Sunday Dinner at the White House

December 7, 1862

A rare Sunday evening dinner is held at the White House.  Illinois Senator Orville. H. Browning, a close friend of the Lincolns who could be judgmental,  visits the White House: “Just after I returned the President sent an invitation for me to dine with him at 5 P.M.  I do not think Sunday an appropriate time for dinner parties, and supposed the President wished to see me privately, and hence had sent for me; but I found Senator [Ira] Harris of N.Y.   Judge [David] Davis of the Supreme Court, Hon. I. N. Arnold of Illinois, and the two private secretaries Nicolay & Hay present beside myself.   In a company thus composed there could be no conversation except of the most general character, and I left between 7 & 8 oclock.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes fiancé Therena Bates: “While I have been writing this a message has come up from Mrs. Lincoln inviting myself Mr. Hay and Mr. Stoddard to dine with her at five o’clock this evening. This is a startling ‘change of base’ on the part of the lady, and I am at a loss at the moment to explain it.   However as etiquette does not permit any one on any excuse to decline an invitation to dine with the President, I shall have to make the reconnaissance, and thereby more fully learn the tactics of the enemy.”  Although Nicolay and fellow aide John Hay work and sleep at the White House, they usually ate at the nearby Willard’s Hotel.  Their relations with Mrs. Lincoln were almost always strained.

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes President Lincoln: “I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th inst., transmitting newspaper extract, containing the proceedings of a public meeting held at Quincy, Illinois, on the evening of the 20th ulto., in relation to restrictions upon the commerce of that place with Missouri.

It is presumed that the restrictions therein complained of are those of general application imposed by the Regulations concerning Internal and Coastwise Commercial Intercourse, promulgated on the 28th of August, last, under Acts of Congress approved July 13, 1861, and May 20, 1862, — of which copy is enclosed.

The existing condition of affairs and the public safety render indispensable some system by which shipments of articles likely to fall into the hands of improper persons can be controlled or prevented. The Regulations referred to were adopted upon the united representation of, and after consultation with the Special Agents of the Treasury Department appointed for the purpose of supervising such trade and commerce, and upon full consideration of the subject, in all its bearings. They were submitted to and approved by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, and by Gen. Halleck, who particularly commended the application of rigid rules to Northern Missouri, from which, by reason of its situation and the character of many of its inhabitants, persons in armed rebellion against the Government could easily obtain much needed supplies.

Upon the adoption of the Regulations, the Special Agents of the Department having the several districts affected thereby under their supervision, were authorized to increase or relax the restrictions as circumstances seemed to require; and they were specially charged to remove them as fast and as far as a due regard for public safety would allow. I am not aware that there has ever been established any local regulation which would affect the business interests of Quincy more injuriously in any respect than those of her sister cities located on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The trade of all sections and places with those States and parts of States heretofore under insurrectionary control or contiguous to disaffected territory is governed alike, by the same rules, and the inconveniences incident thereto have hitherto been uncomplainingly borne by all good citizens — satisfied, as they doubtless were, that they would be of but temporary duration, and were necessary for the common good.

I cannot forbear expressing the opinion here that the statement embodied in the second resolution adopted by the meeting, — “that under present regulations there is practically no restraint whatever, at least none that should be regarded as efficient against the traffic in such contraband articles as arms and ammunition, while the trade of this city in all articles that are recognized by the civilized world as articles of legitimate commerce, in peace or war, is greatly embarrassed and injured, — is based upon a misapprehension of the gravest character. No rule or regulation has ever been sanctioned by or come to the knowledge of this Department which could possibly result in the practices therein alleged to prevail. I have, however, this day transmitted a copy of your letter and enclosure to the Special Agent of the Department charged with the administration of affairs in the district embracing Quincy, with directions to report specifically upon the subject matter of the proceedings as published, and will communicate his reply to you immediately on receipt. I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th inst., transmitting newspaper extract, containing the proceedings of a public meeting held at Quincy, Illinois, on the evening of the 20th ulto., in relation to restrictions upon the commerce of that place with Missouri.

It is presumed that the restrictions therein complained of are those of general application imposed by the Regulations concerning Internal and Coastwise Commercial Intercourse, promulgated on the 28th of August, last, under Acts of Congress approved July 13, 1861, and May 20, 1862, — of which copy is enclosed.

The existing condition of affairs and the public safety render indispensable some system by which shipments of articles likely to fall into the hands of improper persons can be controlled or prevented. The Regulations referred to were adopted upon the united representation of, and after consultation with the Special Agents of the Treasury Department appointed for the purpose of supervising such trade and commerce, and upon full consideration of the subject, in all its bearings. They were submitted to and approved by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, and by Gen. Halleck, who particularly commended the application of rigid rules to Northern Missouri, from which, by reason of its situation and the character of many of its inhabitants, persons in armed rebellion against the Government could easily obtain much needed supplies.

Upon the adoption of the Regulations, the Special Agents of the Department having the several districts affected thereby under their supervision, were authorized to increase or relax the restrictions as circumstances seemed to require; and they were specially charged to remove them as fast and as far as a due regard for public safety would allow. I am not aware that there has ever been established any local regulation which would affect the business interests of Quincy more injuriously in any respect than those of her sister cities located on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The trade of all sections and places with those States and parts of States heretofore under insurrectionary control or contiguous to disaffected territory is governed alike, by the same rules, and the inconveniences incident thereto have hitherto been uncomplainingly borne by all good citizens — satisfied, as they doubtless were, that they would be of but temporary duration, and were necessary for the common good.

I cannot forbear expressing the opinion here that the statement embodied in the second resolution adopted by the meeting, — “that under present regulations there is practically no restraint whatever, at least none that should be regarded as efficient against the traffic in such contraband articles as arms and ammunition, while the trade of this city in all articles that are recognized by the civilized world as articles of legitimate commerce, in peace or war, is greatly embarrassed and injured, — is based upon a misapprehension of the gravest character. No rule or regulation has ever been sanctioned by or come to the knowledge of this Department which could possibly result in the practices therein alleged to prevail. I have, however, this day transmitted a copy of your letter and enclosure to the Special Agent of the Department charged with the administration of affairs in the district embracing Quincy, with directions to report specifically upon the subject matter of the proceedings as published, and will communicate his reply to you immediately on receipt.

The President replies to suggestions regarding the Emancipation Proclamation from New York Times editor Henry J. Raymond: “Yours of Nov. 25. reached me only yesterday. Thank you for it. I shall consider and remember your suggestions.”

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Published in: on December 7, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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