The Hampton Road Conference of February 3, 1865

Published: 2022-10-14
The Hampton Road Conference of February 3, 1865
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  American Civil War
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1240 words
11 min read

The Hampton Road Conference was an informal peace conference that was geared towards ending the American Civil war that began in 1861 after decades of simmering tension between the northern and the southern states because of the prevalent need to end the slavery institutions that was dominant in the southern states (Moore 754). With the election of President Abraham Lincoln, who was against the slave institutions in the south in 1860, approximately seven states seceded to form the Confederate States of America. For instance, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and South California seceded forming a parallel government from Lincoln's federal government. The unsuccessful conference between President Lincoln and the representative officials from the Confederate states took place aboard a steamboat near Hampton, Virginia (Forster & Nagler 46). The conference failed to achieve its objective due to the conflicting interests of the two warring jurisdictions. For instance, the Confederate officials were not authorized to accept any settlement other than the southern independence while Lincoln expected the southerners to completely surrender from their secession plan (Harris, 31). Despite the frequent skeptical attitude of President Lincoln towards external opinions and ideology, he became receptive of the ideas of the Horace Greeley, an editor at the New York Tribute known for his rigorous articulation of the contemporary political doctrines and the North's antislavery sentiments in the 1850s (Forster & Nagler 46).

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Greeley proposed that an individual with adequate and sufficient diplomatic background and influence from Lincoln's administration should facilitate the peace negotiation with the North Carolina given the strength and socio-political impact of the movement (Kayla, np). Greeley ascertained that given Francis Preston Blair's credentials, reputation and cordial relationship with both the U.S President Lincoln and the Confederate States President Jefferson Davis (Harris, 31). Greeley's suggestion significantly contributed into the negotiation towards ensuring peaceful America by encouraging between the pro-slavery states and the antislavery states. Nevertheless, in contrary Greeley's advice, Blair opted for an extreme option against the Emperor Maximillian in Mexico. In the 1860's Mexico was still under the French Empire despite the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine that established a U.S policy opposing the influence of the European colonialism in America (Kayla, np). Having Emperor Maximillian in Mexico ascertained that Europe still had significant power in American jurisdiction. Additionally, Blair proposed the application of the Monroe Doctrine in Mexico to ensure the elimination of European colonialism influence. Despite Mexico being a region of interest for both President Lincoln and Confederate state's President Davis, they disagreed on the fate of the country. For instance, Davis advocated for the application of the Monroe Doctrine while President Lincoln advocated against inversion in Mexico and dismissed formation of an alliance against France and Emperor Maximillian (Moore 756).

On February 3, 1865, President Lincoln in the Hampton Road Conference met with the Delegates from the Confederate State to discuss the strategies to promote peace between the northern states and the southern state. The president together with his Secretary of State William Seward met with the confederacy commissioners like the vice president Alexandria Stephens, Assistant Secretary of War John Campbell and Senator Robert Hunter (Kayla, np). The three commissioners have strict direction from the Confederate State president Jefferson Davis. During the conference, the two parties discussed numerous issues that affected them and their interest to facilitate the termination of the war. For instance, the representative adequately discussed the possibility of forming an alliance against France by enforcing the Monroe Doctrine in Mexico, the chances for the persistence of the slavery institution after the termination of the Civil War and the possible terms for surrender (Kayla, np). Further, the three commissioners discussed whether the southern states could be compensated for the property they lost during emancipation. Throughout the delegation process, President Lincoln and Seward advocated for the eradication of the slavery institution in the south. With the chance to rejoin the union on the table, the Secretary of State used the Thirteenth Amendment that acknowledges the constitutional abolishment of slavery and involuntary servitude of an individual with the only exception being punishment for criminal offenses (Forster & Nagler 58). Seward offered the Southern representatives an opportunity to deny the enactment of the amendments to grant them the privilege of rejoining the union.

Nevertheless, despite the effort from the two parties, they reached an agreement that insignificantly impacted the treaty. The major accomplishment of the conference was the subsequent agreement by Lincoln to establish and develop a substantially effective and efficient prisoner exchange system (Moore 755). President Lincoln also agreed to offer amnesty to the former Confederates, who opted to secede from the federal government and jurisdiction. He also promised to provide the Southern States approximately $400 million as compensation for the property destroyed during the emancipation. However, despite the promise for compensation, the president stressed that the agreement would be enacted only if the South ended the armed resistance and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. He refused the proposal to form an alliance against France and invasion of Mexico and denied the negotiation between the two generals as he did not give authorization to Grant and Lee to reach an agreement to end the hostility since he only advocated for the full and complete surrender of Lee's army (Harris, 49). The Lincoln administration insisted that the South must disarm its militia and submit their allegiance to the federal government and authority(Forster & Nagler 46). Despite Campbell and Lincoln shared the same interests, the strict order from Jefferson Davis, who refused any negotiation that repressed the independence of the Southern States. Nevertheless, irrespective of the disagreement, Davis significantly benefited from the efficient and effective prisoners of the war exchange system.

Conclusively, the occurrence of the conference provided a conducive platform for comprehending the American administration strand and attitude towards slavery. It indicated that despite the prevalent practice and existence of the slavery institution, it was determined to eradicate such institutions irrespective of the price (Harris, 60). For instance, the Lincoln administration offered the Confederate states approximately $400 million as a compensation for the emancipation destruction. It also exposes the adverse lengths and extreme repercussions that the federal rule was ready to apply to secure its authority (Kayla, np). The conference, despite being informal and unsuccessful was geared towards ending the civil war between the Northern States and the Southern States over the issue of slavery and human rights. It helps in reduction of the aftermath of the civil war as some soldiers accepted the amnesty offered by the Lincoln administration. President Lincoln firm stands against compromisation and manipulation such as being blinded to invade Mexico or form an alliance against France significantly facilitated the peaceful co-existence with Europe since invasion against France could have led to another world war. Finally, the Hampton Road Conference help in establishing a foundation for anti-slavery movement and human rights advocacy. Therefore, it was important in shaping the contemporary socio-cultural and economic ideologies.

Works Cited

Forster, Stig, and Jorg Nagler, eds. On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861-1871. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Moore, Jennifer E. "A War of Words: The rhetorical leadership of Jefferson Davis by R. Jarrod Atchison." Journal of Southern History 84.3 (2018): 754-756.

Harris William C.The Hampton Roads Peace Conference: A Final Test of Lincoln's Presidential Leadership. Vol, 21. Issue 1. 2000, pp. 30-61

Kayla Coghlan. The Hampton Roads Peace Conference of February 3, 1865 'One common country or two divided nations. James City Cavalry. 2016. Available at <>accessed on 27th November 2018

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