Foreign and Colonial IntelligenceThe Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1300, p. 150-151.
February 18, 1865
The latest news from New York is to the morning of the 5th inst. Accounts of the opening of peace negotiations between the Federals and the Confederates, and of their complete failure, reached us almost simultaneously. The Canada, which arrived during Tuesday night from Boston and Halifax, brought the news that three Confederate Commissioners--Vice-President Stephens, Senator Hunter, and Judge Campbell--had arrived at Fort Monroe on the 2nd inst., in order to discuss peace unofficially; that Secretary Seward had gone to Fort Monroe to meet them; and that President Lincoln himself had left Washington for Fort Monroe in consequence of a telegram from Mr. Seward. This important
Page 151news was brought to us by New York despatches to the afternoon of the 3rd inst. The Hibernian, which arrived on Wednesday evening, brought, however, telegraphic news from New York to the morning of the 5th inst., to the effect that the peace conference between President Lincoln, Mr. Seward, and the Confederate Commissioners has proved a failure, and that both Governments remain as they were. President Lincoln and Secretary Seward had returned to Washington; and a secret session of the Cabinet had been held there. The Associated Press despatches state that President Lincoln and Mr. Seward had an informal conference with Messrs. Hunter, Stephens, and Campbell, on board a steamer at Hampton Roads, which lasted four hours; and it is positively known that it resulted in no change in the attitude of either government. In other words, it was a failure.
The war news is not important. There had been no operations in the neighbourhood of Richmond; and the Confederate squadron had retired up the James River. Part of the Federal fleet had left the Cape Fear River for Charleston; and it would seem from Confederate accounts that the Federals had assembled their troops near Fort Fisher, and had probably abandoned for a time active operations against the town of Wilmington. The main body of General Sherman's army had crossed the Savannah River, and commenced on the 17th ult. its march, in three columns, through South Carolina towards Charleston and Branchville, but had experienced great difficulties at the outset in consequence of heavy rains, which had rendered the swamps impassable. Federal accounts stated that General Sherman was within forty miles of Charleston, that General Foster was co-operating with him, and that the Confederates were offering resistance at every point but were being rapidly driven from all their defensive positions. Confederate despatches, however, asserted that all General Sherman's efforts to cross the Combahee [i.e., Cambahee] River had hitherto failed. A number of steamers had been sent from Cairo up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, for the purpose, as it was said, of removing General Thomas's army to "a new base." The Confederate General Hill had announced that, in case of need, all the cotton stored in Augusta would be burned, even though the burning might cause the destruction of the city; and the Richmond papers stated that measures had been taken to destroy all cotton in Georgia and the Carolinas whenever it might be in danger of falling into the Federals' hands.
President Davis has appointed the 10th of March as a day of fast and prayer. The Confederate Congress was considering a bill for the impressment of 40,000 negroes for "menial service" with the army, and had rejected an amendment providing that none of them should at any time be armed and employed as soldiers. General Breckenridge has been appointed Confederate Secretary for War.
The Federal War Department has arranged to exchange with the South all prisoners now in close confinement or in irons.
Admiral Porter has made a special report to the Federal Government on the monitors. He says they behaved better in rough weather when off Fort Fisher than any of the rest of the fleet, though they became very uncomfortable for the officers and men, shipping much water. On one of his ironclads the Admiral gets quite eloquent. He says:--"The Monadnock is capable of crossing the ocean alone (when her compasses are once adjusted properly), and could destroy any vessel in the French or British navy, lay their towns under contribution, and return again (provided she could pick up coal) without fear of being followed. She could certainly clear any harbour on our coast of blockaders in case we were at war with a foreign Power."
General Butler had made a speech at Lowell, in which he fiercely attacked Admiral Porter, and especially General Grant, whom he charged with preventing an exchange of prisoners with the South and with lavishly wasting the blood of his troops. As to himself, he hoped that when he died his epitaph might be--"Here lies the General who saved the lives of his soldiers at Big Bethel and Fort Fisher, and who never commanded the army of the Potomac."
A joint resolution submitting to the decision of the State Legislatures the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery throughout the United States has passed the House of Representatives, amid great enthusiasm, by 119 ayes to 56 noes. The Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Western Virginia Legislatures and the New York Assembly have ratified the constitutional amendment, and it has been ratified in Illinois and Rhode Island by the Lower Houses. In the Senate Mr. Sumner has introduced resolutions declaring the consent of the rebel States to the measure to be unnecessary while they are in rebellion; and the Senate has passed joint resolutions declaring Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, not entitled to representation in the Electoral College. President Lincoln has been serenaded at Washington, when he made a speech, in which he said that the passage of the amendment abolishing slavery was an occasion of congratulation for the whole world. He thought the measure was a fitting if not indispensable adjunct to the winding up of the great difficulty. He wished the re-union of the States to be so effected as to remove all causes of future disturbance. "The emancipating proclamation," said Mr. Lincoln, "falls short of what the amendment will effect when consummated."
The Senate has passed the retaliation resolutions, with the amendment that the retaliation should be in conformity with the usages of war among civilised nations.
The House of Representatives has passed the bill for the construction of a ship canal around the Niagara Falls, and also for the Illinois-Michigan Canal. The latter will enable gun-boats to pass from the Mississippi to Lake Michigan.
Mr. Stanton has ordered the re-annexation of Arizona to the Pacific department, under General Macdowell. The limits of the Southern department are intended to embrace North Carolina.
A coloured lawyer has been admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court.
The peace negotiations diminished the premium on gold at New York to about 105 per cent; but it rose again to about 113 per cent on the 4th inst., when the failure of those negotiations became known.
The Canadian Government has given up Burleigh, the Confederate partisan who seized a steamer on Lake Erie, for trial in the United States; and the Canadian Legislature has almost unanimously passed [t]he Alien Bill introduced by the Colonial Ministry. This bill provides that, on complaint of a resident, the Governor-General may order aliens to quit the Provinces, after giving them notice, through the Official Gazette, of their intended expulsion. The accused may, however, tender reasons for non-compliance.
The report of Colonel Jervois respecting the defences of Canada has been published. Colonel Jervois is of opinion that if Montreal and Quebec were placed in a condition for defence, and the river between Montreal and Quebec commanded by iron-plated vessels, a successful resistance could be made to any attempt to subjugate the country, so long as Great Britain had the command of the sea. The defence of Upper Canada is, in his opinion, more difficult. Even there, however, points are to be found--for instance, Kingston, Toronto, and Hamilton--which, if properly fortified, would offer a most serious, if not effectual, resistance to an enemy.