Political Uncertainty Persists

August 27, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Much party machinery is just at this time in motion. No small portion of it is a prostitution and abuse. The Whig element is venal and corrupt, to a great extent. I speak of the leaders of that party now associated with Republicans. They seem to have very little political principle; they have no belief in public virtue or popular intelligence; they have no self-reliance, no confidence in the strength of a righteous cause, little regard for constitutional restraint and limitations. Their politics and their ideas of government consist of expedients, and cunning management with the intelligent, and coercion and subornation of the less informed.” Patronage in New York City is a major concern for the Lincoln Administration:

Mr. Wakeman, the postmaster at New York, with whom I am on very good terms, — for he is affable, insinuating, and pleasant, though not profound nor reliable, —— a New York politician, has called upon me several times in relation to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He is sent by Raymond, by Humphrey, by Campbell and others, and I presume Seward and Weed have also been cognizant of and advising in the matter. Raymond is shy of me. He evidently is convinced that we should not harmonize. Wakeman believes that all is fair and proper in party operations which can secure by any means certain success, and supposes that every one else is the same. Raymond knows that there are men of a different opinion, but considers them slow, incumbrances, stubborn and stupid, who cannot understand and will not be managed by the really ready and sharp fellows like himself who have resources to accomplish almost anything. Wakeman has been prompted and put forward to deal with me. He says we must have the whole power and influence of the government this coming fall, and if each Department will put forth its whole strength and energy in our favor we shall be successful. He had just called on Mr. Stanton at the request of our friends, and all was satisfactorily arranged with him. Had seen Mr. Fessenden and was to have another interview, and things were working well at the Treasury. Now, the Navy Department was quite as important as either, and he, a Connecticut man, had been requested to see me. There were things in the Navy Yard to be corrected, or our friends would not be satisfied, and the election in New York and the country might by remissness be endangered. This must be prevented, and he knew I would use all the means at my disposal to prevent it. He then read from a paper what he wanted should be done. It was a transcript of a document that had been sent me by Seward as coming from Raymond, for the management of the yard, and he complained of some proceedings that had given offense. Mr. Halleck, one of the masters, had gathered two or three hundred workmen together, and was organizing them with a view to raise funds and get them on the right track, but Admiral Paulding had interfered, broken up the meetings, and prohibited them from assembling in the Navy Yard in future.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “If Gen. [Franz] Sigel has asked for an Inquiry, let him have it, if there is not some insurmountable, or at least, very serious obstacle. He is fairly entitled to this consideration.” On July 7, General Ulysses S. Grant had written: General Henry W. Halleck of the controversial German-American general: “All of General Sigel’s operations from the beginning of the war have been so unsuccessful that I think it advisable to relieve him from all duty, at least until present troubles are over. I do not feel certain at any time that he will not after abandoning stores, artillery, and trains, make a successful retreat to some place.”

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