Cabinet Concerned with Letters of Marque

March 13, 1863

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “At 10, this morning, Senator [Charles] Sumner came to my office to talk about Letters of Marque, as authorised by the late act. (Which act, by the way, he had opposed, in an able speech)

“He told me, what I did not know before, that Secy Seward had proposed the immediate issue of letters, and that the subject wd. Be up today, in C.C.

Sure enough, it did come up, and was talked over at some length; but nothing definitive was done – as the C. was not full [Chase and stanton being absent, at N. Y.{.] Being forewarned, I was very guarded objected, in a mild tone, stating some of the grounds – i.a.,

Privateering is only a milder sort of piracy, softened and elgalized by the practice of nations, and only from the policy of weakening the enemy by plundering him – That our enemy has no marine commerce, and so offers little temptation to privateersmen, whose sole object is booty – That, as all the enemy’s trade upon the ocean is in neutral bottoms, it is very dangerous to trust Privateersmen with the delicate power to overhaul and seize neutral ships, endangering constantly the peace of the nation; and that without any great temptation to incur such a risk.  That, as to what seemed to be the real, but not avowed object, the practical increase of the Navy, as agst the enemy’s armed cruisers, at present at sea, or soon expected from England, ti was not likely that many wd. Offer, strong enough [sic] to cope with them – the object of privateers is not the to fight but to capture &c[.]

“Mr. Blair at first, seemed pointedly, against the measure – saying that it was equivalent to war with England, and wd. Certainly lead to war.  But afterwards, when the Prest. Said, (answering Mr. Seward) that he supposed that we wd. Have to come to it, in some form, Mr. Blair seemed to assent that [it] wd. Have to be done, war or no war.

N.B. I have observed lately that whatever opinion Mr. B. starts with, he yields a ready assent to the final conclusion of the Prest., whether brot about by the influence of Chase Seward or Stanton.  Mr. B. takes special care of himself, his family and special friends, determined not to differ much with the appointing power.

“On the evening of March 13, 1863, Abraham Lincoln slipped unobtrusively into the presidential box at the Washington Theatre to see James Henry Hackett in his celebrated role of Falstaff,” wrote historian Don E. Fehrenbacher.   Soon thereafter, Hackett sent the President a copy of his new book, Notes and Comments upon Certain Plays and Actors of Shakespeare.”  Hackett would write: “Your Excellency favord me last Friday eveng 13th inst by a spontaneous visit to the Washington theatre to witness my personation of the Falstaff of King Henry IV, and I would respectfully ask your acceptance of a volume which I have recently published and the concluding portion of which refers particularly to the remarkable points of that renowned character– I have sent said Book through The Adams’ Express Compy and venture to hope that at your convenient leisure you may find therein some agreeable relaxation from your cares of State.”

Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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