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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/343

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Our Last Capital.


In the history of our country, then, Yorktown marks the first definite step in the progress of events upon which the foundation of our nation as an independent and self-governing country rests. Likewise, Danville should mark the final step in the solution of the greatest and most perilous national crisis which our nation has endured, and upon which our entire future welfare and well being for all time depended, for it was there that the final scenes in the Civil war drama were by the Confederate government enacted. The end of the war, when the Confederate government left Richmond, its capital, and became a wanderer, having no place, seemingly, wherewithal it might become permanently established, was only partially assured. But during the occupation of, and subsequent retreat from, Danville, by the government, the end of the strife and bloodshed was definitely assured.

I shall not here in any way enter into a discussion in regard to the relative merits of the legal and constitutional, or moral, questions involved in. the conflict between the Northern and Southern States. To do so would be outside of the scope of the subject dealt with in this article. However, I must here digress to the extent of saying that it is now by impartial historians conceded to be a well-established fact that the Confederate States had, undoubtedly, a well-defined constitutional right to secede from the Union, but every one admits that for them to have exercised this right, as they did, was, to say the least, extremely impractical and injudicious.

However much we may differ in our opinions in regard to these things, the fact remains that these events of which I have spoken constitute to all Americans a subject of supreme interest. And to our people it naturally follows that the end of the civil government in the Confederate States with the last wholly official act, a proclamation, by the highest executive authority, together with some of the particulars in regard to these things attendant upon those acts, is ever a subject of acute interest. Knowing these things, and also knowing that no definite and accurate detailed account of them, which is easily accessible to the public, has ever been prepared, and wishing to preserve for the benefit of posterity as well as of ourselves the actual facts, I have taken some pains to secure a recital of them at first hand from one who was intimately associated with Jefferson Davis and his cabinet during these closing scenes, which heralded and marked the fall of the Confederate government, and who is un--