President Lincoln Delays Response to Secretary Chase

February 23, 1864

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase does not attend Cabinet meeting at the White House.  “As usual, two or three were absent,” writes Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles in his diary.  John Palmer “usher has gone to the front, where there was a ball and fancy demonstrations.  He is fond of matters of that kind and of the little flying gossip that is about.”

In the wake of the Pomeroy Circular, President Lincoln’s supporters are even more active. Historian William Frank Zornow wrote Lincoln & the Party Divided that “many of Lincoln’s officeholders ‘serving their country at prices ranging from $3,500 to $6,000 per annum’ were equally as active in the President’s behalf.  At the [Indiana] state convention on February 23, Lincoln’s men, former Governor Cyrus Allen, Provost Marshall Richard Thompson, and John Defrees, superintendent of the Government Printing Office, surprised Chase’s supporters by forcing through a resolution endorsing the President’s re-election even before the temporary organization had been completed.  It was a stunning blow to the Chase men, who were taken completely by surprise.”1

President Lincoln writes to Salmon P. Chase regarding the Pomeroy Circular: “Yours of yesterday in relation to the paper issued by Senator Pomeroy was duly received; and I write this note merely to say I will answer a little more fully when I can find the leisure to do so.” Chase wrote Lincoln on February 22: “It is probable that you have already seen a letter printed in the Constitutional Union Saturday afternoon, & reprinted in the Intelligencer this morning, written by Senator Pomeroy, as Chairman of a Committee of my political friends.

‘I had no knowledge of the existence of this letter before I saw it in the Union.

‘A few weeks ago several gentlemen called on me & expressed their desire, which, they said, was shared by many earnest friends of our common cause, that I would allow my named to be submitted to the consideration of the people in connexion with the approaching election of Chief Magistrate.  i replied that I feared that any such use of my name might impair my usefulness as Head of the Treasury Department & that I much preferred to continue my labors where I am & free from distracting influences, until I could honorably retire from them.  We had several interviews.  After consultation, and conference with others, they expressed their united judgment that the use of my name as proposed would not affect my usefulness in my present position, and that I ought to consent to it.  I accepted their judgment as decisive; but at the same time told them distinctly that I could render them no help, except what Might come incidently from the faithful discharge of public duties, for these must have my whole time.  I said also that I desired them to regard themselves as not only entirely at liberty, but as requested to withdraw my name from consideration wherever, in their judgment the public interest would be promoted by so doing.

‘The organization of the Committee, I presume, followed these conversations; but I was not consulted about it; nor have I been consulted as to  its action; nor do I even know who compose it.  I have never wished that my name should have a moment’s thought in comparison with the common cause of enfranchisement & restoration or be continued before public a moment after the indication of a preference by the friends of that cause for another.

‘I have thought this explanation due to you as well as to myself.  If there is anything in my action or position which, in your judgment, will prejudice the public interest under my charge I beg you to say so.  I do not wish to administer Treasury Department one day without your entire confidence.

‘For yourself I cherish sincere respect and esteem; and, permit me to add, affection.  Differences of opinion as to administrative action have not changed these sentiments; nor have they been changed by assault upon me by persons who profess themselves to spread representations of your views and policy.  Your are not responsible for acts not your own; nor will you hold me responsible except for what I do or say myself.

‘Great numbers now desire your reelection.  Should their wishes be fulfilled by the suffrages of the people I hope to carry with me, into private life the sentiments I now cherish, whole and unimpaired.’

President Lincoln writes young Willie Smith: “Your fiend, Leroy C. Driggs, tells me you are a very earnest friend of mine, for which please allow me to thank you.  You and those of your age are to take charge of this country when we older ones shall have gone; and I am glad to learn that you already take so lively an interest in what just now so deeply concerns us.”

At night, the Lincolns host their regular Tuesday evening reception which is well attended.

Published in: on February 23, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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