New York Opposition to President Lincoln Begins to Weaken

August 30, 1864

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay is in New York doing political reconnaissance for President Lincoln. Nicolay reports to President Lincoln on his political meetings in New York with top Republicans like gubernatorial candidate Reuben Fenton, Republican Party boss Thurlow Weed, and Senator Edwin Morgan: “Mr Fenton arrived here this morning and had a conversation with Weed, in which he urged upon Weed his reasons in detail against any changes in the Custom House at this time. Mr. Weed heard him through, admitted there was much force in what he said; but was not convinced. In a conversation with afterwards. Mr. Weed repeated what he said to me yesterday, that changes were absolutely necessary and would be productive of much good. Delafield Smith, and Mr. Evarts also concur with Weed. Gov. Morgan was here at the Astor House a little while this evening. I talked with him on the subject, and while he seemed to have no definite impressions as to what really was best to be done, he said he would stand by whatever you might do. I saw Greeley yesterday and today; I did not talk very fully with him on this matter but gathered from what he said, that while he did not see much good likely to result from changes, yet that Barney was not good for anything.

On the whole I have concluded that I will endeavor to see Barney and Andrews as early as I can tomorrow, if they are in the City, and ask them for their resignations in accordance with your instructions.

“Almost all those with whom I have consulted, however, unite in saying that, excepting the Collector and Surveyor, there should be very few, if any other changes in their subordinates. Those who are in should have the hope other changes in their subordinates. Those who are in should have the hope of being kept in as a motive for work, while those who are out should have the hope of being put in to prompt them. The new appointees of Collector and Surveyor should receive instructions from yourself on this point.

“Mr. Everts is very earnest that Draper should be made collector instead of Wakeman.

Gov. Morgan and Senator Morrill have been through most of the New England States. They report an improved state of feeling in all respects, and say we will certainly [carry] Maine at the approaching September election, by a good majority.

“In my conversation with Mr. Greeley I urged upon him the necessity of fighting in good earnest in this campaign. He said in reply ‘I shall fight like a savage in this campaign. I hate McClellan.’

Mr. Weed and Gov Morgan concur in the opinion that Preston King will not take the Post Office in this city. Gov. Morgan suggests James Kelley instead.

I send this by Robert [Todd Lincoln]. If I get matters arranged satisfactorily I may start home tomorrow night – if not I will stay another day unless you telegraph for me.

Historian Gerald S. Henig in Henry Winter Davis, wrote that “the radicals met again in New York on August 30 at Field’s house. The only discouraging note was John Andrew’s refusal to attend. After learning that Lincoln stood firmly behind emancipation as one of the terms of peace with the South, the Massachusetts governor had decided to withdraw his support from the movement to discard the President. Andrew’s defection, although a serious blow, nevertheless failed to dampen the enthusiasm of those in attendance. With almost entire unanimity they resolved to go through with the original plan for a convention at Cincinnati. Davis was confident of success. As he presumptuously noted a day after the meeting: ‘Those who think Lincoln came down from Heaven will soon be convinced that he was on his way lower down & was not intended to stop here much longer; & having been found out he will be sent on his way rejoicing.’”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Not much of interest at the Cabinet. Seward, Blair, and Bates absent from Washington. The capture of Fort Morgan is confirmed by accounts from [General William T.] Sherman.”

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