Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/370

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

You will remember while we were at Montgomery, when the first commissioners were sent to Washington with a view to settle and adjust all matters of difference between us and the United States, without a resort to arms, you desired me to be one of those clothed with this high and responsible trust. I then declined, because I saw no prospect of success — did not think, upon a survey of the whole field, that I could effect anything good or useful in any effort I could then make on that line. You will allow me now to say that at this time I think possibly I might be able to do some good not only on the immediate subject in hand, but were I in conference with the authorities at Washington on any point in relation to the conduct of the war, I am not without hopes that indirectly I could now turn attention to a general adjustment upon such basis as might ultimately be acceptable to both parties and stop the further effusion of blood in a contest so irrational, unchristian, and so inconsistent with all recognized American principles.

The undertaking, I know, would be a great one. Its magnitude and responsibility I fully realize. I might signally fail. This I also fully comprehend; but still, be assured, I am not without some hopes of success, and whenever or wherever I see any prospect of the possibility of being useful or of doing good I am prepared for any risk, any hazards, and all responsibilities commensurate with the object. Of course, I entertain but one idea of the basis of final settlement or adjustment; that is, the recognition of the sovereignty of the States and the right of each in its sovereign capacity to determine its own destiny. This principle lies at the foundation of the American system. It was what was achieved in the first war of Independence, and must be vindicated in the second. The full recognition of this principle covers all that is really involved in the present issue. That the Federal Government is yet ripe for such acknowledgment I, by no means, believe, but that the time has come for a proper presentation of the question to the authorities at Washington I do believe — such presentation as can be made only in a diplomatic way. While, therefore, a mission might be dispatched on a minor point, the greater one could possibly, with prudence, discretion, and skill, be opened to view and brought in discussion in a way that would lead eventually to successful results. This would depend upon many