White House Dinner for Cabinet and Supreme Court

January 21, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary that  “the President gave a dinner to the members of the Cabinet, judges of the Supreme Court, and a few others, with their wives.  It was pleasant.  A little stiff and awkward on the part of some of the guests, but passed off very well.”

Published in: on January 21, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Works on Arkansas Reconstruction

January 20, 1864

President Lincoln meets with a group of Arkansas leaders regarding military government there.   Lincoln writes to General Frederick Steele, commander of the Arkansas military district, regarding Arkansas’s reconstruction: “Sundry citizens of the State of Arkansas petition me that an election may be held in that State, at which to elect a Governor thereof;

that it be assumed at said election, and thenceforward, that the constitution and laws of the State, as before the rebellion, are in full force, except that the constitution is so modified as to declare that ‘There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in the punishment of crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; but the General Assembly may make such provision for the free-people as shall recognize and declare their permanent freedom, provide for their education, and which may yet be consistent, as a temporary arrangement, with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class’; and also except that all now existing laws in relation to slaves are inoperative and void; that said election be held on the twentyeighth day of March next, at all the usual voting places of the state, or all such as voters may attend for that purpose; that the voters attending at each place, at eight o’clock in the morning of said day, may choose Judges and Clerks of election for that place; that all persons qualified by said constitution and laws, and taking the oath prescribed in the Presidents proclamation of December the 8th. 1863, either before or at the election, and none others, may be voters provided that persons having the qualifications aforesaid, and being in the Volunteer military service of the United States, may vote once whoever this may be at voting places; that each set of Judges and Clerks may make return directly to you, on or before the eleventh day of April next; that ins all other respects said election may be conducted according to said modified constitution, and laws; that, on receipt of said returns, you count said votes, and that, if the number shall reach, or exceed, five thousand four hundred and six, you canvass said votes and ascertain who shall thereby appear to have been elected Governor; and that on the eighteenth day of April next, the person so appearing to have been elected, and appearing before you at Little Rock, to have, by you, administered to him, an oath to support the constitution of the United States and said modified constitution of the State of Arkansas, and actually taking said oath, be by you declared qualified, and be enjoined to immediately enter upon the duties of the office of Governor of said State; and that you thereupon declare the constitution of the State of Arkansas to have been modified and amended as aforesaid, by the action of the people as aforesaid.

Lincoln added that “you will please order an election immediately, and perform the other parts assigned you, with necessary incidentals, all according to the foregoing.”

General Benjamin F. Butler “Butler came often to the White House — ignoring the military chain of command — to talk things over with Lincoln when he wanted something or had something to suggest,” wrote John Waugh.  “ He was there again on January 20 for another long afternoon interview with the president.  Butler was going to be a player in this election year, and Lincoln always took time and care to deal with players.”

Published in: on January 20, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Warns Son About Smallpox

January 19, 1864

President Lincoln writes son Robert Todd Lincoln: “There is good deal of small-pox here.  Yours friends must judge for themselves whether they ought to come or not.”   President Lincoln had only recovered from a mild case of smallpox the previous month.  His valet would die from the disease.

Cabinet meeting discusses cotton trade.  Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “At the Cabinet to-day the President read letters from certain Louisiana planters and from General Banks and others, urging the admission of cotton within our lines. He also read the rough draft of a letter prepared by himself, designating New Orleans and Baton Rouge as depots for cotton to be brought thither, sold for ‘greenbacks,’ etc., etc.  It had been submitted to Chase and Stanton previously, who both indorsed and perhaps advised, if they did not first suggest, it.  Seward and Blair thought it might operate well. Stanton and General Grant was opposed to action in his command, but as Banks favored it, he thought it might be well to let the matter go forward as the President proposed.  I suggested that the effect would be good to open the whole country west of the Mississippi above New Orleans. But the President said it might disturb General Grant.”

Published in: on January 19, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Focuses on Government of Norfolk-Portsmouth Region

January 18, 1864

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton writes to General Benjamin F. Butler: Virginia “Gov. [Francis] Pierpoint has been, from the first, a zealous and efficient supporter of the government.  He now understands that you have ordered all the municipal officers of Norfolk and Portsmouth to report to you in detail the amounts of all money received by them, &c. and also that you have constituted a commission to investigate the condition of the Savings Funds and Banking institutions there; and he, as Governor, feels aggrieved by these measures.  The President directs me to request you to suspend these measures until you can state to him, in writing or otherwise, your views of the necessity or propriety of them.”  The note has been drafted by President Lincoln.

President Lincoln writes a memo: “The bearer, John P.W. [M.] Thornton, a private in Co. E 61st New York volunteers, comes to me voluntarily under apprehension that he may be arrested, convicted, and punished as a deserter; and I hereby direct him to report forthwith to his regiment for duty, and upon condition that he does this, and faithfully serves out his term, or until he shall be honorably discharged for any cause, he is fully pardoned for any supposed desertion heretofor committed.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes to John Hay regarding a dinner the Lincolns are hosting on Thursday and his difficulty in placing the Chase family in view of Mrs. Lincoln’s opposition: “I have this morning procured from the Interior Dept. and mailed to you at Hilton Head, the laws of the 37th Congress, 3 Vols. in paper.  I suppose they will contain what you want – they cost nothing.

— When I came to direct the cards for the dinner, I referred the question of [the] ‘snub’ to the Tycoon who after a short conference with the powers at the other end of the hall came back and order Rhode Island and Ohio to be included in the list.  Whereat there soon arose such a rampage as the House hasn’t seen for a year, and I am again taboo.  How the thing is to end is yet as dark a problem as the Schleswig-Holstein difficulty.  [William O.] Stod[dard] fairly cowered at the violence of the storm, and I think for the first time begins to appreciate the awful sublimities of nature.   Things have subsided somewhat, but a day or two must of course bring them to a head.

White House aide Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “The humiliating confession must be made at all hazards – Washington, at least to the dwellers therein, is dull, insufferably dull.  True, Congress is in session, and is doing very well, but it is not doing anything exciting.  Even the expulsion of Garrett Davis, if he is to be expelled, would not excite anybody.  The social parties are charming, and sufficiently numerous, but there is no excitement in them, except to a few unfledged young officers, in the glory of new uniforms.  The weekly receptions at the President’s House are charming, and call together long lists of our most distinguished citizens, both soldiers and civilians; but a brilliant crowd does not make a man’s heart beat or his breath come quickly.  No, everything is tame and dull.”

Published in: on January 18, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Lincoln Corresponds with Kentucky Governor on Troop Movements

January 17, 1864

President Lincoln writes Kentucky Governor  Thomas E. Bramlette: “Your letter of the 8th. is just received. To your question `May I not add Q.E.D.?’  I answer, `no’ because you omit the `premise’ in the law, that the President may, in his discretion, send these troops out of Kentucky and I take it that if he shall do so on the judgment of Gen. Grant, as to it’s propriety, it will be neither cruelty, bad faith or dishonor. When I telegraphed you, I knew, though I did not say so to you, that Gen. Grant was, about that time, with Gen. Foster at Knoxville, and could not be ignorant of or averse to the order which alarmed you. I see he has since passed through Kentucky, and I hope you have had a conference with him.”

Bramlette had written: ““I did not intend by any expression in my telegram, to impugn the motives of any one. I only intended . . . to express my conviction of the effect of the order. . . . My confidence in Genl Grant has been continuous. . . . I regard him as the first Genl of the age. . . . Had I believed that the order emanated from or was sanctioned by Genl Grant, my great confidence in him would have prevented me from telegraphing to you. I had reasons to believe that Genl Grant did not know of the order. . . . This order necessarily exposes his communications and supplies to destruction. . . . If this order was with the approbation of Genl Grant I will await the denouement before I venture a judgment of condemnation. Though I cannot now see any good in it, yet if it be his plan, I will await, with confidence the result, without forming any opposing judgment. . . .” Bramlette continued:

May I not add—Q.E.D.

In all candor and with the kindest feelings I ask what reliance can our people place upon any pledge of the Government and its functionaries, if this be not observed. . . . Kentucky loyalty cannot be driven from its secure lodgement in the hearts of the people, by any bad faith of others. We are in and of the Union and will live and die there. Rebel outrages cannot drive us, nor federal injustice divert us from the true line of patriotism.

Published in: on January 17, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Attends Lecture by Anna Dickinson at Capitol

January 16, 1864

President received young abolitionist speaker Dickinson at the White House.   Congressman William D. Kelley arranged for her to speak in the House of Representatives and meet the president.   Later that Saturday, Lincoln attended her speech at the Capitol.  Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and House Speaker Schuyler Colfax escorted Dickinson to the dais.

Historian Young wrote: “Anna was in the midst of a violent attack on Lincoln’s amnesty proclamation and his lenient plan of reconstruction announced the previous month, when the President and his wife entered the hall.  Lincoln sat with bowed head as the self-possessed oratress finished her criticisms: ‘Let no man prate of compromise.  Defeated by ballots, the South had appealed to bullet.  Let it stand by the appeal.  There was no arm of compromise long enough to stretch over the sea of blood, and the mound of fallen heroes, to shake hands with their murderers.’  The audience applauded Anna’s sentiment and the courage she exhibited in proclaiming it, while an enthusiast in the balcony wildly waved a flag over her head.”  But Anna quickly went on to advocate Lincoln’s reelection: “Granted that we had much yet to do, we had the to complete the grand and glorious work, and that work was left for his second term in office.”  Again, the audience cheered.  The anti-slavery, pro-Dickinson newspaper, the Independent, reported:

“Mr. Lincoln sat with his head bowed, rarely looking Miss Dickinson in the face, but evidently catching every word, and, I have not a doubt, admiring her courage and honesty.  When she had criticized the terms of the last proclamation, Miss Dickinson as boldly avowed her belief that the people would insist that Mr. Lincoln should retain his office for another term.”

“Washington has witnessed strange scenes,” wrote Ohio newspaper reporter Whitelaw Reid.  “I can recall none so strange as that witnessed in the Hall of the House of Representatives last Saturday night.”

The largest audience ever assembled there had gathered — the Statesmen, the Politicians, the Soldiers, the leaders of Public Opinion…The President of the Nation was present, with Cabinet officers, heads of Bureaus…There came upon the platform before the imposing audience the Vice-President of the Nation and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and between them a young Quaker girl, eighteen months ago an humble employee in the mint, to-night the bravest advocate for the integrity of the Republic and the demand for universal liberty throughout it.”

On December 31, 1863, the publishers of The North American Review had written Lincoln: ‘The subscribers respectfully request, that the President will accept the January number of the North American Review, sent by this mail, and they venture to hope that the article upon ‘The President’s Policy,’ written by James Lowell, (one of the editors), will met with his approval…” President Lincoln writes to William Crosby and Henry P. Nichols: “The number for this month and year of the North American Review was duly received, and, for which, please accept my thanks.  Of course I am not the most impartial judge; yet with due allowance for this, I venture to hope that the artical entitled the ‘Presidents Policy’ will be of value to the country.  I fear I am not quite worthy of all which is therein kindly said of me personally.”

The sentence of twelve lines commencing at the top of page 252, I could wish to be not exactly as it is.  In what is there expressed, the writer has not correctly understood me.  I have never had a theory that secession could absolve States or people from their obligations.  Precisely the contrary is asserted in the inaugeral address; and it was because of my belief in the continuation of these obligations, that I was puzzled, for a time, as to denying the legal rights of those citizens who remained individually innocent of treason or rebellion.  But I mean no more now than to merely call attention to this point.

President Lincoln writes to to Edwin M. Stanton: “Some days ago, upon the unanamous request of our friends in Congress from Connecticut, and upon what appeared to be good reason, I ordered a change of Provost Marshal & commissioner, under the enrolment law in one of the Districts–the 4th; and they are complaining now that it is now done.  Let it be done.”

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President Lincoln Promotes Reconstruction of Tennessee

January 15, 1864

President Lincoln writes to Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson: “I send by Judge John S. Brien a blank book and some other blanks to facilitate the taking oath of Dec. 8.  He will verbally explain the mode of using them.  He particularly wishes to have Mr. Benjamin C. Robertson to take the oath.  I hope you may find Judge Brien useful, in carrying forward the work generally.  I assume that anyone in military commission may administer the oaths.”

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President Lincoln Catches Up on Paperwork

January 14, 1864

President Lincoln writes General Benjamin F. Butler: “This will introduce Thomas Stackpole, whom I found in the White-House when I came, having been brought from New-Hampshire by Mr. Pierce. I have found him a straight, energetic man. He desires to go into some business about oysters in your vicinity; and so far as you can consistently facilitate him.”

President Lincoln writes Attorney General Edward Bates about recommendations for an federal judgeship in Indiana: “Herewith I send to be filed, the papers in regard to the Indiana Judgeship. Besides what is in the papers, Senator, Lane, Speaker Colfax, Rep. Orth Sec. Usher, Bank Com. McCullough, Mr. Defrees & others, all Indianians, verbally expressed their preference for Mr. [Albert] White.”  The death of Judge Caleb Smith had created a judicial  opening.

After meeting with Kentucky congressman, Lincoln writes an order: “To-day Hon. Brutus J. Clay calls with Mrs. Haggard, and asks that her son, Edward Haggard, now in his nineteenth year, and a prisoner of War at Camp Douglas, may be discharged. Let him take the oath of Dec. 8. and be discharged.”

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President Lincoln Promotes Louisiana Reconstruction

January 13, 1864 

President Lincoln writes General Nathaniel  Banks about reconstruction in Louisiana: “I have received two letters from you which are duplicates, each of the other, except that one bears date the 27th. and the other the 30th. of December.  Your confidence in the practicability of constructing a free state-government, speedily, for Louisiana, and your zeal to accomplish it, are very gratifying.  It is a connection, than in which, the words ‘can‘ and ‘will‘ were never more precious.  I am much in hope that, on the authority of my letter, of December 24th. you have already begun the work.  Whether you shall have done so or not, please, on receiving this, proceed with all possible despatch, using your own absolute discretion in all matters which may not carry you away from the conditions stated in your letters to me, nor from those of the Message and Proclamation of December 8th.  Frame orders, and fix times and places, for this, and that, according to your own judgments.

I am much gratified to know that Mr. Dennison, the Collector at New-Orleans, and who bears you this, understands your views, and will give you his full, and zealous co-operations.  It is my wish, and purpose, that all others, holding authority from me, shall do the like; and, to spare me writing, I will thank you to make this known to them.

On December 30, Banks had written: “I am opposed to any settlement, and have been from the beginning, except upon the basis of immediate emancipation, but it is better to secure it by consent, than by force, better still by consent and force….

‘I need not repeat what I have already said, that I shall cordially and ernestly sustain any plan you may adopt for the restoration of government here.  It is my duty, and my desire.  With very great reluctance, and sense of public duty, I have made the suggestion herein contained, upon the same principle that I would impart important military information…

‘The plan of restoration contemplated here by the officers charged with that duty, does not seem to promise results so speedy or certain.  It proceeds upon the theory of constitutional convention to frame an organic law…The election of delegates cannot be called before March…The convention could not sit before April.  It could scarcely occupy less than two months.  Its action could hardly be submitted by this course, will be:….

The fact of restoration is, however, more important than the means, and I shall cordially sustain any policy you may indicate.

President Lincoln dispatches aide John Hay to Florida to promote Reconstruction; he is given rank of assistant adjutant general.  President Lincoln wrote General Quincy Gillmore: ”I understand an effort is being made by some worthy gentlemen to reconstruct a loyal state government in Florida.  Florida is in your department, and it is not unlikely that you may be there in person.  I have given Mr. Hay a commission of Major, and sent him to you with some blank books and other blanks, to aid in the reconstruction.  He will explain, as to the manner of using the blanks, and also my general views on the subject.  It is desirable for all to cooperate; but if irreconcilable differences of opinion shall arise, you are master.  I wish the thing done in the most speedy way possible, so that, when done, it lie within the range of the late proclamation on the subject.  The detail labor, of course, will have to be done by others; but I shall be greatly obliged if you will give it such general supervision as you can find consistent with your more strictly military duties.”

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Cabinet Discusses Florida Blockade

January 12, 1864

After the regular Tuesday Cabinet meeting, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes: “Only three of us at the Cabinet meeting, and no special business matters were brought.  Augustus Brandegee, a Member of Congress from Connecticut forward. I submitted to the President a dispatch from Commander Watson Smith at Pensacola relative to the disturbed condition of the people at Warrington. The port is blockaded, and the Rebels cut off from all shore supplies. In the mean time the Treasury agent has cut off the little communication that had been previously maintained by a few small dealers. The President requested me to consult with Chase, and any conclusion that we should come to he would affirm. Some little conversation followed as to the opening of additional ports. I remarked to the President that in my opinion it would be well to take some decisive and more general ground indicating progress towards peace. New Orleans being an open port, I asked, why might not the whole trans-Mississippi country above that place be thrown open to commerce? I told him my own convictions — and I had given the subject reflection — were favorable to the measure, and against the farther blockade of Red River and the country above that river on the west bank of the Mississippi. The President said the subject was worth considering and we must take it up.”

President Lincoln issues an “Order Fixing Wester Base of Union Pacific Railroad”: “In pursuance of the eleventh section of the act of congress entitled ‘An act to aid in the construction of a Railroad and Telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, and to secure to the Government the use of the same for Postal, Military, and other purposes’  Approved July 1, 1862, the point where the line of the Central Pacific Railroad crosses Arcade creek in the Sacramento valley is hereby fixed as the western base of the Sierra Nevada mountains.”

“The President’s reception this evening passed off very pleasantly, although not so largely attended as usual,” writes the New York Herald.  “President Lincoln appeared in excellent health.”  Benjamin Brown French, federal commissioner of buildings, writes in his diary: “Tuesday evening there was a reception at the White House and I had to be at it til nearly 11.  Mrs. French & Mrs. French went.  It was a sparse reception — the smallest I ever saw.  Why?  Can’t tell.  Mrs. Lincoln seemed disappointed.  Abraham was in his usual trim & usual good nature.”

Published in: on January 12, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment