“By bullets and not by debates” – Civil War Commemorative Gold Five Dollar Coin

Today, the Civil War Commemorative Gold Five Dollar Coin remembers 150 years ago and the failed peace talks.

The Boston Evening Transcript, Friday Evening, Feb. 10, 1865, published articles about the meeting between President Lincoln and three representatives from the South.


The Peace Conference

Report of the Rebel Commissioners.

Message of Jeff. Davis.

Washington, 9th. The Richmond Whig of the 7th says the following documents were laid before Congress this morning:

“To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate States of America.

“Having recently received a written notification which satisfied me that that President of the United States was disposed to confer informally with unofficial agents that might be sent by me, with a view to the restoration of peace, I requested Hon. Alexander H. Stephens, Hon. R. M. T. Hunter and John A Campbell to proceed through our lines to hold a conference with Mr. Lincoln or such persons as he might depute to represent him.

“I herewith submit for the information of Congress the report of the eminent citizens above named, showing that the enemy refuse to enter into negotiations with the Confederate States, or any one of them separately, or to give our people any other terms or guarantees than those which a conquerer may grant, or to permit us to have peace on any other basis than our unconditional submission to their rule, coupled with the acceptance of their recent legislations, including an amendment to the Constitution for the emancipation of negro slaves, and with the right on the part of the Federal Congress to legislate on the subject of the relations between the white and black population of each State. Such is, as I understand, the effect of the amendment of the Constitution which has been adopted by the Congress of the United States. Jefferson Davis. Richmond, Feb. 5.”


In addition, the newspaper published the summary by Davis’s emissaries:

“To the President of the Confederate States:

“Sir: Under your letter and appointment of the 28th, we proceeded to seek an informal conference with Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, upon the subject mentioned in your letter. The conference was granted, and took place on the 30th, on board a steamer anchored in Hampton Roads, where we met President Lincoln and Hon. Mr. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States. It continued for several hours and was both full and explicit. We learned from them that the message of President Lincoln to the Congress of the United States in December last explains clearly and distinctly his sentiments as to the terms, conditions and method of proceeding by which peace can be secured to the people, and we were not informed that they would be modified or altered to obtain that end.

“We understood from him that no terms or proposals of any treaty or agreement looking to any ultimate settlement would be entertained or made by him with the authorities of the Confederate States, because that would be a recognition of their separate existence, which under no circumstances would be done, and for like reasons that no such terms would be entertained by him from States separately; that no extended truce or armistice as at present advised, would be granted or allowed without satisfactory assurances in advance, of a complete restoration of the authority of the Constitution and laws of the United States, might rely upon a very liberal use of the power confided to him to remit those pains and penalties if peace be restored.

“During the conference the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States adopted by Congress on the 31st ult., were brought to our notice. These amendments provide that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for crime, should exist within the United States, or any place within their jurisdiction, and Congress should have the power to enforce this amendment by appropriate legislation.

“Very respectfully, your obedient servants,

“Alexander H. Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, J. A. Campbell.”


Following the summaries from the rebel forces, the paper published an opinion article discussing the Hampton Roads peace meeting and the ongoing fight between the North and the South:


Will the pride and desperation of Richmond be able to control affairs in the South? This question naturally comes up in view of the conference in Hampton Roads. That conference implied the existence of a peace party within the Confederacy.

Some peculiar pressure must have been brought to bear upon Jeff. Davis and other leaders to induce them to consent to it at all. Nothing, as the phrase is, has come of it; but something may come of it by and by, if heavy blows are struck at the military despotism which is the only hope of the principal conspirators.

They must win all or lose all. They must strive to the last for the independence, which is their only chance for safety and rule, by subjugating their own section under a reign of terror.

The tone of the papers at the rebel capital shows this. Their furious rhetoric to inflame the pride and passions of their people; the advocacy of the most coercive measures; the calls for the burning of cotton, the destruction of cities, and submission to any and every sacrifice to avoid a return to the old Union, all indicate they felt presence of danger.

Failure would be to them and the masters they serve, political and social death. All their endeavors to destroy the democracy of the country and to establish a paradise for a haughty and exclusive aristocracy would come to naught, and they would be left, branded as outlaws. No wonder the original traitors are still the fierce defenders of treason. They must be conquered, —subjugated.

But Richmond is not the whole South, neither does the tone of the press represent the whole sentiment of the South. There are signs of a division of opinion and feeling in other parts of the Confederacy, seriously threatening its unity.

We are not disposed to lay undue stress upon these signs. As yet they are indications rather than facts. Still they have meaning. They show that in Georgia and elsewhere secession is seen to be a losing game, and that its accomplishment, were that possible, might be anything but a blessing.

The North has been revealed to the South, and the South to the North by the flashes of the artillery of war; and both regions have learned something by the disclosures this fearful agency has made.

The Federal forces have disabused the Southern people of the persistent falsehoods imposed upon them. The Federal forces have made visible the Federal might. These two causes, combined with a third,—the development of the tyrannical purposes of the Richmond aristocracy, are producing a reaction.

Thus a fire is already beginning in the rear of Lee’s army; stray musket shots for the present, but likely to swell into full and deadly volleys. This condition of affairs at the South shapes the policy and duty of the nation.

It must conquer to encourage the disaffection; it must conquer to give those disaffected a chance to come entirely to themselves and act for themselves. It is by marches and not by diplomacy,—by bullets and not by debates that converts to Unionism are first to be made in the South, and the oppressive Richmond dynasty overthrown.


The Civil War Commemorative Gold Five Dollar Coin shows against a background of the USS Sabine at Hampton Roads, Virginia, circa 1864.

Civil War Commemorative Gold Five Dollar Coin