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ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by
D. APPLETON & CO., In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York
IF I had been guided by my judgment alone it is not probable that these notes of the debates in the Confer. ence, held upon the invitation of Virginia, at Washington, in the month of February, 1861, would have been made public. From the commencement of its sessions, a portion of the members were in favor of the daily publication of the proceedings. I was disposed to go far. ther and have the sessions open to the public; but this proposition was opposed by a large majority. Strong reasons were urged for excluding the multitude which in the excitement of the time would have thronged the hall wherein the Conference held its sessions. But these reasons did not apply to the publication of the debates, and a considerable minority were strongly of opinion that the people should be informed daily, of the votes and remarks of their representatives in that body.
I commenced taking notes on the first day of the session. For the first few days, and until the reports were presented from the general committee, there was but little discussion, and that related to questions incidental to the general subject. On the 15th of February, and before the committee reported, Mr. ORTH offered a resolution authorizing the admission of reporters, which, after some discussion, by a close vote was laid upon the table. On the 18th, finding the labor of taking notes greater than I had anticipated, and desiring that a com
plete record should be preserved; I introduced a resolution providing for the appointment of an official stenog. rapher, who should report the proceedings and hold them subject to the order of the Conference. I urged the adoption of this resolution as strenuously as was proper, but the feeling of the majority appeared to be still adverse to its passage, and it shared the fate of its predecessor. I then revised the notes already taken, and finding them more complete than I had anticipated, determined to make as accurate a report as I was able of the general discussion. I could not then anticipate whether such a report would be useful to the country or not; but I thought if the Conference should propose amendments to the Constitution, and these should be ultimately submitted to the States for adoption, a knowledge of the motives and reasons which influenced the action of the Conference as well as the construction which the members gave to the propositions themselves, might become of as great importance as the same subjects were in the con. vention which framed the present Constitution. I attended every session of the Conference, and, so far as my strength would permit, made as full and accurate notes as I could, both of the action of the Conference and the observations of its members.
These notes were carefully examined and revised immediately after the close of each daily session. After the passage of the resolution introduced by Mr. BARRINGER, removing the injunction of secrecy and authorizing their publication, I determined to write them out for the press. I was engaged in this work when the rebellion commenced, and was shortly after called to the performance of the duties of an official position, which for many months left me no leisure for other employments.
My notes were then laid aside. As it was known by every member of the Conference that I had taken them, I was often pressed to permit selections from them to be made. These requests I invariably declined, as I desired the publication, if made at all, to be entire, as well as accurate. As time passed, these appeals became more frequent and pressing, and claims were made in relation to the course of several of the members which could only be sustained or refuted by a publication of their remarks. At length I was earnestly requested to write out one of these speeches, and after some weeks of delay consented to do so.
After the publication of this speech, which took place about the time of the fall elections of 1863, previous to which the action of the Conference had been much discussed, the desire to see a full report of the proceedings of that body appeared to be excited anew. Letters and personal interviews upon this subject became very nu. merous. I finally determined to take the advice of a num. ber of gentlemen who were prominent in the convention and the country, as to the propriety of yielding to this desire, and to be guided by it. I did so, and found among them a remarkable unanimity of expression in favor of making the history of the Conference public.
When this question was settled, I desired to avail myself of every opportunity to secure the highest degree of accuracy and fidelity. I addressed notes to such of the members as were accessible, asking them to transmit to me such memoranda of the proceedings of the Conference as they had preserved. The response to these letters was very gratifying ; not because the materials furnished were very full, but because so general a purpose was shown by all the members thus addressed, to furnish me every facility and aid in their power.