November 26, 1864
President Lincoln offers Judge Advocate Joseph Holt the post of Attorney General being vacated by Edward Bates. Holt will decline it: Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: ‘The place of Attorney-general has been tendered to Holt, who declines it, preferring his present position. This I think an error; that is, no man should decline a place of such responsibility in times like these when the country is so unanimous in his favor. Whiting, Solicitor of the War Department and patent lawyer, is sorely disappointed.”
President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Staton meet regarding the return of General Nathaniel Banks back to Louisiana. President Lincoln writes Banks, who has been delaying his return to Louisiana: “I had a full conference this morning with the Secretary of War in relation to yourself. The conclusion is that it will be best for all if you proceed to New-Orleans, and act there in obedience to your order; and, in doing which, having continued, say, one month, if it shall then, as now, be your wish to resign, your resignation will be accepted. Please take this course.”
Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary:“I called on the President Saturday, the 26th, as I had promised him I would the day before, with my abstract for the message, intending to have a full, free talk with him on the subjects that were under review the day previous. But Mr. Bates was there with his resignation, and evidently anxious to have a private interview with the President.
The question of Chief Justice has excited much remark and caused quite a movement with many. Mr. Chase is expected it, and he has many strong friend who are urging him. But I have not much idea that the President will appoint him, nor is it advisable he should. I had called on the President on the 23d, and had some conversation, after dispatching a little business, in regard to this appointment of Chief Justice. He said there was a great pressure and a good many talked of, but that he had not prepared his message and did not intend to take up the subject of judge before the session commenced.
‘There is,’ said he, ‘a tremendous pressure just now for Evarts of New York, who, I suppose, is a good lawyer?’ This he put inquiringly. I stated that he stood among the foremost at the New York bar; perhaps no one was more prominent as a lawyer. ‘But that,’ I remarked, ‘is not all. Our Chief Justice must have a judicial mind, be upright, of strict integrity, not too pliant; should be a statesman and a politician.’ By politician I did not mean a partisan. [I said] that is appeared to me the occasion should be improved to place at the head of the court a man, not a partisan, but one who was impressed with the principles and doctrines which had brought this Administration into power; that it would conduce to the public welfare and his own comfort to have harmony between himself and the judicial department, and that it was all-important that he should have a judge who would be a correct and faithful expositor of the principles of his administration and policy after his administration shall have closed. I stated that among the candidates who had been named, Mr. Montgomery Blair, it appeared to me, best conformed to these requirements; that the President knew the man, his ability, his truthfulness, honesty, and courage.
The President at different points expressed his concurrence in my views, and spoke kindly and complimentarily of Mr. Blair, but did not in any commit himself, nor did I expect or suppose he would.
In the morning, President Lincoln receives gift of elkhorn chair from its maker, Seth Kinman, California hunter.”