Saturday, July 16, 2016

Senator William P. Fessenden to John M. Forbes, November 13, 1862

Portland, November 13, 1862.

My Dear Sir, — I have received your letter, and also the newspaper puff, for which I am probably indebted to you. McClellan's removal is a great step, but it should have been taken a year ago. There was no excuse for giving him the command of the army after his Yorktown campaign, and the President cannot defend himself for so doing. He knew his unfitness and admitted it. If it had not been proved before, the failure to win Antietam (for he did not win it), and to attack Lee on the day following, demonstrated either his incapacity or his treachery. Fear of offending the Democracy has been at the bottom of all our disasters. I am not clear that the result of the elections is not fortunate for the country, for it has taught the President that he has nothing to look for in that quarter, a fact which any sensible man might have seen. The only way to get the support of the Democracy is to show that you don't fear them. It is a mistake to suppose that you will gain anything of such people by conciliation, or by admitting them to your councils.

As to the cabinet, I have no belief that there will be any change. Seward will never yield his place willingly, and the President never will ask him to do so. But, whatever may happen, no man could be of much use in a cabinet office, for no man could carry out his own views. You cannot change the President's character or conduct, unfortunately; he remained long enough at Springfield, surrounded by toadies and office-seekers, to persuade himself that he was specially chosen by the Almighty for this great crisis, and well chosen. This conceit has never yet been beaten out of him, and until it is, no human wisdom can be of much avail. I see nothing for it but to let the ship of state drift along, hoping that the current of public opinion may bring it safely into port. For myself, I can only say that there is no political calamity I should look upon with so much dread as the being asked to share the responsibility of guiding it. I have neither the strength nor the wisdom requisite, and if I had, it would be useless. No, my friend, I can, perhaps, render my country some service where I am. In the cabinet I could no [sic] nothing, and no friend of mine should ever wish to see me there.

SOURCE: Sarah Forbes Hughes, Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes, Volume 1, p. 336-8

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