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America's History in the Making

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Letter from North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, 30 December 1863.

State of North Carolina
Executive Department
Raleigh, Dec. 30th. 1863

His Excellency President Davis:

My dear Sir:

After a careful consideration of all the sources of discontent in North Carolina, I have concluded that it will be perhaps impossible to remove it except by making some effort at negotiation with the enemy. The recent action of the Federal House of Representatives, though meaning very little, has greatly excited the public hope that the Northern mind is looking towards peace. I am promised by all men who advocate this course, that if fair terms are rejected it will tend greatly to strengthen and intensify the war feeling and will rally all classes to a known, as demanding only to be let alone yet it seems to me that for the sake of humanity, without having any weak or improper motives attributed to us, we might with propriety constantly tender negotiations.
In doing so we would keep conspicuously before the world a disclaimer of our responsibility for the great slaughter of our race and convince the humblest of our citizens, who sometimes forget the actual situation, that the government is tender of their lives and happiness and would not prolong their sufferings unnecessarily one moment. Though Statesmen might regard this as useless, the people will not, and I think our cause will be strengthened thereby. I have not suggested the method of these negotiations or their terms, the effort to obtain peace is the principal matter. Allow me to beg your earnest consideration of this suggestion.

Very respectfully Yours
Z. B. Vance

Joe A. Mobley, ed. The Papers of Zebulon Baird Vance: Volume 2, 1863 (Raleigh, NC: State Department and Archives, 1995), 357.

Creator Zebulon Vance
Context Antiwar sentiment was rising, particularly in the upper-South.
Audience President Jefferson Davis
Purpose To advise Davis on how to undercut antiwar sentiment

Historical Significance

The Confederate States of America faced difficulty in persuading its citizens to unite behind the war. Zebulon Baird Vance had opposed secession in 1860, though he later fought with the Confederacy forces. After being elected governor of North Carolina in 1862, he worked hard to keep his state in the Confederacy. In this letter, written at the end of 1863, he suggested how Jefferson Davis might counter the growing sentiment for peace in North Carolina.

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