He truly represented the South in not Negotiating for peace on other terms than independence.
Had a man less sober-minded and less strong than he, been in his place the Confederacy
would not only have gone down in material ruin—it would have been buried in disgrace.
Excesses, sure to bring
retribution in the end, would have blotted its career, and weakness would have stripped its fate of dignity.
I dismiss, therefore, the unworthy criticism that he should have negotiated peace in February, 1865, when Hon. Francis P. Blair
came informally to Richmond
, and when, as the result of his mission, Messrs. Stephens
met President Lincoln
and Secretary Seward
in conference at Hampton Roads
Reports have been circulated that at that time peace could have been secured upon a basis of a return to the Union
, with payment of some sort to Southern owners for their emancipated slaves.
There is no foundation for such belief.
The idea which led to the conference was that of Mr. Blair
—that the Confederate
cause being hopeless, the Confederate
leaders could be induced to wheel their columns into line with those of the Union
army now thundering at their gates, and then march off to Mexico
to assert the Monroe
doctrine and expel Maximilian
, the usurping emperor, from his throne.
But when President Lincoln
and Secretary Seward
appeared no proposal of any kind was made but unconditional surrender.
This was reported, and of course declined.
Even had compensation for slaves been proposed, the Confederate
soldiers would have repudiated such terms as conditions of surrender.
True, they were in dire distress.
With scarce a handful, Johnston
could only harass Sherman
in the South
, and the men of Lee
could see from their trenches the mighty swarms marshalling in their front.
The starvation that clutched at their throats plunged its dagger to their hearts as they thought of loved ones famishing at home.
But the brave men who still clung to their tattered standards knew naught of the art or practice of surrender.
They thought of Valley Forge
and saw beyond it Yorktown
Had not Washington
thought of the mountains of West Augusta
when driven from his strongholds?
Why not they?
Had not Jackson
left the legacy, ‘What is life without honor?
Dishonor is worse than death.’
They could not comprehend the idea of surrender, for were they not their fathers' sons?