President Lincoln Sends Emissary to Test Grant’s Political Ambitions

August 12, 1864

The political situation is becoming more confusing. President Lincoln dispatched Colonel John Eaton to City Point Virginia. He instructs Eaton to ascertain Grant’s reaction to becoming presidential candidate. Eaton to City Point to check Grant’s political temperature. President Lincoln told him: “The disaffected are trying to get him to run, but I don’t think they can do it. If he is the great general we think he is, he must have some consciousness of it, and know that he cannot be satisfied with himself and secure the credit due for his great generalship if he does not finish his job. I do not believe that they can get him to run.” When Eaton explained his mission to Grant at his headquarters and asked his position on becoming a candidate for President, Grant replied: “They can’t compel me to do it!”

New York Republican political boss Thurlow Weed meets with President Lincoln regarding presidential campaign. Weed later writes to William H. Seward: “I told Mr Lincoln that his re-election was an impossib[il]ity, I also told him that the information would soon come to him through other channels. It has doubtless, ere this, reached him. At any rate, nobody here doubts it; nor do I see any body from other States who authorises the slightest hope of success.” He added that New York Times Editor Henry J. “Raymond, who has, just left me, says that unless some prompt and bold step be now taken, all is lost. The People are wild for Peace. They are told that the President will only listen to terms of Peace on condition Slavery be ‘abandoned.’”

New York Postmaster Abram Wakeman responds to a July 25 letter from President Lincoln: “Your excellent letter was duly received–1 I have read it with proper explanations to Mr B.2 He said, after some moments of silence, that so far as it related to him, “it did not amount to much”–

I supposed, if anything was written, something more specific would be expected– However, I hope to avoid the writing of any thing further– Should it be deemed necessary I will indicate my views as to its form, personally, as I expect to be in Washington next week– I have ventured to show this letter to several of my our freinds (of course without indicating a word as to what drew it out) and it has met with universal approval–

A word upon our other matter– I am fearful our hold upon Mr Weed3 is slight– He evidently has his eye upon some other probable candidate– I deeply regret this, for against him it will be difficult to carry New York– Now I don’t know, precisely, what he asked when he last saw you, but I think, so far as I could without compromising principle, I would yield to his wishes– Cant this be done? If so, it should be, at once–

Daily cogitations are occuring and new alliances may be formed– I think this requires instant attention–

Again, much anxiety exists as to the effect of the draft– Men must be had–

Cant they be obtained in some other way? Let me suggest– Genl Sickles4 is idle– He is immensely popular with the war people of this State– He has great tact & address– I am of the opinion, with proper appliances, he could raise fifty-thousand men in this State before election– This would be a great point– But, politically, he would be ranked with us, and in this he could be of immense service– You could fix this easily by a personal interview–

Hancock & Hooker are really great generals, but in this business, in this State, Sickles would surpass either of them–

Again, we have a curious genius in this city by the name of Wm. R. Bartlett–

He has interested himself deeply in your success– He deals with men who guide public opinion– He desires a confidential interview with you, but he would not visit Washington unless invited by you– He claims he can give you some information of vital importance, but he must see you and that at your request–

I may say he is a friend of Mr. Isaac Sherman and that Mr. S. believes in him– Now I have not been able to see Mr Sherman– He is out of town and will not return until Monday– I would beg to suggest that you write a line saying you would be pleased to see him in Washington and enclose it to me– I will, without his knowing or seeing it, first consult with Mr Sherman, and if, upon consultation with him, we shall deem it best to deliver it, then I will do so — otherwise, with proper explanations, return it to you– This, I think, will be safe– Time, Bartlett says, is all important– Else I would wait and see Mr S. for it–

Mr Bennett you will see by the enclosed is in for Commissioners &c to Richmond– He says this would elect you– I don’t give any opinion.

I learn Mrs. L. is to be in New York the first of the week– Pray present my compliments to her and say if I can serve her in any way I should be most happy–

By the way, I may say we have inaugurated a movement which will harmonize the New York conflicting organizations– Pardon this prolixity and believe me ever,

Springfield resident Francis Stewart writes President Lincoln from Philadelphia: “You will, I hope, remember that, only a few days since when, I called upon you in behalf of my son Frank who, is consigned to “Fort Delaware”, you kindly heard my “petition,” & most readily & graciously granted to me & mine — my request–

Since I was at Washington I have received a note from my Son, expressing his heartfelt and sincere thanks & gratitude to you, for your clemency & pardon, & at the same time earnestly desiring “to know, from you, whether, He shall be permitted to come at once Home, or be sent back to his Regiment (the 106 Pennsylvania) & with them remain in service until the Regiment shall be mustered out”&?

This “Regiment” is very soon to be mustered out,1 but the Co. to which he belonged (Co H) I am informed, has three or four months time yet to serve! I do not understand this, nor does my son, and it is because of this uncertainty that, we trouble you with these inquiries–?

You will more than oblige his anxious Father & your old Neighbor & friend, by giveing the necessary & proper direction to your executive officer, so that your origonal act of clemency may very soon bring his discharge, & to us our only Son & hope–

Poet Walt Whitman observes President Lincoln on his morning ride from the Soldiers Home to the White House: “I see very plainly [his] dark brown face, with the deep cut lines, the eyes, &c., always to me with a latent sadness in the expression. We have got so that we always exchange bows, and very cordial ones.”

Presidential aide John Hay leaves for Illinois for an extended vacation and presidential missions.

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