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PoP's Southern American: Richmond Daily Dispatch August 23, 1864.

12/14/2011

Richmond Daily Dispatch August 23, 1864.

The New York Herald professes not to believe a word of what it calls "the romance," published by the penny-a-liner Gilmore, relative to the interview between himself and his colleague, Jacques, on the between himself and his colleague, Jacques, on the one side, and President Davis on the other, in the presence of Mr. Benjamin. It asserts that the visit, on the part of Jacques, was a mere pretext to obtain a furlough, and that Gilmore accompanied him solely for the purpose of gathering materials for an article in a Magazine. Neither of them had any proposals to make, or was authorized, in any manner or shape, by Lincoln to solicit the interview.--The Herald adds, that although they had found it an easy matter to humbug Lincoln, they met their master when they encountered President Davis, who wound them around his finger as he might have done a thread of yarn, "and finally cornered them so cruelly that they were very glad to sneak out of any further discussion." It adds, that, "according to their own account, their ignorance was as great as their impudence," And a more striking display of both qualities was, perhaps, never made by any two men in any situation or condition of life.

We have been compelled by the enormous pressure of advertisements upon our columns to forego the publication of Gilmore's account of this interview, which appeared in the September number of the Atlantic Monthly. As it constitutes a part of the history of the times, however, and as the same reason for omitting it as a whole still exists, we should feel ourselves delinquent in our duty as faithful chroniclers did we fail to give our readers some idea of what it is. We shall therefore attempt an analysis in this article, although we confess that the whole transaction, from its inception to its close, including the description of Mr. Benjamin and his books, is so eminently characteristic of the Yankee as to defy translation or imitation.

It seems that the self-constituted ambassadors found no difficulty whatever in obtaining an interview with the President; that he received them with great courtesy; and that they immediately entered upon the business of their mission. They had come it appears, with the hope that the President would suggest some means of putting a stop to the war, and to ask how it could be done. The President gave them an answer which would have put an end to all further discussion had the propounders of the question been any other than what they were: genuine Yankees; that is, totally insensible to the suggestions of delicacy and the requisitions of good breeding. "In a very simple way," said the President. "Withdraw your army from our territory and peace will come of itself." * * * * * * "Let us alone, and peace will come at once." The commissioners did not feel the force of the rebuff."They replied that they could not let us alone so long as we repudiated the Union, for that was a thing the Yankees would not surrender. Oh! I understand, replied the President. "You would deny to us what you would exact for yourselves"the right of self-government." Here was another home-thrust; but the impenetrable self conceit in which the Yankee habitually encases himself prevented the point of the steel from reaching the vitals. Gilmore replied that they denied us no natural right, but that they (the Yankees) thought the Union essential to peace, and appealed to Davis to say if it was not impossible for two people, inhabiting the same country and speaking the same language, to live at peace. The reply was a more deadly thrust any that had preceded it: "Undoubtedly, with this generation.--You have sown bitterness at the South; you have put such an ocean of blood between the two sections that I despair of seeing any harmony in my time. Our children may forget this war, but we cannot." Even Yankee impudence staggered and reeled beneath this tremendous blow. "You put the case too strongly," exclaims Gilmore; and no doubt he thought what he said. It was put strongly enough, in all conscience. But rallying, he added a scrap or two of the eloquence which he had culled from peace meetings at the North. The war must stop somewhere — we cannot fight always — stop the effusion of blood, christian man — frightful carnage — try any means, &c., &c., &c. This outbreak was followed by another knock down. To the question, "Can you, as a christian man, neglect any means?" &c., Mr. Davis answered:

"No, I cannot. I desire peace as much as you do. I deplore bloodshed as much as you do; but I feel that not one drop of the blood shed in this war is on my hands; I can look up to my God and say this. I tried all in my power to avert this war. I saw it coming, and for twelve years I worked night and day to prevent it, but I could not. The North was mad and blind; it would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came, and now it must go on till the last man of this generation falls in his tracks, and his children seize his musket and fight his battles, unless you acknowledge our right to self-government. We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for independence; and that or extermination we will have."

"And slavery, you say, is no longer an element in the contest!"

"No, it is not; it never was an essential element. It was only the means of bringing other conflicting elements to an earlier culmination. It fired the musket which was already capped and loaded.--There are essential differences between the North and South that will, however this war may end, make them two nations."

Yankee impudence alone could have dictated the answer to this unanswerable exposure of the true state of the case.

"You ask me to say what I think. Will you allow me to say that I know the South pretty well, and never observed those differences."

"Then you have not used your eyes. My sight is poorer than yours, but I have seen them for years."

Here the Yankee confesses that the laugh was against him. We should say it was. Nothing disheartened, however, he continues to press the subject. "Well, sir, be that as it may; if I understand you, the dispute between your Government and ours is narrowed down to this: union or disunion."

"Yes; or, to put it in other words: Independence or subjugation."

The Yankee here tells the President that the Governments are irreconcilably hostile, but that the people are not; and then comes his grand proposal:

"Well, suppose the two Governments should agree to do something like this: To go to the people with two propositions, say, peace with disunion and Southern independence as your proposition — and peace with union, emancipation, no confiscation and universal amnesty as ours. Let the citizens of all the United States (as they existed before the war) vote 'Yes,' or 'No' on these two propositions, at a special election, within sixty days. If a majority vote disunion, our Government to be bound by it, and to let you go in peace. If a majority votes union, yours to be bound by it, and to stay in peace. The two Governments can contract in this way, and the people, though constitutionally unable to decide on peace or war, can elect which of the two propositions shall govern their rulers. Let Lee and Grant, meantime, agree to an armistice.--This would sheathe the sword; and if once sheathed, it would never again be drawn by this generation."

To this splendid plan for submerging the rights of the States beneath the waves of a popular majority, President Davis expressed a decided repugnance.--"The people of Virginia," he said, "cannot vote slavery out of South Carolina, and the people of South Carolina cannot vote slavery out of Virginia." Nothing, however, could cure the loquacity of the Yankee. He had a remedy ready for the disease.--What does the reader suppose it was? Why, three-fourths of the States were to amend the Constitution, and slavery was to be abolished, &c. That is to say, it is proposed to stop the war by putting us once more at the mercy of a Yankee majority. The President calmly, and, we suspect, somewhat contemptuously replied, "We seceded to rid ourselves of the rule of the majority. " Here is the Yankee reply and the President's rejoinder: "But the majority must rule finally, either with ballets or bullets."

"I am not so sure of that. Neither current events nor history show that the majority rules, or ever did rule. The contrary, I think, is true. Why, sir, the man who should go before the Southern people with such a proposition — with any proposition which implied that the North was to have a voice in determining the domestic relations of the South--could not live here a day. He would be hanged to the first tripe, without judge or jury."

"Allow me to doubt that. I think it more likely he would be hanged if he let the Southern people know the majority couldn't rule," I replied, smiling.

"I have no fear of that," rejoined Mr. Davis, also smiling most good humored. "I give you leave to proclaim it from every house-top in the South."

"But, seriously, sir, you let the majority rule in a single State, why not let it rule in the whole country?"

"Because the States are independent and sovereign."

"Then we are not a people, but a partnership?"

"That is all."

"Your very name, sir--'United States'--implies that," said Mr. Benjamin; "but tell me, are the teams you have named — emancipation, confiscation universal the terms which Mr. Lincoln authorized to offer us!"

"No, sir! Mr. Lincoln did not authorize me offer you any terms. But I think both he and the Northern people, for the sake of peace, would consent to some such conditions."

"They are very generous," replied Mr. Davis; for the first time during the interview showing some angry feeling. "But amnesty, sir, applies to criminals. We have committed no crime. Confiscation is of no account unless you can enforce it. And emancipation! You have already emancipated nearly two millions of our slaves, and if you will take care of them you may emancipate the rest. I had a few when the war began. I was of some use to them; they never were of any to me. Against their will you emancipated them, and you may emancipate every negro in the Confederacy, but we will be free! We will govern ourselves. We will do it if we have to see every Southern plantation sacked and every Southern city in flames."

"I see, Mr. Davis, it is useless to continue this conversation," I replied, "and you will pardon us if we have seemed to press our views with too much pertinacity. "

Nobody can read this account without being struck with the calmness and equanimity of the President's deportment, and the ignorant presumption of his visitors. These men went there primed with all the logic they had called from the New York Herald, and the Times and Tribune from the beginning of the war. They went into the President's house and there ventured to lecture him in the genuine New York Herald style upon the grandeur and strength of the Yankee States, upon the impossibility of resisting their power, upon Sherman's conquering in Georgia, and Grant's destroying Lee's army. Every topic and every lie which is used by the New York press to cheat the Yankee public, and which President Davis is in the daily habit of reading in the public prints, like genuine Yankees they went there and spouted to him as though he were an ignoramus who had never been in "[ Noo ]York;" for that they all consider as the strongest possible evidence of ignorance. We will give one more specimen — it is such as are seen in the Herald and Tribune every day:

"The radical Republicans, who go for slave suffrage and thorough confiscation, are those who will defeat him, if he is to be defeated. But if he is defeated before the people, the House will elect a worse man — I mean the worse for you. It is more radical than he is, (you can see that from Mr. Ashley's Reconstruction Bill), and the people are more radical than the House. Mr. Lincoln, I know, is about to call out five hundred thousand more men, and I cannot see how you can resist much longer; but if you do, you will only deepen the radical feeling of the Northern people. They will now give you fair, honorable, generous terms; but let them suffer much more — let there be a dead man in every house, as there is now in every village, they will give you no terms; they will insist on hanging every rebel south of --. Pardon my terms. I mean no offence."

"You give no offence," he replied, smiling pleasantly. "I wouldn't have you pick your words.--This is a frank, free talk, and I like you the better for saying what you think. Go on."

"I was merely going to say, that let the Northern people once really feel the war — they do not feel it yet — and they will insist on hanging every one of your leaders."

We say we admire President Davis for his calm temper and mild deportment. Surely he could not have been blamed had he rung for a servant and ordered him to show these reseals the way to the street.

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