President Lincoln Worries about Plot to Block Republican Congressmen

October 29, 1863

Presidential displeasure with the failure of General George Meade to engage the enemy continues.  Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “General Meade has been despatched by the President ‘to find a fight or resign.’”

President Lincoln writes to Vice President Hannibal Hamlin regarding the supposed plot by the clerk of the House of Representatives to block Republicans from being seated in the new Congress: “The above act of Congress was passed, as I suppose, to exclude improper applicants from seats in the House of Representatives and there is danger now that it will be used to exclude proper ones.  The attempt will be made, if at all, upon the members of those States whose delegations are entirely, or by a majority, Union men and of which your State is one.

I suppose your members already have the usual certificates – which let them bring on.  I suggest that for greater caution, yourself, the two senators, Messrs. Fessenden and Morrill, and the Governor consider this matter, and that the Governor make out an additional certificate, or set of certificates, in the form on the other half of this sheet, and still another, if on studying the law you gentlemen shall be able to frame one which will given additional gentlemen shall be able to frame one which will give additional security; and bring the whole with you, to be used if found necessary.  Let it all be done quietly.  The members of Congress themselves need not know of it.

President Lincoln writes Iowa Senator James W. Grimes regarding possible machinations to block legitimately-elected Republicans from taking their seats.   He encloses the text of a March 3, 1863 bill and writes: “The above act of congress was passed, as I suppose, for the purpose of shutting out improper applicants for seats in the House of Representatives; and I fear there is some danger that it will be used to shut out proper ones. Iowa, having an entire Union delegation, will be one of the States the attempt will be made upon, if upon any. The Governor doubtless has made out the certificates, and they are already in the hands of the members. I suggest that they come on with them; but that, for greater caution, you, and perhaps Mr. Harlan with you, consult with the Governor, and have an additional set made out according to the form on the other half of this sheet; and still another set, if you can, by studying the law, think of a form that in your judgment, promises additional security, and qu[i]etly bring the whole on with you, to be used in case of necessity.”  Characteristically, Lincoln added: “Let what you do be kept still.”

In recognizing Matias Romero M. Romero as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Mexico,” President Lincoln said: “You have hitherto resided with us, and for a considerable period have been the chief diplomatic representative of your country at this Capital. You know how sincerely and how profoundly during that residence the United States desired that Mexico might always enjoy the blessings of domestic and foreign peace with perfect security, prosperity, independence and freedom. You know also that, during the previous residence to which I have referred, you enjoyed the respect and esteem of this Government and the good-will of the people of the United States. I have the pleasure of assuring you that in all things, as well affecting your country as yourself personally, these feelings remain unchanged. Thanking you for the liberal sentiments you have expressed for the United States, and congratulating you upon the renewed confidence which your Government has reposed in you, it is with unaffected pleasure that I bid you welcome to Washington.

Presidential aide John Hay writes: “I Went down to Willard’s today & got from Palmer who is here a free ticket to New York and back for Walt. Whitman the poet who is going to New York to electioneer and vote for the Union ticket.”  He added: “The President tonight wrote letters to several of the more prominent Senators & [ ] of the Republican States urging them to take care of a supposed plot of Gen. Ehteridge.”

This crazy Tennessean, who was kindly taken up by the Republicans & made clerk of the House, has turned malignantly Copperhead and now hopes to reatin his clerkship by copper votes.  His plan for securing to the opposition the organization of the House is to take advantage of a foolish little law passed in the hurry of the concluding days of the last session (approved March 3, 1863) making certain specific requirements for credentials; and to throw out those state delegations which are principally Republican.  He will of course post those Governors whose delegations are a majority Democratic & will leave in ignorance those who have a Republican preponderance in their delegation This matter was suggested to the Presdt. Some days ago by a man named Briggs who came with a great show of mystery which I thought humbug and had two audiences of the Presdt.  The President has taken occasion to checkmate any such rascality by sending to some of the Governors a specific form gotten up by himself which will cover the case.  The members are to bring their ordinary certificate and these supplemental ones are to be procured by their Senators or some such and brought on in case of any such question being made.

[General James] Garfield was with the President today.  He always mentions Rosecrans with kindness, even tenderness & says he is a man of such fixed convictions as to be frequently unreasonable in holding to them.  At the battle of Chickamauga he became convinced that the field was lost & that his place was in the rear.  It really seemed so.  But when Garfield heard the firing steadily resumed on the left where Thomas was engaged he was convinced that the left still stood & urged Rosecrans to stay & save the field.  The General would not listen to such a suggestion & when Garfield begged permission himself to stay & join the battle on the left Rosecrans parted with him as if never expecting to see him again.

Talk of the 1864 presidential nomination is increasing as 1864 approaches – particularly actions being taken or expected to be taken by Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, who has made no secret of his disagreements with President Lincoln.  Presidential aide John Hay writes: “I told the Tycoon that Chase would try to make capital out of the Rosecrans business.  He laughed & said, “I suppose he will, like the bluebottle fly, lay his eggs in every rotten spot he can find.”  He seems much amused at Chase’s mad hunt after the Presidency.  He says it may win.  He hopes the country will never do worse.”

I said he should not by making all Chase’s appointments make himself particeps criminis.

He laughed on & said he was sorry the thing had begun, for though the matter did not annoy him his friends insisted that it ought to.  He has appointed Ferry tax Comr. For Tennessee & has promised Plantz the District Attorneyship of Florida.  He thinks the matter a devilish good joke. He prefers letting Hcase have his own way in these sneaking tricks than getting into a snarl with him by refusing him what he asks.

Published in: on October 29, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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