President Lincoln Sends Directions to South Carolina Tax Commissioners

December 31, 1863

President Lincoln writes additional instructions to the Direct Tax Commissioners for the District of South Carolina in relation to the disposition of lands: “You will allow any loyal person of twenty one years of age, or upwards, who has at any time since the occupation by the national forces resided for six months, or now resides upon, or is engaged in cultivating any lands in your district owned by the United States to enter the same for preemption to the extent of one, or at the option of the preemptor, two tracts of twenty acres each, paying therefor one dollar and twenty five cents per acre.  You will give preference in all cases to heads of families, and married women whose husbands are engaged in the service of the United States, or are necessarily absent….”

Presidential aide John Hay “[s]pent the evening at [John] Forney’s[.] There was quite a gather of political people early in the evening which thinned as the night wore one….Forney made several very ebrious [sic] little speeches.  He talked a great deal about the President.  The love of the people for him: his unconscious greatness: the vast power he wields and the vast opportunity afforded to a diseased ambition.  ‘If the old man knew the loving thoughts and prayers that are rising for him tonight from Millions of hearts, the unconditional confidence and the loyalty to his person that is felt throughout this land, he could do or be anything he wished.  But thank God he is incapable of abusing this trust, and the freedom of our institutions render impossible a devotion to any man at variance with the spirit of our government.”   Forney said that he “was for Lincoln because he couldn’t help it.”  Forney added: “Lincoln is the most truly progressive man of the age because he always moves in conjunction with propitious circumstances, not waiting to be dragged by the force of events or wasting strength in premature struggles with them.”

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Published in: on December 31, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Slow Day at the White House

December 30, 1863

The only known activity on President Lincoln’s schedule is recognizing José Carlos Tracy as consul of Peru at New York.  In New Orleans, General Nathaniel Banks writes President Lincoln a long letter regarding reconstruction in Louisiana.  Responding to President Lincoln’s letter of November 9, Banks begins:

Your message and proclamation, can not fail to produce great national results.1 They offer an escape to many classes of people in the South, who will not fail to yield their assent to the conditions imposed. Proofs of this are presented daily by men of the army, as well as in civil life, who desire to return to their allegiance in conformity with the conditions of your Proclamation.

Much reflection, and frank conversation with many persons who know the southern character, thoroughly confirm me in the opinion I expressed in my recent letters, that the immediate restoration of a State government upon the basis of an absolute extinction of slavery at the start, with the general consent of the people, is practicable.2 There are many ideas connected with this subject which have never been presented, here at least, and which cannot fail to carry conviction to the public mind. I have been greatly surprised to find how readily my conclusions have been accepted by men of strongest southern sympathies, attachments and interests….

Published in: on December 30, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

A Cabinet Meeting without Substance

December 29, 1863

Regular Cabinet meeting is held in the afternoon rather than the morning.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles neglects to note any issues discussed but does record who is absent: “Seward was not at the meeting of the Cabinet. Chase avoids coming in these days. Blair is ill.”

President Lincoln writes a memo to summarize his meeting with a group of Baltimore leaders: “To-day Mr. Sterling, State Senator for Baltimore City, and Mr. Silverwood, Rep. of same city, Mr. Newnes Deputy States Atty for same city, and Judge King of Common Pleas of same city, call & protest against the removal of Joseph J. Stuart, as Collector of 2nd. District. The District includes seven wards of the city, & Mr. Silverwood resides in the Districts, but the others do not.”

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner writes the Duchess of Argyll: “Our Chief Justice is at the point of death.  Chase will probably be his successor.  I found the Presdt. last night studying how to meet these exigencies.”  Chief Justice Taney would survive for another nine months.

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

President Lincoln Returns to Washington

December 28, 1863

President Lincoln returns from a visit with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to  Point Lookout.  Presidential aide John Hay wrote that the president “returned about dusk.  He says that Gen M[arston]. represents a strong feeling of attachment to the Union or rather disgust for the rebellion existing among his prisoners – a good many of whom are Northern men & foreigners the victims of conscription: from one-third to one-half ask that they may not be exchanged and bout one half of this number desire to enter our army, having, poor devils, nowhere else to go & nothing else to do.  The Bill just introduced in the Rebel Congress which will probably become a law, holding permanently all soldiers now in the army, will doubtless greatly increase the disaffection.”

Hay writes that Illinois attorney Ebenezer “Peck was here this evening. The Indiana State Convention meets in Mass Assembly of the people on the 22nd of February to nominate delegates to the Union Convention for Presidential selection.  P. does not understand this clearly.  He will cause the Illinois Convention to be called two days before, if it is thought advisable.”

Talked with the President about the matter of the reconstruction of Florida.  He wants me to take one of his Oath books down to Pt Lookout and get the matter going there and after that he will appoint me a Commissioner to go to Florida and engineer the business there.  By their meeting at St Augustine the other day there seems a prospect of getting the State under way early next spring.  I will go down & form my plans after I get there, as to my own course.

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “It is really winter today, if there was only a trifle of snow on the ground.  The wind rudely flutters the capes and reddens the noses of the sentries on the ramparts of the forts, and reddens the noses of the sentries on the ramparts of the forts, and in the shelter-tents the outlying pickets huddle together closely to keep warm, longing even for hear, and dust, and long marches.”

Stoddard added: “The President is steadily recovering his health and strength, and his friends say that he will be rather improved than otherwise by his brief struggle with fever.  He received his guests at the Reception the other day with a good deal of his usual hearty cheerfulness, though compelled to avail himself of occasional opportunities for a brief resting-spell.”

Published in: on December 28, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Visits Point Lookout

December 27, 1863

Accompanied by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, President Lincoln travelled by boat to visit General William H. Marston and a camp where Confederate prisoners were encamped.

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner writes Orestes A. Brownson: “The Presdt’s recent message & Proclamation has 2 points that are important & will be memorable.

(1) He makes Emancipation the corner-stone of reconstruction.

(2) He treats the rebel states as now ‘subverted’ & as practically out of the Union, & provides for their reconstruction out of the Union before they shall be recd.  How this differs from what is called ‘the territorial theory’ I am at a loss to perceive, except that it is less plain & positive.

In short the Presdt’s theory is identical with ours, although he adopts a different nomenclature.  But my single object is to settle the question permanently by the obliteration of Slavery, & I am ready to accept any system which promises this result.”

William “Billy the Barber” Florville writes President Lincoln from  to express gratitude for the emancipation of his fellow blacks: “The Shackels have fallen, and Bondmen have become freeman to Some extent already under your Proclamation.  And I hope ere long, it may be universal in all the Slave States.”

Published in: on December 27, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Releases the Son of Illinois Friend

December 26, 1863

President Lincoln writes old Illinois legal colleague Usher F. Linder that his Confederate son has been release: “Your son Dan. has just left me, with my order to the Sec. of War, to administer to him the oath of allegiance, discharge him & send him to you.”

President Lincoln order Judge Advocate General  Joseph Holt to pursue an inquiry into financial irregularities by Surgeon General William A. Hammond: “Let the Surgeon General be put upon trial by a court, as suggested by the Judge Advocate General.”

President Lincoln proposes to Secretary of the War Edwin M. Stanton that they take a trip to Point Lookout: “Shall we go down the river to-morrow? And if so, at what hour shall we leave the wharf? and which wharf? Mrs. L. & Tad, perhaps would go. I am not at all urgent about it, & would not have you incur the least inconvenience for it. I merely mean now that if we go, the details better be fixed.

Published in: on December 26, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Prepares for Reconstruction

December 25, 1863

President Lincoln writes Bayard Taylor: “I think a good lecture or two on ‘Serfs, Serfdom, and Emancipation in Russia’ would be both interesting and valuable.  Could you get up such a thing?  Taylor replies: “I fully understand the interest of the subject you propose, and desire to present it, in some way, to the public. T here are only slight resemblances between Russian serfdom and slavery in the southern states, although they rest on the same basis–property in Man–but the complete success of the scheme of emancipation in Russia has much significance for this nation at the present time….”

Assistant secretary John Hay writes in his diary: “A lonesome sort of Christmas.  I breakfasted, dined and supped alone.  Went to the Theatre & saw Macbeth alone.  Came home and slept alone.”  He added:

The President today got up a plan for extending to the people of the rebellious districts the practical benefits of his proclamation.  He is to send record books to various points to receive subscriptions to the oath, for which certificates will be given to the man taking the oath.  He has also prepared a placard himself giving notice of the opening of the books and the nature of the oath required.

He sent the first of these books to Pierpoint to use in Virginia.  The Second he will probably send to Arkansas

The Presdt. Was greatly amused at Greeley’s hasty Chase explosion and its elaborate explanation in the Tribune. He defended Govr. Chase from Philips unjust attacks, saying that he thought Chase’s banking system rested on a sound basis of principle, that is, causing the Capital of the country to become interested in the sustaining of the national credit.  That this was the principal financial measure of Mr. Chase in which he (L) had taken an especial interest.  Mr. C. Had frequently consulted him in regard to it. He had generally delegated to Mr C. Exclusive control of those matters falling within the purview of his dept.  This matter he had shared in, to some extent.

The President read to us a paper he had written last summer during the days of bitterest opposition to the draft, arguing its constitutionality and expediency.  He was a little curious to know what could have been the grounds taken by the Sup. Court of Pa. In deciding otherwise.  The matter seemed so clear to him that he wondered how there could be any other side to it.

Published in: on December 25, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Concerned with Confederate Prisoners

December 24, 1863

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “I was out today, for the first time this week.  Called on the President.  He has written to O.D. Filley in answer to the application of some of our best men to relieve Revd. Dr. McPheeters from Provost Martial [sic] Dick’s decree of silence (order not to preach).  The Prest had no idea that the Provost had assumed to ‘run the church.’  I hope the letter will be sufficient{.]

Edwin. C. Claybrook, of 9 Va. Reb[el]Cav[alr]y. Is a prisoner of war, at Point Lookout.  He is a youth [of] 18 or 20 son of Col [ ] Claybrook of North[umberlan]d. C[ount]y. Va. – The Prest, being abt. to send for young Linder of Ill: at my instance, ordered up young Claybrook also, with the view, in both cases, to release them, if they will only accept the boon, on any reasonable terms.

“The Prest: is anxious to gratify Linder, the father, who is his old friend; and I am very desirous to make a New Year’s gift of Claybrook, ot his father and family.

“Shewed the President, Mr. Gibson’s telegram requesting the appointment of Jno. Bozeman Kerr, as Deputy Sol[i]c.[itor][of the] Ct. of Claims. I think it will be done, tho’ the Prest said that Senator Harris had proposed a man for the place, he also said that, for a long time, he had wished he had something to give Mr. Kerr.

President Lincoln writes General Nathaniel P. Banks regarding reconstruction in Louisiana: “Yours of the 6th. Inst. has been received, and fully considered.  I deeply regret to have said or done anything which could give you pain or uneasiness.  I have all the while intended you to be master, as well in regard to re-organizing a State government for Louisiana, as in regard to the military matters of the Department; and hence my letters on reconstruction have nearly if not quite all been addressed to you.  My error has been that it did not occur to me that Gov. Shepley or any one else would set up a claim to act independently of you; and hence I said nothing expressly upon the point.  Language has not been guarded at a point where no danger was thought of.  I now tell you that in every dispute, with whomsoever, you are master.  Gov. Shepley was appointed to assist Commander of the Department, and not to thwart him, or act independently of him.  Instructions have been given directly to him, merely to spare you detail labor, and not to supersede your authority.  This, in it’s liability to be misconstrued, it now seems was an error in us.  But it is past.  I now distinctly tell you that you are master of all, and that I wish you to take the case as you find it, and give us a free-state re-organization of Louisiana, in the shortest possible time.  What I say here is to have a reasonable construction.  I do not mean that you are to withdraw from Texas, or abandon any other military measure which you may deem important.  Nor do I mean that you are to throw away available work already done for reconstruction; or that war is to be made upon Gov. Shepley, or upon anyone else, unless it be found that they will not co-operate with you, in which case, and in all cases, you are master while you remain in command of the Department.

General Banks had written on December 6, 1863: “From the first I have regarded reorganization of government here as of the highest importance, and I have never failed to advocate every where the earliest development of this interest by congressional elections and by initiatory measures for state, organization…In the initial reconstruction, the basis should be that of a free state beyond the possibility of failure.  Having secured this other states, will easily follow…So strong has been my conviction on this subject that I requested Governor Boutwell to press upon your attention my views–when I returned from the Teche Country in October…I addressed to you a lengthy letter, and also wrote to Governor Shepley, and to Mr. Durant, Attorney General and other gentlemen, urging the completion of this duty by the quickest methods: but I found most of these gentlemen so interested in topics, that seemed to me disconnected with the general subject, and so slightly disposed to encourage my participation in the affair that I retained the letter I had written, and turned my attention, not unwillingly, to matters more likely to be accomplished, though not more important.  The restoration of our Flag in Texas from Ringold Barracks on the Rio Grande to the Brasos on the coast, rewarded my change of purpose.

…Had the organization of a free state in Louisiana been committed to me under general instructions only, it would have been complete before this day.  It can be effected now in sixty days–let me say, even in thirty days, if necessary…But it should be undertaken only by those who have authority to act: who know what to do, who have no personal interests in addition or superior to the creation of a FREE STATE, and who can harmonize the action of individuals without the sacrifice of public interest.  I do not suppose i have the qualifications for this duty; certain I am that I have not the authority.  How then can I be held responsible for the failure to satisfy your expectations?

Published in: on December 24, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Seeks to Pacify Kansas and Missouri

December 23, 1863

“The President tonight had a dream,” writes John Hay in his diary.  “He was in a party of plain people and as it became known who he was they began to comment on his appearance.  One of them said, ‘He is a very common-looking man.’  The President replied ‘The Lord prefers Common-looking people: that is the reason he makes so many of them.”

California journalist Noah Brooks write about divisions within the Lincoln Administration: “The Blairs are a great drawback to Lincoln, and so are Halleck and Stanton, the two last being excessively unpopular.  The Blair Family are thrusting themselves upon Mr. Lincoln, as his natural allies, so that it is difficult for people to believe that they are not the exponents of his policy, but he knows and seems to care nothing about their political views.  He tolerates Montgomery Blair in the cabinet because he is efficient in his Department, but, to my certain knowledge, he never read his Rockville speech until months after it was delivered.  He appears to care nothing at all about the political opinions of his cabinet provided they are useful in the separate departments.  But Blair, though a good Postmaster General, is the meanest man in the whole government.  Stanton is coarse, abusive and arbitrary; decides the most important questions without thought and never reconsiders anything, and abuses people like a fish-wife when he gets mad, which is very frequent, nevertheless he is industrious and apparently devoted to the interests of the Government.  But he and Halleck have blundered all along.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “I took to the Senate today the nomination of Schofield as Major General.  The President had previously spoken to some of the Senators about it.  He is anxious that Schofield shd. be confirmed so as to arrange this Missouri matter properly.  I told Sherman Wilson Harris and Doolittle.  Senator Foote also agreed to do all he could to put the matter properly through.  But on the nomination being read in Executive session Howard of Michigan objected to its consideration and it was postponed.  Sherman and Doolittle tell me it will certainly go through when it is regularly taken up.

Lane came up to see the President about it, and told him this.  Lane is very anxious to have Kansas part of the plan at once carried out.”

Morgan says that Gratz Brown gave to Sumner to present to the Senate the radical protest against Schofield’s confirmation, and that Sumner presented it today.  The President sent for Sumner but he was not at his lodgings.

The President is very much disappointed at Brown. After three interviews with him h understood that Brown would not oppose the confirmation.  It is rather a mean dodge to get Sumner to do it in his stead.

Brown and Henderson both agree on Rosecrans.  The Presdt. Thinks he will get on very well for the Present, besides doing a good thing in the sending.

Hay adds:  “The President last night had a dream. He was in a party of plain people and as it became know who he was they began to comment on his appearance.  One of them said. “He is a very common-looking man.”  The President replied, “Common-looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.”

“Waking, he remembered it, and told it as rather a neat thing.”

Published in: on December 23, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Declines to Interfere in St. Louis Churches

December 22, 1863

Cabinet meeting with just Secretaries of State Seward and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.   President Lincoln writes Oliver D. Filley in St. Louis: “Now, all this sounds very strangely; and withal, a little as if you gentlemen making the application, do you understand the case alike, one affirming that the Dr. [McPheters] is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, and another pointing out to me what will secure his release!  On the 2nd day of January last I wrote Gen. Curtis in relation to Mr. Dick’s order upon Dr. McPheters, and, as I suppose the Dr. is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, I only quote that part of my letter which relates to the church.

Now, all this sounds very strangely; and withal, a little as if you gentlemen making the application, do you understand the case alike, one affirming that the Dr. [McPheters] is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, and another pointing out to me what will secure his release!  On the 2nd day of January last I wrote Gen. Curtis in relation to Mr. Dick’s order upon Dr. McPheters, and, as I suppose the Dr. is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, I only quote that part of my letter which relates to the church.  It is a s follows: ‘But I must add that the U.S. government must not, as by this order, undertake to run the churches.  When an individual, in a church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest, he must be checked; but the churches, as such must take care of themselves.  It will not do for the U.S. to appoint Trustees, Supervisors, or other agents for the churches.’  This letter going to Gen. Curtis, then in command there I supposed of course it was obeyed, especially as I heard no further complaint from Dr. M. or his friends for nearly an entire year.

I have interfered, nor thought of interfering as to who shall or shall not preach in any church; nor have I knowingly, or believingly, tolerated any one else to so interfere by my authority.  If any one is so interfering, by color of my authority, I would like to have it specifically made known to me.

If, after all, what is now sought, is to have me put Dr. M. back, over the heads of a majority of his own congregation, that too, will be declined.  I will not have control of any church on any side.

President Lincoln does interfere to release the son of an old Illinois friend, Usher Linder: “If you have a prisoner by the name Linder — Daniel Linder, I think, and certainly the son of U. F. Linder, of Illinois, please send him to me by an officer.”

Published in: on December 22, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment