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London: Saturday, September 10

The Illustrated London News, vol. 45, no. 1277, p. 258.

September 10, 1864

London, Saturday, September 10.

The impartial observers of the affairs of America, who for our present purpose may be defined as those who desire to see peace restored to that distracted continent, have recently perceived a gleam of hope in that direction. Without adopting too sanguine a view of the situation, it may at least be said that some things tend to show that there is a chance that negotiation will take the place of armed arbitrament, and that an attempt will be made to bring about a solution of the dispute between the North and the South. It has all along been well understood that Mr. Lincoln, in his character as President of the Federal States, was the representative of a war policy. He himself laid down his principle, in his own homely phrase, and probably with the intention of reducing it to the simplest form, when he said that all that was to be done, so far as he was to influence affairs, was to "keep pegging away." It was a very obvious deduction from this fact, that if the President were to receive the honour of re-election it would amount to a declaration on the part of the North in favour of a continuance of the war for another term of four years, or to the point of exhaustion on both sides, if that point should be reached within a less period than that to which the next tenure of the presidential office would extend. A proposition, therefore, which has for its object the withdrawal of the candidature of Mr. Lincoln, may be accepted as an indication of a change of opinion in the North, or in that portion of the people of the North who are practically the governing class. Few of us in this country exactly understand the force of certain political influences in America; but of late we have been led to suppose that the nomination of a candidate for the office of President at a convention to be held at Chicago was to be conclusive of the principles on which the coming election was to be conducted. It appears that the decision which is likely to be come to by this body is a rejection of the claims of Mr. Lincoln, and the nomination of a person who represents the opinions of the party which under the name of Democrat, while holding fast by the principle of the preservation of the Union, yet desires to see that object attained by peaceful means, and therefore is in favour of at least a suspension of the war. In this country a declaration of a political league, even at Manchester, could not summarily decide a great national question; but, according to opinions and statements which are just now prevalent, the vote of the Chicago convention will go far to turn the tide of sentiment in the North towards peace, and it is said that Americans are embracing the new policy of negotiation almost as eagerly as they adopted that of war.

However this feeling may prevail, it is not to be supposed that the Federals have yet yielded, even in idea, the question of Southern independence or have given up all hope of the restoration of the Union. The utmost that it can be assumed that they have ceded is that at present seccession is not to be put an end to by war; and that hostilities may be laid aside pending an effort at negotiation, without prejudice to another and future appeal to arms. Without taking for granted--for the fact is one by no means to be assumed--that the North is actuated by any notion of proximate exhaustion, it may be supposed that a cessation of the flow of blood and treasure which has been going on so long would not be unwelcome to the Federals; and, looking to the military situation, an armistice would by no means operate to the ultimate detriment of the North with reference to any renewal of hostilities. It is possible--indeed, probable--that a temporary lull in the storm of battle is all that will issue out of negotiations. If the South should refuse to re-enter the Union upon any terms, it is very questionable whether the North would submit to acknowledge secession; and the only alternative would be a recurrence to the attitude of belligerents.

While admitting a doubt of a favourable result arising out of the new phase into which the question of North and South is presumed to have entered, we, who have uniformly urged peace and a restoration of at least the outward and visible signs of peace and goodwill between those who are brethren by nationality, if not wholly by race, cannot fail to state our earnest desire that there is truth in the rumours to which we have referred of a tendency towards a policy of negotiation in America. It is the first time in the whole of this contest that we have seen any signs of the coming of the rainbow through the clouds of broil and battle; and most heartily shall we hail its appearance. If there exist amongst the Federal party the sagacity which is at this moment attributed to them, and which leads them to see that a combination of circumstances which are sufficiently obvious, but which it is not necessary to wound Northern susceptibilities by specifying, have arisen, which gives fair opportunity for putting a stop to the effusion of kindred blood, we trust it may not be exercised in vain. The Americans are as often actuated by impulse as by any other motive, and if now they are yielding to an impulse which carries them towards an attempt to restore peace to their country, even the cynics of the world will forgive them any deficiency in dignity which may seem to attach to them because they have not been influenced by some high-wrought notion of abstract principle.

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