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.’”