unless it be for the capitulation of General Lee
's army, or on some minor or purely military matter.
He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political questions.
Such questions the President
holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions.
Meanwhile, you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.’
There can be no doubt of the absolute propriety of the decision of the President
, nor of the clearness of the language in which it was couched.
replied by telegram to the Secretary of War
, on the 4th: ‘Your dispatch of twelve P. M., the 3rd, received.
I have written a letter to General Lee
, copy of which will be sent you to-morrow.
I can assure you that no act of the enemy will prevent me pressing all advantages to the utmost of my ability; neither will I, under any circumstances, exceed my authority, or in any way embarrass the government.
It was because I had no right to meet General Lee
on the subject proposed by him that I referred the matter for instructions.’
His reply to Lee
was in these words: ‘In regard to meeting you on the 6th instant, I would state that I have no authority to accede to your proposition for a conference on the subject proposed.
Such authority is vested in the President
of the United States
could only have meant that I would not refuse an interview on any subject on which I have a right to act, which, of course, would be such as are purely of a military character, and on the subject of exchanges, which has been intrusted to me.’
The result of this attempt was doubtless a woeful