Controversies Bedevil President Lincoln

May 11, 1863

Bright skies cannot lighten President Lincoln’s woes.  Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “After a week of almost continuous northeast storms of wind and rain, the sky is again clear, and the warm May sunshine asserts its dominion over the banks of the Potomac.  The clouds have lifted in all directions, and the loyal and true are listening to the bugles and the drums of the marching regiments – horse and foot – with hearts beating higher than ever before, with hope, faith and expectation.”

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary regarding the continuing controversy with Britain over the disposition of ships seized by the Union navy: “The President sent a note to my house early this morning, requesting me to call at the Executive Mansion on my way to the Department.  When there he took from a drawer two dispatches written by the Secretary of state to Lord Lyons, in relation to prize captures.  As they had reference to naval matters, he wished my views in regard to them and the subject-matter generally,  I told him these dispatches were not particularly objectionable, but that Mr. Seward in these matters seemed not to have correct apprehension of the duties and rights of the Executive and other Departments of the Government.  There were, however, in this correspondence allusions to violations of international law and of instructions which were within his province, and which it might be well to correct; but as a general thing it would be better that the Secretary of State and Executive should not, unless necessary, interfere in these matters, but leave them where they properly and legal belonged, with the judiciary.  [I said] that Lord Lyons would present these demands or claims as long as the Executive would give them consideration,–acquiesced, responded, and assumed to grant relief,–but that it was wholly improper, and would, besides being irregular, cause him and also the State and Navy Departments great labor which does not belong to either.  The president said he could see I was right, but that in this instance, perhaps, it would be best, if I did not seriously object, that these dispatches should go one; but he wished me to see them.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase regarding the continuing controversy over customs officials in the Territory of Washington: “I have just learned that Henry C. Wilson, whom I had appointed as the successor of Victor Smith, at Puget Sound, is dead. Please send me a commission for Frederick A. Wilson.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton regarding the continuing political and military upheaval in Missouri, where two Union factions argued over how to deal with slavery: “I have again concluded to relieve Genl Curtis. I see no other way to avoid the worst consequences there. I think of Gen. Schofield for his successor; but I do not wish to take the matter of a successor out of the hands of yourself and Genl Halleck.”  The president had recently received a communication from Missouri residents: ““The disorders in this Military department are frightful. Crime in almost every from is committed with impunity. These disorders are not accidental but result from party principles and organization encouraged and assisted by the Military power which instead of being exerted for our protection is being used to promote the evils of which we complain.”

Looking for news about military operations along the Mississippi River, President Lincoln writes General John A. Dix in Virginia: “Do the Richmond papers have anything about Grand Gulf or Vicksburg?”

Published in: on May 11, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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