Lot 533

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Important content A.L.S. "Abraham Lincoln"written and signed in a secretarial hand, 1p. 8vo. on lightly-lined paper, "Executive Mansion", Washington, July 18, 1864. At a low point his political career, as he faced a solid challenge in the presidential election from George B. McClellan, the man whom he had appointed to lead the Union armies, Lincoln approved a "peace conference" to be headed by New York Tribune editor and radical peace advocate Horace Greeley. This letter, apparently a combination of credentials and a "safe conduct" pass, may have been intended for Greeley to present to his Confederate counterparts. In full: "Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the union and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with the authority that can control the armies now at war with against [added] the United States, will be received and considered by the Executive Committee [stricken] Government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms on other substantial and collateral points, and the bearers thereof shall have safe conduct both ways. Abraham Lincoln". Fine condition. What is especially intriguing is the two corrections in the text which are in a different hand - could this have been the first draft of Greeley's credentials, perhaps dictated by the president and amended later at the State Department? A 2004 letter from the Illinois State Historical Library (now the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library) included with the lot states their curator's opinion that "this correspondence was most likely written by one of Lincoln's secretaries…". Worthy of further research. In an effort to end the Civil War through a negotiated peace settlement, Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune and Confederate commissioners James P. Holcombe, Clement C. Clay, and Jacob Thompson met at Niagara Falls, Canada, in July 1864. The Confederate representatives insisted on complete southern independence, whereas Greeley presented President Lincoln's terms of reunion and emancipation. Efforts continued throughout the summer and fall without result. However, once re-elected, Lincoln's message to Congress in December stipulated Confederate surrender as the only basis for peace. Historians generally believe that the 1864 conference was undertaken largely as a means to placate - and discredit - Greeley.

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January 31, 2013 11:00 AM EST
Stamford, CT, US

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