President Occupies Himself with Governmental Trivia

February 6, 1863

Cabinet meeting held , but according to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, “Nothing of special importance at the Cabinet. Seward was absent, and I therefore called on him respecting his circular dispatch concerning the blockade at Galveston. His chief clerk, Mr. Hunter, was coy and shy. Neither he nor Mr. Seward were certain it had been sent. Some dispatches had not been sent. Seward said he had made all the alterations, but the clerk had not done his errand properly, did not tell him I objected, etc., etc.  The Department seemed in confusion. Hunter watched Seward closely and could recollect only what Seward recollected. When I touched on the principles involved, I found Seward inexcusably ignorant of the subject of blockade. He admitted he had not looked into the books, had not studied the subject, had relied on Hunter. Hunter said he had very little knowledge and no practical experience on these matters except what took place during the Mexican blockade. Made Seward send for Wheaton; read to him a few passages. He seemed perplexed, but thought his circular dispatch as modified could do little harm. I am apprehensive that he has, in his ostentatious, self-assuming way, committed himself in conversation, and knows not how to get out of the difficulty. He says Fox told him the blockade was raised at Galveston. It is one of those cases where the Secretary of State has written a hasty letter without proper inquiry or knowledge of facts, and my fears are that he has made unwarranted admissions. After firing off his gun, he learns his mistake, — has “gone off half-cocked.”

President Lincoln is concerned with issues like the request of U.S. Representative James K. Moorhead to get an appointment of Charles Heintzelman to West Point.   Naval officer John Dahlgren, a close friend of President Lincoln, observes in his diary: “I observe that the President never tells a joke now.”

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