Arkansas Reconstruction Preoccupies President Lincoln

February 17, 1864

President Lincoln writes to General Frederick Steele regarding reconstruction in Arkansas: “The day fixed by the Convention for the election is probably the best, but you, on the ground, and in consultation with gentlemen there, are to decide.  I should have fixed no day for an election — presented no plan for reconstruction — had I known the convention was doing the same things.  It is probably best that you merely assist the convention on their own plan, as to election day & all other matters.  I have already written and telegraphed this half a dozen times.”

The President also writes Arkansas unionist William Fishback: “When I fixed a plan for an election in Arkansas I did it in ignorance that your convention was doing the same work. Since I learned the latter fact, I have been constantly trying to yield my plan to them. I have sent two letters to Gen. Steele, and three or four despatches to you and others, saying that he—Gen. Steele—must be master, but that it will probably be best for him to merely help the convention on it’s own plan. Some single mind must be master, else there will be no agreement in anything, & Gen. Steele, commanding the Military, and being on the ground, is the best man to be that master. Even now, citizens are telegraphing me to postpone the election to a later day than either that fixed by the convention or by me. This discord must be silenced.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes to colleague John Hay: “I have been too infernally busy to write, which accounts for your not having received more letters from me.  A note came here a day or two ago from Gen. [Quincy] Gillmore saying you had gone to Florida, from which I infer that Gen. Gillmore saying you had gone to Florida, from which I infer that you are living in metaphorical clover while we poor devils are eating the husks of hard work in the national pig-sty.  Kick up your heels while you may!”

Although there is much doing in politics there is nothing decisive.  The treasury rats are busy night and day and becoming more and more unscrupulous and malicious.  They are circulating a scurrilous anonymous pamphlet to injure the Prest.  and today I was shown a circular signed by Pomeroy as ‘Chairman of the National Executive Committee[’] proposing a Chase organization throughout the country. The adherents of this faction in the House and Senate are malicious and bitter but dare not openly attack the Tycoon[.]  Winter Davis showed his teeth in the House yesterday, but got no backing except from two or three Members.  Things have been drifting along chaotically for two or three weeks, but active work must begin soon[.]  Defrees has gone to Indiana to look after matters there, and we shall probably have a good endorsement there.

Corruption and malice are doing their worst, but I do no think it is in the cards to beat the Tycoon.

The Pomeroy Circular stated in part: “Those in behalf of whom this communication is made have thoroughly surveyed the political field, and have arrived at the following conclusions:

“First, that even were the reelection of Mr. Lincoln desirable, it is practically impossible against the union of influences which will oppose him.

Second, that should he be reelected, his manifest tendency towards compromises and temporary expedients of policy will become stronger during a second term than it has been in the first, and the cause of human liberty, and the dignity and honor of the nation, suffer proportionately, while the war may continue to languish during his whole Administration, till the public debt shall become a burden too great to be borne.

Third, that the patronage of the Government through the necessities of the war has been so rapidly increased, and to such an enormous extent, and so loosely placed, as to render the ‘one-term principle’ absolutely essential to the certain safety of our republican institutions.”

“Fourth, that we find united in Hon. Salmon P. Chase more of the qualities needed in a President during the next four years than are combined in any other available candidate; his record, clear and unimpeachable, showing him to be a statesman of rare ability and an administrator of the very highest order, while his private character furnishes the surest obtainable guarantee of economy and purity in the management of public affairs.

“Fifth, that the discussion of the Presidential question, already commenced by the friends of Mr. Lincoln, has developed a popularity and strength in Mr. Chase unexpected even to his warmest admirers and while we are aware that this strength is at present unorganized, and in no condition to manifest its real magnitude, we are satisfied that it only needs systematic and faithful effort to develop it to an extent sufficient to overcome all opposing obstacles.  For these reasons the friends of Mr. Chase have determined on measures which shall present his claims fairly and at once to the country…”

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

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