President Lincoln Attends Christian Commission Fair

March 18, 1864

Mary Lincoln accompanies President Lincoln to the final night of the Christian Commission fund-raising fair held at the Patent Office.  In brief remarks, President Lincoln says: “I appear to say but a word. This extra-ordinary war in which we are engaged falls heavily upon all classes of people, but the most heavily upon the soldier. For it has been said, all that a man hath will he give for his life; and while all contribute of their substance the soldier puts his life at stake, and often yields it up in his country’s cause. The highest merit, then, is due to the soldier.

In this extraordinary war extraordinary developments have manifested themselves, such as have not been seen in former wars; and amongst these manifestations nothing has been more remarkable than these fairs for the relief of suffering soldiers and their families. And the chief agents in these fairs are the women of America. [Cheers.]

I am not accustomed to the use of language of eulogy; I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women; but I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of woman were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war. I will close by saying God bless the women of America!

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes that at the Cabinet Meeting at the White House: Secretary of State William H. “Seward read to-day a letter on the subject of emigration with a proposed bill for a law on the subject. Did not strike me favorably, though no one else took exceptions. I remarked quietly to Seward that I thought we should be careful about meddling with the subject on many accounts; we might retard instead of promoting emigration, and if the Government attempted to interfere and take upon itself the burthen, it would cause the whole private effort to cease. Millions are now contributed to aid friends to emigrate, but this would wholly stop if the Government came in to assist. He thought there might be some danger if we were not careful, but something must be done to pacify the feeling. Usher wanted something done. Chase read over the letter and law and appeared to acquiesce. The thing does not impress me favorably. As a general thing I am averse to government bounties.”

Arkansas abolishes slavery,  General Frederick Steele writes President Lincoln: “Returns sufficient have been received to make it sure that the election is a success It is very probably that ten thousand (10000) votes have been cast & but very few so far as heard from against the Constitution I believe every man elected will support your administration A C Rogers1 of Pine Bluff is elected to Congress for this Dist.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “I am so pressed in regard to prisoners of war in our custody whose homes are within our lines, and who do not wish to not be exchanged, but wish to take the oath and be discharged, that I hope you will pardon me for reviving the subject. My impression is, first, that we will never not ever force the exchange of any of this class; secondly, that taking the oath and being discharged, none of them will again go to the rebellion; but the rebellion, again coming to them, a considerable per centage of them, though probably not a majority, will would rejoin it; thirdly that by a cautious discrimination, the number so discharged will would not be large enough to do any considerable mischief in any event, will relieve distress in at least some meritorious cases at least, and will would give me some relief from an intolerable pressure. I shall be glad therefore to have your cheerful assent to the discharge of those whose names I may send, which I will only do with circumspection–

In using the strong hand, as now compelled to do, the government has a difficult duty to perform. At the very best, it will by turns do both too little and too much. It can properly have no motive of revenge, no purpose to punish merely for punishment’s sake. While we must, by all available means, prevent the overthrow of the government, we should avoid planting and cultivating too many thorns in the bosom of society. These general remarks apply to several classes of cases, on each of which I wish to say a word

First, the dismissal of officers when neither incompetancy, nor intentional wrong, nor real injury to the service, is imputed– In such cases it is both cruel and impolitic, to crush the man, and make him and his friends permanent enemies to the administration if not to the government itself– I think of two instances– One wherein a Surgeon, for the benefit of patients in his charge, needed some lumber, and could only get it by making a false certificate wherein the lumber was demominated “butter & eggs” and he was dismissed for the false certificate. The other a Surgeon by the name of Owen who served from the beginning of the war till recently, with two servants, and without objection, when upon discovery that the servants were his own sons, he was dismissed–“

Another class consists of those who are known or strongly suspected, to be in sympathy with the rebellion– An instance of this is the family of Southern, who killed a recruiting officer last autumn, in Maryland. He fled, and his family are driven from their home, without a shelter or crumb, except when got by burthening our friends more than our enemies– Southern had no justification to kill the officer; and yet he would not have been killed if he had proceeded in the temper and manner agreed upon by yourself and Gov. Bradford. But this is past. What is to be done with the family? Why can they not occupy their old home, and excite much less opposition to the government than the manifestation of their distress is now doing? If the house if really needed for the public service; or if it has been regularly confiscated and the title transferred, the case is different.

Again, the cases of persons, mostly women, wishing to pass our lines, one way or the other– We have, in some cases, been apparantly, if not really, inconsistent upon this subject — that is, we have forced some to go who wished to stay, and forced others to stay who wished to go– Suppose we allow all females, with ungrown children of either sex, to go South, if they desire, upon absolute prohibition against returning during the war; and all to come North upon the same condition of not returning during the war, and the additional condition of taking the oath.

I wish to mention two special cases both of which cases you will remember– The first is that of Yocum. He was unquestionably guilty. No one asking for his pardon pretends the contrary. What he did, however, was perfectly lawful, only a short while before, and the change making it unlawful had not, even then been fully accepted in the public mind. It is doubtful whether Yocum did not suppose it was really lawful to return a slave to a loyal owner, though it is certain he did the thing secretly, in the belief that his superiors would not allow it if known to them.  But the great point with me is that the severe punishment of his five years at hard labor in the Penitentiary is not at all necessary to prevent the repetition of the crime by himself or by others– If the offence was one of frequent recurrence, the case would be different; but this case of Yocum is the single instance which has come to my knowledge. I think that for all public purposes, and for all proper purposes, he has suffered enough.

The case of Smithson is troublesome. His wife and children are quartered mostly on our friends, and exciting a great deal of sympathy, which will soon tell against us– What think you of sending him and his family South, holding the sentence over him to be re-inforced if he returns during the war.

Published in: on March 18, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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