President Lincoln Discusses Presidential Politics with Senator Zachariah Chandler

September 4, 1864

President Lincoln has discussions with Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler regarding the candidacy of General John C. Frémont and the possible dismissal of Postmaster Montgomery Blair, whose criticisms of Radical Republicans had infuriated them.

President Lincoln writes Quaker leader to Eliza P. Gurney: “I have not forgotten – probably never shall forget – the very impressive occasion when yourself and friends visited me on a Sabbath forenoon two years ago. Nor has your kind letter, written nearly a year later, ever been forgotten. In all, it has been your purpose to strengthen my reliance on God. I am much indebted to the good christian people of the country for their constant prayers and consolations; and to no one of the, more than to yourself. The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we, erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great god to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay.”

Your people – the Friends – have had, and are having a very great trial. On principle, and faith, opposed to both war and oppression, they can only practically oppose oppression by war. In this hard dilemma, some have chosen one horn and some the other. For those appealing to me on conscientious grounds, I have done, and shall do, the best I could and can, in my own conscience, under my oath to the law. That you believe this I doubt not; and believing it, I shall still receive, for our country and myself, your earnest prayers to our Father in Heaven.

On August 8, Mrs. Gurney had written President Lincoln: “Many times, since I was privileged to have an interview with thee, nearly a year ago, my mind has turned towards thee with feelings of sincere and christian interest, and, as our kind friend Isaac Newton offers to be the bearer of a paper messenger, I feel inclined to give the assurance of my continued hearty sympathy in all thy heavy burtherns and responsibilities and to express, not only my own earnest prayer, but I believe the prayer of many thousands whose hearts thou hast gladdened by thy praiseworthy and successful effort ‘to burst the bands of wickedness, and let the oppressed go free’ that the Almighty…may strengthen thee to accomplish all the blessed purposes, which, in the unerring counsel of his will and wisdom, I do assuredly believe he did design to make thee instrumental in accomplishing, when he appointed thee thy present post of vast responsibility, as the Chief Magistrate…’ Again on September, she writes:

“I like to address thee in thy own familiar way and tell thee how grateful to my feelings is thy valued and valuable letter…In the close and absorbing occupation of thy daily life, I know it must be difficult to find a moment to appropriate to courtesies of this description, and I appreciate accordingly the generous effort thou hast made on my behalf – one, which I certainly did not anticipate, when, from a motive of sincere and christian interest, I ventured to impose upon thee, a written evidence of my unfeigned regard…I would remark, that they very kind consideration for the religious scruples of the society of Friends, which has been so invariably and generously manifested by the Government, and especially by our honoured Executive, has been fully and gratefully appreciated. I think I may venture to say, that Friends are not less loyal for the lenity with which their honest convictions have been treated, and I believe there are very few amongst us who would not lament to see any other than ‘Abraham Lincoln’ fill the Presidential chair – at least at the next election…May our worthy Chief Magistrate yet see the day, when the Prince of Peace, the wonderful counsellor shall rule and reign over this now distracted country….’

Presidential Secretary John G. Nicolay writes home: ““I returned on yesterday from New York, where I have been since last Monday, on a mission from the President in connection with some changes in the custom house officials, which the President deemed advisable and necessary. It was a very delicate, disagreeable and arduous duty, but I think my visit had a beneficial influence, and assisted in bringing about some much needed reforms.

“Our friends in New York were much dispirited when I went there, and evidently gave up all hope of Republican success in this fall’s election. But several circumstances – the fall of Mobile, the Chicago nominations and Platform, &c &c. – occurred while I was there, and gave them new hope and courage and I think we shall have no similar despondency during the campaign. While it is utterly impossible to harmonize all the New York factions, I think they will generally acquiesce in the new appointments the President will make there, and work earnestly for success in November….

“The political condition has very much improved since I last wrote to you. The depression under which our friends were everywhere laboring, in undergoing a very decided and healthy reaction; the surrender platform which the Chicago Convention made is disgusting very many honest War Democrats, and the fall of Fort Morgan and capture of Atlanta by Sherman of which we received news here yesterday morning will stimulate it into a very potent enthusiasm. If things continue as favorable as they seem today we shall beat Little Mac very handsomely. When I left New York the feeling that he would take grounds in favor of the prosecution of the War in his letter of acceptance. I do not think however that that will save him. In a conversation with a Democratic friend there I told him that I thought Little Mac’s blanket was too short – if he pulled it up over his head his feet would stick out – if he kept his feet covered he would have cold ears. Unless Republicans are recreant to every sentiment of duty and honor we shall send this Chicago programme to a speedy oblivion. The Lord preserve this country [from] the kind of peace they would give us. It will be a dark day for this nation if they should elect the Chicago ticket, and purchase peace at the cost of Disunion, Secession, bankruptcy and National Dishonor, an ‘ultimate’ Slave Empire. I cannot think that Providence has this humiliation or disgrace and disaster in store for us….”

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