Cabinet Meeting about Trading with Enemy for Cotton.

September 9, 1864

General William T. Sherman telegraphs General Grant: “Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless for us to occupy it; but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources. I can make this march, and make Georgia howl.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “In C.C. today, Mr. Fessenden produced his plan for getting out cotton, under the late act of Congress.”

His plan seemed to me well enough, if confined to his own Statutory duties, i.e. the appointment and instruction of agents to purchase cotton, at certain points within our lines. But he embarrassed himself by trying also to regulate the method of getting the cotton in, ready to be bought – That is outside his province, and can only be controlled by the President as commander in chief.

I stated the intrinsic difficulty of carrying on war and trade, against and with the same people, at the same time. But, that difficulty overcome, I thought the measure might be made effectual, to a considerable extent, by refusing permits to all of our people, to go into the enemy country, to get cotton – as leading to corrupt speculation and odious monopoly – and allowing all cotton to be brought in to our military posts, asking no questions, to be forwarded to the Treasury agents, to be bought and paid for under the act.

And the Prest: directed the Secy. of the Treasury to try his his [sic] hand, in drawing up the details of such an intercourse.

This discussion (if an informal, disjointed conversation can be called discussion) convinced me, more than ever, of the evil tendency of times like these, in removing the land marks of power, and breaking down the barriers which ought to [stand.] between the different authorities…..

Illinois Congressman Jesse Norton writes President Lincoln: “You are doubtless aware that determined movements are being made, to supercede you as our Candidate.1 I fear the movement is growing formidable. One of the agents of the cause was here from Cincinnati, the other day, from whom I learned much of their plans. Of course I told him I was an out & outer, & had been for you ever since you was an aspirant for any public favor, & that I was regarded in Congress as one man whose position was not doubtful.

The grounds of their efforts I need not trouble you with. But I will say a few words about their plans.

They propose to hold another Convention on the 28th at Cincinnati to nominate another candidate. Butler is evidently their man. Preparatory to this they want to get you off the track. To this end they are striving to get every body, of any influence, to write & advise you to relinquish your nomination & try your chances at their convention. They say this would be magnanimous, I say it would be pusilanimous No good could come of it either to you or the Country. It would be disastrous to our cause. We could not rally our forces, under another name, at this late day, & as to your nomination there it is simply preposterous. You were nominated by the people. Trust them. They will sustain you. We cannot change our base now. We must not change our leader. In the tremendous burden that is cast upon us, we have but one thing to do, & that is, stand firm. It is no time to waver. Think not for one moment of withdrawing. You might as well withdraw Grant from Richmond or Sherman from Atlanta. We must stand by your nomination.

If they cannot coax or flatter you to give up the field, they propose to nominate at Cincinnati, & drive you out. Let them try it. It will not win, & in my judgement their nomination will fall as dead in the streets as Fremonts2 did. At all events if we stand fast, and disaster or defeat come, it will not be our fault.

I firmly believe the movement, in the main, comes from soreheads, and grumblers, & that it will not be sustained by the people.

The clouds are already lifting, and I believe you will be triumphantly sustained. At all events, the cause must stand or fall with you. It is no time for timid counsels or weak plans. Firmness & courage will carry us through, nothing else will

Late in the morning, Lincoln meets Judge David McDonald and journalist Charles M. Walker, both of Indiana. McDonald writes in his diary, “my notion of the President’s abilities was somewhat raised. Certainly he is very far from being a fool.”

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