President Lincoln Seeks to Sort Out Political Difficulties

August 29, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “We have word through Rebel channels that the Union forces have possession of Fort Morgan. This will give us entire control of the Bay of Mobile.”

The President sent me a bundle of papers, embracing a petition drawn up with great ability and skill, signed by most of the Massachusetts delegation in Congress and a large number of the prominent merchants in Boston, asking special favors in behalf of Smith Brothers, who are under arrest for fraudulent deliveries under contract, requesting that the trial may be held in Boston and that it may be withdrawn from the military and transferred to the civil tribunals. Senator Sumner and Representative Rice wrote special letters to favor the Smiths. The whole scheme had been well studied and laboriously got up, and a special delegation have come on to press the subject upon the President.

He urged me to relieve him from the annoying and tremendous pressure that had been brought to bear upon him in this case by religious or sectarian and municipal influence. I went briefly over the main points; told him the whole subject ought to be referred to an left with the Navy Department in this stage of the proceedings, that I desired him to relieve himself of all care and trouble by throwing the whole responsibility and odium, if there was odium, on the Navy Department, that we could not pursue a different course in this case from the others,–it could not be made an exception. He then asked why not let the trial take place in Boston and thus concede something. I told him this might be done, but it seemed to me inexpedient; but he was so solicitous–political and party considerations had been artfully introduced, against which little could be urged, when Solicitor Whiting and others averred that three Congressional districts would be sacrificed if I persisted–that the point was waived and the President greatly relieved. The President evinced shrewdness in influencing, or directing me, but was sadly imposed upon by the cunning Bostonians.

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes President Lincoln from New York where he had been sent on a political mission to adjust patronage difficulties: “I did not reach here until noon today, in consequence of the late train of last night coming no farther than Philadelphia.”

“I have seen no one yet but Mr. Raymond and Mr. Weed, and several influential men from the country, who were in Mr. Raymond’s office when I went there.

“Raymond is still of opinion that the change contemplated should be made at once, although he does not seem to have conferred with any one, except Weed, who joins him very decidedly in the same belief. I myself asked Mr. Weed the distinct question whether the change ought to be made now, or after the election, and he answered, now by all means.

“The conference of Raymond and Sherman with him this morning of course apprised him that the step was in contemplation. I do not know through whose instrumentality it was, but somehow Mr. [Simeon] Draper has been informed that you were thinking of appointed him Surveyor, and he and some of his friends are stirring up a new difficulty by announcing and insisting that he will decline it. I enclose a letter to you on the subject from Draper’s bosom fiend, Moses H. Grinnell, who had just brought it to Mr. Weed to be forwarded to you when I saw him.

“There is however still a chance that Draper will re-consider this determination. If he does not then I advise, on the strength of what I have heard today, that you accept his declension as final, and leave him out in the cold until he becomes more tractable. I will write more fully of this tomorrow.

“I hope [Reuben] Fenton may come on tonight, as he thought he would, so that I may have his advice in the matter tomorrow.

In August, the President met with Frederick Douglass and recruited the former slave to help organize slave escapees as volunteer recruits for the Union Army. A few days later, Douglass writes the President: “all with whom I have thus far spoken on the subject, concur in the wisdom and benevolence of the idea, and some of them think it is practicable. That every slave who escapes from the Rebel States is a loss to the Rebellion and a gain to the Loyal Cause I need not stop to argue[;] the proposition is self evident. The negro is the stomach of the rebellion.”

The Democratic National Convention begins meeting in Chicago with General George B. McClellan favored as the presidential nominee.

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Published in: on August 29, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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