Texas Expedition and Louisiana Reconstruction Considered

August 5, 1863

After meeting with Massachusetts Congressman George Boutwell, President Lincoln writes the military commander of New Orleans, Nathaniel P. Banks regarding a possible expedition to Texas: “Being a poor correspondent is the only apology I offer for not having sooner tendered my thanks for your very successful, and very valuable military operations this year.  The final stroke in opening the Mississippi never should, and I think never will, be forgotten.

Recent events in Mexico, I think, render early action in Texas more important than ever, I expect, however, the General-in-Chief, will address you more fully upon this subject.

Governor Boutwell read me to-day that part of your letter to him, which relates to Louisiana affairs.  While I very well know what I would be glad for Louisiana to do, it is quite a different thing for me to assume direction of the matter.  I would be glad for her to make a new Constitution recognizing the emancipation proclamation, and adopting emancipation in those parts of the state to which the proclamation does not apply.  And while she is at it, I think it would not be objectionable for her to adopt some practical system by which the two races could gradually live themselves out of their old relation to each other, and both come out better prepared for the new.  Education for young blacks should be included in the plan.  After all, the power or element, of ‘contract’ may be sufficient for this probationary period; and, by it’s simplicity, and flexibility, may be the better.

As an anti-slavery man I have a motive to desire emancipation, which pro-slavery men do not have; but even they have strong enough reason to thus place themselves again under the shield of the Union; and to thus perpetually hedge against the recurrence of the scenes through which we are now passing.

Gov. Shepley has informed me that Mr. Durant is now taking a registry, with a view to the election of a Constitutional convention in Louisiana.  This, to me, appears proper.  If such convention were to ask my views, I could present little else than what I know say to you.  I think the thing should be pushed forward, so that if possible, it’s mature work may reach here by the meeting of Congress.

For my own part I think I shall not, in any event, retract the emancipation proclamation; nor, as executive, ever return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress.

If Louisiana shall send members to Congress, their admission to seats will depend, as you know, upon the respective Houses, and not upon the President.

If these views can be of any advantage in giving shape, and impetus, to action there, I shall be glad for you to use them prudently for that object.  Of course you will confer with intelligent and trusty citizens of the State, among whom I would suggest Messrs. Flanders, Hahn, and Durant; and to each of whom I now think I may send copies of this letter.  Still it is perhaps better to not make the letter generally public.

President writes Commissioner of Agriculture Isaac Newton: “About a year ago Capt. Isaac R. Diller came to me with a proposition in regard to a new compound of gunpowder, the ingredients and mode of compounding, being a secret. It promised important advantages, which would be very valuable, if the promise were made good. But he did not wish to give the government the secret; nor did the government wish to buy it, without a test of it’s value. For this object, the manufacture of a quantity of it became indispensable; and this again required the service of a good Chemist. Dr. Charles M. Wetherill, Chemist in your Department, was an acquaintance of Capt. Diller, and was sought by him to aid in the manufacturing of the powder. As I remember I requested you to allow him to do so, which you did. A small quantity was manufactured, and proved so far satisfactory that Capt. now, Admiral Dahlgren advised the making a larger quantity so as to test it for artillery use. I consented, and procured the Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy, to advance, from time [to time], sums amounting in the whole to five thousand dollars, from funds under their discretionary control. Dr. Wetherill’s service was again required, and again obtained, perhaps, so far as you are concerned, at my request. At the time, nothing was said, or thought of, so far as I remember, as to his receiving his salary at your Department, while engaged at the powder. Now, being brought to my mind, it seems reasonable he should receive his salary for that time, which he tells is refused. The manufacturer of the powder has required the building a good deal of expensive machinery, leaving the five thousand dollar fund no reliance for Dr. Wetherell. In fact, I suppose Capt. Diller thought the government was furnishing Dr. Wetherell, as one of it’s officers, to make the experiment.

Dr. Wetherell presents another question, which is as to the amount of his permanent or general Salary. I see that the law fixes the salaries of a class to which the chemist belongs “corresponding to the salaries of similar officers in other Departments” and I do not see that the law assigns me any duty or discretion about it. All I can do is to give a sort of legal opinion, that his salary should be fixed according to the law. I do wish these questions could be settled, without further difficulty. I do not know what has been fixed as the salary of similar officers in other Departments; but I suppose this can not be hard to ascertain.

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