Table of Contents:
The Peace Congress.A letter from Washington, dated the 5th, gives the following account of the first day's proceedings of the "Peace Congress:" ‘ The proceedings were opened to-day by the Rev. Mr. Gurley, Chaplain of the Senate, with a most patriotic and impressive prayer, in which the Commissioners all joined in fervent supplication to the Throne of Grace. ’ The Committee on Permanent Organization appointed yesterday, made their report this morning, nominating Ex-President John Tyler, of Virginia, as President, and the son of Judge S. C. White, of Ohio, as Secretary. A Committee on Credentials was previously appointed, who reported the credentials of all the Commissioners present as bearing the seal of the respective States, and the signatures of the Governors. The credentials of the Maryland Delegates were pronounced all correct. On taking the Chair, President Tyler addressed the Conference in most eloquent and patriotic terms. His address produced intense enthusiasm, and the members of the Convention flocked around to congratulate him. The best of feeling prevailed, and the Commissioners assured Mr. Tyler "that the lead of Virginia would be followed, as she pursued only the path of virtue and honor." The following is a report of the address: ‘ Gentlemen: I fear you have committed a great error in appointing me to the honorable position you have assigned me. A long separation from all deliberative bodies has rendered the rules of their proceedings unfamiliar to me, while I should find, in my own state of health, variable and fickle as it is, a sufficient reason to decline the honor of being your presiding officer. But, in times like these, one has but little option left him. Personal considerations should weigh but lightly in the balance. The country is in danger --it is enough. One must take the place assigned him in the great work of reconciliation and adjustment. ’ The voice of Virginia has invited her co-States to meet her in council. In the initiation of this Government that same voice was heard and complied with, and the results of seventy odd years have fully attested the wisdom of the decisions then adopted. Is the urgency of her call now less great than it was then? Our Godlike fathers created, we have to preserve. They built up through their wisdom and patriotism monuments which have eternalized their names. You have before you, gentlemen, a task equally grand, equally sublime, quite as full of glory and immortality. You have to snatch from ruin a great and glorious Confederation — to preserve the Government and to renew and invigorate the Constitution. If you reach the height of this great occasion your children's children will rise up and call you blessed. I confess, myself, to be ambitious of sharing in the glory of accomplishing this grand and magnificent result. To have our names enrolled in the Capitol, to be respected by future generations with grateful applause. This is an honor higher than the mountains; more enduring than monumental alabaster. Yes, Virginia's voice, as in the olden time, has been heard. Her sister States meet her this day at the council board. Vermont is here, bringing with her the memories of the past, reviving in the memories of all, her Ethan Allen, and his demand for the surrender of Ticonderoga in the name of the great Jehovah and the American Congress. New Hampshire is here — her fame is illustrated by memorable annals, and still more lately as the birthplace of him who won for himself the name of ‘"Defender of the Constitution, "’ and who wrote that letter to John Taylor, which has been enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen. Massachusetts is not here. Some member said she is coming.--I hope so, said Mr. Tyler, and that she will bring with her her daughter Maine. I did not believe that it could well be that the voice which, in other times, was so familiar to her ears, had been addressed to her in vain. Connecticut is here, and she comes, I doubt not, in the spirit of Roger Sherman, whose name, with our very children, has become a household word, and who was, in life, the embodiment of that practical sense which befits the great lawgivers and constructors of governments. Rhode Island, the land of Roger Williams, is here--one of the two last States, in her jealousy of the public liberty, to give in her adhesion to the Constitution, and among the earliest to hasten to its rescue. The great Empire State of New York, represented thus far but by one delegate, is daily expected in fuller force to join in the great work of healing the discontents of the times, and restoring the reign of fraternal feeling. New Jersey is also here, with the memories of the past covering her all over. Trenton and Princeton live immortal in story. The plains of the last, incrimsoned with the hearts' blood of Virginia's sons. Among her delegation, I rejoice to recognize a gallant son of a signer of the immortal Declaration, which announced to the world that thirteen Provinces had become thirteen Independent and Sovereign States. And here, too, is Delaware, the land of the Bayards and the Roneys, whose soil at Brandywine was moistened by the blood of Virginia's youthful Monroe. Here is Maryland, whose massive columns wield into line with those of Virginia in the contest for glory, and whose State-House at Annapolis was the theatre of the spectacle of a successful commander, who after liberating his country gladly ungirthed his sword and laid it down upon the altar of that country.--Then comes Pennsylvania, rich in revolutionary lore, bringing with her the deathless names of Franklin and Morris, and I trust ready to renew from the belfry of Independence Hall, the chimes of the old bell which announced freedom and independence in former days. All hail to North Carolina with her Mecklenburg declaration in her hand, standing erect on the ground of her own probity and firmness in the cause of the public liberty, and represented in other attributes by her Marion, and in the assembly by her distinguished son at no great distance from me. Four daughters of Virginia also cluster around the council board on the invitation of their ancient mother — the eldest, Kentucky, whose sons, under that intrepid warrior Anthony Wayne, gave freedom of settlement to the territory of her sister, Ohio, and extending his hand daily and hourly across La Belle Riviere, to grasp the hand of some one of kindred blood, of the noble States of Indiana and Illinois and Ohio, who have grown up into powerful States, already grand, potent, and almost imperial. Tennessee is not here, but is coming — prevented from being here only by the floods which have swollen her rivers. When she arrives she will wear the badges on her warrior crest of victories won in company with the great West on many an ensanguined plain, and standards torn from the hands of the conquerors at Waterloo. Missouri, and lowa, and Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, still linger behind, but it may be hoped that their hearts are with us in the great work we have to do. The eyes of the whole country are turned to this hall, and to this assembly in expectation and hope. I trust, gentlemen, that you may prove yourselves worthy of the great occasion. Our ancestors probably committed a blunder in not having fixed upon every fifth decade for a call of a general Convention to assemble and reform the Constitution. On the contrary they have made the difficulties next to insurmountable to accomplish amendments to an instrument which was perfect for five million of people, but not wholly so as to thirty millions. Your patriotism will surmount the difficulties, however great, if you will accomplish but one triumph in advance, and that is a triumph over party. And what is party when compared to the task of rescuing one's country from danger? Do that and one long, loud shout of joy and gladness will resound throughout the land. The scene at the close of this address is described as most impressive. The deep and earnest patriotism evinced by the speaker melted the stoutest heart, and as he finished each member seemed to rise simultaneously to his feet, and moved towards the venerable speaker with words of peace and good will.--All hearts were filled with hope, and the President was followed by general congratulations from most of the States. Mr. Chase, of Ohio, expressed himself as particularly gratified, and assured Mr. Tyler, as most of the other Commissioners did, that they ‘"were ready to follow where Virginia led."’ The resolutions adopted by the Illinois Legislature, for sending Commissioners, are understood to have been prepared under the supervision of Mr. Lincoln. They are as follows: ‘ Whereas, resolutions of the State of Virginia have been communicated to the General Assembly of this State, proposing the appointment of Commissioners by the several States, to meet in Convention on the 4th day of February, 1861, at Washington. Resolved, by the Senate, the House of Representatives concurring therein. That with the earnest desire for the return of harmony and kind relations among our States, and out of respect to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Governor of the State be requested to appoint five Commissioners on the part of the State of Illinois, to confer and consult with the Commissioners of other States, who shall meet at Washington; provided, that said Commissioners shall, at all times, be subject to the control of the General Assembly of the State of Illinois. Resolved, That the appointment of Commissioners by the State of Illinois, in response to the invitation of the State of Virginia, is not an expression of opinion on the part of this State that any amendment of the Federal Constitution is requisite to afford to the people of the slaveholding States adequate guarantees for the security of their rights; nor an approval of the basis of settlement of our difficulties proposed by the State of Virginia; but it is an expression of our willingness to unite with the State of Virginia in an earnest effort to adjust the present unhappy controversy in the spirit in which the Constitution was, originally framed, and consistently with its principles. Resolved, That while we are willing to appoint Commissioners to meet in Convention with those of other States, for consultation upon matters which at present distract our harmony as a nation, we also insist that the appropriate constitutional method of considering and acting upon the grievances complained of by our sister States, would be by the call of a Convention for the amendment of the Constitution in the manner contemplated by the fifth article of that instrument; and if the States deeming themselves aggrieved shall request Congress to call such Convention, the Legislature of Illinois will and does concur in such calls. ’
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.