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1864 August 27: More from the Southern Peace Commissioners

September 2, 2014

From the August 27, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

Those “Commissioners” Again—What Terms Had They to Offer ?

Cartoon of Jewett from the March 28, 1863, issue of “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper”³

Much has been said about the so-called rebel commissioners at Niagara Falls, and we have been repeatedly assured by the Democratic press that they came to offer “Peace upon the basis of a restored Union.”  No such intimations were given by them at any time, in any manner.  We did have, it is true, some ridiculously crude propositions from “Colonel” JEWETT,¹ as chaotic as his own brain, but not one word from the “Commissioners” themselves.  Declaration of terms to be proposed by them have been confidently made, notwithstanding they were in direct contradiction of the assertions of the rebel government and official organs.  Although the “Commissioners admitted they were unauthorized, anything that throws light on their real views regarding the question of Peace will be read with interest.  In this view, the following from the Grand Rapids Eagle, giving the views of Mr. HOLCOMBE,² as expressed in a conversation with a leading clergyman of Grand Rapids, who use to be in college with him, is important, especially as it is the only statement of the views of any of the “Commissioners” that comes to us with any show of authority :³

“Holcombe positively asserted that the South did not want peace, and would not listen to the faintest intimation of peace, except on terms recognizing their absolute independence and sovereignty, with all the territory they originally claimed.  He said the rebels could and would fight twenty years longer before accepting any other or less terms than these.  He averred the Southern people were not fighting for slavery, and cared nothing about it; that they would relinquish it in a moment if so doing would advance their cause; that what they were fighting for was independence and separate sovereignty, pure and simple, and this they would have, or else they must be exterminated.

“Our friend questioned him closely and repeatedly if there was not some possible way to bring about a peace; and he was always answered that there could be no peace upon the basis of any reconstruction of the Union—that was altogether out of the question.  Whatever might be said or had been said for political effect, the Southern States would never again unite with the Northern States on any terms.  The rebels had announced, in the beginning, that the separation was final, and they meant precisely what they said, and would either die or carry this point.

“Mr. Holocome was at great pains to create the distinct impression that slavery was not the cause or object of the war, but only the convenient pretext for getting up a revolt ;  that the real cause and object was independence and a separate nationality, and nothing else ;  and that no peace, or truce, or compromise was possible that did not grant the rebels independence and a separate sovereignty ;  and that, whatever political management could do in the North to embarrass the Government was fostered and encouraged by the rebel leaders because it aided them more or less in obtaining their ultimate object, separation and independence.”

1.  William Cornell “Colorado” Jewett (1823-1893), an influential Copperhead in the Midwest and self-appointed peace advocate, traveled to Europe several times to lobby for a peaceful resolution of the War. He went to Canada on a speaking tour urging his listeners to pressure Great Britain to help negotiate a peace settlement. After his speaking tour ended, he offered his services to Confederates in Canada.
2.  James Philemon Holcombe (1820-1873) was a prominent Confederate politician, a delegate to the Virginia Secession Convention (1861), elected to represent Virginia in the Confederate Congress (1862-1864), and Confederate commissioner to Canada (1863-1865).
3.  Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, vol. 16, no. 391 (March 28, 1863), page 16; available digitally on the Internet Archive.

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