Chase and Lincoln Continue to Miss Each Other

February 15, 1864

President Lincoln and Salmon Chase have been trying to meet with each other regarding replacing Hiram Barney as collector of customs at New York, but illness has interfered.   After Lincoln unsuccessfully seeks to meet at the Treasury Department, Chase writes President Lincoln: “I thank you for your very kind note & the assurance it contains. I was coming to see you this morning; for really I do not suffer at all. My right eye won’t bear much light; but I can get on pretty well with the left– So I could come with no other inconvenience than having one eye under bandage. With the permission of your note, however, I will wait till tomorrow.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary regarding Chase’s presidential aspirations, which have been getting increasing publicity: “The movements of parties and partisans are becoming distinct.  I think there are indications that Chase intends to press his pretensions as a candidate, and much of the Treasury machinery and the special agencies have that end in view.” Welles writes in his diary:

“The President commenced his administration by yielding apparently almost everything to Seward, and Seward was opposed to Cabinet consultations.  He made it a point to have daily or more frequent interviews with the President, and to ascertain from him everything that was being done in the several Departments.  A different course was suggested and pressed by others, but Chase, who should, from his position and stand, have been foremost in the matter and who was most decidedly with us then, flinched and shirked the point.  He was permitted to do with his own Department pretty much as he pleased, and this reconciled him to the Seward policy in a great degree, though he was sometimes restless and desired to be better informed, particularly in regard to what was doing in the War Department.  Things, however, took such a course that the Administration became departmental, and the result was the President himself was less informed than he should was the President himself was less informed than he should have been and much less than he ardently craved to be, with either the War or Treasury.  The successive Generals-in-Chief he consulted constantly, as did Seward, and, the military measures being those of most absorbing interest, the President was constantly seeking and asking for information, not only at the Executive Mansion, but at their respective offices and headquarters.  Scott and McClellan, and Halleck, each influenced him more than they should have done, often in a wrong direction, for he better appreciated the public mind and more fully sympathized with it than any of his generals.  Neither of the three military men named entered into the great political questions of the period with any cordiality, or in fact with any correct knowledge or right appreciation of them.  Yet they controlled and directed military movements, and in some respect the policy of the government, far more than the Cabinet.”

President Lincoln writes to General Daniel E. Sickles: “I wish you to make a tour for me (principally for observation and information) by way of Cairo and New-Orleans, and returning by the Gulf and Ocean.  All Military Naval officers are to facilitate you with suitable transportation, and by conferring with you, and imparting, so far as they can, the information herein indicated, but you are not to command any of them.  You will call at Memphis, Helena, Vicksburg, New-Orleans, Pensacola, Key-West, Charleston-Harbor, and such intermediate points as you may think important.  Please ascertain at each place what is being done, if anything, for reconstruction–how the Amnesty proclamation works, if at all–what practical hitches, if any, there are about it–whether deserters come in from the enemy, what number has come in at each point since the Amnesty, and whether the ratio of their arrival is any greater since than before the Amnesty–what deserters report generally, and particularly, whether, and to what extent, the Amnesty is known within the rebel lines.  Also learn what you can as to the colored people–how they get along as soldiers, as laborers in our service, on leased plantations, and as hired laborers with their old masters, if there be such cases.  Also learn what you can about the colored people within the rebel lines.  Also get any other information you may consider interesting, and, from time to time, send me what you may deem important to be known here at once, and be ready to make a general report on your return.”

President Lincoln has another meeting with Judge Advocate Joseph Holt regarding military justice cases.  White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “The weather her is like spring, warm and bright, with an unlimited supply of dust.  We have March before us yet, but in this latitude March is frequently entire ‘available’ for military purposes.”

Published in: on February 15, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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