-- Dilemmas of Compromise --

Monday February 4, 1861

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Peace Convention

On the same day as the Montgomery convention convened, delegates assembled at Willard's Dancing Hall, adjoining Willard's Hotel in Washington, for the Peace Convention called by Virginia on January 19. Its purpose was to avert war by finding a compromise that would permit the restoration of the Union. The Crittenden plan was, from the start, the basis for discussion. Eventually there would be participants from twenty-one states. The seven seceding states of the deep South boycotted. In addition Arkansas, California, Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota did not send representatives.

The meeting was presided over by former President John Tyler, of Virginia. Among the delegates were men of distinction and leadership, including David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, David Dudley Field of New York, Reverdy Johnson of Maryland, William C. Rives of Virginia, and Salmon P. Chase of Ohio. The conference consciously modeled itself after the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but many of its delegates were, in striking contrast, elderly and past their political prime. Tyler himself was seventy-one. The meeting was, therefore, characteriz ed as an "old gentlemen's convention," its delegates as "venerable," and less politely as "fossils." The Peace Convention was, in effect, the last significant effort to resolve the secession crisis, peaceably restore the Union, and prevent war.

Bibliography: Potter, Impending Crisis, pp. 545-47; Nevins, Emergence of Lincoln, 2: 410-13; Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 3: 227-33; Gunderson, Old Gentlemen's Convention, pp. 3-13.

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