Washington Empty and Quiet

August 7, 1863

Presidential aide John Hay writes:”This town is as dismal now as a defaced tombstone.  Everybody has gone.  I am getting apathetic.”  He adds:

The Tycoon is in fine whack.  I have rarely seen him more serene & busy.  He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the Union, all at once.  I never knew with what tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet, till now.  The most important things he decides & there is no cavil.  I am growing more and more firmly convinced that the good of the country absolutely demands that he should be kept where he is till this thing is over.  There is no man in the country, so wise, so gentle and so firm.  I believe the hand of God placed him where he is.”

They are working against him like beavers though; Hale & that crowd, but don’t seem to make anything by it.  I believe the people know what they want and unless politics have gained in power & lost in principle they will have it.

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary of the Friday cabinet meeting: “The President read to us a letter received from Horatio Seymour, Governor of New York, on the subject of the draft, which he asks may be postponed.  The letter is a party, political document, filled with perverted statements, and apologizing for, and diverting attention from, his mob.

The President also read his reply, which is manly, vigorous, and decisive.  He did not permit himself to be drawn away on frivolous and remote issues, which was obviously the intent of Seymour.

“There is a lull in Public business…There is, in fact, no Cabinet, and the show of Cabinet-councils is getting more and more, a mere show – Little matters or isolated propositions are sometimes talked over, but the great business of the country – questions of leading policy – are not mentioned in C.C unless indeed, after the fact, and when some difficulty has arisen out of a blunder.”

President Lincoln responds to correspondence from New York Governor Horatio Seymour regarding continuation of the draft in New York after recent riots: “Your communication of the 3rd. Inst. has been received, and attentively considered.

I can not consent to suspend the draft in New-York, as you request, because, among other reasons, time is to important.

By the figures you send, which I presume are correct, the twelve Districts represented fall into classes of eight, and four respectively.  The disparity of the quotas for the draft, in these two classes is certainly very striking, being the difference between an average of 2200 in one class, and 4864 in the other.  Assuming that the Districts are equal, one to another, in entire population, as required by the plan on which they were made, this disparity is such as to require attention.  Much of it, however, I suppose will be accounted for by the fact that so many more persons fit for soldiers, are in the city than are in the country, who have too recently arrived from other parts of the United States and from Europe to be either included in the Census of 1860, or to have voted in 1862.  Still, making due allowance for this, I am yet unwilling to stand upon it as an entirely sufficient explanation of the great disparity.

I shall direct the draft to proceed in all the Districts, drawing however, at first, from each of the four Districts, towit: the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth, only 2200, being the average quota of the other class.  After this drawing, these four Districts, and also the seventeenth and twenty-ninth, shall be carefully re-enrolled, and, if you please, agents of yours may witness every step of the process.  Any deficiency which may appear by the new enrollment will be supplied by a special draft for that object, allowing due credit for volunteers who may be obtained from these Districts respectively, during the interval.  And at all points, so far as consistent, with practical convenience, due credits will be given for volunteers; and your Excellency shall be notified of the time fixed for commencing a draft in each District.

I do not object to abide a decision of the United States Supreme Court, or of the judges thereof, on the constitutionality of the draft law.  In fact, I should be willing to facilitate the obtaining of it; but I can not consent to lose the time while it is being obtained.  We are contending with an enemy who, as I understand, drives every able bodied man he can reach, into his ranks, very much as a butcher drives bullocks into a slaughter-pen.  No time is wasted, to argument is used.  This produces an army which will soon turn upon our now victorious soldiers already in the field, if they shall not be sustained by recruits, as they should be.  It produces an army which will soon turn upon our now victorious soldiers already in the field, if they shall not be sustained by recruits, as they should be.  It produces an army with a rapidity not to be matched on our side, if we first waste time to re-experiment with the volunteer system, already deemed by congress, and palpably, in fact, so far exhausted, as to be inadequate; and then more time, to obtain a court decision, as to whether a law is constitutional, which requires a part of those not now in the service, to go to the aid of those who are already in it; and still more time, to determine with absolute certainty, that we get those, who are to go, in the precisely legal proportion, to those who are not to go.

My purpose to be, in my action, just and constitutional ;and yet practical, in performing the important duty, with which I am charged, of maintaining the unity, and the free principles of one common country.

President Lincoln writes New Hampshire Joseph Gilmore: “My dear Governor Gilmore: I thank you very heartily for your kind invitation to visit Concord, and especially for the exceedingly cordial terms in which you have conveyed it. I very much regret that I cannot at present accept it. I am by no means certain that I can leave Washington at all this summer. The exacting nature of my official duties renders it exceedingly improbable. I assure you however that I am none the less sincerely grateful for your kind intentions and for the expressions of personal good will contained in your letter.”

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner writes President Lincoln: “The London Star, from which the above passage comes, is edited by a son-in-law of John Bright.

“I find every where consternation at the idea that the Proclamation can be forgotten or abandoned.  Of course, Mr. Seward’s speech has had a tendency to excite distrust, which has been increased by reports that some of the Cabinet wished the Govt. to turn from the Proclamation.

“Mr. Thurlow Weed has increased these anxieties by the overtures which he has made in the Evening Journal.

“For myself, I have seen but one way from the beginning, & that way becomes brighter as we proceeded.  It is by doing justice to the black man.  Then shall we deserve success.

Published in: on August 7, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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