President Lincoln Meets with Would-Be Black Chaplains

August 21, 1863

After meeting with a  a twelve-man delegation from the American Baptist Missionary Convention, President Lincoln writes a memo “To whom it may concern”: “To-day I am called upon by a committee of colored ministers of the Gospel, who express a wish to go within our military lines and minister to their brethern there.  The object is a worthy one, and I shall be glad for all facilities to be afforded them which may not be inconsistent with or a hindrance to our military operations.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary:“Made an early call on the President with Joseph P. Allyn, one of the Judges for the Territory of Arizona, on the subject of Governor for that Territory.  At the Cabinet-meeting, subsequently, the President concluded to appoint Goodwin Governor and Turner Chief Justice.

Had a free conversation with the President on his proposed instructions to our naval officers. Told him they would in my opinion be injudicious. That we were conceding too much, and I thought unwisely, to the demands of the British Minister. He said he thought it for our interest to strengthen the present ministry, and would therefore strain a point in that direction. I expressed a hope he would not impair his Administration and the national vigor and character by yielding what England had no right to claim, or ask, and what we could not, without humiliation, yield. I finally suggested that Lord Lyons should state what were the instructions of his government, — that he should distinctly present what England claimed and what was the rule in the two cases. We are entitled to know on what principle she acts, — whether her claim is reciprocal, and if she concedes to others what she requires of us. The President chimed in with this suggestion, requested me to suspend further action, and reserve and bring up the matter when Seward and Lord Lyons returned.

This conclusion will disturb Seward, who makes no stand, — yields everything, — and may perhaps clear up the difficulty, or its worst points.  I do not shut my eyes to the fact that the letter of the President and the proposed instructions have their origin in the state Department.  Lord Lyons has pressed a point, and the easiest way for Mr. Seward to dispose of it is to yield what is asked, without examination or making himself acquainted with the principles involved and the consequences which are to result from his concession.  To a mortifying extent Lord Lyons shapes and directs, through the Secretary of State, as erroneous policy to this government. This is humiliating but true.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “In the autumn of 1861, certain persons in armed rebellion, against the United States, within the counties of Acomac and Northampton, laid down their arms upon certain terms then proposed to them by Genl. Dix, in and by a certain procla[ma]tion. It is now said that these persons or some of them, are about to be forced into the military lines of the existing rebellion, unless they will take an oath prescribed to them since, and not included in, Gen. Dix’ proclamation referred to. Now, my judgment is that no one of these men should be forced from his home, who has not broken faith with the government, according to the terms fixed by Gen. Dix and these men. It is bad faith in the government to force new terms upon such as have kept faith with it. At least so it seems to me.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Stanton: “Sec. of War, please see this Pittsburgh boy. He is very young, and I shall be satisfied with whatever you do with him.”

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Published in: on August 21, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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