Principle, Power, Politics, and Peace
D uring the spring of 1864, politicians, editors, and ordinary citizens continued to debate old questions -- including conscription and habeas corpus-in tiresomely repetitive ways. Many of these discussions seemed irrelevant and even harmful because in the next several months, everything would depend on the army and the people. The fate of the Confederate nation would be decided on the battlefield and on the home front, but political leaders had to respond to both military and morale crises, and as they did so, they joined political ideology to immediate questions of political power.
As the peace movement gained support, nationalists and libertarians alike had to consider the practical consequences of their philosophical commitments. In both Georgia and North Carolina -- more than ever the centers of political conflict in a shrinking Confederacy -- the anti-Davis and peace elements sometimes cooperated, but factionalism within the political opposition remained a debilitating force. Highly charged disputes over peace and liberty also helped determine the political futures of Joe Brown and Zeb Vance.
In Richmond, Jefferson Davis remained at the center of political conflict. Still the most powerful spokesman for Confederate nationalism, the president would make his last great effort to rally public support for the war effort and for his administration. Unresolved problems of strategy and command would distract his attention and strengthen the political opposition, but he would still manage to keep the peace movement in check and somehow hold the nation together. The interplay of state and national