Friday, July 29, 2016

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: November 1, 1862

Gen. Winder's late policemen have fled the city. Their monstrous crimes are the theme of universal execration. But I reported them many months ago, and Gen. Winder was cognizant of their forgeries, correspondence with the enemy, etc. The Secretary of War, and the President himself, were informed of them, but it was thought to be a “small matter.”

Gen. Lee made his appearance at the department to-day, and was hardly recognizable, for his beard, now quite white, has been suffered to grow all over his face. But he is quite robust from his exercises in the field. His appearance here, coupled with the belief that we are to have the armistice, or recognition and intervention, is interpreted by many as an end of the war. But I apprehend it is a symptom of the falling back of our army.

I have been startled to-day by certain papers that came under my observation. The first was written by J. Foulkes, to L. B. Northrop, Commissary-General, proposing to aid the government in procuring meat and bread for the army from ports in the enemy's possession. They were to be paid for in cotton. The next was a letter from the Commissary-General to G. W. Randolph, Secretary of War, urging the acceptance of the proposition, and saying without it, it would be impossible to subsist the army. He says the cotton proposed to be used, in the Southwest will either be burned or fall into the hands of the enemy; and that more than two-thirds is never destroyed when the enemy approaches. But to effect his object, it will be necessary for the Secretary to sanction it, and to give orders for the cotton to pass the lines of the army. The next was from the Secretary to the President, dated October thirtieth, which not only sanctioned Colonel Northrop's scheme, but went further, and embraced shoes and blankets for the Quartermaster-General. This letter inclosed both Foulkes's and Northrop's. They were all sent back to-day by the President, with his remarks. He hesitates, and does not concur. But says the Secretary will readily see the propriety of postponing such a resort until January — and he hopes it may not be necessary then to depart from the settled policy of the government — to forbear trading cotton to the Yankees, etc. etc.

Mr. Benjamin, Secretary of State, has given Mr. Dunnock permission to sell cotton to the Yankees and the rest of the world on the Atlantic and Gulf coast. Can it be that the President knows nothing of this? It is obvious that the cotton sold by Mr. Dunnock (who was always licensed by Mr. Benjamin to trade with people in the enemy's country beyond the Potomac) will be very comfortable to the enemy. And it may aid Mr. Dunnock and others in accumulating a fortune. The Constitution defines treason to be giving aid and comfort to the enemy. I never supposed Mr. Randolph would suggest, nay urge, opening an illicit trade with “Butler, the Beast.” This is the first really dark period of our struggle for independence.

We have acres enough, and laborers enough, to subsist 30,000,000 of people; and yet we have the spectacle of high functionaries, under Mr. Davis, urging the necessity of bartering cotton to the enemy for stores essential to the maintenance of the army! I cannot believe it is a necessity, but a destitution of that virtue necessary to achieve independence. If they had any knowledge of these things in Europe, they would cease their commendations of President Davis.

Mr. Randolph says, in his letter to the President, that trading with ports in possession of the enemy is forbidden to citizens, and not to the government! The archives of the department show that this is not the first instance of the kind entertained by the Secretary. He has granted a license to citizens in Mobile to trade cotton in New Orleans for certain supplies in exchange, in exact compliance with Gen. Butler's proclamation. Did Pitt ever practice such things during his contest with Napoleon? Did the Continental Government ever resort to such equivocal expedients? A member of Washington's cabinet (and he, too, was a Randolph) once violated the “settled policy of the government,” but he was instantly deprived of the seals of office. He acted under the advice of Jefferson, who sought to destroy Washington; and the present Secretary Randolph is a grandson of Jefferson. Washington, the inflexible patriot, frowned indignantly upon every departure from the path of rectitude.

I can do nothing more than record these things, and Watch!

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 179-81

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