THE PEACE MOVEMENT
As early as the victory at First Bull Run a few optimistic Confederates suggested that the United States was ready to consider peace negotiations based on southern independence, but almost everyone considered the suggestion premature and preferred first to prove their invincibility in battle. By the fall of 1862 some felt that this point had been made and that the Confederacy should seek to avoid a ruinous military stalemate. They also argued that peace proposals would divide the North politically and hamper the passage of war measures by the northern Congress. A few Confederate congressmen made desultory gestures in this direction, but the majority agreed with the president that the move was still inappropriate.
Within the next year, however, peace became one of the critical issues in the Confederacy. The prospect of an early victory had vanished and even defeat now seemed possible. Conscription, impressment, suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the embargo, and varied other war measures were testing people's loyalty to the utmost; inflation, loneliness, and battle casualties were eroding their physical endurance. Whether it was the Confederacy's place to suggest peace negotiations was becoming in the eyes of many far less important than the possibility that the offer might be accepted. For his part, Jefferson Davis was convinced that Abraham Lincoln had been sufficiently advised that the Confederacy wanted only its independence and that any further suggestion of negotiations would be interpreted in the North as a sign of southern weakness.
But must a Confederate offer of peace come only from the president? Certainly as chief executive he was constitutionally empowered to conduct the nation's foreign affairs, but was his inaction final? Some peace advocates suggested that the Senate under its treaty-making power could order the president to take action; others wanted Congress to appoint its own commissioners, who would take the first embarrassing steps and then turn the negotiations over to the president; others suggested that a sovereign state could pave the way for presidential action; and still others believed that a single state could negotiate peace terms with the