President Lincoln Reads Draft Message to Cabinet

November 25, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “For some weeks I have ben unable to note down occurrences daily. On the evening of the election, the 8th, I went to the War Department about nine o’clock by invitation of the President. Took Fox with me, who was a little reluctant to go lest he should meet Stanton, who had for some days been ill. The Department was locked, but were guided to the south door. The President was already there, and some returns from different quarters had been received. He detailed particulars of each telegram which had been received. Hay soon joined us and, after a little time, General Eaton. Mr. Eckert, the operator, had a fine supper prepared, of which we partook soon after 10. It was evident shortly after the election had gone pretty much one way. Some doubts about New Jersey and Delaware. We remained until past one in the morning and left. All was well.

The President on two or three occasions in Cabinet-meeting alluded to his message. It seemed to dwell heavy on his mind,–more than I have witnessed on any former occasion. On Friday, the 25th, he read to us what he had prepared. There was nothing very striking, and he evidently labors in getting it up. The subject of Reconstruction and how it should be effected is the most important theme. He says he cannot treat with Jeff Davis and the Jeff Davis government, which is all very well, but whom will he treat with, or how commence the work? All expressed themselves very much gratified with the documents and his views. I suggested whether it would not be well to invite back no only the people but the States to their obligations and duties. We are one country. I would not recognize what is called the Confederate government, for that is a usurpation, but the States are entities and may be recognized and treated with. Stanton, who was present for the first time for six weeks, after each had expressed his views, and, indeed, after some other topic had been taken up and disposed of, made some very pertinent and in the main proper and well-timed remarks, advising the President to make no new demonstration or offer, to bring forward his former policy and maintain it, to hold open the doors of conciliation and invite the people to return to their duty. He would appeal to them to do so, and ask them whether it would not have been better for them and for all, had they a year since accepted his offer.

Each of the members of the Cabinet were requested to prepare a brief statement of the affairs of their respective Departments. Seward had already handed in much of his. I told the President I would hand him my brief the next day.

At this meeting on the 25th, Mr. Usher made some allusion to the gold that was forthcoming in the Territories. The President interrupted him, saying he had been giving that matter a good deal of attention and he was opposed to any excitement on the subject. He proposed that the gold should remain in the mountains until the War was over, for it would now only add to the currency and we had already too much currency. It would be better to stop than to increase it.

It cannot be otherwise than that the country will become impoverished with such pervading the government. There will be devastation and ruin, if not corrected, before us. Fessenden is of the old Whig school of folly on finance and currency; is resorting to flimsy expedients, instead of honest, hard truth. God is truth; irredeemable paper and flimsy expedients are not.

Presidential aide John Hay writes to George B. Smith, who had sent a beef to the president on hopes that it would be consumed for Thanksgiving: “The President directs me to acknowledge the receipt of a Choice piece of Roasting Beef and the very kind letter by which it was accompanied, and to tender you his thanks for both.”   Hay writes Charles S. Spencer, president of the Lincoln and Johnson Central Campaign Club of New York City who had requested a toast for a banquet: “I regret that the President was literally crowded out of the opportunity of writing you an note for yr. Banquet. He fully intended to do so himself & for that reasons I did not prepare a letter for him. But the crush here just now is beyond endurance.”

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Published in: on November 25, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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