“What is true, however, of him who heads the insurgent cause is not necessarily true of those who follow. Although he cannot re-accept the Union, they can; some of them, we know, already desire peace and reunion. The number of such may increase. They can at any moment have peace simply by laying down their arms and submitting to the national authority under the Constitution.
“After so much, the government could not, if it would, maintain war against them. The loyal people would not sustain or allow it. If questions should remain, we would adjust them by the peaceful means of legislation, conference, courts, and votes, operating only in constitutional and lawful channels. Some certain, and other possible, questions are, and would be, beyond the executive power to adjust,—as, for instance, the admission of members into Congress, and whatever might require the appropriation of money.
“The executive power itself would be greatly diminished by the cessation of actual war. Pardons and remissions of forfeitures, however, would still be within executive control. In what spirit and temper this control would be exercised can be fairly judged of by the past.”
If rebels wished to receive, or any Northerners wished to extend, a kindlier invitation homeward than this, then such rebels and such Northerners were unreasonable. Very soon the correctness of Mr. Lincoln’s opinion was made so distinct, and his view of the situation was so thoroughly corroborated, that all men saw clearly that no reluctance or unreasonable demands upon his part contributed to delay peace. Mr. Francis P. Blair, senior, though in pursuit of a quite different object, did the service of setting the President in the true and satisfactory light before the people. This restless politician was anxious for leave to seek a conference with Jefferson Davis, but could not induce Mr. Lincoln to hear a word as to his project. On December 8, however, by personal insistence, he extorted a simple permit “to pass our lines, go South, and return.” He immediately set out on his journey, and on January 12 he had an interview with Mr. Davis at Richmond and made to him a most extraordinary proposition, temptingly decorated with abundant flowers of rhetoric. Without the rhetoric, the proposition was: that the pending war should be dropped by both parties for the purpose of an expedition to expel Maximilian from Mexico, of which tropical crusade Mr. Davis should be in charge and reap the glory! So ardent and so sanguine was Mr. Blair in his absurd project, that he fancied that he had impressed Mr. Davis favorably. But in this undoubtedly he deceived himself, for in point of fact he succeeded in bringing back nothing more than a short letter, addressed to himself, in which Mr. Davis expressed willingness to appoint and send, or to receive, agents “with a view to secure peace to the two countries.” The last two words lay in this rebel communication like the twin venom fangs in the mouth of a serpent, and made of it a proposition which could not safely be touched. It served only as distinct proof that the President had correctly stated the fixedness of Mr. Davis.