Positive Response to President Lincoln’s Amnesty Proclamation

December 9, 1863

President Lincoln’s Third Annual Message to Congress was read shortly afternoon along with his Amnesty Proclamation.  ‘Whatever may be the results or the verdict of history,’ John Hay recorded in his diary after hearing the proclamation read in Congress, ‘the immediate effect of this paper is something wonderful.  I never have seen such an effect produced by a public document.  Men acted as if the Millennium had come.  Chandler was delighted, Sumner was beaming, while at the other political pole Dixon & Reverdy Johnson said it was highly satisfactory.  Forney said ‘We only wanted a leader to speak the bold word.  It is done and all can follow.  I shall speak in my two papers tomorrow in a way to make these Presidential aspirants squirm.’  Henry Wilson came to me and laying his broad palms on my shoulders said ‘The President has struck another grew blow.  Tell him from me God Bless him.”  Although Radical Republicans would soon criticize Lincoln’s plans, their initial reaction was positive.  Hay writes:

In the House the effect was the same. [Massachusetts Congressman George] Boutwell was looking over it quietly & saying, It is a very able and shrewd paper.  It has great points of popularity: & it is right.’  Lovejoy seemed to see on the mountains the feet of one bringing good tidings.  He said it was glorious.  I shall live he said to see slavery ended in America’ Garfield says, quietly, as he says things, ‘The President has struck a great blow for the country and himself.’  Kellogg of Michigan was superlatively enthusiastic.  He said ‘The President is the only man.  He is the great man of the century.  There is none like him in the world.  He sees more widely and more clearly than anybody.

[Norman] Judd was there watching with his glittering eyes the effect of his great leaders word.  He was satisfied with the look of things.  Said Lovejoy, Some of Lincoln’s friends disagreed with him for saying ‘a house divided &C.’  ‘I did’ said Judd.  ‘I told him if we had seen the speech we would have cut that out.’  ‘Would you’ said Lincoln.  ‘In five years he is vindicated.’

[Missourian] Henry T. Blow said, ‘God Bless Old Abe.  I am one of the Radicals who have always believed in the President.’  He went on to talk with me about the feeling of the Missouri Radicals.  That they must be reconciled to the President.  That they are natural allies.  That they have nowhere to go out of the Republican party, that a little proper treatment would heal all trouble as already a better feeling is developoing.  He thinks the promotion of Osterhaus would have a good effect.

Horace Greeley went so far as to say it was ‘Devilsh good!’

All day the tide of congratulation ran on.  Many called to pay their personal respects.  All seemed to be frankly enthusiastic.  Gurley of Iowa came and spent several hours talking matters over.  He says there are but two or three points that can prevent the renomination of Mr Lincoln: Gen Halleck: the Missouri business: Blair may be the weapons which in the hands of the Radical and reckless German element, may succeed in packing a convention against him.

“In the evening Judd & [Interior Secretary John Palmer] Usher and Nicolay and I were talking politics and blackguarding our friends in the Council Chamber.  A great deal had been said about the folly of the Edwards-Bates letter – the Rockvill Blair Speech –&c. when the President came in.  They at once opened on him and after some talk he settled down to give his ideas about the Blair business.”  Presidential aide John Hay writes that President Lincoln declares regarding the controversial family:

“The Blairs have to an unusual degree the spirit of clan.  Their family is a close corporation.  Frank is their hope and pride.  They have a way of going with a rush for anything they undertake; especially have Montgomery and the Old Gentleman.  When this was first began they could think of nothing but Fremont; they expected everything from him and upon their earnest solicitation he was made a general and sent to Mo.  I thought well of Fremont.  Even now I think well of his impulses.  I only think he is the prey of wicked and designing men and I think he has absolutely no military capacity.  He went to Missouri the pet and protege of the Blairs.  At first they corresponded with him and with Frank who was with him, fully and confidently thinking his plans and his efforts wd accomplish great things for the country.  At last the tone of Frank’s letters changed.  It was a change from confidence to doubt and uncertainty.  They were pervaded with a tone of sincere sorrow, and of fear that Fremont would fail.  Montgomery showed them to me and we were both grieved at the prospect.  Soon came the news that Fremont had issued his emancipation order and had set up a Bureau of Abolition, giving free papers, and occupying his time apparently with little else.  At last, at my suggestion Montgomery Blair went to Missouri to look at and talk over matters.  He went as the friend of Fremont.  I sent him as Fremont’s friend.  He passed on the way Mrs. Fremont coming to see me.  She sought an audience with me at midnight and taxed me so violently with many things that I had to exercise all the awkward tact I have to avoid quarreling with her.  She surprised me by asking why their enemy, Montgy Blair, had been sent to Missouri.  She more than once intimated that if Gen. Fremont should conclude to try conclusions with me he could set up himself.”

Norman Judd tells President Lincoln: “The opinion of people who read your Message today is that on that platform two of your Ministers must walk the plank – Blair and Bates.”   Lincoln responded: “Both of these men acquiesced in it without objection.  The only member of the Cabinet who objected to it was Mr. Chase.”

A group of congressmen and Senators meet to promote the nomination of Treasury Salmon P. Chase for the presidency in 1864.   Among the attendees were  Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson and Ohio Congressmen Rufus Spalding and  Congressman Robert C. Schenck. Historian William Frank Zornow wrote in Lincoln & the Party Divided: “This first Chase national committee with its subordinate state organizations was a nebulous affair, but within a few weeks it assumed more definite shape and the membership became more permanent.  It was also apparent that most of its strength came from Ohio.  The national committee in its expanded form became know as the Republican National Executive Committee with Senator Samuel Pomeroy of Kansas as chairman.  Chase was fully aware of what was going one, for he wrote to a friend in Ohio on January 18 that a committee composed of ‘prominent Senators and Representatives and citizens’ had been formed for the purpose of making him president.”

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

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