President Lincoln Tries to Mediate Chicago Political Fight

July 20, 1864

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary:“Yesterday, in C.C. The President brought up the matter of the military proceedings at Norfolk   Made a long statement, [of] the quarrel between Gov Pierepoint [Pierpont] and Genl. Butler – say little, about the orders of Shepley and butler, and nothing at all about my letter – Some conversation took place in which the Prest. Said he was much perplexed to now what to do &c[.]   Mr. Stanton, sec [of] War said it was a high-handed measure – In answer to some question of Mr. Fessenden, Sec [of the’Trasy. I said ‘I[t] is a bald usurpation.’ Afterwards Mr. F.[essenden] said it was clearly against law, and Gen butler ought to be ordered to be ordered [sic] to revoke the orders, and abstain from doing any thing under the mock election[.]

“Mr. Seward, Sec of State, (who always shuffles around a knotty point, by some trick) thought that as It was a question of military necessity, it ought to be refered to Genl. Grant! (Just to stave it off) I ansd. That the Secy of State could not have read Genl Shepley’s order, which put it on a different footing – I told the prest that, in my judg[men]t, it was a simple question of jurisdiction – whether the military should put down the civil law – I was only the law-officer of the Govt. without any power, but would protect my office and my self, by putting of record, the opinions and views which I had on these subjects, &c[.]

“All admitted that the Govt. of Va. Was fully recognized by every branch of the U.S. govt. (referring to the W.Va. Act) &c – I do not remember that Welles and Usher said any thing, except that Mr. Welles said that Genl butler had given permits to trade in the N.C. sounds – and some of them had been detected in trading with the agent of the enemy – selling whisky, shoses [sic] &c{.]

I think the Prest: can[‘] get over revoking the orders but I fear, reluctantly and ungracefully[.]

Marginal note.] July 31. I am mortified that the President has not yet announced his determination on this important business. It ought not to have occupied an hour. The Genls proceedings are flat usurpation, and ought to have been put down instantly. The admn. Cannot but feel the evils of such barbarous government.

President Lincoln involves himself in a Chicago political fight regarding the renomination of Congressman Isaac N. Arnold, a congressional ally of the President. He writes Chicago Postmaster John L. Scripps: “I have received, and read yours of the 15th. Mine to you, was only a copy, with names changed, of what I had said to another Post-Master, on a similar complaint, and the two are the only cases in which that precise complaint, and the two are the only cases in which that precise complaint has, as yet, been made to me. I think that in these cases I have stated the principle correctly for all public officers, and I certainly wish all would follow it. But, I do not quite like to publish a general circular on the subject, and it would be rather laborious to write a seperate letter to each.”

On July 4, Scripps had written: “That I am opposed to the renomination of Mr. Arnold is true; but that I have, at any time, either directly or indirectly, used my ‘official power’ to defeat his renomination, is utterly untrue…Mr. Arnold well knew the falsity of the charge at the time he preferred it…But he knew what he would do were he similarly situated, and I suppose could not credit the fact; and so he went whining to you about the ‘official power’ of this office being thrown against him…

‘And now will you permit me…to take the liberty of suggesting that…it would be well for you to give to the various heads of…offices the same instructions…which you were induced to give to me through Mr. Arnold’s deliberate misrepresentations…’

Published in: on July 20, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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