President Lincoln Responds to Aggravation of Missouri Governor

July 23, 1863

President Lincoln writes Missouri Governor Hamilton R. Gamble about the continuing military-political problems of his state – and the argumentative nature of its politicians: “My Private Secretary has just brought me a letter saying it is a very ‘cross one from you, about mine to Gen. Schfield, recently published in the Democrat.  As I am trying to preserve my own temper, by avoiding irritants, so far as practicable, I have declined to read the cross letter.  I think fit to say, however, that when I wrote the letter to Gen. Schofield, I was totally unconscious of any malice, or disrespect towards you, or of using any expression which should offend you, if seen by you.  I have not seen the document in the Democrat, and therefore can not say whether it is a correct copy.”  Gamble had written: “Your letter to Major General Schofield of the 27th of May was published in the newspapers of this city on the 27th of June last and but for my engagements in the State Convention in aiding in the passage of an ordinance of emancipation, and other pressing official duties I would sooner have attended to that most extraordinary publication.

‘As a paper written by the President…concerning the Governor of a loyal state is a most remarkable production and its publication is a most wanton and unmerited insult…I have borne in silence the attacks…by newspaper writers, but when the President…in an official communication undertakes to characterise me, the Governor of a loyal state, as the head of a faction in that state, an answer is demanded…

‘I take leave to say…that the language of your letter…is in my judgment unbecoming your position…But there is your accusation…this further wrong, that the charge is not true…

‘I have earnestly desired that the military might be restrained from all wanton violence and cruelty…When my views of the policy necessary to the restoration of peace and civil government have been disregarded, I have caused the facts to be made known to you in order that you might apply the remedy…If making to you the proper representation of facts constituted me the head of a faction then I have been such; but if I was performing a simple duty to you, upon whom rests the ultimate responsibility for the government of the military, then my conduct was necessary for the country, and just to you, furnished no ground for your attack upon me…

‘Mr. President, I have disapproved of acts of your administration, but I have carefully abstained from denouncing you…and this because there is nothing of a ‘faction’ spirit in me…

‘You can then judge sir how grossly offensive the language your letter is, when you say ‘as’ (that is, because) ‘I could not remove Gov Gamble I had to remove General Curtis’ distinctly intimating that you would have removed me if you could…

President Lincoln writes General Robert C. Schenck, Union commander in Missouri, “Returning to the Executive Room yesterday, I was mortified to find you were gone, leaving no word of explanation. I went down stairs, as I understood, on a perfect understanding with you that you would remain till my return. I got this impression distinctly from “Edward” [2] whom I believe you know. Possibly I misunderstood him. I had been very unwell in the morning, and had scarcely tasted food during the day, till the time you saw me go down. I beg you will not believe I have treated you with intentional discourtesy.”  Two days later, Schenck responded: ““I did not for a moment suppose there was any discourtesy intended me. But I left your ante-room without waiting longer, because I was hurried by the approach of the hour when I was to take a little dinner with a friend, & get ready for the train by which I was to return to Baltimore. I left this explanation with Edward, who seems to have failed a little in making either of us clearly understood by the other.  I do want to see you for a few minutes; I will call the next time I can find leisure to go over.”

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Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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