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This Day in Georgia History

February 03, 1865

Hampton Roads Peace Conference

The Hampton Roads Peace Conference took place, with President Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Secretary of State William Seward meeting with Confederate Vice-President and native Georgian Alexander Stephens, former Supreme Court Justice John Archibald Campbell (also a native Georgian), and Robert M.T. Hunter of Virginia to discuss ending the Civil War. The meeting took place on a ship at Hampton Roads, in Virginia; it had been arranged through private messages, carried by an intermediary, between Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, although the two men did not refer to each other directly - as Lincoln did not recognize Davis as a legitimate president. The South hoped to obtain a cease-fire, to allow time to try and negotiate for Southern independence. But Lincoln insisted on three things: 1) “the restoration of the national authority throughout all the States,” 2) “no receding, by the Executive of the United States on the Slavery question,” and 3) “no cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war, and the disbanding of all forces hostile to the government.”

Lincoln and Stephens had been friends before the war, and discussed old times and acquaintances for a few minutes before the conference began. It lasted four hours, but neither side would give on any crucial point. Lincoln - who desperately wanted to stop the bloodshed - insisted that if the South would lay down its arms and return to the Union, the fighting would stop - and he would do his best to see that Southern planters were recompensed for the loss of their slave property. But the Southern representatives saw this as submitting to the demands of the North, and insisted that a peace be negotiated between the two countries, while Lincoln would not acknowledge the South as a separate country. So while both parties negotiated in good faith, neither could compromise on essential points separating them. Thus, the conference produced no agreements.