Minister to Spain Asks Leave to Save Money

April 9, 1864

Gustav Koerner, the American minister in Madrid, writes President Lincoln to pursue a leave of absence that he had first requested on March 20. The former Illinois lieutenant governor writes: “Some time ago I addressed You a letter soliciting leave of absence for four months to commence sometime in June or July next.1 I have since received a circular from which it appears that the department has adopted a very stringent rule on the subject of such leaves. For fear that it might be applied to my case I take the liberty of again pressing my former solicitation and of enforcing it by some additional reasons. To live in Madrid with my family on the present salary or even on one a few thousand dollars higher, is an impossibility. Prices are enormous and becoming more so every day. I would be involved in debt should I try to remain here with my family. Besides the more than modest mode of living which we had necessarily to adopt becomes more humiliating every day, as we extend the circle of our acquaintances

As I have stated to you in my first letter on the subject, my own affairs neglected by Mr. Scheel on account of his long sickness, have become so much deranged by his death, that my presence at home for some weeks will be indispensably necessary, and as my family must return, You will feel that I must be very anxious to accompany them.

Alone I can make out to live here, and to reciprocate the many civilities, which are extended to me, and which I now in a great measure have to decline, being unwilling to appear all the time as a guest, without returning hospitality.

You are aware that owing to the dreadful summer heat in Madrid the Court and Minister leave here in June, to go to the Queens Summer residence in the mountains San Ildefonso or La Grange. The few members of the Diplomatic Corps who remain in Spain during summer (nearly all leave however for three or four months) are expected to follow the Court. This is very expensive. I think Mr Preston charged from $4000 to $5000. every year for those summer excursions, which are not paid out of the salary, but are extra-allowances. These places of Court-residence are very small, and their inhabitants depend for a living entirely upon what they can extort within a few months from the Diplomatists and court people. You have to take a furnished house, have a carriage, pay additional servants, as to some extent you must keep your establishment also at Madrid.

now by my absence, this expense is almost entirely saved. If the Secretary goes there when business calls him, it is a matter of a few hundred dollars. Last year my extra expenses on this head amounted to but $15.00, being one trip to Aranjuez to have an audience of the Queen. Should I have to remain in Spain I would have to go with the Court to San Ildefonso at a great expense to the public treasury. So you will see that by my absence though in the mean time the Secretary receives a higher salary, there is actually a saving of several thousand dollars.–

The reasons which compel me to ask for this favor are so strong, that should I fail to have it granted I would have to tender my resignation, so that at any rate I might reach home in the fall. That this would be a serious loss to me pecuniarily is certain, as I have to use every dollar of my Salary, while I stay here, which loss I can ill afford, having already spent near three thousand Dollars out of my own funds, since I left the United States.

I hope therefore that you will allow my application under those peculiar circumstances. I have said nothing about my health. It is better than last year, but by no means good. At any rate I could not venture to stay in Madrid during the summer, where the stoutest constitutions fail and where in fact every body leaves, who is in the least able to do so–

The final Saturday afternoon reception of the season is held at the White House.

General Ulysses S. Grant orders General George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac: “Wherever Lee goes, you will go there.”

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

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