President Lincoln Refuses to Allow General Schurz to Pursue Politics While General

March 23, 1864

President Lincoln writes General Carl Schurz, refusing to allow him to both engage in politics and war: “The letter, of which the above is a copy, was sent to you, before Mr. Willmann saw me; and now yours of the 19th. tells me you did not receive it.

I do not wish to be more specific about the difficulty of your coming to Washington.  I think you can easily conjecture it.  I perceive no objection to your making a political speech when you are where one is to be made; but quite surely speaking in the North, and fighting in the South, at the same time, are not possible.  Nor could I be justified to detail any officer to the political campaign during it’s continuance, and then return him to the Army.

Schurz has written President Lincoln on March 13: “Under the present circumstances I do not want to appear to feel bound by any favor from anybody.  If I can take an active part in the political contest consistently, with my position in the army, I shall be glad…expecting nothing for myself but to resume my old position…after the election.  If a political activity be deemed inconsistent with my military position, I shall then have to make my choice…I wish to assure you here emphatically, that in neither case I would make any demands on the administration…

About this and several other matters of a political nature.  I desired to have a conservation with you.  At a time like this I would not consider it out of place to volunteering advice and opinion about a few points of some importance…It is somewhat difficult for me to understand why I do not receive this permission in reply to my letter..

…For your information  I send you a copy of my argument before the Court of Inquiry which I had printed for my own private use…I would be completely satisfied with the command of a respectable division in some other Dept., Gen. Siegel’s for instance,…and that, in case the 11th Corps is taken from under Gen. Hooker, I shall be quite content with the command I now have…

President Lincoln writes Congressman Robert Schenck, formerly a general with whom he had clashed about an incident at the previous night’s reception: “After the company left last evening, Mrs. L. made known to me a little matter which has annoyed me ever since . . . I beg to assure you that a programme was brought to me, exactly as I carried it out; and that I had not the slightest suspicion of a mistake. I am aware this is no great matter, not going beyond a little temporary embarrassment to any but myself; still I feel that this explanation is due all round, which I am sure you will believe is the truth, and nothing but the truth.”  A more serious problem is presented by Senators Benjamin F. Wade and Zachariah Chandler, Radical Republicans who travel to the White House to seek the dismissal of General George Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac.”

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase continues to be in political limbo.  Secretary of the Treasury Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I have to-day a lame and not very commendable letter from Chase, yet nothing very bad.  He wants the courage and candor to admit his errors.”

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

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