President Plots Strategy to Counter House Plot

October 23, 1863

“Only a portion of the Cabinet present and but little done,” writes Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles of today’s cabinet meeting.  “The Missouri difficulty discussed, etc.”

President Lincoln discusses plot to block Republicans from taking their seats in the House with the Assistant House Clerk John R. Briggs, Jr.  The plot has been hatched by House Clerk Emerson Etheridge of Tennessee.    The next day, Lincoln writes Briggs: “Reflecting upon conversation with you yesterday, I think one point did not strike you on the moment, though it may have, and doubtless has, occurred to you since. The certificates from any Governor will be alike to all the members of his State, doubtless; I think, in fact, there is only one certificate for all, though there may be separate ones; but he will not discriminate between members from any one State; when he writes to a Governor suggesting amended certificates of particular form, it will cover the case of all the members from that State. But he will write (or has written) only to those Governors where a majority of the delegation is Democratic.”

And if you make a request for amended certificates, it will only be necessary, to request it of those Governors where a majority of the members are Republican, as he will attend to the other cases; but of the matter of policy and prudence in the case, to which and how many to send, your own shrewd sense will decide.

If it were necessary to procure the certificates here, in order to see all the points in which they liable to be dificient, in a strained construction of the law, I suppose I could get them, as they are doubtless in the office safe, and in the particular custody of the chief clerk, who can be relied upon. But it involves the imparting of the secret to him, which I am reluctant to do, and shall not, therefore, unless you shall, on reflection, think it may be necessary. I presume the act will show, for itself, all the points that absolutely require to be covered. To know whether California and Oregon are deficient, it might be quite advisable to see them, (the certificates,) they are so far off; but the chief clerk, I am afraid, will not be back (he is away, now,) untill too late for that purpose, as there is scarcely time now to communicate with them, Oregon especially.

The act referred to was approved on the 3d of March last.3

Please toss this note in the fire, that no stray paper may accidentally disclose affairs.

Concerned about violence and conflict over the recruitment of black slaves in Maryland for the Union Army, President Lincoln confers with General Robert C. Schenck, Union commander in Maryland.

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