a commissioner from Maryland
In his letter of 13th May, 1863, to the editors of the ‘Journal of Commerce,’ in answer to allegations made by Mr. David D. Field
, who had also been a member of the committee from New York, he says:
In the committee to whom the whole subject was referred, and at whose head was placed Mr. Guthrie, of Kentucky, and of which Mr. Field was a member, efforts to this end [reasonable guarantees to the South on the subject of slavery] were made again and again, but in vain.
And what was finally agreed upon and reported, met with the sanction of but a bare majority of the committee, Mr. Field not being of that majority.
The discussions in every meeting of the committee were earnest, and a part of the Southern members (I was of the number) implored