While citizens of North Carolina struggled with home front issues, such as local political allegiances and the threat of slave insurrections, politicians continued to grapple with the deepening secession crisis. The failed “Crittenden Compromise” in the lame duck session of the Thirty-Sixth Congress brought about one final attempt at a political solution to save the Union. Former president John Tyler, acting as an envoy of President James Buchanan, organized a meeting in February 1861. The North Carolina General Assembly decided to attend, designating five representatives to take part in the conference.
The members of the Peace Conference recommended a series of resolutions to put before the Thirty-Sixth Congress. They examined previous negotiations concerning slavery from the Missouri Compromise of 1820 to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and the contemporary concept of Popular Sovereignty. The resolutions primarily dealt with the status of slavery in the territories, but the resulting proposed changes were contrary to Abraham Lincoln’s campaign platform. Even if Congress approved the suggestions, President Lincoln could not endorse them.
North Carolina’s delegates wrote to Governor Ellis detailing their actions during the Peace Conference. The following documents comprise the reports and resolutions from the conference, recorded in the Governor Ellis’ letterbook. While it is evident that this political solution to the secession crisis failed, for the time being North Carolina remained in the Union.