Secretary Chase Denies Presidential Candidacy to President Lincoln

February 22, 1864

By a 4-1 margin, the Republican National Committee backs President Lincoln’s reelection at a meeting at the Washington home of the chairman of the Republican National Committee, New York Senator Edwin D. Morgan.  Meanwhile, the Pomeroy Circular is published in National Intelligencer, creating a backlash against the presidential candidacy of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase.  Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “A circular, ‘strictly private,’ signed by Senator Pomeroy and in favor of Mr. Chase for President, has been detected and published.  IT will be more dangerous in its recoil than its projectile.  That is, it will damage Chase more than Lincoln.  The effect on the two men themselves will not be serious.  Both of them desire the position, which is not surprising; it certainly is not in the President, who would be gratified with an indorsement.  Were I to advise Chase, it would be not to aspire for the position, especially not as a competitor with the man who has given him his confidence, and with whom he has acted in the administration of the government at a most eventful period.  The period well understands Chase’s wish, and is somewhat hurt that he should press forward under the circumstances.  Chase tries to have it though that he is indifferent and scarcely cognizant of what is doing in his behalf, but no one of his partisans is well posted as Chase himself.

The National Committee appointed at Chicago met today.  As Connecticut had sent forward no one as a substitute in my place, I was for a brief time with the committee.  I judge that four fifths are for the reelection of the President. The proceedings were harmonious, and will, I think, be satisfactory.  I do not like this machinery and wish it could be dispensed with.

Historian William Ernest Smith wrote in Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics that Missouri Congressman Frank “ Blair was begging the President to allow him to force the Radicals into the open.  Their recent convention in Baltimore had endorsed Lincoln for renomination, but it had extended its sympathy to the Radicals of Missouri, who were calling loudly for his defeat.  They deplored the influence of the conservatives in the Cabinet, meaning Blair, Bates, and Welles.   The Speaker of the House of Representatives had justified the President in distrusting him by his recent public announcement that he was opposed to Lincoln’s renomination, and Congressman Blow had just arraigned Blair in the House of Representatives.”

Historian John Nevins wrote in The War for the Union, “Chase assured Lincoln on February 22 that he had known nothing about the circular or a formal committee, although he had consented to the use of his name to ‘several gentlemen’ who had called him.  Ten years later, his statement that he had no prior knowledge of the circular was contradicted by its author, James M. Winchell, who declared flatly that Chase had been informed of the proposed action and approved it fully.”

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “I have had a quiet week of it here – no excitement of any kind among the general public, and not much beside routine work among officials.  As to Congress, some of us will begin to lower our opinion of that August body if they do not soon get to work in better fashion.

Attorney General Edward Bates writes: “Saw the President.  Talked about Mo. affairs – suggested the R.R. (S.W. Branch) good in itself for the nation and the State. And would be sure to unite the state for him.”  President Lincoln writes General  Frederick Steele, commander in Arkansas: “Your of yesterday received.  Your conference with citizens approved.  Let the election be on the fourteenth of March, as they agreed.”  Steele had written the previous day: “I called together the prominent citizens who telegraphed you opposite opinions in regard to the day on which the election should be held and they agree unanimously on the fourteenth (14) of March.  Your written instructions are not yet rec’d.  It is probable that several thousand votes will be polled in excess of the required number.  A. A. C. Rogers of Pine Bluff is announced as opposing candidate for governor.”

President Lincoln writes to Benjamin F. Loan: “At your instance I directed a part of the advertising for this Department to be done in the St. Joseph Tribune.  I have just been informed that the Tribune openly avows it’s determination that in no event will it support the re-election of the President.  As you probably known, please inform me whether this is true.  The President’s wish is that no objection shall be made to any paper respectfully expressing it’s preference for the nomination of any candidate; but that the patronage of the government shall be given to none which engages in cultivating a sentiment to oppose the election of any when he shall have been fairly nominated by the regular Union National Convention.”

At night, President Lincoln speaks briefly at the Patent Office Fair for benefit of Christian Commission. Mary Lincoln was said to have told Mr. Lincoln after his speech: “That was the worst speech I ever listened to in my life.  How any man could get up and deliver such remarks to an audience is more than I can understand.  I wanted the earth to sink and let me go through.”

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