But the purpose of the trip was to propose terms that Lincoln and Gilmore knew Northerners (and the rest of the world) would consider fair and that the Confederates would never accept, thereby gaining Jeff Davis the scorn of the world. It would also help secure Lincoln the 1864 election.
What made Gilmore the man to take the message was his familiarity with the South. He'd spent 20 years there as a businessman before the war and knew many prominent people. Right after the attack on Fort Sumter, he was asked to meet with Abraham Lincoln to talk about southern feelings. They subsequently met many times.
Gilmore came to Lincoln with his "peace" idea and asked:
"...will you allow me five minutes by a slow watch?"
Lincoln replied: "Yes, ten; and if you are very entertaining, I'll give you twenty."
In a remarkable account of presidential "plausible deniability" before the term was even invented, they had this exchange in the presence of Salmon Chase:
GILMORE: "I have [accepted], sir," I answered , "on the condition that you allow me to make such overtures to Davis as will put him entirely in the wrong if he should reject them."
LINCOLN: "But, first, another question: Do you understand that I neither suggest, nor request, nor direct you to take this journey?"
GILMORE: "I do."
LINCOLN: "And will you say so, if it should seem to me to be necessary?"
GILMORE: "I will, whether you should ask it of me or not."
LINCOLN: "And if those people should hold on to you, — should give you free lodgings till our election is over, or in any other manner treat you unlike gentlemen, — do you understand that I shall be absolutely powerless to help you?"
GILMORE: "I understand that, sir, fully."
LINCOLN: "And you are willing to go entirely upon your own muscle?"
GILMORE: "No, sir, not upon my muscle. I suspect it will be more a matter of nerve than of muscle."
LINCOLN: "Do you hear that, Mr. Chase?" said Mr. Lincoln, with an indescribable look of comic gravity. " He criticises my English at the very moment I am giving him an office."
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