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Chapter 50: last months of the Civil War.—Chase and Taney, chief-justices.—the first colored attorney in the supreme court —reciprocity with Canada.—the New Jersey monopoly.— retaliation in war.—reconstruction.—debate on Louisiana.—Lincoln and Sumner.—visit to Richmond.—the president's death by assassination.—Sumner's eulogy upon him. —President Johnson; his method of reconstruction.—Sumner's protests against race distinctions.—death of friends. —French visitors and correspondents.—1864-1865.

Lord Lyons1 left the British embassy at Washington at this time on account of ill health, and returned to England; afterwards he was ambassador for his country at Constantinople and at Paris. Sumner, who was much attached to him, wrote to him, Dec. 11, 1864:—

I learn that you have already left us, and that you are unwell. I am very sorry on both accounts. Yours has been a most eventful service among us. Few ministers are called to perform in a whole life what you have been obliged to crowd into a brief term. It is well known that you have enjoyed in no common degree the confidence of your own government; while all on our side familiar with your conduct bear witness to the uniform kindness, courtesy, and forbearance by which it has been distinguished. To perform so successfully all the duties of your most difficult post in these terrible days, when strife and conflict seemed ready to embroil everything, was calculated to task the best powers of mind and body; and I am more pained than astonished to learn that your health has failed under the severe trial. But I trust that a vacation, and the welcome which awaits you from your own government, which you have served so well, will renew your strength, and that you will be disposed to come to us again. In any event, I can never forget the pleasant hours which it has been my fortune to have with you. My best wishes will follow you wherever you may be, and I pray you now to accept the expression of my friendship.

To Lieber, December 27:—

What say you to Dix's order? There can be no question that any general on the frontier might follow invaders back into Canada if the Canadian government should fail in its duties; but a deliberate order in advance to invade neutral territory is a grave step.2 [205]

I have presented to the President the duty of harmony between Congress and the Executive. He is agreed. It is proposed to admit Louisiana (which ought not to be done), and at the same time pass the reconstruction bill for all the other States, giving the electoral franchise to ‘all citizens’ without distinction of color. If this arrangement is carried out, it will be an immense political act.

‘I have great questions for the committee [on foreign relations]: (1) The termination of the reciprocity treaty; (2) Armaments on the lakes; (3) The Canadian complications; (4) Mexico; (5) Arguelles case; (6) Claims of England growing out of the war; (7) Florida case; (8) Question of belligerent rights. Anything on these matters will be welcome.’

To Mr. Bright, February 15, 1865:—

I am glad of your assurance, in harmony with Mr. Cobden's, that intervention is played out. I am glad also of your speech. It amuses me to read the criticisms, which I can appreciate at their value, as I have been exposed to the same. For years it was said I was governed by hatred for the slave-masters, and did not care at all for the slaves. Oh, no! not at all.

You will read the report of the conferences.3 It appears that the President was drawn into them by the assurances of General Grant, who was led to expect something.4 Perhaps the country sees now more clearly than ever that the war must be pushed to the entire overthrow of the rebel armies. The interview was pleasant. Seward sent the commissioners on their arrival three bottles of choice whiskey, which it was reported they drank thirstily. As they were leaving, he gave them a couple of bottles of champagne for their dinner. Hunter, who is a very experienced politician, and had been all his life down to the rebellion, in Washington, said, after the discussions were closed, “Governor, how is the Capitol? Is it finished?” This gave Seward an opportunity of picturing the present admired state of the works, with the dome completed, and the whole constituting one of the most magnificent edifices of the world. Campbell, formerly of the Supreme Court of the United States, and reputed the ablest lawyer in the slave States, began the conference by suggesting peace on the basis of a Zollverein, and continued free-trade between the two sections, which he thought might pave the way to something hereafter; but he could not promise anything. This was also the theory of the French minister here, M. Mercier, now at Madrid, who insisted that the war must end in that way. It was remarked that the men had nothing of the haughty and defiant way which they had in Washington formerly. Mr. Blair, who visited Richmond, still insists that peace is near. He says that the war cannot go on another month on their side unless they have help from Louis Napoleon. But here the question of a monarchical government may arise. Jefferson Davis, whom he describes as so emaciated and altered as not to be recognized, sets his face against it. He said to Mr. Blair that “there was a Brutus who would brook the eternal devil as easily as a king in Rome;” and he was that Brutus in Richmond. [206]

Meanwhile the war goes on with converging forces. Mr. Stanton was with me yesterday, and gave me fully his expectations. He thinks that peace can be had only when Lee's army is beaten, captured, or dispersed; and there I agree with him. To that end all our military energies are now directed. Lee's army is sixty-five thousand men. Against him is Grant at Petersburg, a corps now demonstrating at Wilmington, and Sherman marching from Georgia. The latter will not turn aside for Augusta or Charleston, or any fortified place, but will traverse the Carolinas until he is able to co-operate with Grant. You will see from this statement something of the nature of the campaign. Mr. Stanton thinks it ought to be finished before May. I have for a long time been sanguine that after Lee's army is out of the way the whole rebellion will disappear. While that is in a fighting condition there is still a hope for the rebels, and the Unionists of the South are afraid to show themselves.

I am sorry that so great and good a man as Goldwin Smith, who has done so much for us, should fall into what Mr. Canning would call “cantanker.” He rushed too swiftly to his conclusion;5 but I hope that we shall not lose his powerful support for the good cause. I have felt it my duty to say to the British charge; here that nothing could be done to provide for British claims on our government arising out of the war, which are very numerous, until Lord Russell took a different course with regard to ours. He tosses ours aside haughtily. I am sorry, for my system is peace and good-will, which I shall try in my sphere to cultivate, but there must be reciprocity.

P. S. Did I mention, as showing the good nature of the peace conferences, that after the serious discussions were over, including allusions on the part of the rebels to what was gently called “the continental question,” Mr. Stephens asked the President to send back a nephew of his, a young lieutenant, who was a prisoner in the North? The President said at once, “Stephens, I'll do it, if you will send back one of our young lieutenants.” It was agreed; and Mr. Stephens handed the President on a slip of paper the name of his nephew, and the President handed Mr. Stephens the name of an officer of corresponding rank. This was the only stipulation on that occasion; and the President tells me it has been carried out on each side. Mr. Schleiden, the new minister of the Hanse Towns to London, has been long in Washington, and knows us well. Few foreigners have ever studied us more. I commend him to you and Mr. Cobden.

To Lieber, February 18:—

The President was exhausted a few days ago; but yesterday he made an appointment with me for eleven o'clock in the evening, and I did not leave him till some time after midnight. I hope you do not dislike the new judge6 I made in Boston. What pleasure I should have had in placing Hillard in some post of comfort and honor, if he had not made it impossible!7


The death of Chief-Justice Taney, which had been anticipated for some months, took place October 10, 1864.

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