President Lincoln Confers with Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles

September 27, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Received mail from Admiral Farragut. Among his dispatches one confidential, inclosing a letter from General Canby, who had received singular order signed by the President, directing that one A.J. Hamilton should be permitted to export cotton from Sabine Pass, Galveston, etc., himself, and that Hamilton’s written order should be a permit for others to export. As Ganeral Canby, to whom this document was directed, has no control over the squadron, he had inclosed the President’s order to Admiral Farragut. The Admiral had transmitted it to the senior officer off Galveston, and communicated copies of the whole correspondence to me, remarking that it would lead to immense swindling.

I submitted this extraordinary document to the President, and remarked as I did so, that in the discussions that had taken place on this subject on two or three occasions within the last six weeks, and since this order (dated, I think, the 9th of August) was issued, no allusion had been made to it, that it conflicted with the blockade which the Department was obliged to enforce, and that I was surprised on receiving the information. The President seemed embarrassed but said he believed it was all right. ‘How right’ I inquired. He said it was one of Seward’s arrangements, that he guessed would come out well enough; but evidently did not himself know, or, if he knew, was unwilling or unable to explain.

This is another specimen of the maladministration and improper interference of the Secretary of State. Commencing with the first expedition sent out to supply Sumter, which he took measures to defeat, there has been on his part a constant succession of wrong acts, impertinent intrigues in the affairs of other Departments, blunders and worse than blunders, that disgrace the Administration. There is unmistakable rascality in this cotton order. Thurlow Weed was here about the time it was issued, and it will not surprise me if the has an interest in it.

Seward thinks to keep his own name out of the transaction. The President has been made to believe that the order was essential; the Secretary of State has so presented the subject to him that he probably thought it a duty. There are times when I can hardly persuade myself that the President’s natural sagacity has been so duped, but his confidence in Seward is great, although he must know him to be, I will not say a trickster, because of his position and our association, but over-cunning to be strictly honest. And when I say this, I do not apply to him dishonesty in money transactions when dealing with men, or the government perhaps but political cheating, deceiving, wrong administration. He knows this scheme to bring out cotton was a fraud, and hence, instead of coming directly to me, who have charge of the blockade, or bringing the question before the Cabinet in a frank and honorable manner, there is this secret, roundabout proceeding, so characteristic of the Secretary of State.

President Lincoln meets with Englishman John W. Wilson, who comes with a letter of introduction from British statesman John Bright. Senator Charles Sumner writes Bright: “The Chicago platform & our victories have settled the Presidential election beyond question, & we all see the beginning of the end. In the large towns, especially New York, the enemy are strong. But elsewhere our majorities will be decisive.”

Before the Chicago Convention, Mr Lincoln’s case seemed almost hopeless. There was a profound discontent in his own party & especially among those who have been in the way of knowing him most. There was a distrust of his capacity. It is a general impression that with a Presdt. of ordinary vigor & practical sense, this was would have been ended long ago. But the Chicago platform was to [bad?]. Greeley who had stood out at once came in; so did Bryant. Wade & others have followed.

From the beginning I declined to have any thing to do with any adversary proceeding, partly on the ground of my personal relations with the Presdt but more because I was satisfied that it would only endanger the result. I should have been satisfied that it would only endanger the result. I should have been satisfied with any of 100 names — with any one of half the Senate, & I think any such person, if nominated with the good will of the Presdt could have been elected. But our candidate long ago set his heart on a re-election, & he will have it. Perhaps it is useless to go into reasons or details.

Chase at first was very bitter & went so far as to doubt the Presdt’s loyalty to the Anti-Slavery cause. I never have so far as he understands it. But he does not know how to help or is not moved to help. For instance, I do not remember that I have had any help from him in any questions which I have conducted — although a word from him in certain quarters would have saved me much trouble. It is hard to tug at questions day after day, when got. support might supersede all labor. But he has no instinct or inspiration.”

President Lincoln writes new Postmaster General William Dennison, who has missed a train connection: “Yours received. Come so soon as you can.”

President Lincoln writes General William T. Sherman: “You say Jeff. Davis is on a visit to Hood. I judge that [Georgia Governor] Brown and [Confederate Vice President Alexander H.] Stephens are the objects of his visit.”

President Lincoln writes General Benjamin F. Butler: “Assistant Surgeon Wm. Crouse in here complaining that you have dismissed him and ordered him out of the Department. Please telegraph me briefly the reasons.” Butler responds: “`Asst Surg William Crouse has deceived the President. He has not been dismissed. He received an appointment as Asst Surge from me in writing he refused to accept the appointment which was thereupon revoked because of his refusal to accept it. Then finding that he was drinking & worthless & as some thought crazy I ordered him out of the Department. I will forward official copies of the papers tomorrow.”

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Published in: on September 27, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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