Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/358

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

342 Southern Historical Society Papers.

could easily have been answered by the State Department making known its policy and telling what it had done or was doing, but this method of defence was not permissible. Since the struggle closed some persons have made criticisms based partly on public documents with a certain amount of added misrepresentation, rely- ing on the prevalent sectional prejudice for their market. With some others of late the motives seem to have been to provide sensa- tion and to make money and bold assertions, trusting to luck and the lapse of time to prevent exposure. This last line of business as time passes is apparently on the increase.


The archives of the Confederate State Department were purchased by the United States Government in the year 1872 from Colonel John T. Pickett. They are in the main, but not absolutely, full and correct. I called Secretary Richardson's attention soon after the time of purchase to one very important forgery. It deserves to be noted that the officials at the head of the Confederate State Depart- ment and those prominent in its service who were best qualified to write concerning its operations have published little or nothing about it. Mr. Benjamin in response to Mr. Davis' s inquiries, wrote some- thing, but not much, about the Hampton Roads conference; Mr. Hunter, Mr. Stephens, and Judge Campbell, considerably more, but on that point chiefly. I regret now that I did not take up this general subject in 1872, but all my time was then engrossed by the work and cares of life.

In the absence of reliable exposition by competent persons, and, indeed, nearly all of them having passed away, we are favored with alleged "lost chapters " of Confederate history. The public is told that the secret things of that period are to be brought to light; how Prince Polignac was sent to Paris to swap off Louisiana for interven- tion by Louis Napoleon, and to supersede Stidell, while another writer tells us how Mr. Duncan F. Kenner, of Louisiana, was dis- patched with authority to supersede both Slidell and Mason. Per- haps this is the proper place to say that the secrets of the Confed- erate Government were well kept. I have heard a statement to the effect that the United States Government was regularly kept advised of the military strength and movements of the Confederacy by some faithless War Department official, but this story has no foundation in fact. It was hatched at a time when gossip was easy and imagi-