DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, February 7, 1865.
[Honorable CHARLES F. ADAMS:]
SIR: It is a truism that in times of peace there are always instigators of war. So soon as a war begins there are citizens who impatiently demand negotiations for peace. The advocates of war, after an agitation longer or shorter, generally gain their fearful end, though the war declared is not infrequently unnecessary and unwise. Se peace agitators in time of war ultimately bring about an abandonment of the conflict, sometimes without securing the advantages which were originally expected from the conflict.
The agitators for war in time of peace, and for peace in time of war, are not necessarily, or perhaps ordinarily, unpatriotic in their purposes or motives. Results alone determine whether they are wise or unwise. The treaty of peace concluded at Guadalupe Hidalgo was secured by an irregular negotiator, under the ban of the Government. Some of the efforts which have been made to bring about negotiations with a view to end our civil war are known to the whole world, because they have employed foreign as well as domestic against. Others, with whom you have had to deal confidentially, are known to yourself, although they have not publicly transpired. Other efforts have occurred here which are known only to the persons actually moving in them and to this Government. I am now to give, for your information, an account of an affair of the same general character which recently received much attention here, and which, doubtless, will excite inquiry abroad.
A few days ago Francis P. Balir, esq., of Maryland, obtained from the President a simple leave to pass through our military lines without definite views known to the Government. Mr. Blair visited Richmond, and on his return he showed to the President a letter which Jefferson Davis had written to Mr. Balir, in which Davis wrote that Mr. Blair was at liberty to say to President Lincoln that Davis was now, as he always had been, willing to send commissioners, if assured they would be received, or to receive any that should be sent; that he was not disposed to find obstacles in forms. He would send commissioners to confer with the President, with a view to a restoration of peace between the two countries, if he could be assured they would be received. the President thereupon, on the 18th of January, addressed a note to Mr. Blair, in which the President, after acknowledging that he had read the not of Mr. Davis, said that he was, is, and always should be willing to receive any agents that Mr. Davis or any other influential person now actually resisting the authority of the Government might send to confer informally with the President, with a view to the restoration of peace of the people of our one common country. Mr. Balir visited Richmond with this letter, and then again came back to Washington. On the 29th instant [ultimo] we were advised from the camp of Lieutenant-General Grant that Alexander H. Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and John A. Campbell were applying for leave to pass through the lines to Washington as peace commissioned, to confer with the President. They were permitted by the lieutenant-general to come to his headquarters, to await there the decision of the President. Major- Eckert was sent down to meet the party from Richmond at General Grant's headquarters. The major was directed to deliver to them a copy of the President's letter to Mr. Blair, with a not to be addressed to them and signed by the major, in which they were directly informed that if they should be allowed to pass our lines they would be understood as coming for an informal conference upon the basis of the afforce named letter