Cabinet Discusses Emancipation Proclamation

December 31, 1862

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles write: “We had an early and special Cabinet-meeting, convened at 10 A.M.  The subject was the Proclamation of to-morrow to emancipate the salves in Rebel States.  Seward proposed two amendments,–one including mine, and one enjoining upon, instead of appealing to, those emancipated, to forbear from tumult.  Blair had, like Seward and myself, proposed the omission of a part of sentence and made other suggestions which I thought improvements.  Chase made some good criticisms and proposed a felicitous closing sentence.  The President took the suggestions, written in order, and said he would complete the document.”

Historian James G. Randall wrote: “It was almost the last minute that the final touches had been placed on the document.  On December 31, 1862, the proclamation had been discussed in special Cabinet meeting.  There had been a few suggestions of emendations — e.g., Seward’s suggestion that freedmen be enjoined, not merely appealed to, to avoid tumult.  The ‘felicitous closing sentence’ with its invocation of Divine favor, was the product of Chase’s prompting and Lincoln’s revision.  To Chase’s words ‘an act of justice, warranted by the constitution,’ Lincoln significantly added ‘upon military necessity.’  It was Sumner’s recollection, however, that the first suggestion for this passage had come from himself.”

Historian John Hope Franklin noted that Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase submitted a lengthy communication, making suggestions of changes and offering his own draft of the Proclamation.  He repeated his objection to exemption of ‘parts of States rom the operation of the Proclamation..’  He also thought the Proclamation should omit the statement that the government would not act to repress those newly emancipated in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom. He reminded the President that this statement in the September Proclamation was widely quoted as an incitement to servile insurrection.   Likewise he objected to any reference to the military employment of former slaves, ‘leaving it to the natural course of things already well begun.”

“Chase then submitted his own draft embodying the views he had expressed and containing the following felicitous closing, most of which Lincoln incorporated in his own draft:

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the constitution, [and an act of duty demanded by the circumstances of the country,] I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of almighty God.

At long last Chase seemed to be having some influence.  The President took the suggestions, ‘Written in order, and said he would complete the document.’

After a week of Cabinet discussion President Lincoln signed the legislation West Virginia statehood legislation signed.

President Lincoln also meets with General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac.  Historian Stephen Sears wrote that Burnside “was astonished to learn that two of his generals — Lincoln would not tell him their names — had been in that office the day before and predicted defeat and disaster if the army should go to battle.  Lincoln went on to say, as Burnside remembered it, ‘that he had understood that no prominent officer of command had any faith in my proposed movement.’… Burnside defended his battle plan, but the president said it must wait until he had discussed it with his advisers.  Considerably distraught by this time, Burnside said that if his general officers had so lost confidence in him, it was best that he resign his command.”   Burnside argued for his own replacement based on the lack of confidence among his senior officers.

Published in: on December 31, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Proclamation of Emancipation by President Lincoln Approaches

December 30, 1862

In Manchester, England, workers approve a letter to President Lincoln supporting his emancipation proclamation and praising his opposition to slavery.  At a Cabinet meeting, the President’s proposed final version of the Emancipation Proclamation is discussed.  Historian John Hope Franklin wrote: “There ensued a lively discussion in which several members, notably Edward Bates, the Attorney General, offered suggestions. Bates thought that the executive branch should use the military and naval forces to maintain the freedom of the former slaves.  He also suggested that the President call on Negroes to ‘show themselves worthy of freedom by fidelity and diligence in the employments which may be given to them by the observance of order and by abstaining from all violence not required by duty or for self defence.’  The suggestions of Seward and Blair were largely of an editorial nature.”

President Lincoln is poised to make a momentous change in Administration policy toward black Americans.  Massachusetts Senator Charles Summer writes to Boston businessman  John Murray Forbes:  “But you seem anxious to convince me that the Proclamation is one the ground of military necessity.  I believe that I am the first, who, in our day, called for this exercise of power.  There are at least half a dozen speeches where I have argued it & vindicated as a military act.

“But while I put it on this constitutional & legal ground, I am anxious that it should have all possible elevation in its tone, its form & associate ideas, so that it shall at once command & captivate the universal assent.

“The Presdt. thank God, is now for the emplyt. of the Negroes.  A new epoch is at hand.”

Statehood for West Virginia is also discussed.   Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “On the 30th of Decr. all of us except Mr. C.B. Smith (who has just retired, having been apptd Dist Judge in Inda.) Gave in our ‘opinions in writing”

“I Believe, tho’ I have not read the opinions, that the six are equally divided – Seward Chase and Stanton, for the bill – and Welles, Blair and bates against it.

“I denounced it on both grounds.  Blair rather waived the constitutional question, but was strong on the other.

“The views of the others, as written, I do not know.  But if the bill pass, I foresee that they will have ause to regret that those opinions are written

“I think they have bought their peace with the extremists by supporting that monstrous bill – and by intensifying the Prests, proclamation, of emancipation, to come out Jany. 1, 63.

“I have taken care to put myself on record, as I choose to stand, on those questions.

“I  a country of free thought and ative motion, opinion is never stationary – it advances and retires – it swings from side to side – as driven by the rush of events.

“Public opinion is never spontaneous with the people – It is always a manufactured articled.  Weak and hesitating men allow their bold and active enemies to make public opinion against them.  Bold and active rules make it on their own side.

The evidences of public opinion against the administration, as exhibited in the recent elections in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and in various popular demonstrations elsewhere do not disturb me as much as they do some wiser and better men.  I think I know the causes of that adverse feeling among the people; and I think I know an efficient and not difficult remedy for the evil.

“The causes lie upon the surface of our current history: They are cognizable by the lowest capacity; and simple enough to be used effectually against us, by men of every division and every phase of the opposition.  Thye are made available against us, alike by the malcontents who are such because they are the secret friends of the public enemy, and by the outs who are against us only because they wish to get in.

“We cannot deny that the People have extended to this administration a reasonable degree of supporting confidence, and, that Congress with unhesitating liberality, has granted all our demands for men, money, means and appliances – and all this for the avowed and only purpose of enabling us to suppress the rebellion.

“But we have not suppressed the rebellion.  We have, during the whole of this year, made no important advance toward its suppression.  On the contrary, our present position is, relatively, worse than it was last spring.”

Disturbed by reports from the subordinates of Union General Ambrose E. Burnside – Generals John Cochrane and John Newton –  President Lincoln writes Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac,: “I have good reason for saying you must not make a general movement of the army without letting me know.”

Published in: on December 30, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cabinet Meeting to Discuss West Virginia, Emancipation

December 29, 1862

The Cabinet gathers for an unusual Monday session at the White HouseNavy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The six members of the Cabinet (Smith absent) to-day handed in their respective opinions on the question of dividing the old Commonwealth of Virginia and carving out and admitting a new State.  As Stanton and myself returned from the Cabinet-meeting to the Departments, he expressed surprise that I should oppose division, for he thought it politic and wise to plant a Free State south of the Ohio.  I thought our duties were constitutional, not experimental, that we should observe and preserve the landmarks, and that mere expedience should not override constitutional obligations.”  Welles added: “At the meeting to-day, the President read the draft of his Emancipation Proclamation, invited criticism, and finally directed that copies should be furnished to each.  It is a good and well-prepared paper, but I suggested that a part of the sentence marked in pencil be omitted.  Chase advised that fractional parts of States ought not be exempted.  In this I think he is right, and so stated.  Practically there would be difficulty in freeing parts of States, and not freeing others,–a clashing between central and local authorities.”

After visiting the White House, Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes in his diary about his efforts to see re-enstatement of Major John J. Key: “At night went with Judge Hughes of the Court of Claims to the Presidents to talk over the case of Majr Jno Jas Key who has been dismissed the Service.  After discussing that matter the President took up a pamphlet on the war by Stille and saying it was the best thing he had seen upon the subject added he would read some of it to me.  He commenced and read the entire pamphlet.  It was running a parallel between the condition of this country and England during the Peninsular War and reasoning that there was nothing in events thus far to discourage us.  It was well written, calm, sensible, and entirely free from party politics and fanaticism.”

Spurred on by fellow officers, Generals John Cochrane and John Newton went to Washington to block a planned advance by their superior General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac.  Historian Stephen Sears wrote in Controversies and Commanders: “Encountering Secretary of State Seward, a political acquaintance from his New York days, [Cochrane] persuaded Seward to obtain an appointment for him with the president, In midafternoon that Tuesday, with Newton in tow, Cochrane hurried to the White House and the president’s office.

General Newton, the senior officer and displaying the more stalwart military presence of the two, made the presentation.  It was a vexing, rather delicate moment for Newton.  Should he phrase the opposition to Burnside in such a way that it appeared he was contriving to have his superior officer relieved (which, of course, was precisely the dissidents’ intention), he could be court-martialed and cashiered under the Articles of War.  As Newton later recounted the conversation for the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, he dared not come out and badly announce, ‘Mr. President, the army has no confidence in General Burnside; that is the whole trouble down there.’  To say that would be manifestly improper,’ although it was in fact what he believed.   What Newton did attempt to say, by talking his way with great caution all around the subject, was that the troops under Burnside’s command were demoralized.  Another campaign like the last one would produce not merely a defeat but the destruction of the army.

Lincoln soon enough saw through Newton’s evasions, and went at him.  ‘At first the President misunderstood our object in coming there,’ was how Newton phrased it,’ and thought we were coming to injure General Burnside, and even to suggest somebody for commander of the army.’  The crestfallen Newton hastened to explain that, no indeed, they had no one in mind for the command; ‘our sole intention was to express the facts as to the condition of the army.’

“At this awkward turn, the more adept Cochrane stepped in to pour oil on the roiled waters.   In phrases soothing and politics, ‘with much feeling,’ he confirmed, from his personal observation, everything Newton has said of the demoralization within the ranks.  In so doing (as he told the Joint Committee), ‘I deemed it the best evidence of patriotism and of my loyalty to the government that I could give.’  Having thus raised the tenor of the conversation to these rarefied heights, Cochrane noted that the president ‘resumed his ordinary manner.’  As he showed the two generals out, Cochrane remembered, Lincoln said ‘he was glad that we had visited him, and that good would come of the interview.’

President Lincoln writes General Benjamin F. Butler, whom Lincoln recently had replaced as the military commander in New Orleans: “I believe you have a family, and I dislike to deprive you of an early visit to them. But I really wish to see you at the earliest moment. I am contemplating a peculiar and important service for you, which I think, and hope you will think, is as honorable, as it is important. I wish to confer with you upon it. Please come immediately upon your arrival at New-York.”

Published in: on December 29, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Refuses to Meet with Job Seeker

December 28, 1862

As President Lincoln prepares to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, he writes General Hiram Walbridge explaining why he has refused to see Walbridge, who wants to be appointed military governor of Washington : “I have twice declined to see you on the ground that I understood the object of your desired interview, and that it was a matter of embarrassment to me.  My real respect and esteem for you makes me unwilling to leave the matter in quite so abrupt a form.  My embarrassment is that the place you seek not selfishly I think, is greedily sought by many others; and there is sure to be opposition both fierce and plausible to the appointment of any one who up to this time has not been in the military service.  What answer to it will I make?  Shall I say I did it for political influence?  That will be the more loudly objected to.  I need not point out to you where this objection will come from.  It will come from your competitors; it will come from party spirit; it will come from indignant members of Congress who will perceive in it an attempt of mine to set a guardian over them.  The longer I can get along without a formal appointment the better.”

Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Confront Issues of Church and State

December 27, 1862

President Lincoln meets with Attorney General Edward Bates, a Missouri native and Samuel B. McPheeters, pastor of Pine Street Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.  Rev. McPheeters and his wife had been ordered to leave Missouri by a provost marshal Franklin A. Dick because of McPheeters’s expressed sympathy for the Confederate rebellion.   President Lincoln decides that McPheeters’ expulsion is unwise and orders General Samuel Curtis: “Let the order in regard to Dr. McPheters and family be suspended until you hear from me again.”  Eventually, Rev. McPheeters’ own congregation expels him from the pastorate.

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West Virginia Statehood Debated at Cabinet Meeting

December 26, 1862

The Cabinet meets to discuss statehood for West Virginia.   President Lincoln had requested the Cabinet members’ opinions on the subject earlier in the week.   Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary that Postmaster General “Montgomery Blair read his opinion of the proposition for making a new State of Western Virginia.  His views correspond with mine, but are abler and more elaborately state.  Mr. Bates read a portion of his opinion on the constitutional point, which appeared to me decisive and conclusive.  The President has called for opinions from each of his Cabinet.  I had the first rough draft of mine in my pocket, thought not entirely copied.  Chase said his was completed, but he had not brought it with him.  Seward said he was wholly unprepared.  Stanton assured the President he would be ready with his in season.  The President said it would answer his purpose if the opinions were handed in on or before Tuesday.”

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President Lincoln Spends Christmas Day with Wounded Soldiers

December 25, 1862

President and Mrs. Lincoln “visit many hospitals in afternoon,” according to a local newspaper.   Mrs. Lincoln had been preparing to help serve Christmas dinner at the hospitals for several days.   There were more than 20 hospitals in Washington.   Indeed, novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote that the city “was one great hospital of wounded soldiers; the churches, the public buildings all filled with the maimed, the sick and suffering…”

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Senator Charles Sumner Puts Pressure on President Lincoln

December 24, 1862 

Charles Sumner, the proper but pushy senator from Massachusetts, was a frequent visitor to the White House – often to push his views for speedy emancipation of southern slaves.   With the deadline for the Emancipation Proclamation, Sumner visits the White House to assure that President Lincoln will indeed issue the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

Sumner “ ”spends evening with President discussing Emancipation Proclamation.”  Sumner subsequently writes a Massachusetts friend: “”The Presdt. thank God, is now for the emplyt. of the Negroes.  A new epoch is at hand.”

Published in: on December 24, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Writes the Daughter of a Friend Killed in Battle

December 23, 1862

At the request of Supreme Court Justice David Davis, President Lincoln writes a letter to the daughter of Colonel William McCullough, an old friend from Bloomington, Illinois who had been killed battle.  According to Davis biographer Willard King, “At her father’s death, Fanny succumbed to melancholia and her mind was despaired of.  The news gave Davis inexpressible pain.  ‘I love her as I would a child & believe that if I was at home, that I could do a great deal to lift her out of her great grief,’ he wrote.  ‘I will see Mr. Lincoln again, & prompt him to write her.  He promised the other day that he would.’  The President’s letter to Fanny McCullough is one of the finest in the Lincoln literature.”  President Lincoln writes Fanny:

“It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common is such cases.  In this said world of ours, sorrow comes to all;  and to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.  The older have learned to ever expect it.  I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress.  Perfect relief is not possible, except with time.  You can not now realize that you will ever feel better.  Is not this so?  And yet it is a mistake.  You are sure to be happy again.  To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now.  I have had experience enough to knew what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.  The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer, and holier sort than you have known before.”  He closed the letter: “Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.  Your sincere friend.”

Published in: on December 23, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Relaxes from Cabinet Turmoil

December 22, 1862

At 10 A.M., Navy Captain John Dahlgren comes to the White House to test a new gunpowder.    Lincoln scholar Emanuel Hertz wrote: “The President, glad to drop such troublesome business (accepting one of Chase’s resignations) and relaxing into his usual humor, sat down and said, ‘Well, Captain, here’s a letter about a new powder,’ which he read, and showed the sample.  Said he had burned some, and there was too much residuum.  ‘Now, I’ll show you.’  He got a small sheet of paper, placed on it some of the powder, ran to the fire, and with the tongs picked up a coal, which he blew, specs still on nose.  It occurred to me how peaceful was his mind, so easily diverted from the great convulsion going on and a nation menaced with disruption.

“The President clapped the coal to the powder, and away it went, he remarking, ‘There is too much left there.’  He handed me a small parcel of the powder to try.”

Senate Republicans meet to hear a report on their colleagues meetings with President Lincoln regarding a possible cabinet shakeup.  Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning H. Browning writes in his diary: “After the adjournment of the Senate the caucus of Republican Senators again met to receive the report of the committee appointed to wait on the President upon the subject of reconstruction of the Cabinet.  Judge Collamer laid before the Caucus a written paper which had been presented by the Committee to the President, on Thursday evening stating that they again called on the President at his request and found all the cabinet there except Mr Seward.   Chase, Blair and bates made speeches — the others said nothing.  The purport of the speeches was to prove that the cabinet did hold meetings, and did every thing properly, and that there were no dissentions among them — Mr Chase among others stating that the cabinet were all harmonious.  I asked Judge Collamer how Mr Chase could venture to make such a statement in the presence of Senators to whom he had said that Seward exercised a back stair and malign influence upon the President, and thwarted all the measure of the Cabinet.

He answered ‘He lied.’

Nothing was done in caucus except to hear the report of the committee.   At night I went to the Presidents and had a conversation with him.  He said he could not afford to make a new cabinet.  If he did the new one would be immediately assailed as the old one was, and it would give no additional strength to our cause.  I replied that this was a time of more peril that any we had yet encountered, and that all the wisdom and patriotism of the country to save it from ruin — that by a firm, decided course in the right direction that he could even yet save himself and the Country — that he might so compound a cabinet as to reconcile all the elements of loyalty to the Administration , and suggested Mr Ewing of Ohio, Genl Banks of Mass: Mr Guthrie of Ky &c as representatives of all parties, and means whose general views of policy I thought would harmonize.  He said we must have our friends, and some of those named had not voted with us.   I replied they are friends of the country, and the very fact that they did not vote with us was one of the reasons for calling them to his aid — that the Republicans could not, as a party, save the country in this crisis, not could the democratic party   We must have the united support of all loyal men of all parties or we would fail, and in this way only could we secure that union.   He then said that a cabinet composed of the class of men I had suggested would give him trouble, and be in his way on the negro question.  I replied that I thought not.  They would keep prominently before the Country, as the great central object of the war, the suppression of the rebellion, the restoration of the Union, and the re establishment of the authority of the constitution and the laws, but would not hesitate to do, in regard to slavery, all that was necessary and proper to be done to secure these objects — but it was no doubt true that they would object to converting the war into one for the extermination of slavery leaving the Country to take care of itself.  He said he believed he had rather try and get along with the cabinet he had than try a new one

I told him the attack in the Senate caucus upon Mr Seward was by the partizans of Mr Chase, and that I had reason to believe that he had set them on.  That their game was to drive all the cabinet out — then force upon him the recall of Mr Chase as Premier, and form a cabinet of ultra men around him.  He said with a good deal of emphasis that he was master, and they should not do that — I then left him.

President Lincoln writes the Army of the Potomac: “I have just read your Commanding General’s preliminary report of the battle of Fredericksburg.  Although you were not successful, the attempt was not an error, nor the failure other than an accident.  The courage with which you, in an open field, maintained the contest against an entrenched foe, and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and re-crossed the river, in face of the enemy, show that you possess all the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of the country and of popular government.  Condoling with the mourners for the dead, and sympathizing with the severely wounded, I congratulate you that the number of both is comparatively so small.  I tender to you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.”

President Lincoln writes to generals William B. Franklin and William F. Smith: “Yours of the 20th. suggesting a plan of operations for the Army of the Potomac, is received.  I have hastily read the plan, and shall yet try to give it more deliberate consideration, with the aid of military men.  Meanwhile let me say it seems to me to present the old questions of preference between the line of the Peninsula, and the line you are now upon.  The difficulties you point out as pertaining to the Fredericksburg line are obvious and palpable.  But now, as heretofore, if you go to James River, a large part of the army must remain on or near the Fredericksburg line, to protect Washington.  It is the old difficulty. When I saw Gen. Franklin at Harrison’s Landing on James River last July, I can not be mistaken in saying that he distinctly advised the bringing of the Army away from there.”

Published in: on December 22, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment