President Lincoln Insists that William P. Fessenden Take Treasury Post

July 2, 1864

President Lincoln meets with newly designated Treasury Secretary William P. Fessenden. Late that night, Fessenden unsuccessfully tries to deliver a letter to the White House declining his nomination. According to historian Allan Nevins, Fessenden and Lincoln “agreed that Lincoln would keep no officer in the Treasury against the Secretary’s express will, and also that in filling Treasury vacancies the Secretary would bow to Lincoln’s wishes whenever they were made known.”

Indiana Congressman George W. Julian recalled: “Having understood that Mr. Lincoln had changed his opinion respecting the power of Congress to confiscate the landed estates of rebels, I called to see him on the subject on the 2nd of July, and asked him if I might say to the people that what I had learned on this subject was true, assuring him that I could make a far better fight for our cause if he would permit me to do so. He replied that when he prepared his veto of our law on the subject two years before, he had not examined the matter thoroughly, but that on further reflection, and on reading Solicitor Whiting’s law argument, he had changed his opinion, and thought he would now sign a bill striking at the fee, if we would send it to him. I was much gratified by this statement, which was of service to the cause in the canvass; but, unfortunately, constitutional scruples respecting such legislation gained ground, and although both Houses of Congress at different times endorsed the principle, it never became a law, owing to unavoidable differences between the President and Congress on the question of reconstruction.   The action of the President in dealing with rebel land owners was of the most serious character. It paralyzed one of the most potent means of putting down the Rebellion, prolonging the conflict and aggravating its costs, and at the same time left the owners of large estates in full possession of their lands at the end of the struggle, who naturally excluded from the ownership of the soil the freedmen and poor white who had been friendly to the Union; while the confiscation of life estates as a war measure was of no practical advantage to the Government or disadvantage to the enemy.”

President Lincoln writes Supreme Court Justice David Davis and Illinois District Court Judge Samuel Treat to give me a summary of the evidence, with your impression, on the Coles County riot cases.” Treat responds: “The record in the case of the Coles Co. prisoners was ordered to be certified to the president it contains the whole case in my opinion the prisoners should have been surrendered to the civil authorities under the act” of March 3, 1863.

From the Shenandoah Valley Union General Franz Sigel telegraphs: “There are strong indications of a movement of the enemy in force down the Valley.”

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Published in: on July 2, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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