President Lincoln Responds to Criticism

November 10, 1862

Margarethe Schurz, wife of General Carl Schurz, reads her husband’s letter to President Lincoln at the White House.  In the letter, Schurz had written about the recent electoral defeats: “The defeat of the Administration is owing neither to your proclamations,1 nor to the financial policy of the Government, nor to a desire of the people to have peace at any price. I can speak openly, for you must know that I am your friend. The defeat of the Administration is the Administration’s own fault.”

President Lincoln responds: “Yours of the 8th, was, to-day, read to me by Mrs. S[churz].  We have the elections; and it is natural that each of us will believe, and say, it has been because his peculiar views was not made sufficiently prominent.  I think I know what it was, but I may be mistaken.  Three main causes told the whole story.  1. The democrats were left in a majority by our friends going to the war.  2. The democrats observed this & determined to re-instate themselves in power, and 3. Our newspapers’s, by vilifying and disparaging the administration, furnished them all the weapons to do it with.  Certainly, the ill-success of the war had much to do with this.

You give a different set of reasons.  If you had not made the following statements, I should not have suspected them to be true.  ‘The defeat of the administration is the administrations own fault.’ (opinion)  ‘It admitted its professed opponents to it counsels’  (Asserted as a fact)  ‘It placed the Army, now a great power in this Republic, into the hands of its’ enemys’ (Asserted as a fact)  ‘In all personal questions, to be hostile to the party of the Government, seemed, to be a title to consideration.’  (Asserted as a fact)  ‘If to forget the great rule, that if you are true to your friends, your friends will be true to you, and that you make your enemies stronger by placing them upon an equality with your friends.’  ‘Is it surprising that the opponents of the administration should have got into their hands the government of the principal states, after they have had for a long time the principal management of the war, the great business of the national government.’

I can not dispute about the matter of opinion.  On the the [sic] three matters (state as facts) I shall be glad to have your evidence upon them when I shall meet you.  The plain facts, as they appear to me, are these.  The administration came into power, very largely in a minority of the popular vote.  Notwithstanding this, it distributed to it’s party friends as nearly all the civil patronage as any administration ever did.  The war came.  The administration could not even start in this, without assistance outside of it’s party.  It was mere nonsense to suppose a minority could put down a majority in rebellion.  Mr Schurz (Now Gen. Schurz) was about here then & I do not recollect that he then considered all who were not republicans, were enemies of the government, and that none of them must be appointed to to [sic] military position.  He will correct me if I am mistaken.  It so happened that very few of our friends had a military education or were of the profession of arms.  It would have been a question whether the war should be conducted on military knowledge, or on political affinity, only that our own friends (I think Mr. Schurz included) seemed to think that such a question was inadmissable.  Accordingly I have scarcely appointed a democrat to a command, who was not urged by many republicans and opposed by none.  I was so as to McClellan.  He was first brought forward by the Republican Governor of Ohio, & claimed, and contended for at the same time by the Republican Governor of Pennsylvania.  I received recommendations from the republican delegations to congress, and I believe every one of them recommended a majority of democrats.  But, after all many Republicans were appointed; and I mean no disparagement to them when I say I do not see that their superiority of success has been so marked as to throw great suspicion on the good faith of those who are not Republicans.

President Lincoln also indicates his resolves to decide the fate of Sioux Indians condemned to death in the aftermath of a bloody rebellion in Minnesota the previous summer.  He writes General John Pope: “Your despatch giving the names of three hundred Indians condemned to death, is received. Please forward, as soon as possible, the full and complete record of these convictions. And if the record does not fully indicate the more guilty and influential, of the culprits, please have a careful statement made on these points and forwarded to me. Send all by mail.”

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Published in: on November 10, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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