No Cabinet Meeting at the White House

October 7, 1864

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The President was not at his house to-day. Mr. Bates had said to me that the President told him there was no special business. Nevertheless, I preferred soon after twelve to walk over, having some little business of my own. Fessendcn, Usher, and myself arrived about the same moment, and we had half an hour’s friendly talk. In the course of it, Fessendcn took an occasion to pass an opinion upon certain naval officers, showing the prejudiced partisan rather than the enlightened minister and statesman. Farragut, he said, was the only naval officer who has exhibited any skill and ability; there were undoubtedly other officers, but they had not been brought out. I inquired what he thought of Foote. “Well, I allude more particularly to the living,” said he, “but what is Lee, that you have kept him in? Is there any reason except his relationship to the Blairs and to Fox?” — he knew of no other reason. I inquired when Lee had been remiss, and asked him if he knew that Montgomery Blair and Lee were not on speaking terms and had not been for years. He seemed surprised and said he was not. I told him such was the case; that he had never expressed a wish in Lee’s behalf to me, or manifested any gratification at that selection, but on the contrary, I knew Blair had thought, with him, that it was an appointment not judicious. I did not tell F. of the narrow animosity of Lee towards Fox. But all this spleen came, I knew, from the War Department and certain influences connected with it. Dahlgren he also denounced, yet when I inquired if he had ever investigated the subject, if he was aware that Dahlgren had maintained an efficient blockade, while Du Pont, whom he half complimented, had not [sic], “Then,” said I, “what do you say of Porter?” He admitted that he had thought pretty well of Porter until he begun to gather in cotton, and run a race with Banks to get it instead of doing his duty. I told him this was ungenerous and, I apprehended, a sad mistake on his part. The whole tenor of the conversation left no doubt on my mind that Stanton, Winter Davis, Wade, Chase, the thieving Treasury agents and speculators had imposed on Fessenden.

. . . Fessenden is, in some personal matters, very much of a partisan, and his partisan feelings have made him the victim of a very cunning intrigue. He dislikes Seward, and yet is, through other instuumentalities, the creature to some extent of Seward.

Stanton, having been brought into the Cabinet by Seward, started out as a radical. Chase and others were deceived by his pretensions at the beginning, but some time before leaving the Cabinet, Chase found a part of his mistake. Fessenden and others have not yet. They suppose Stanton is with them; Seward knows better. I have no doubt but Stanton when with Fessenden, Wade, and others acquiesces and participates in their expressed views against Seward. Hating Blair, it has grieved Stanton that Lee, the brother-in-law of Blair, should have command, and Fessenden has been impressed accordingly. Himself inclined to radicalism on the slavery issue, though in other respects conservative, Fessenden, who is in full accord with Chase, has a dislike to Blair, an old Democrat but who is represented as the friend of Seward. Yet Blair has no more confidence in, or regard for, Seward than Fessenden has, and I have been surprised that he should acquiesce in the erroneous impression that is abroad. It is easy to perceive why Seward should favor the impression alluded to. Blair was ready to accept the denunciatory resolution of the Baltimore convention as aimed at him, whereas it was intended more particularly for Seward. The Missouri radicals are some who were deceived by the impression that Seward and Blair were a unit. In the convention there was a determination to get rid of Mr. Seward, but the managers, under the contrivance of Raymond, who has shrewdness, so shaped the resolution as to leave it pointless, or as not more direct against Seward than against Blair, or by others against Chase and Stanton

Former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes in his diary: “At Presidents and got order for Judge Advocate Burnett to examine & report on cases of Capt Black & N B Taylor Spoke to him about permission for Mrs Johnson, daughter of Jude Nicolas of Louisville, to go South.   He said the Admtn seemed to him to act on the principle of being as contrary as possible with rebels — those who did not want to go they sent forcibly — those who wished to go they would not permit to. ‘Twas not his feeling.”

General Nathaniel Banks meets with President Lincoln about Louisiana.

President Lincoln writes New York Times Editor Henry J. Raymond: “I well remember the meetings herein narrated. See nothing for me to object to in the narrative as being made by General McDowell, except the phrase attributed to me “of the Jacobinism of Congress,” which phrase I do not remember using literally or in substance, and which I wish not to be published in any event.”

After several days waiting for an interview, a young Missouri woman meets with President Lincoln: “”When I entered he raised his tired eyes, oh so tired, and with a worn look I can never, never forget. As I advanced, and before he spoke, I said: ‘Mr. Lincoln, you must pardon this intrusion, but I just could not wait any longer to see you.’ The saintly man then reached out his friendly hand and said: ‘No intnision at all, not the least. Sit down, my child, sit down, and let me know what I can do for you.’ I suggested that probably he was too tired. He replied: ‘I am tired, but I am waiting to say good-bye to two friends from Chicago, who are going on the train at 7.’”

She remembered: “I briefly explained to him the case before me, saying that Hayden had been in prison fifteen months; that he was a Union man, forced from his home by the rebels, etc.; that his wife had died since he had been in prison, leaving five little children with his very aged mother, who had lately lost her eyesight. I had, besides, a large envelope filled with letters of recommendation from different officers of the department of Missouri; also a petition drawn up by myself, signed by the Union neighbors of Mr. Hayden; appended to it a certificate of their loyalty, signed by the county clerk, Wallace Permott, who had affixed the seal of the county court. To all of the above, Senator John B. Henderson had added an endorsement for myself, in strong, impressive language.

She was fortunate to have met some Lincoln friends: “”When I offered my papers to the president, he didn’t touch them, but said, without raising a hand: ‘Now, suppose you read them over for me. Your eyes are younger than mine. Besides, as I told you, I am very, very tired.’

By accident, the petition was the first thing I took up. When I came to John B. Henderson’s name he reached out and said quickly: ‘Let me see that.’ As he glanced over it to the bottom, he laid the paper down, slapped his hand upon the table and exclaimed: ‘Plague on me, if that ain’t John Henderson’s signature. Well, I’ll release this man just because John Henderson asks me to do it. I know he wouldn’t ask me if it wasn’t right, nor send any one here that would do anything detrimental to our government. Come in tomorrow at 8 o’clock — M’nd, at 8 precisely. Bring that petition with John Henderson’s name on it and I’ll fix you so you can get this man out of prison.’ He then seemed interested and asked me several questions about men and matters in Northeast Missouri.”

She was joined by Colonel Thomas Turner and Colonel Hancock.   President Lincoln invited them all to dinner the next night: “No formality at dinner tomorrow, not a bit”.

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