The Hampton Roads Conference

For anybody interested in the “Southern side of history,” I cannot recommend too highly the Abbeville Institute web site.  It is filled with nothing but articles about the South, Southern history, Southern heritage, the Southern view of the war, and the place of the South in American culture.  They are in the forefront of the intellectual defense of the Southern role in the war and the Southern way of life.

The above article is about the Hampton Roads Conference, which occurred in the final months of the war.  Abraham Lincoln and some of his cabinet met with Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens and some other government officials to discuss the possibility of a peace.  The article proves that there was one sticking point which led to the failure of the conference, but it was not slavery.  Lincoln and the Federal government were prepared to forego the 13th Amendment and leave slavery in the hands of the courts, if the Southern states would return to the Union.  The real issue was Southern independence: Jefferson Davis had instructed his delegates that under no conditions was the independence of the South to be compromised, and thus the conference failed.  If the war had been merely to preserve slavery, the South could have returned to the Union at almost any point after secession, with guarantees to protect their “peculiar institution.”  That they did not shows that, rather than slavery, they were fighting to defend exactly what they publicly proclaimed: states’ rights and independence from the tyrannical control of Washington, D.C.