President Lincoln Helps with a Cotton Case

October 3, 1864  

President Lincoln discusses cotton sale with Morris L. Hallowell, a Philadelphia businessman and prominent Quaker.   Editor John W. Forney had earlier written: “One of his debtors in Arkansas who owes him . . . an immense sum has 3600 bales of cotton. If he could get these out of the State under the authority of the Government, it would be a source of great advantage to the common cause, & would also enable his party in Arkansas to pay him. Gen’s Steele & Dana need only your permission to give protection to this cotton to get it out.” President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury William P. Fessenden: “Mr. Hallowell who brings this, has a very meritorious cotton-case & I hope it may be found that the same sort of thing can be done for him that was for Judge Johnson of Cincinnati.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes home: “The political news from all directions is very encouraging   In Indiana and Pennsylvania the contest has been very closely fought, and the result at the elections to be held on the 1th inst. is still in some doubt, though our friends are very hopeful of carrying both by a small majority. But whether we carry them or not, it is very generally conceded that the President will be re-elected in November unless the popular feeling should great change in the interim…

Had an interview with Seward, agreeable to the wishes of the President, concerning the order to A. J. Hamilton for bringing out cotton. I perceived that S. was prepared for me, and had expected an earlier call. He said that the scheme was one by which certain important persons in the Rebel cause were to be converted. Had himself not much faith that it would amount to anything, and yet it might. The President believed there would be results; but had been very confidential and secret in all that was done. He (S.) had drawn up the order carefully by special request of the President, but had never communicated to any one but Stanton what had been done. Some time since Stanton had got some inkling of the subject and had directly applied to him for information, and when this was done he did not feel at liberty to withhold from a colleague intelligence sought. But he at once informed the President that he had told Stanton. Nothing had yet been done, and nothing farther said, until I had brought up the subject. I remarked that the subject was of a character which seemed to deserve general consultation in the Cabinet, for three of the members besides himself were concerned in its executions; that I was especially so, it being my special duty to prevent intercourse with the Rebels and enforce the blockade. But this order conflicted with that duty, was not in good faith, I apprehended, with others of our people, or with foreign powers. I told him I had made inquiries of Fessenden, for the order expressly referred to the Treasury agents, and they would of course report to him. Seward said there was no interference with the blockade. He had prepared the order with great care and sent one copy to General Canby, and one to Admiral Farragut, and proposed to send and get it for my perusal, give me a copy if I wished. I told him I already had a copy, which seemed to surprise him. He appeared not to be aware that it was the duty of a naval officer to communicate his official acts to the Navy Department; that all the three Departments must come into possession of this confidential circular, and not unlikely it would go into the courts. He is not yet dispossessed of his early error that the government can be carried on by executive order regardless of Department or laws.

Published in: on October 3, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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