Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase Bows Out of Presidential Race

March 5, 1864

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase decides to withdraw from the contest for the Republican presidential nomination.  William Frank Zornow wrote in Lincoln & the Party Divided: “It remained, however, for William Orton of the New York Chase committee to make a suggestion which finally galvanized the hesitant Secretary into action.  Orton advised him to withdraw from the race to prove his patriotism and silence his Calumniators, but to permit his friends to continue their clandestine efforts so that they could bring his name forward unexpectedly at the national convention.  After sampling this fruit and finding it good, Chase replied that he would use the recent declaration of the Ohio Legislature as a pretext for a letter of withdrawal.

On March 5, Chase dispatched a letter to James Hall in which he said that ‘the recent action of the Union members of our Legislature indicates’ that they wanted Lincoln.  He was dutifully bound to ‘ask that no further consideration be given [his] name.’  Hall published this letter in the Ohio press on March 11.

In a memo that Chase wrote he states: An interesting correspondence has taken place between Secretary Chase and President Lincoln on the subject of the Pomeroy circular. Some days since Chase sent a note to the President, saying he had not seen the Pomeroy circular until published, and that he disapproved of it; but, nevertheless, at the solicitation of friends, he stood in the attitude of a candidate for the Presidency, and he submitted to Mr. Lincoln the question, whether such an attitude was incompatible with his relations as a member of the Cabinet.

The President replied that he had not seen Mr. Pomeroy’s circular at all, and as to whether Mr. Chase’s candidacy was incompatible with his position as a member of the Cabinet, that was a question for him (Chase) to decide.

The rumors that the relations between Secretary Chase and Mr. Lincoln had been disturbed by the present political attitude of the former, will be set at rest by the appearance of a correspondence between the two, in which Mr. Chase frankly disavows knowledge of the Pomeroy Circular before it appeared, and informs the President that at the request of his friends he had consented to become a candidate for the Presidency. He then asks Mr. Lincoln if he considers that his action was incompatible with his position as a member of the Cabinet. The President replies that he has not seen the circular, and that he does not know of any act of Mr. Chase’s inconsistent with his position as a member of his Cabinet.

Harper’s Weekly editorialized: “The pamphlet entitled ‘The next Presidential Election,’ which is being widely distributed under Congressional franks, announces that the political campaign of 1864 has opened.  And now that it has begun, it is desirable in every view, that it be ended as soon as possible by the nomination.  The Union men of the country will naturally wish to know at the earliest moment who is to carry their standard, that they may be able to devote all their time and force to the prosecution of the war and the restoration of the Union, instead of wasting them in personal squabbles among themselves.”

“The pamphlet in question urges it plea upon the ground that if a President be eligible for more than one term he will use the enormous patronage of his office to secure another nomination.  But it is very clear that to limit the term is not to prevent his corrupt use of patronage.  He will, in that case, if inclined to abuse his power, merely turn his energies to securing the succession to the favorite of his party.  And the objection lies against vesting patronage in any office whatever, because, if a President may use his patronage to secure a renomination, a Secretary may use his to defeat the president.  Take, for instance, the case of two conspicuous public men at this moment, upon the honorable character of each of whom no aspersion had been cast, even by implication, before the appearance of this pamphlet – we mean Mr. Lincoln, the President, and Mr. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury.  Each of them wields enormous patronage.  The President, according to the pamphlet, should not be eligible for two terms lest he should misuse his patronage.  Very well.  And the Secretary of the Treasury – ?  If the reasoning be sound, he should not be eligible at all lest he should misuse his.  Is it proposed that no officer who commands patronage shall be eligible to the Presidency?

General George Meade meets with Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War. “Meade endeavored to clear up four areas of controversy with respect to his command of the Army of the Potomac,” wrote historian Bruce Tap in Over Lincoln’s Shoulder.  First, the charges that he had not wanted to fight at Gettysburg were false.  He had issued orders on July 1 for the army to fall back to Pipe Creek near Taneytown, Maryland, but this was before he knew that John Reynolds had already colided with the enemy.  Once engagement occurred, he did not hesitate to fight.  Second, Sickles had occupied his position in advance of Hancock’s Second Corps on Cemetery Ridge in violation of Meade’s orders, which resulted in the near-annihilation of Sickles’ corps.  Third, even though Meade wanted to attack Lee’s retreating army near Williamsport, Maryland, he deferred to the opinion of his corps commanders, and upon reflection believed it was a good decision since Lee occupied a strong position.  Meade assured Wade that the rebels had not exhausted their supply of artillery ammunition as other witnesses had testified — a point corrobated by lee’s correspondence with Jefferson Davis.  Nor was Lee’s army completely demoralized as some witnesses had claimed.   Fourth, although was not particularly proud of the army’s operations after Gettysburg, there were valid reasons why he had failed to engage the enemy.  Since Wad had probably prejudged the matter, Meade’s points no doubt made little impact on him.”

Mrs. Mary Lincoln hosts her regular Saturday afternoon reception.

Published in: on March 5, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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