President Lincoln Pushes Louisiana Reconstruction

January 31, 1864

President Lincoln writes General Nathaniel P. Banks regarding reconstruction Louisiana: “Yours of the 22nd. Inst. is just received.  In the proclamation of Dec. 8 and which contains the oath that you may some loyal people wish to avoid taking, I said:

And, still further, that this proclamation is intended to present the people of the States wherein the national authority has been suspended, and loyal State governments have been subverted, a mode in and by which the national authority and loyal State governments may be re-established within said States, or in any of them; and while the mode presented is the best the Executive can suggest, with his present impressions, it must not be understood that no other possible mode would be acceptable.

And speaking of this in the Message, I said:

Saying that reconstruction will be accepted if presented in a specified way, it is not said it will never be accepted in any other way.

These things were put into these documents on purpose that some conformity to circumstances should be admissable; and when I have, more than once, said to you in my letters that available labor already done should not be thrown away, I had in my mind the very class of cases you now mention.  SO you see it is not even a modification of anything I have heretofore said when I tell you that you are at liberty to adopt any rule which shall admit to vote any unquestionably loyal free-state men and none others.  And yet I do wish they would all take the oath.

On January 22, Banks had written Lincoln: “”It gives me great pleasure to report the progress making in the state election.  All parties participate in the selection of candidates, and a very handsome of slavery, and no objection is made to the free state basis upon which the election is based.  The indications are very strong that Mr. Hahn will be elected governor.  By the middle of April, you will receive a full delegation in both houses of Congress, composed not only of loyal men but earnest supporters of your administration.  This will be accomplished in ninety days from the receipt of your letter embracing your instructions for a free state organization in the shortest possible time, and it will give in its results I am sure satisfaction to the People.  Officers selected will be from the established residents of the state.  The only part I take in the affair is to discourage nominations from the army of which none will be attempted.”

“The only ground of hesitation on the part of the most conservative men is in regard to the oath required which is that of your proclamation of the 8th. December.  Prominent Union men, who have never sympathized with or aided the rebellion directly or indirectly…who support your administration…have taken the oath, and complied with the condition so your proclamation…say, that having been established in their rights as citizens, and voted in election of members of congress they ought not to be compelled to take an additional oath in order to vote at this election.  The exception taken slavery and the confiscation of property.  There is perhaps a professional interest in the case.  Some of the most prominent and steadfast are lawyers of high standing.  They have discussed the statutes of confiscation in the District court here and expect to argue their causes in Washington.  They interpret the oath so as to forbid this exercise of their professional privileges…It has seemed to me that the oath prescribed in the late proclamation was intended to apply to states in which no elections have been held, and that if it were so construed as to allow loyal men to vote who had qualified under the conditions of the Proclamation of         no hard could be done.  It would not change the results of the election, but affect only the aggregate of votes…

You will have heard of some objections to the speedy organization of the state which I have proposed.  It proceeds…from those who did not desire an immediate restoration of the state…but the mass of the people are entirely satisfied…’

Congressman Davis and President Lincoln came into conflict over the appointment of a replacement for General Schenck as commander of the Middle Department headquartered in Baltimore.  According to historian Gerard S. Henig, writing in Henry Winter Davis, that “the congressman went to see Lincoln in late January to renew his request that Piatt, or at least Brigadier William Birney, the son of the famous abolitionist James G. Birney, be assigned the command.  Lincoln refused ‘with more than usual bluntness.’  He said that he regarded Maryland affairs as ‘a personal quarrel & would do nothing to aid one set to vent their spite on another.’  Davis ‘instantly took his hat and left the room.  ‘Of course,’ he later told Du Pont, ‘no retort was proper.  The President’s remarks was of such a nature as to prevent further conversation.  Moreover, Davis angrily noted, it was now apparent that Lincoln had become ‘throughly Blairized.’”

Published in: on January 31, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Continues to Push Arkansas Reconstruction

January 30, 1864

President Lincoln writes yet another letter to General  Frederick Steele regarding reconstruction of Arkansas: “Since writing mine of the 27th. seeing still further accounts of the action of the convention in Arkansas, induces me to write you yet again. They seem to be doing so well, that possibly the best you can do would be to help them on their own plan—but of this, you must confer with them, and be the judge. Of all things, avoid if possible, a dividing into cliques among the friends of the common object. Be firm and resolute against such as you can perceive would make confusion and division.”

Army officer Ulrich Dahlgren, son of Admiral John Dahlgren, writes: “I called at the White House matinee yesterday (January 30).  Abe told me to come up soon, he would like to have a talk with me and I intend to call every day until I find him in.”

Mary Todd Lincoln holds Saturday afternoon reception.

Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

John G. Nicolay Reports on White House Turmoil

January 29, 1864

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes to colleague John Hay: “I have been for a week trying to get time to write, and haven’t yet succeeded.  Between work which arises and pleasure which allures, minor duties are unceremoniously laid on the shelf.  Congress sends up a hungrier swarm of gad-flies every morning to bedevil the President, and to generally retard and derange business[.] My subs are not yet well broken in and I must necessarily give everything my personal supervision

‘I came out of what Uncle Jesse calls the imbroligo of the Cabinet dinner with flying colors.  As I wrote before, after having compelled Her S[atanic] Majesty to invite the Spragues I was taboo, and she made up her mind resolutely not to have me at the dinner.  She fished around with Stod to try to get posted about managing the affair: but I instructed Stod to tell her, 1st that there was no way of his obtaining the requisite information, and 2dly that if there were, yet as it was exclusively my business he could and would not do anything in the premises.  Stod I think carried out my instructions faithfully[.] She expressed her great regret but still announced her determination to run the machine without my help.  “Things ran on till the afternoon of the dinner, when Edward [McManus] came up to tell me that she had backed down, requested my presence and assistance — apologizing and explaining that the affair had worried her so she hadn’t slept for a night or two.  I think she has felt happier since she cast out that devil of stubbornness. The dinner was got through creditably.  On Wednesday last she sent out cards for the Diplomatic Dinner.  While she has not in all matters done so, she has in the main adopted my advice and direction in this.”

“Society flourishes – I couldn’t begin to count the parties on all my fingers.  They are beginning to double up.  Phernanndiwud {Fernando Wood] had a grand blow-out last night to which he didn’t invite me.  Bob [Lincoln] has been home about a week, and Neil Dennison is staying with him.

“The Tycoon is taking the Arkansas matter in hand as you will see by the papers.  I have not yet had time to get you Gantt’s Address but will do so[.]

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “But little done at the Cabinet. Seward says the London Times says the Navy Department is now the most abused of any Department, but it knows not why, for no Department could have been better managed.”

President Lincoln writes General Daniel Sickles, who lost a leg at the Battle of Gettysburg: “Could you, without it’s being inconvenient, or disagreeable to yourself, immediately take a trip to Arkansas for me?”  Sickles responds: “Your telegram received this afternoon. I am ready to go at once. Shall I wait here for orders or proceed to Washington?”

Published in: on January 29, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Continues Arkansas Reconstruction

January 28, 1864

President Lincoln writes General Frederick Steele regarding reconstruction in Arkansas: “I have addressed a letter to you, and put it in the hands of Mr. Gantt and other Arkansas gentlemen, containing a programme for an election in that State.  This letter will be handed you by some of these gentlemen.  Since writing, it I see that a convention in Arkansas, having the same general object, has take some action, which I am afraid may clash somewhat with my programme.  I therefore can do no better than to ask you to see Mr. Gantt immediately on his return, and with him, do what you and he may deem necessary to harmonize the two plans into one, and then put it through will all possible vigor.  Be sure to retain the free State constitutional provision in some unquestionable form, and you and he can fix the rest.  The points I have made in the programme have been well considered.  Take hold with an honest heart and a strong hand.  Do not let any questionable man control or influence you.”

Continuing to focus on his renomination by the Republican Party, President Lincoln meets with Pennsylvania Republican leaders – editor John W. Forney, former Governor Simon Cameron, and Henry C. Johnson, speaker of Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

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President Lincoln Questions Amnesty Efforts

January 27, 1864

President Lincoln writes General John G. Foster: “Is a supposed correspondence between Gen. Longstreet and yourself, about the amnesty proclamation, which is now in the newspapers, genuine?”  Foster responded: “`Telegram of twenty seventh (27th) received. I have had a correspondence with Genl Longstreet upon the subject of the amnesty proclamation, but cannot say whether the newspapers have the correct version as I have not seen them. Copies of the letters are on their way to Washington.”

President Lincoln continues to focus on Arkansas reconstruction: “I have addressed a letter to you, and put it in the hands of Mr. Gantt and other Arkansas gentlemen, containing a programme for an election in that State. This letter will be handed you by some of these gentlemen. Since writing, it I see that a convention in Arkansas, having the same general object, has taken some action, which I am afraid may clash somewhat with my programme. I therefore can do no better than to ask you to see Mr. Gantt immediately on his return, and with him, do what you and he may deem necessary to harmonize the two plans into one, and then put it through with all possible vigor. Be sure to retain the free State constitutional provision in some unquestionable form, and you and he can fix the rest. The points I have made in the programme have been well considered. Take hold with an honest heart and a strong hand. Do not let any questionable man control or influence you.”

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President Lincoln Issues New Trade Regulations

January 26, 1864

President Lincoln issues order: “I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, having seen and considered the Additional Regulations of Trade prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury, and numbered LI, LII, LIII, LIV, LV, and LVI, do hereby approve the same; and I further declare and order that all property brought in for sale in good faith, and actually sold in pursuance of said Regulations LII, LIII, LIV, LV, and LVI, after the same shall have taken effect and come in force as provided in Regulation LVI, shall be exempt from confiscation or forfeiture to the United States.”

Washington National Republican reports that the regular Tuesday evening reception drew “about eight thousand pass the President and Mrs. Lincoln and pay their respects. President looks in better health than ever.”

Published in: on January 26, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Pushes Secretary Chase for New Trade Regulations

January 25, 1864

President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: “Not intending to hurry you, may I ask if the new provisions about trade in cotton and sugar are nearly ready to go into effect?” Chase responded: “Will you have the goodness to name an hour today, either at the Executive Mansion or here, which you will give to the final revision of the new regulations of trade, with me.’

President Lincoln writes Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson: “The oath in the proclamation may be administered by the Military Governor, the Military commander of the Department, and by all persons designated by them for that purpose.  Loyal as well as disloyal should take the oath, because it does not hurt them, clears all question as to their right to vote, and swells the aggregate number who take it, which is an important object.  This is the President’s reply to your questions of the 14th.  I intend to start for Nashville in the morning.  Will go directly through–stopping a few hours in Cincinnati, where a dispatch will reach me.”

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner accompanies the Lincolns to Grover’s Theater,for a performance of “Gamea.” The Washington Evening Star reports “[The] theater was overflowingly filled . . . on the occasion of the first appearance of [Felicita] Vestvali, who undoubtedly made a great hit.”

Published in: on January 25, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

White House Dinner Party for Influential Politicians

January 24, 1864

Former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning reports going to White House at 7 PM for dinner.   Guests included a selection of influential politicians, some still in the army: Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, former Massachusetts Congressman George Ashmun, General George D. Ramsay and Gen. Robert  Schenck and Cong. James Garfield and Samuel Hooper.   Presidential politics may have been on the menu.

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President Lincoln Continues Focus on Arkansas Reconstruction

January 23, 1864

President Lincoln has been meeting with Arkansas planters about reconstruction in the state.  He writes Alpheus Lewis: “You have enquired how the government would regard and treat cases wherein the owners of plantations, in Arkansas, for instance, might fully recognize the freedom of those formerly slaves, and by fair contracts of hire with them, re-commence the cultivation of their plantations. I answer I should regard such cases with great favor, and should, as the principle, treat them precisely as I would treat the same number of free white people in the same relation and condition. Whether white or black, reasonable effort should be made to give government protection. In neither case should the giving of aid and comfort to the rebellion, or other practices injurious to the government, be allowed on such plantations; and in either, the government would claim the right to take if necessary those of proper ages and conditions into the military service. Such plan must not be used to break up existing leases or arrangements of abandoned plantations which the government may have made to give employment and sustenance to the idle and destitute people. With the foregoing qualifications and explanations, and in view of it’s tendency to advance freedom, and restore peace and prosperity, such hireing and employment of the freed people, would be regarded by me with rather especial favor.

President Lincoln writes a postscript: “To be more specific I add that all the Military, and others acting by authority of the United States, are to favor and facilitate the introduction and carrying forward, in good faith, the free-labor system as above indicated, by allowing the necessary supplies therefor to be procured and taken to the proper points, and by doing and forbearing whatever will advance it; provided that existing military and trade regulations be not transcended thereby. I shall be glad to learn that planters adopting this system shall have employed one so zealous and active as yourself to act as an agent in relation thereto.”

President Lincoln also authorizes two planters to resume operations: “Confiding in the representations and assurances made and given by Hon. Brutus J. Clay of Kentucky, that if permitted, and afforded reasonable protection and facilities by the government, his brother-in-law, Christopher F. Field, and his son, Christopher F. Clay, having, prior to the rebellion, had ownership and lawful control, of several plantations in Mississippi and Arkansas would put said plantations into cultivation, upon the system of free hired labor, recognizing and acknowledging the freedom of the laborers, and totally excluding from said plantations, the slave system of labor and all actual slavery, and would neither do or permit anything on said plantations which would aid the rebellion, it is hereby ordered that said Christopher F. Field, and Christopher F. Clay, or either of them, be permitted to so put said plantations, or any of them, into cultivation; and that the Military, and all others acting by the authority of the United States, are to favor and facilitate said Field and Clay in the carrying forward said business in good faith, by giving them protection, and allowing them to procure, and take to the proper points, the necessary supplies of all kinds, and by doing and forbearing in whatever way will advance the object aforesaid; provided that existing Military or Trade regulations, nor any military necessity, be transcended or over-ridden thereby.”

Mary Todd Lincoln holds her regular Saturday afternoon reception.   The renomination of her husband is urged by the Union Central Committee of New York.

Published in: on January 23, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cabinet Holds Unproductive Meeting

January 22, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Very little done at the Cabinet.  Stanton, Usher, and myself were the only ones present.  Some general talk and propositions.”

According to the Illinois Journal, “President address a group of Arkansas residents regarding reconstruction: “The President announced to the Arkansas delegation, this afternoon, that he had determined not to appoint a separate Military Governor, but to entrust to General [Frederick] Steele, the recently appointed Commander of the Department of Arkansas, with both the military and civil administration of the State.

He stated the reason to be that the experience of the past had proved that there was constant conflict between military governors and military commanders, which was injurious to the interests under their charge.  He expressed hopes that a formal organization of the State Government under the terms of the Amnesty Proclamation would speedily be made by the people of Arkansas.  The delegation was fully satisfied with the President’s action.

Published in: on January 22, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment