President Lincoln Rejects Pressure from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase

June 28, 1864

A dispute over the appointment of a successor to Assistant Secretary of the Treasury John Cisco blows.   New York State was a political hot-house and promised to be key in the 1864 presidential election. President Lincoln had insisted that the Treasury appointment be approved by New York Senator Edwin D. Morgan, but Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase declined to reach an agreement with Morgan.

President Lincoln today rejects the proposed nomination of Maunsell Field as the Treasury’s top official in New York City. He writes Chase: “Yours inclosing a blank nomination for Maunsell B. Field to be Assistant Treasurer at New-York was received yesterday. I can not, without much embarrassment, make this appointment, principally because of Senator Morgan’s very firm opposition to it. Senator Harris has not spoken to me on the subject, though I understand he is not averse to the appointment of Mr. Field; nor yet to any one of the three named by Senator Morgan, rather preferring, of them, however, Mr. Hillhouse. Gov Morgan tells me he has mentioned the three names to you, towit, R. M. Blatchford, Dudley S. Gregory, and Thomas Hillhouse. It will really oblige me if you will make choice among these three, or any other man that Senators Morgan and Harris will be satisfied with, and send me a nomination for him

Chase responds: “I shall be glad to have a conversation with you on the subject of the appointment of Mr. Cisco’s successor at any time & place convenient to you.” President Lincoln later writes Chase: “When I received your note this forenoon suggesting a verbal conversation in relation to the appointment of a successor to Mr. Cisco, I hesitated because the difficulty does not, in the main part, lie within the range of a conversation between you and me. As the proverb goes, no man knows so well where the shoe pinches as he who wears it. I do not think Mr. Field a very proper man for the place, but I would trust your judgment, and forego this, were the greater difficulty out of the way. Much as I personally like Mr. Barney, it has been a great burden to me to retain him in his place, Barney, it has been a great burden to me to retain him in his place, when nearly all our friends in New-York, were directly or indirectly urging his removal. Then the appointment of Judge Hogeboom to be genera Appraiser, brought me to and has ever since kept me at, the verge of open revolt. Now, the appointment of Mr. Field, would precipitate me in it, unless Senator Morgan and those feeling as he does, could be brought to concur in it. Strained as I already am at this point I do not think I can make this appointment in the direction of still great strain.” Lincoln adds: “The testimonials of Mr. Field, with your accompanying notes, were duly received, and I am now waiting to see your answer from Mr. Cisco.”

Chase replied: “I have telegraphed Mr. Cisco begging him to withdraw his resignation and served at least another quarter. If he declines to do so I must repeat that, in my judgment, the public interests require the appointment of Mr. Field. One of the gentlemen named by Senator Morgan is over seventy & the other, I think over sixty years old, and neither has any practical knowledge of the duties of the office. They are both estimable gentlemen and were the times  peaceful & the business of the office comparatively small & regular, I should gladly acquiesce in the appointment of either. But my duty to you & to the country does not permit it now. I have already after conference with Senator Morgan offered, with his concurrence, my recommendation to your consideration to three gentlemen, each admirably qualified, but each has declined. I now recommend Mr. Field because among those who will take the place I think him best qualified and only for that reason. But, this, especially in these times, should be a controlling reason…”

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “At the Department received a note from the President, saying that Senator Morgan strongly opposed the nomination of Mr. Field in place of Mr. Cisco–replied asking an interview, but received no answer. He may not wish one or what is more probably allows himself to forget the request. He asks the nomination of R.S. Blatchford or Dudley S. Gregory, neither of whom, I fear, is the proper man to take charge of the office at this critical juncture; though either would be entirely acceptable to me personally. I fear Senator Morgan desires to make a political engine of the office, and loses sight in this desire of the necessities of the service.” Chase writes:

“Telegraphed Mr. Cisco urging him to withdraw resignation and serve at least another quarter; and wrote to President what I had done and why I could not honestly, in duty to him or the country, recommend at this time either of the names he had suggested.

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