Thurlow Weed Presents Peace Strategy

November 6, 1863

Lincoln’s oldest and best friend, Joshua Speed, writes him for a rare favor: “The last time I had an interview with you I expressed a desire that a speedy investigation should be had in the case of Genl [Thomas L.} Crittenden –  And I understood you to say that it should be done.– No Court of inquiry has been held or ordered so far as I know–

Gen. Crittenden distinguished himself at Shiloh and Stone River — for his action at Shiloh he was promoted; — and for his conduct at Stone River he has the plaudits of all who are acquainted with the part he took in that great Battle–

For some cause he has been removed from Command for his conduct at Chicamauga– Is it not due to a man who has made his name illustrious on two fields that he should have a speedy investigation–? Crittenden has said to me that if there is any two days of his life for which deserves more credit than that rendered to his Country at the battle of Chicamauga he would not know where to select them–

I write this letter without his knowledge or consent– Much as I like him I like both you & the cause better– All demand a speedy investigation, that justice may be done– If he is at fault — strike him from the roll — if he has acted well his part sustain him–

I earnestly ask this as your friend and a friend of the cause

Another Lincoln friend from Illinois, General John McClernand, also asks a more difficult favor: “I have seen Gov. [Richard] Yates– I hope you have read my protest — which I ask, in justice, to publish.”  McClernand has been dismissed from command after clashing with Union commander Ulysses S. Grant.   Secretary of State William H. Seward notifies President Lincoln that he is returning to Washington from New York.

New York political boss Thurlow Weed  proposes a four-point peace strategy in an extensive letter to President Lincoln.  Weed recalled: “After long and anxious reflection, I worked out a plan, by the adoption of which I believed not only that the war could be more vigorously prosecuted but that the Rebellion would be speedily ended.  After explaining the plan to two or three experienced and enlightened friends, whose approval of it was very earnest.  I proceeded to Washington and submitted it to the President, who, after discussing its prominent features, requested me to commit them to paper; which I did, on the afternoon of the same day.”  Weed’s letter stated: “The advantages of the plan for the more vigorous prosecution of the war which I have submitted to you verbally and in writing are, briefly, these: –

First.  That in exhausting the highest and last attribute of humanity, in an unavailing effort to restore peace, it makes our record so clearly right that you stand justified in the eyes of the whole world for permitting war to assume its severest aspects.

Second.  The armistice occurring when the season interrupts active army movements, it would cause little practical delay, but give ample time, with uninterrupted facilities of travel through the Confederate States, for widespread circulation of the proclamation.

Third.  In offering to restore the Union as it was, you will, when that offer has been rejected, secure a united North in favor of war to the knife.

Fourth. In partitioning rebel territory, as fast as it may be conquered, among the officers and soldiers of the armies by which such territory is conquered, the question will not be how many troops can be raised, but how many can be equipped, organized, and advantageously employed in the field.  The demoralizations and desertions consequent upon large bounties will immediately cease.  Your armies will be voluntarily and promptly recruited, and their ranks filled with enterprising, earnest yeomen, who have an intelligent reason for entering the army, and who know that the realization of their hopes depends upon their zeal, fidelity, and courage, And by thus providing homes and occupations when the war is over for our disbanded soldiers, you leave scattered over rebel territory an element that may be relied upon for the reconstruction of civil government in the seceded states.

In answer to those who may object to the sanguinary feature of this plan.  I think it quite sufficient to say that in maritime wars this feature has long been recognized and practiced by all civilized nations.  Argosies of merchant vessels, laden with untold millions of the wealth of non-combatants, captured in time of war, are divided as prize money among the officers ans sailors by whom they are captured. This, therefore, in all wars upon the oceans and seas of the world, being a part of the law of nations, cannot, in reason or common-sense, he objected to, whereas, in this case, the sufferers are in rebellion against their government, and have been warned of the consequences of rejecting the most liberal offers of peace, protection, and prosperity.

“I have, acting upon your suggestion, submitted this plan to the Secretary of State and to the Secretary of War.  It did not, if I may judge from his silence, strike Governor Seward favorably.  But Mr. Stanton, after listening attentively to the plan, asked me to repeat it to him, and then expressed his unqualified approval of it.  In talking it over, he became very much animated, saying that it would greatly lessen his labor and anxiety, save hundreds of millions of dollars to the government, and put an early end to the Rebellion.  He said he would see you on the subject to-day.  I also explained it to Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, at the Astor House, in New York, who was favorably impressed, and said that unless it should be found defective or impracticable he would sustain it Before I left New York, as I remarked to you this morning, I had a long conversation with Dean Richmond on the subject.  Mr. Richmond took the same view of it that occurred to Mr. Stanton, and was equally anxious that it should be adopted.  Mr. Richmond authorized me to say to you that, in his opinion, this plan, fully and fairly cried out, would make the North a unit in support of the war, that it would immediately give us as many good soldiers as the government wanted, and that th Rebellion would be crushed out within six months after the expiration of the armistice.

According Weed’s post-war Memoir: “The President considered these suggestions attentively, and was disposed to admit their wisdom and practicability.  Just before he left Washington to deliver the address at Gettysburg he characterized the plan as ‘water-tight,’ and it was hoped that it would be incorporated in some form in his annual message.”

Published in: on November 6, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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