Cabinet Meeting Discusses Naval Issues

August 4, 1863

“Very warm,” wrote Navy Secretary Gideon Welles.  “Little done at Cabinet. Seward undertook to talk wise in relation to Commander Collins and the Mont Blanc, but really betrayed inexcusable ignorance of the subject of prize and prize courts, and admiralty law, the responsibilities of an officer, etc.”

William F. Havemeyer, a businessman and former New York City mayor, writes to Abraham Lincoln regarding the draft situation in New York: “I cannot keep silent longer, in reference to the draft which now hangs over us, without expressing to you the opinion I have formed of it from knowledge of the masses, upon whom it is chiefly to operate, and of the consequences which must inevitably flow from its enforcement in the way proposed.

The general sentiment is, that the enrolments have been incorrectly made, — that persons have been several times enrolled — a difficulty which is not fully met by the Rule recently adopted by the Provost Marshall General, with I believe the best intentions, because the chances of such persons being drawn are unduly increased.

If the draft is attempted to be enforced under the present enrolments, I am satisfied that it will convulse the whole community to an extent compared with which the late riot will seem to be a very insignificant matter.2 I speak earnestly and frankly when I say that it cannot be enforced without evils, which are greater than any benefit it can produce, because.

1st because, as I have said before, the enrolment is considered incorrect and unfair, which will justify in the opinion of those upon whom it may operate, any resistance they are competent to make.

2dly. because, while every body admits that our army ought to be reinforced, it does not appear that any effort has been made by a system of voluntary enlistments to relieve those whose business or the wants of their families are insurmountable difficulties obstacles to their enlisting, and who are unable to hire substitutes

Now a few weeks or months delay in giving the State a fair an opportunity of furnishing her fair quota, is not only the dictate of true wisdom and statesmanship but at the same time the most rapid mode of accomplishing the object

The experience of the late attempt at draft is too recent in the minds of this Community to induce them it them to desire a repetition of it. Hence after this experience, every aid which money and exertion can supply will be employed, to render the supervision of our local authorities, to furnish our fair quota. Should there be a deficiency in it after reasonable effort, it will be time enough to consider how that deficiency is to be supplied.

There is every reason to fear that the produce of the draft even when carried successfully through, will be much less than has been expected. A state of things, from whatever cause — whether from exhaustion of those willing to go, — weariness of the public mind under disappointments in results, or dissatisfaction with the management of the War, which makes volunteering impossible, is extremely likely to make drafting ineffectual. States or Counties, which furnish their quota’s voluntarily, relieving the government from the necessaty of onerous watch and guard, and difficult compulsion over the conscripts, ought to be rewarded by having a number of volunteers, equal to the average practical produce of the draft in other places, accepted in full satisfaction of their quota.

I can not too strongly urge upon you the necessity for the utmost caution in your action upon this subject. We do not wish a repetition of the scenes we have lately witnessed. We can not afford in the present hopeful state of our affairs to try a doubtful experiment, which may present us before Europe and before the rebellious states in an aspect, calculated to prolong the War, increase largely its burdens and its calamities, and possibly end in a complication of disasters

In forming a wise judgment of the State of the public mind in this quarter, no reliance should be placed on the twaddle of partizan papers. We have had enough of the “On to Richmond” School of politicians, to justify the exercise of great care in adopting their advice. We can not afford to make any more blunders in that direction

Hoping that the calamity, which threatens to disturb us, and through us the whole North, may be avoided by wise and prudent counsels, is the fervent prayer of

Published in: on August 4, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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