President Lincoln Handles Fractious Leaders of Missouri

December 5, 1862

It is bright and cold following a snowfall in Washington.  Political affairs in Missouri were a constant source of irritation for President Lincoln.   He writes Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: “With my understanding of the present condition of Missouri, and especially that part of it, North of the Missouri River, I think the attached resolutions are reasonable. Have you any thing to do with it, or does it belong exclusively to the Secretary of War? Please answer me, returning this note & resolution[s] to me.”

Missouri Governor Hamilton Gamble writes President Lincoln: “On the 28th day of August last Genl [John] Schofield then in command of the District of Missouri made an order by which he appointed a Board of Assessors to assess and collect from the secessionists and southern sympathisers in the County of St Louis the sum of Five Hundred Thousand dollars to be used “in subsisting clothing and arming the enrolled militia while in active service and in providing for the support of such families of militia-men and U S volunteers as may be left destitute.” This is the language of the order.

At the time this order was made the enrolled militia were regarded as necessary to uphold the authority of the United States Government in Missouri and the order was issued by the Brigr General of United States Volunteers then in command of the District of Missouri. Its foundation was considered at the time to be in “martial law” which had been declared by the U States General commanding the Department

The Board thus appointed has proceeded to make the assessment and are now engaged in collecting the money from the citizens who are beleived by them to be either “secessionists or southern sympathisers”

The Board proceeded either upon their own knowledge or upon secret information which they invited by a publication in the news papers and as might be expected have made very many outrageous blunders both as to the sentiments of persons assessed and their ability to pay money for the purposes expressed in the order.

Very loud complaints are made by very many citizens not only against the principle upon which the assessment is made but against the action of the Board in carrying out the order.

Genl Curtis has been applied to to interpose but has as yet declined doing any thing to give relief.

I have been applied to and I have asked Genl Curtis to say whether he regarded the proceeding as under my control with the purpose to arrest all further action if he considered that I had power over the subject. He does not answer me.

I have said to him verbally that so far as the enrolled militia was concerned there was now no necessity for the further immediate action of the Board and that in the changed condition of the country and of the public feeling it would be judicious to suspend further action by the Board

The General hesitates and in the meantime the Board is proceeding to press the citizens who have been assessed.

Under the circumstances a number of the citizens have determined to appeal to you and I write this letter to you at their request that you may understand the condition of the case upon which they ask you to act.

I say to you Mr President that whatever may have been the necessity for the stringent measure at the time it was adopted, that necessity has for the present at least past away, and that if I had the control of the subject I would without hesitation suspend the further action of the Board. I say this to you that you may clearly understand the authority I would exert if the control were in me.

Published in: on December 5, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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