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The terms discussed.

That the Monroe Doctrine assumed the position that no European Power should impose governments upon any peoples on this continent against their will; that the principle of the sovereign right of local self-government was peculiarly sacred to the people of the United States, as well as to the people of the Confederate States; that the Emperor of France was at that time attempting to violate this great principle in Mexico; that the suspension of hostilities and allowance of time for the blood of our people on both sides to cool towards each other, would probably lead the public mind to a clearer understanding of those principles which ought to constitute the basis of the settlement of existing difficulties; that the settlement of the Mexican question in this way would necessarily lead to a peaceful settlement of our own; that whenever it should be determined that this right of local self-government is the principle on which all American institutions rest, all the States might reasonably be expected to return of their own accord to their former relations to the Union just as they came together at first by their own consent and for their mutual interests; that we might become indeed and in truth an oceanbound Federal Republic, under the operation of this continental regulator, the ultimate, absolute sovereignty of each State. [188] He concluded by saying that this Mexican question might afford a very opportune occasion for reaching a proper solution of our own troubles without any further effusion of fraternal blood. Mr. Seward, while admitting that the views presented by Mr. Stevens had something specious about them in theory, argued at considerable length to show that practically no system of government founded upon them could be successfully worked, and that the Union could never be restored or maintained on that basis. He then inquired of Mr. Stephens as to the details of the plan he had in view for effecting the proposed purpose. Mr. Stephens replied that he had no fixed plan, but there were several which might be suggested. The whole matter might be easily arranged by a military convention known only to the authorities at Washington and Richmond. This convention could be made to embrace not only a suspension of actual hostilities on all the frontier lines but also other matters involving the execution of the laws in States having two sets of authorities, one recognized by the Confederate States and the other adhering to the National Government. All these matters of detail might be easily adjusted if they should first determine upon an armistice for that purpose. Mr. Hunter said that there was not unanimity in the South upon the subject of undertaking the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine, and it was not probable that any arrangement could be made by which the Confederate States would agree to join in sending any portion of their army into Mexico. In that view his colleagues on the commission fully concurred. Mr. Lincoln, while admitting that as President he might properly enter into a military convention for some of the purposes proposed, repeated his determination to do nothing which would suspend military operations, unless it was first agreed that the national authority was to be restored throughout the country. That was the first question to be settled. He could enter into no treaty, convention or stipulation with the Confederate States, jointly or separately, upon that or any other subject but upon the basis first settled, that the Union was to be restored. Any such agreement or stipulation would be a quasi recognition of the States then in array against the National Government as a separate power. That he never could do. Judge Campbell then renewed his inquiry as to how restoration was to take place, supposing that the Confederate States were consenting to it. Mr. Lincoln replied, by disbanding their armies and permitting the National authorities to resume their functions. Mr. Seward then said that Mr. Lincoln could not express himself more clearly or forcibly [189] in reference to that question than he had done in his message to Congress in December, 1864, and proceeded to state its substance from memory. Judge Campbell said that the war had necessarily given rise to questions which ought to be adjusted, before a harmonious restoration of former relations could properly be made. He referred to the disbandment of the army, which would require time, and to the Confiscation Acts on both sides, under which property had been sold, the title to which would be affected by the facts existing when the war ended, unless provided for by stipulations. Mr. Seward replied that as to all questions involving rights of property, the courts would determine, and that Congress would no doubt be liberal in making restoration of confiscated property or providing indemnity. Mr. Stephens inquired what would be the status of that portion of the slave population in the Confederate States which had not then become free under the Emancipation Proclamation, or in other words, what effect that proclamation would have upon the entire black population. Mr. Lincoln said that was a judicial question and he did not know how the courts would decide it. His own opinion was that as the proclamation was a war measure and would have effect only from its being an exercise of the war power, as soon as the war ended it would be inoperative for the future. It would be held to apply only to such slaves as had come under its operation while it was in active exercise. That was his individual opinion, but the courts might decide differently. Mr. Seward said there were only about two hundred thousand slaves who up to that time had come under the actual operation of the proclamation, and who were then in the enjoyment of their freedom under it, so if the war should then cease, the status of much the larger portion of the slaves would be subject to judicial construction. He also called attention to the proposed Constitutional Amendment providing for the immediate abolition of slavery throughout the United States. He said that was done as a war measure, and if the war were then to cease it would probably not be adopted by a sufficient number of States to make it a part of the Constitution. In answer to an inquiry by Mr. Stephens, whether the Confederate States would be admitted to representation in Congress if they should abandon the war, Mr. Lincoln said his own individual opinion was that they ought to be, and he thought that they would be, but that he could not enter into any stipulation on that subject. Mr. Stephens having urged the importance of coming to some understanding as to the method of procedure in case the Confederate States should entertain [190] the proposition of a return to the Union, Mr. Lincoln repeated that he could not enter into any agreement on that subject with parties in array against the government.

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