Republicans Prepare to Block Plot

December 6, 1863

“All day Sunday there was great excitement about [Emerson] Etheridge’s course of action.  He seemed at the close to grow nervous and shaky to lose the defiant air with which he had started out and to assume a complaining and injured tone – saying he was only obeying the law – he did not see the reason why the Republicans should be so vindictive against him,” writes presidential aide John Hay.  Although ill, President Lincoln “sent for Colfax.  I went for him and as we were riding up from the National I referred to the attempts which were making to identify him with the Chase interest.  He characterized them as unjust and unfounded and siad that with as much justice Washburne could be called the Grant candidate.”

President Lincoln works to prevent Democratic control of the House of Representatives – and asks to meet House Speaker nominee Schuyler Colfax.  Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes a memo about the scheme of House Clerk Emerson Etheridge: “Saw [Schuyler] Colfax this morning and learned from him the particulars of Ethridge’s plan to revolutionize the House.  E. insists that members certificates which do not specify that they were elected ‘according to the laws of the State or the United States’ (quoting the language of the law[)] are invalid.  He therefore proposes to leave off the roll, as not having proper certificates, the members from Vermont, Maryland, Missouri, Minnesota, California, Kansas, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia.

When I reached home the President sent for Colfax.  He showed him a blank certificate which he had two months ago sent to the Senators of the States, calling their attention to this law, to the probability that a contest would be made over the members’ certificates, and suggesting that they have them made in several different forms, so as to cover all the points which might probably be raised.  In some of the States it seems that this precaution had been neglected notwithstanding his warning.

‘The main thing, Colfax,’ said the President, ‘is to be sure to have all our men here.  Then if Mr. Ethridge undertakes revolutionary proceedings, let him be carried out on a chip, and let our men organize the House.  If the worst comes to the worst a file of ‘Invalids’ may be held convenient to take care of him.[‘]”

Presidential aide John Hay writes that Illinois Congressman Owen “Lovejoy was in my room a good part of Sunday morning in his finest vein.  He avows the deepest faith in A. L. And the firmest adherence, though there is nothing subservient about it.  He made a mauvaise plaisanterie about Miss Dickinson which considering the man and the day was startling.  Lovejoy says he is going, and is going to vote, and if it comes to a question of muscle he can whip Etheridge.”  Lovejoy and Lincoln had not always been close but he had become one of the presidents’ strongest supporters in the House.

President  telegraphs his wife: “all going well” for the second day in a row.

General George B. McClellan writes: “I feel very indifferent about the White House — for very many reasons I do not wish it — I shall do nothing to get it & trust that Providence will decided the matter as is best for the country.”

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

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