Executive Mansion, Washington,
Jan. 31, 1865.
Lieut. Gen. Grant, City Point, Va.
A messenger is coming to you on the business contained in your dispatch. Detain the gentlemen in comfortable quarters until he arrives, and then act upon the message he brings as far as applicable, it having been made up to pass through Gen. Ord's hands, and when the gentlemen were supposed to be beyond our lines.
When Major Eckert departed, he bore with him a letter of the Secretary of War to General Grant as follows, to wit:
War Department, Washington, D. C.,
Jan. 30, 1865.
Lieut. General Grant, Commanding, etc.
General: The President desires that you procure for the bearer, Major Thomas T. Eckert, an interview with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, and if, on his return to you, he requests it, pass them through our lines to Fortress Monroe by such route and under such military precautions as you may deem prudent, giving them protection and comfortable quarters while there, and that you let none of this have any effect upon any of your movements or plans.
By order of the President.
Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War.
Supposing the proper point to be then reached, I dispatched the Secretary of State with the following instructions, Major Eckert, however, going ahead of him:
Executive Mansion, Jan. 31, 1865.
Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State.
You will proceed to Fortress Monroe, Va., there to meet and informally confer with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell on the basis of my letter to F. P. Blair, Esq., of Jan. 18, 1865, a copy which you have. You will make known to them that three things are indispensable, to wit: 1st, the restoration of the national authority throughout all the States; 2d, no receding by the Executive of the United States on the slavery question from the position assumed thereon in the late annual message to Congress, and in the preceding documents; 3d, no cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war and the disbanding of all the forces hostile to the Government. You will inform them that all propositions of theirs not inconsistent with the above will be considered and passed upon in a spirit of sincere liberality. You will hear all they may choose to say and report it to me. You will not assume to definitely consummate anything.