New York Patronage Positions Preoccupy President Lincoln

June 27, 1864

President Lincoln formally accepts his Union presidential nomination. He responds to the delegation from the National Union Convention that had informed him of his nomination for president: “Your letter of the 14th. Inst. formally notifying me that I have been nominated by the convention you represent for the President of the United States for four years from the fourth of March next has been received. The nomination is gratefully accepted, as the resolutions of the convention, called the platform, are heartily approved.

While the resolution in regard to the supplanting of republican government upon the Western continent is fully concurred in, there might be misunderstanding were I not to say that the position of the government, relation to the action of France in Mexico, as assumed through the State Department, and approved and indorsed by the convention, among the measures and acts of the Executive, will be faithfully maintained, so long as the state of facts shall leave that position pertinent and applicable.

I am especially gratified that the soldier and the seaman were not forgotten by the convention, as they forever must and will be remembered by the grateful country for whose salvation they devote their lives.

Thanking you for the kind and complimentary terms in which you have communicated the nomination and other proceedings of the convention, I subscribe myself

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase attempted to appoint Field assistant United States Treasurer in New York in June 1864. According to historian Ernest A. McKay in The Civil War and New York City, Field was “a man of high social standing with literary interests who was coauthor of a romantic novel. Chase opponents charged that Field was not respected by either politicians or financiers. Field, however, was hardly a novice in the financial world. He had served as an assistant to Cisco for many years and was now assistant secretary of the treasury. Nonetheless, Senator Morgan objected to his appointment and offered three well-regarded New Yorkers, R. M. Blatchford, Dudley S. Gregory, and Thomas Hillhouse, for consideration. Chase believed one of these men might be suitable in peacetime but not under the pressures of war. One man, he told Lincoln, was over seventy and another over sixty. Chase ignored Morgan and presented Field’s name to the president.”

Chase writes in his diary: “Called on Senator [Edwin] Morgan to consult about Asst. Treasurer at New York – told him I had concluded to recommend Mr. Field. He thought I had better name Mr. Gregory or Mr. Blatchford. I replied that either gentleman would be entirely acceptable to me personally but I thought the public interest would on the whole be best consulted by the appointment of Mr. F. He said that Mr. [Charles] Jones of Brooklyn Chairman of the Union Committee had brought a list of clerks and officers under Mr. Cisco and that there were but some half dozen Union men among them–all the rest being democrats I replied that I thought the statement erroneous and that on fair enquiry it would be found that of the persons called democrats the largest proportion are of the same class with Andrew Johnson–but I would think the matter all over and decide today. At the Dept. Mr. Freeman Clarke called and I talked the matter over with him. He seemed to prefer Mr. Field. I told him if he would take it, I would send his name to the President at once. He said his health would not allow him to do so and even if it would he could not on other grounds. I asked him to confer with the Senators and report, telling him I must decide today. Having waited to hear from him till about four and having in the meantime conferred fully with Mr. Field, whom I found even a more decided supporter of the Admn. than Johnson was at the time of his nomination, I went to the Capitol to see him. He was neither in the House nor Senate and I then sent to the Department thinking that in the meantime he might have gone thither. The Messenger returned reporting that he had not been there and I at once sent Mr. Fields name to the President, about [?] half past four.” Chase adds:

I have repeatedly assured the Committee and the President that we cannot even sustain the existing or even somewhat reduced rate of expenditure without a revenue from taxes and duties of $400,000,000. In a recent letter upon the assumption, admitted to be improbable that Expenditure might be reduced to 750,000,000 I fixed the amount with which we might get along at one half or 375,000,000. I mean to send the bill for the additional taxes to Congress and the President and insist on it.

Another New York City patronage position is also giving President Lincoln difficulty. Historian Charles Brown wrote in William Bryant “Smarting under the Evening Post’s attacks against the administration, although the Navy Department had fared better than most other departments, [Secretary of the Navy Gideon] Welles was somewhat put out by Bryant’s letter, delivered to him by representative M.F. Odell of Brooklyn, a friend of Henderson and like him a prominent member of the Methodist church. ‘Of course Mr. H. stimulated Mr. B. to write these letters, and, having got them, sends them through his religious associate,’ Welles wrote in his diary on June 27. He mentioned that former governor Edwin D. Morgan believed both Bryant and Godwin were ‘participants in the plunder of Henderson’ but expressed doubts about Bryant, ‘who is feeling very badly, and thinks there is a conspiracy in which Seward and Thurlow Weed are chiefs.’   Welles could and should easily have disregarded Morgan’s opinion, since as governor he had been linked with Weed in the Evening Post’s assaults on the flagrantly corrupt legislature of 1869-1860.

After conferring with Welles about Navy Agent Isaac Henderson,, President Lincoln writes New York Evening Post Editor William Bryant: “Yours of the 25th. has just been handed me by the Secretary of the Navy. The tone of the letter, rather than any direct statement in it, impresses me as a complaint that Mr. Henderson should have been removed from office, and arrested; coupled with the single suggestion that he be restored, if he shall establish his innocence. I know absolutely nothing of the case except as follows—Monday last Mr. Welles came to me with the letter of dismissal already written, saying he thought proper to show it to me before sending it. I asked him the charges, which he stated in a general way. With as much emphasis as I could I said `Are you entirely certain of his guilt’ He answered that he was, to which I replied `Then send the letter.’ Whether Mr. Henderson was a supporter of my second nomination I neither knew, or enquired, or even thought of. I shall be very glad indeed if he shall, as you anticipate, establish his innocence; or, to state it more strongly and properly, `if the government shall fail to establish his guilt.’ I believe however, the man who made the affidavit was of as spotless reputation as Mr. Henderson, until he was arrested on what his friends insist was outrageously insufficient evidence. I know the entire city government of Washington, with many other respectable citizens, appealed to me in his behalf, as a greatly injured gentleman.

Then, President Lincoln hoisted Bryant on his own petard: “While the subject is up may I ask whether the Evening Post has not assailed me for supposed too lenient dealing with persons charged of fraud & crime? and that in cases of which the Post could know but little of the facts? I shall certainly deal as leniently with Mr. Henderson as I have felt it my duty to deal with others, notwithstanding any newspaper assaults.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary:“The President returned, night before last, from his visit to the army in Va. He is perceptably [sic] disappointed at the small measure of our success, in that region; but encouraged by Grant’s persistent confidence. He visited personally, appositions about Petersburg and Bermuda Hundred.”

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