Third Party Presidential Candidacy Reviewed

January 11, 1864

President Lincoln continues his conversation about presidential politics by again meeting with former Ohio Governor William  Dennision and Postmaster General MontgomeryBlair  regarding a possible third-party candidacy Secreary of the Treasury Salmon P.  Chase or General John C.  Fremont.  The Fremont candidacy eventually materializes in May and dissolves in September.

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “The intense cold weather for this latitude, by interrupting travel, prevented Congress from reassembling very promptly, and individual stragglers are still missing. “

The campaign for the Thirteenth Amendment to eliminate slavery is begun by Missouri Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri.  Historian Roy Basler wrote in A Touchstone for Greatness: “On January 11, 1864, Henderson introduced a Joint Resolution into the Senate proposing ‘that slavery shall not exist in the United States.’  Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, however, preferred different language and introduced his own Joint Resolution on February 8, providing that ‘everywhere within the limits of the United States, and of each State or Territory thereof, all persons are equal before the law, so that no person can hold another as a slave.’  The phrase ‘all persons are equal before the law,’ taken from the Constitution of Revolutionary France, was particularly dear to Sumner.”

President Lincoln writes son Robert Todd Lincoln: “I send your draft to-day.  How are you now?  Answer by telegraph at once.”

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President Focuses on Presidential Campaign

January 10, 1864 

President Lincoln meets about his presidential renomination with Francis P. Blair, Sr. and former Ohio Governor William Dennison regarding presidential campaign.  Welles writes in his diary the next day: “Mr. Blair, the elder, and Governor Dennison of Ohio called on me last evening. The chief talk related to Presidential matters, current events, and proceedings in Congress. They were both at the President’s to-day, and it seems some conversation took place in regard to Senator Hale’s strange course towards the Navy Department, he being Chairman of the Committee. The President said it was to him unaccountable except in one way, and that did no credit to Hale’s integrity. It was unpleasant to think a Senator made use of his place to spite a Department because it would not permit him to use its patronage for his private benefit.

Both Mr. Blair and Governor Dennison were pretty full of the Presidency, and I apprehend they had a shadow of doubt in .regard to my opinions and preferences, and yet I know not why they should have had. The subject is one on which I cared to exhibit no intense partisanship, and I may misjudge the tone of public sentiment, but my convictions are and have been that it is best to reelect the President, and if I mistake not this is the public opinion. On this question, while not forward to announce my views, I have had no concealment.

President Lincoln writes: “Major General [Ethan Allen] Hitchcock, Commissioner of Exchanges, is authorized and directed to offer Brigadier-General [Isaac R.] Trimble now a prisoner of war in Fort McHenry, in exchange for Major White, who is held as a prisoner at Richmond. He is also directed to send forward the offer of exchange by Henry M. Warfield, Esq. of Baltimore, under a flag of truce, and give him a pass to City Point.”

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Washington Grieves for Former Interior Secretary Caleb Smith

January 9, 1864

After meeting with a naval captain recommended by New York Senator Edward Moran, President Lincoln writes Admiral John Dahlgren at the Washington Navy Yard: “Capt. Lavender wishes to show you a contrivance of his for discovering, and aiding to remove, under-water obstructions to the passage of vessels, and has sufficiently impressed me to induce me to send him to you. He is sufficiently vouched to me as a worthy gentleman; and this known, it needs not my asking for you to treat him as such

Dahlgren replied: “Captain Lavender arrived duly with your note, which I was much pleased to receive, and gave it my immediate attention;—There seems to me no objection to a a [sic] trial of his project, and I beg leave, therefore, to recommend that such be made at some Navy Yard under the eye of one or more experienced persons.

`It would be almost impossible to make the machine here, a material and mechanics are unequal to the daily pressing wear and tear of the vessels of the Squadron.

President Lincoln orders: “Information having been received that Caleb B. Smith, late Secretary of the Interior, has departed this life, at his residence in Indiana, it is ordered that the Executive Buildings at the seat of the Government be draped in mourning, for the period of fourteen days, in honor of his memory as a prudent and loyal counsellor and a faithful and effective coadjutor of the Administration in a time of public difficulty and peril. The Secretary of State will communicate a copy of this order to the family of the deceased together with proper expressions of the profound sympathy of the President and Heads of Departments in their great and irreparable bereavement.”

In the afternoon, Mrs. Mary Lincoln holds her first regular Saturday reception of the season.

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

A Cabinet Meeting without a Purpose

January 8, 1864

To-day at the Executive Mansion,” write Navy Secretary Gideon Welles.  “Only Usher with myself was present, and no business transacted. Mr. Hudson of Massachusetts, formerly Member of Congress, was with the President. Conversation was general, with anecdotes as usual. These are usually very appropriate and instructive, conveying much truth in few words, well, if not always elegantly, told. The President’s estimate of character is usually very correct, and he frequently divests himself of partiality with a readiness that has surprised me”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton after meeting with Iowa Senator James Grimes: “To-day Senator Grimes calls and asks that I may particularly examine the recommendations on file for Grenville M. Dodge for Major Genl. & Edward Hatch of 2nd. Iowa Cav. & Henry C. Caldwell of the 3rd. Iowa. Cav. for Brig. Genls. which I promise to do.”  Stanton replies: “There is no vacancy for Major or Brigadier General,” but eventually Dodge and Hatch do get promotions.

President Lincoln writes Esther Stockton: “Madam: Learning that you who have passed the eighty-fourth year of life, have given to the soldiers, some three hundred pairs of stockings, knitted by yourself, I wish to offer you my thanks. Will you also convey my thanks to those young ladies who have done so much in feeding our soldiers while passing through your city?

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Political Campaign Begins as President Lincoln Reviews Pardons

January 7, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The case of R. [L.] Law tried by court martial, which has been in my hands for a month nearly, was disposed of to-day.  The court found him guilty on both charges and sentenced him to be dismissed from the Navy, but recommended him to clemency.  Proposed to the President three years’s suspension, the first six months without pay.  This to be the general order, but if, at the expiration of six or eight months, it was thought best to remit the remainder of the punishment, it could be done.

‘Look over the subject carefully,’ said the President, ‘and make the case as light as possible on his father’s account, who is an old friend of mine, and I shall be glad to remit all that you can recommend.’

As part of his review of pardon cases, President Lincoln writes regarding Henry Andrews: “The case of Andrews is really a very bad one, as appears by the record already before me.  Yet before receiving this I had ordered his punishment commuted to imprisonment for during the war at hard labor, and had so telegraphed.  I did this, not on any merit in the case, but because I am trying to evade the butchering business lately.”

An important development in President Lincoln’s reelection campaign occurs in Concord, New Hampshire, where the New Hampshire Republican Convention passes a resolution: “We, therefore, declare Abraham Lincoln to be the people’s choice for reelection to the Presidency in 1864.”

President Lincoln writes three would-be cotton traders: “You have presented me a plan for getting cotton and other products, from within the rebel lines, from which you think the United States will derive some advantage.

Please, carefully and considerately answer me the following questions.

1. If now, without any new order or rule, a rebel should come into our lines with cotton, and offer to take the oath of Dec. 8th what do you understand would be done with him and his cotton?

2. How will the physical difficulty, and danger of getting cotton from within the rebel lines be lessened by your plan? or how will the owner’s motive to surmount that difficulty and danger, be heightened by it?

3. If your plan be adopted, where do you propose putting the cotton &c, into market? how assure the government of your good faith in the business? and how be compensated for your services?

President Lincoln writes his wife in Philadelphia: “We are all well, and have not been otherwise.”

At night, Secretary of State William H. Seward “gave a party to the scientific men of the Academy now here. The Cabinet, heads of the foreign missions, the learned gentlemen and the committees on foreign relations of the two houses were present, with a goodly number of ladies. Agassiz, Silliman, Professors Story and Caswell, etc., etc., were present,” writes Gideon Welles in his diary.

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President Lincoln Addresses Problems in Kentucky

January 6, 1864

President Lincoln writes Kentucky Governor To Thomas E. Bramlette: “Yours of yesterday received. Nothing is known here about Gen. Foster’s order, of which you complain, beyond the fair presumption that it comes from Gen. [Ulysses] Grant, and that it has an object which if you understood, you would be loth to frustrate

True, these troops are, in strict law, only to be removed by my order; but Gen. Grant’s judgment would be the highest incentive to me to make such order. Nor can I understand how doing so is bad faith or dishonor; nor yet how it exposes Kentucky to ruin.

Military men here do not perceive how it such [sic] exposes Kentucky, and I am sure Grant would not permit it, if it so appeared to him.

Ohio Episcopalian Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine writes President Lincoln: “A feeling of affectionate respect & of thankfulness for what God has given you wisdom to do for your Country, induces me to venture a word of New Year — salutation & regard.

May God most richly bless you, this year, in all personal, domestic & public interests, — & the Country, by you!

He has led our cause by ways we knew not; ways of darkness — of perilous straits & great fearfulness often; all the while educating the people, taking away old ideas & prejudices that barred our path, making divisions result in closer co-operation — & all to prepare us for the blessed consummation — the Union restored & the demon, Slavery, cast out–

How wonderfully has this war been made to open a road to that end, when there seemed no possible road. The Constitution, with its guarantees, inviolate, & yet a lawful way opened for the destruction of slavery! “An enemy hath done this”– None else could have done it. No greater kindness could he have done us. The prison door is open; He forged & gave the key. The crown on the head of a restored Union will be the Prodigal son returned & re-instated, his slave clothes exchanged for the best robe of the free.

All praise to God– Many thanks to you, dear Sir, whom He guided & sustained; giving you wisdom to discern, boldness to enter, & firmness to keep that road, when many of your best friends & of the best friends of the Country were afraid–

In no portion of our struggle, does the hand of God more impressively appear than in this making all our difficulties, dangers, reverses & victories work together for the one great good — Union without Slavery.

I will here mention a fact which may be not without its interest to you. At a drawing-room meeting in London, soon after the Trent-affair, called by a Member of Parliament, just before it was to meet, & for the purpose of giving Mr Weed & myself an opportunity of influence upon its members, several of whom, in both branches, were present — it was strongly declared that the great obstacle to English sympathy with us was the want of evidence of any intended movement of the Govt for the getting rid of slavery –  & besides that, the guarantees of slavery in the Constitution, so that Union restored would be only Slavery protected– Two speakers — one of whom was in sympathy with us, the other not, & declaring that England will never sympathise with us till she saw that our success would remove the protection of slavery — spoke — & said there was a way, in spite of the Constitution– They described, the in substance, the way you have taken — called it a War-Power — & saw no reason for not adopting it– None in the meeting signified any dissent– The speaker who did not then sympathise with us, as soon as he saw the promise of your present policy, came out before an immense meeting in London, advocating the fullest support of English sympathy– This address was published & widely circulated, the author having a wide influence among the people–

Nothing has cleared our sky abroad so much as your Emancipation-policy. Nothing has done more to clear our path at home.

I pray, my dear Sir, that God will be your guide & strength all the way of this your great duty & difficulty; so that, as your term of office began when Union & Peace seemed almost hopeless, it may not end till you have the reward & joy of seeing them more than ever our blessing.

Published in: on January 6, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cabinet Meeting Diverted by President Lincoln’s Stories

January 5, 1864 

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary of the regular Tuesday cabinet meeting: “Congress reassembled after a fortnight’s vacation, or rather were to have assembled but there was not a quorum in either house.  At the Cabinet council only a portion were present.  The President in discussion narrated some stories, very apt, exhibiting wisdom and sense.  He requested me to read an article in the NorthAmerican Review [by James Russell Lowell], just received, on the policy of the Administration, which he thought very excellent, except that it gave him over-much credit.”

Lowell H. Harrison wrote in  Lincoln of Kentucky that Governor Thomas E. “Bramlette telegraphed Lincoln on January 5, 1864, after Maj. Gen. John G. Foster had ordered all organized military forces in Kentucky to move to Knoxville. This would remove the troops raised specifically for the defense of the state, as authorized by an act of Congress.  That act gave the president power to move the troops, and Bramlette demanded that Lincoln rescind Foster’s order.  Lincoln responded the next day that nothing was known about the order except that he assumed that it came from General Grant, whose judgment ‘would be the highest incentive to me to make such order. Nor can I understand how doing so is bad faith or dishonor; nor yet how it exposed Kentucky to ruin.’  He was sure ‘Grant would not permit it, if it so appeared to him.’

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President Lincoln’s Life is Threatened

January 4 , 1864

“Joseph” writes a letter that warns President Lincoln has been “weighed in the balance,” found wanting, and will be dead within six months.   From Germany, the American Minister to Prussia, Norman B. Judd, writes a more hopeful letter to his old Illinois political colleague:

I am here again — have been the official routine and settled down — but my thoughts still wander back to the land where all my hopes and wishes are centered– For want of better occupation I speculate over the contingencies connected with the next nomination– The people over whom you rule are dreadfully in earnest, and the earnest men will have their way– Compromising or as it is called “conservative” men will not control the next convention– You belong in principle to the radicals although in execution your caution leads many people to call you conservative– Your declaration in 1858 is enough for all doubters– The more I heard and saw whilst at home, the more was I convinced that some action on your part was necessary to satisfy the public that certain members of the cabinet did not speak for you– That was done in the message1, but the significant notice was the recal of [General John] Scofield I hope that has resulted in calming down the Angry waters Gratz wrote me a short not saying his interview was perfectly satisfactory, and if carried thro, there was peace

Before the next convention you will have to meet the question of whether your constitutional advisers are to continue the same during another term– So get ready for the question– I am opposed to committals as a general rule– I do not beleive that there ever was any such committals as required you to lay aside your judgment– If made at Chicago the men were more secretive than their past history induced any one to think and if I do’nt hear, I am rather apt to suspect what is going on amongst persons with whom I act– But all such are exhausted and I think your next four years should be with your own men — the rebellion destroyed you do not need philosophers for advisers– Congress intends to stick its nose into frauds &c, allow me to say — as soon as any thing is developed “Honest old Abe” must strike the offender and without delay make it your own act — not driven thereto– Harlan’s bill is to shelve old Taney and I suppose elevate Chase– I do’nt think you can do the best until you have beaten him– You know I do’nt believe elections — primary — carry themselves– Chase has his ” flagacious” individuals running all over organizing and stirring up his friends

The P. O. Dep. Interior — and Provost Marshal Genl. aught to have theirs– I think everything needs inspecting in February, by prudent, close mouthed sagacious Lincoln men– Are or have you done any thing for [Franz] Siegel– It is important as the public believe your Genl. in Chief crushes him against your will–

[Herman] Kreismann has written Mr Seward for leave of absence for three months to go to the U. S. I hope it will be granted

Although a great way off I mean my friends shall know I am alive– Can you write a few lines to

Yr friend

President Lincoln is named an honorary officer of Ladies Great National Sanitary Fair.  The fair is schedule for later in January.

Published in: on January 4, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Talk of Replacement for Chief Justice Roger B. Taney

January 3 ,1864

“John T. Hall of Albany, NY visits Lincoln..They talk about appointment to Supreme Court in case Taney dies.”   Over nine months later, when Taney finally succombed, Hall wrote President Lincoln about their meeting:

You will be the most forgiving of men, if this does not cause you to remember against me my intrusion upon you, on the first Sunday evening of this year. The death of the late Chief Justice,1 however, and some speculations upon it, which I have just read, bring to mind so vividly our conversation that evening regarding such a contingency during your administration, that I cannot resist an impulse to refer to it, now that the emergency is upon you.

You may remember that from Judge [Samuel] Nelsons account of Mr. Taneys condition, I thought this death at hand then; and expressed as well as I was able, some apprehensions and more hopes suggested by it. I do not propose to weary you with them again but am inclined rather to compose my anxieties by contemplating the assurances you were kind enough to make on that occasion.

“If that time comes and I am not crazy”, were the words, “I will give the country a Chief Justice upon whom it may rely.” I derive much comfort from another statement you were pleased to make, I think you said in the words of your “new Judge”, that “the function of …courts is to decide cases — not principles.”

On your adhesion to these sentiments I place my hope that the next incumbent of the seat, which the Judge of all the Earth has just purged, will be one with whom the rights and liberties of both government and people will be safe.

From Moline, Illinois, H. Van Order writes to complain about Lincoln’s brother-in-law, Ninian Edwards: “During the political campaign that resulted in your election to the Presidency, I happened to be sitting under the balcony of the Geneseo House, in Geneseo, Ill. when an elderly gentleman remarked to three or four of us present, that he was in doubt who he ought to vote for  President. The tavern keeper replied, that he thought, he ought to vote for Mr. Lincoln, to which he replied that he understood that Mr. Lincoln’s own brother-in-law asserted that he (Mr. L.) was not capable of the office. I then remarked, or rather inquired, is he an impartial judge? At that, a tall lank man dressed in black broad cloth with a cane in his hand who stood within hearing replied, “I never said Mr. Lincoln was not capable, he is a capable man, but I am opposed to him prin on principle. I then asked “wherein on principle”? To which he answered, I never talk politics on the streets. This was my first introduction to “Ninian”. I had heard of him before, however, for he had made speeches at “democratic” meetings, the substance of which some of my boys who were present rehearsed to me, which I thought at the time to be very tame as well as bitter, and it was generally understood that he had asserted that you were not cappable of filling the office of president. The day after the fact was happily ascertained that you were elected, I met him on the street, and he was in a very talkative mood. Said he has always been almost a Republican, always opposed to the extension of slavery,” &c. I did not then understand the animus of his newly born zeal, but a f few weeks perfectly unfolded the riddle, when the papers announced that Ninian Edwards, Mr. Lincoln’s brother-in-law, had obtained a lucrative office under the new administration. In this Ninian was quite sharp. Suppose Mr. D. had been elected, Ninian could have plead with great plausibility, “I opposed my own brother-in-law, and did all I could for your election, and of course am entitled to,” &c. But in the event of your election, why he had married a Todd, and, — of course you know the rest. Now, as the yankees say, “was not this cute”. But, I would not bother you with the matter, but that I am suspicious there is something a little “rotten in Denmark”. I was over on the Island at the Barracks on the National thanksgiving day, and went into the commissary’s office, and seeing a Chicago daily, the Times, being on the table near where I sat down to warm, I took it up and my eye soon fell upon a passage charging you with having perjured yourself, with trampling on the Constitution, and other wicked misdemeanors. I then asked the commissary if that was his paper, he said, “Yes”. If he coincided with its sentiments? He said, “Yes”. I then asked him if he agreed with the passage alluded to, when he answered gruffily, that he “was not under inquisition. I was afterwards informed by a friend, an officer there (appointed by Mr. Edwards) and well acquainted with him) that Mr E. himself is a reader of the Chicago Times. Now I say it with all the authority of a man of no consequence, that any man, who does not repudiate and loathe the Times, is a villianous traitor at heart. I presume you have little idea of the venom of that paper, and of the baleful influence exerted by it, whereever it is read. All loyal men through these parts rejoiced when it it was suppressed, and mourned when the hand was drawn back that would have crushed the reptile.2

Of course I have no means of knowing the political complexion of Mr. E’s appointments, but I fear from the 3 only I do know, they are “shaky”, two only of the three being as I think the genuine metal. The “democrats,” I suppose you know, Mr. Lincoln, charge any possible amount of “corruption” upon your administration. The Saviour said, “it is impossible but that offences come”, and while your knowledge is not infinite, and you cannot be ominpresent, it is unavoidable that some men be trusted that prove themselves to be mean dishonest whelps. How many of these are your political enemies, and secret friends of Jeff’s Kingdom in office cannot now be known, but some think their name is “legion”. All the Union men I know about here, are hoping you will be the next “nominee,” and say, if you are you will be elected by an “overwhelming” majority: for while they admit you may have committed errors, been a “little too slow” in some cases, yet that our imperiled Republic is safer in your hands, than any other man in the nation.

Please excuse my intrusion upon your time and attention, Mr. Lincoln; All (3) of our boys we dearly love are and have been upon the altar of their country. Though they have been in severe battles, and greatly exposed, they have thus far been wonderfully preserved. If our institutions are preserved, slavery destroyed, and freedom become universal over the land, and our boys live to return to their humble home, I shall be rich, though having and desiring but little of this world.

Published in: on January 3, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Campaign Questions Raised as 1864 Begins

January 2, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Double duty for yesterday’s holiday.  Senator Sumner called on Saturday as usual.  After disposing of some little matters of business, he spoke of the President and the election.  He says the President moving for a reelection, and has, he knows, spoken to several persons on the subject very explicitly.  I told him the President has exchanged no word with me on the subject, but that I had taken for granted he would be a candidate, that I thought all Presidents had entertained dreams of that nature, and that my impressions are that a pretty strong current is setting in his favor.  To this Sumner made no response, affirmatively or negatively. “

Former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes in his diary:  “At the Presidents to show him Lieut [John F.} Benjamins letter in regard to affairs in Arkansas.  He was much pleased with the information it contained, and said he would take measures very soon to organize a government there.”

President Lincoln sends aide John Hay to Point Lookout, Maryland., with blank forms to record discharge of prisoners who take oath of December 8, 1863.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton regarding supposed corruption in Tennessee: “The writer of this is a good man, and P.M. at Chicago. Webster, from whom he quotes, is also a good man, and the locus in quo, as you know, is under Gen. [Stephen] Hurlbut. I submit this case to the Sec. of War.”

At night, President Lincoln goes to theater.

Published in: on January 2, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment