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I have found much difficulty in determining what control each member ought to be permitted to exercise over his own remarks. The most agreeable course to me would have been, to have written out each speech and submitted it to its author for correction or revision; but to this there was a decisive objection. It would have depreciated, if not destroyed, the accuracy of the report. Although I do not believe that any gentleman would have been tempted to change the tenor of his remarks by subsequent events, the view of the public might not have been so charitable.
I have therefore made my own notes the standard of authority, and have admitted nothing into the report which has not been justified by them aided by my own recollection. The manuscript has not been changed or added to, except by my own hands. The few instances in which I have availed myself of the materials furnished by others, are distinctly stated either in the notes or the appendix.
During the sessions of the Conference I was able to secure but little practical assistance from the members. Although many of them desired that my purpose should be accomplished, and some were taking brief and general notes, I soon discovered that an accurate report of a speech required an amount of labor and a degree of attention to the subject, which few gentlemen were inclined to give. The work, therefore, was thrown almost exclusively upon myself. Some idea of its amount and severity may be formed when it is stated, that the sessions usually commenced at about ten o'clock in the morning, and with a brief intermission were continued late in the evening, in one instance as late as the hour of two o'clock, A. M. The necessity of these long daily sessions, arose from the fact that the Congress then in exist
ence terminated on the fourth of March, and but few days remained in which to discuss and perfect the report, and to submit it to that body for its action.
I do not claim to have furnished a verbatim report of the speeches delivered in the Conference of 1861, but I insist that I have given an accurate account of all its official proceedings, and the substance of the remarks made in the course of those proceedings. I think, also, that I have preserved nearly all the propositions made in the course of the debate, and generally have presented the ideas in the very language used. The gentlemen who have critically examined the report, all concur upon the question of its general accuracy, and I am content in this respect to rely upon their testimony.
I have suggested these considerations simply by way of explanation, and not for the purpose of avoiding criticism. I have endeavored to follow, so far as was in my power, the example of the illustrious Reporter of the Constitutional Convention of 1787; and while my notes lack the beauty and felicity which characterize his, I. trust they are not less full and accurate. I submit them to the country as the best contribution which I can make to its history, at a most important and interesting period of our national existence.
The three short years which have passed since the Conference of 1861, have witnessed singular vicissitudes among its members. Many of them have entered into the military or civil service of the country, or of the rebellion which it was the avowed purpose of some members of that Conference to nourish into vigorous life Death, also, has been busy with the roll. BALDWIN, BRONSON, SMITH, Wolcott, TYLER, and Clay, are no more. ZOLLICOFFER fell at the head of a rebel army. HACKLEMAN sealed with his blood his devotion to the prin
ciples he advocated upon the field of Corinth, and now, while I am writing these pages in a morning of beautiful spring, when tree, and shrub, and grass, and flower, are bursting into life and beauty; from the roar of cannon, the rattle of musketry, and the deadly storm of lead and iron, which bearing destruction upon its wings is waking the echoes of the “ Wilderness," comes the mournful tidings that WADSWORTH has fallen. In that Conference or in the world, there was never a purer or a more ardent patriot. Those of us who were associated with him politically, had learned to love and respect him. His opponents admired his unflinching devotion to his country, and his manly frankness and candor. He was the type of a true American, able, unselfish, prudent, unambitious, and good. Other pens will do justice to his memory, but I thought as I heard the last account of him alive, as he lay within the rebel lines, his face wearing that calm serenity which grew more beautiful the nearer death approached, after having given so abundantly of his goods, now yielding his life to his country in the hour of her trial, that hereafter the good and true men of the nation would emulate the illustrious example of his patriotism, and would prize the blessings of a free government the more highly, as they remembered that it could only be maintained and perpetuated by such expensive sacrifices.
L. E. C. May, 1864.
· PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONFERENCE,
Washington, D. C.
MONDAY, February 4th, 1861.
COMMISSIONERS representing a number of the States, assembled at Willard's Hall, in the City of Washington, D. C., on the fourth day of February, A. D. 1861, at 12 o'clock M., in pursuance of the following preamble and resolutions, adopted by the General Assembly of the State of Virginia, on the nineteenth day of January, A. D. 1861 :
“ Whereas, It is the deliberate opinion of the General Assembly of Virginia, that unless the unhappy controversy which now divides the States of this confederacy, shall be satisfactorily adjusted, a permanent dissolution of Union is inevitable; and the General Assembly, representing the wishes of the people of the commonweath, is desirous of employing every reasonablo means to avert so dire a calamity, and determined to make a final effort to restore the Union and the Constitution, in the spirit in which they were established by the fathers of the Republic: Therefore,
Resolved, That on behalf of the commonweath of Virginia, an invitation is hereby extended to all such States, whether slaveholding or non-slaveholding, as are willing to unite with Virginia in an earnest effort to adjust the present anhappy controversies, in the spirit in which the Constitution was originally formed, and consistently with its principles, so as to afford to the people of the slaveholding States adequate guarantees for the security of their rights, to appoint commissioners to meet on the fourth day of February next, in the City of Washington, similar commissioners appointed by Virginia, to consider, and if practicable, agree upon some suitable adjustment.
Resolved, That ex-President JOHN TYLER, WILLAM O. Rives, Judge JOIN W.BROCKENBROUGH, GEORGE W. SUMMERS, and JAMES A. SEDDON are hereby ap
pointed commissioners, whose duty it shall be to repair to the City of Washington, on the day designated in the foregoing resolution, to meet such commissioners as may be appointed by any of said States, in accordance with the foregoing resolution.
Resolved, That if said commissioners, after fall and free conference, shall agree upon any plan of adjustment requiring amendments to the Federal Constitution, for the further security of the rights of the people of the slaveholding States, they be requested to communicate the proposed amendments to Congress, for the purpose of having the same submitted by that body, according to the forms of the Constitution, to the several States for ratification.
Resolved, That if said commissioners cannot agree on such adjustment, or if agreeing, Congress shall refuse to submit for ratification, such amendments as may be proposed, then the commissioners of this State shall immediately communicate the result to the executive of this commonwealth, to be by him laid before the convention of the people of Virginia and the General Assembly: Provided, That the said commissioners be subject at all times to the control of the General Assembly, or if in session, to that of the State convention. • Resolved, That in the opinion of the General Assembly of Virginia, the propositions embraced in the resolutions presented to the Senate of the United States by the Hon. JOHN J. CRITTENDEN, so modified as that the first article proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, shall apply to all the territory of the United States now held or here after acquired south of latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, and provide that slavery of the African race shall be effectually protected as property therein during the continuance of the territorial government, and the fourth article shall secure to the owners of slaves the right of transit with their slaves between and through the non-slaveholding States and territories, constitute the basis of such an adjustment of the unhappy controversy which now divides the States of this confederacy, as would be accepted by the people of this coinmonwealth.
Resoloed, That ex-President JOHN TYLER is hereby appointed, by the concurrent vote of each branch of the General Assembly, a commissioner to the President of the United States, and Judge John ROBERTSON, is hereby appointed, by a like vote, a commissioner to the State of South Carolina, and the other States that have seceded or shall secede, with instructions respectfully to request the President of the United States and authorities of such States to agree to abstain, pending the proceedings contemplated by the action of this General Assembly, from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of arms between the States and the Government of the United States.
Resolved, That copies of the foregoing resolutions be forthwith telegraphed to the executives of the several States, and also to the President of the United States, and the Governor be requested to inform, without delay, the commissioners of their appointment by the foregoing resolutions. [A copy from the rolls.]
WM. F. GORDON, JR.,
C. H. D. and K. R. of Va.