CONFERENCE, CONVENTION, or CONGRESS, Peace (IN U. S. HISTORY), met at Washington. Feb. 4, 1861, and finally adjourned Feb. 27. Ordinances of secession had been passed by several gulf states, and active efforts were making to force the border states into similar action, when Virginia, by resolutions adopted Jan. 19, 1861, invited all the states of the Union to appoint delegates who should meet at Washington and endeavor to arrange some equitable adjustment of the national difficulties. At the first meeting delegates were present from New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa, 14 states. During the conference delegates arrived from Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, making 21 states in all. Virginia had recommended the adoption of the Crittenden compromise (see COMPROMISES, VI.) in a slightly modified form, and this was agreed on by all the southern delegations and that of New Jersey in the north. Massachusetts and Rhode Island appointed delegates without comment, but the other republican states of the north agreed in refusing in advance to assent to the Virginia proposition, and in the assertion that the constitution, fairly construed and faithfully obeyed, was still fully competent for all the needs of the country. In the proceedings each state was given one vote, to be determined by a majority of its delegates. As a result of its deliberations the peace conference presented to congress the following proposed amendment to the constitution "ARTICLE XIII.: SECTION 1. In all the present territory of the United States, north of the parallel of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes of north latitude, involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, is prohibited. In all the present territory south of that line, the status of persons held to involuntary service or labor, as it now exists, shall not be changed; nor shall any law be passed by congress or the territorial legislature to hinder or prevent the taking of such persons from any of the states of this Union to said territory, nor to impair the rights arising from said relation; but the same shall be subject to judicial cognizance in the federal courts, according to the course of the common law. When any territory north or south of said line, within such boundary as congress may prescribe, shall contain a population equal to that required for a member of congress, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states, with or without involuntary servitude as the constitution of such state may provide. SECTION 2. No territory shall be acquired by the United States, except by discovery, and for naval and commercial stations, dépôts and transit routes, without the concurrence of a majority of all the senators from states which allow involuntary servitude, and a majority of all the senators from states which prohibit that relation, nor shall territory be acquired by treaty, unless the votes of a majority of the senators from each class of states hereinbefore mentioned be cast as a part of the two-thirds majority necessary to the ratification of such treaty. SECTION 3. Neither the constitution nor any amendment thereof shall be construed to give congress power to regulate, abolish or control, within any state, the relation established or recognized by the laws thereof touching persons held to labor or involuntary service therein, nor to interfere with or abolish involuntary service in the District of Columbia without the consent of Maryland and without the consent of the owners, or making the owners who do not consent just compensation; nor the power to interfere with or prohibit representatives and others from bringing with them to the District of Columbia, retaining and taking away, persons so held to labor or service; nor the power to interfere with or abolish involuntary service in places under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States within those states and territories where the same is established and recognized; nor the power to prohibit the removal or transportation of persons held to labor or involuntary service in any state or territory of the United States to any other state or territory thereof were it is established or recognized by law or usage; and the right during transportation, by sea or river, of touching at ports, shores and landings, and of landing in case of distress, shall exist; but not the right of transit in or through any state or territory, or of sale or traffic, against the laws thereof. Nor shall congress have power to authorize any higher rate of taxation on persons held to labor or service than on land. SECTION 4. The third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of the constitution shall not be construed to prevent any of the states, by appropriate legislation, and through the action of their judicial and ministerial officers, from enforcing the delivery of fugitives from labor to the person to whom such service or labor is due. SECTION 5. The foreign slave trade is hereby forever prohibited, and it shall be the duty of congress to pass laws to prevent the importation of slaves, coolies, or persons held to service or labor, into the United States and the territories from places beyond the limits thereof. SECTION 6. The first, third and fifth sections, together with this section of these amendments, and the third paragraph of the second section of the first article of the constitution, and the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article thereof, shall not be amended or abolished without the consent of all the states. SECTION 7. Congress shall provide by law that the United States shall pay to the owner the full value of his fugitive from labor, in all cases when the marshal or other officer whose duty it was to arrest such fugitive was prevented from doing so by violence or intimidation from mobs or other riotous assemblages, or when, after arrest, such fugitive was rescued by like violence or intimidation, and the owner thereby deprived of the same; and the acceptance of such payment shall preclude the owner from further claim to such fugitive. Congress shall provide by law for securing to the citizens of each state the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."
—Section 1 was passed by a vote of 9 states to 8, and 3 divided; section 2, by 11 states to 8, and 2 divided; section 3, by 12 states to 7, and 2 divided; section 4, by 15 states to 4, and 2 divided; section 5, by 16 states to 5; section 6, by 11 states to 9, and 1 divided; and section 7, by 12 states to 7, and 1 divided. Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire voted against every section, except that New Hampshire voted aye on the 5th and 7th, and Massachusetts aye on the 7th. New York was divided on all but the 5th (aye), and Kansas on all but the 5th, 6th and 7th (all aye). Each section was thus carried, but no vote was taken on the amendment as a whole. A resolution denying the right of any state to secede was laid on the table by 10 states to 7, and 1 divided.
—The amendment of the peace conference was brought up in the senate, Feb. 27, 1861, by Powell, of Kentucky. It was unsatisfactory to the republicans, who objected to it on the ostensible ground of the incompetency of the conference to prepare amendments for congressional action, and to the southern senators, who preferred secession to any amendment without a formal acceptance by republican votes, and was satisfactory only to the union-loving democrats of the middle and border states. On the last day of the session an effort made to substitute the conference amendment for senator Douglas' amendment, as contained in the house resolutions (see CONSTITUTION, III.), was voted down by a vote of 34 noes to 3 ayes. In the house various attempts were made from Feb. 27 until March 3 to introduce the conference amendment, but all were unsuccessful.
—The proceedings of the conference are collected in Chittenden's Report of the Debates and Proceedings in the Secret Sessions of the Conference Convention for proposing Amendments to the Constitution. They are even more interesting and valuable than the congressional debates of the time, for all the delegates were not only able but moderate, and the irreconcilable ideas of even the moderate men in the opposing sections show clearly the impossibility of a peaceful settlement of the national difficulties.