Sunday, August 28, 2016

Congressman Charles B. Sedgwick to John M. Forbes, December 22, 1862

Washington, 22d December, 1862.

My Dear Mr. Forbes, — I have shown your letter (copy) to Mr. Fessenden to several conservative gentlemen of my acquaintance. They all agree in saying that it would be well to send on a strong delegation of clergy and laity to urge on the President. Some doubt his intention to issue the proclamation of 1st January; I do not. Many assert, more fear, that it will be essentially modified from what is promised. I do not fear this; but what I do fear is, that he will stop with the proclamation and take no active and vigorous measures to insure its efficacy. I say he will issue it, because it is his own offspring, which Seward tried hard to strangle at its birth, and failed to do it. If the President don't tell you all about it some time, I will, as I heard the story from the chief himself. Judge Kelly told me this evening he had just come from Stanton, who told him that the President and Burnside had been there but a little while before, and this subject coming up, the President said “that he could not stop the Proclamation if he would, and he would not if he could; that just as soon as the first of January dawned it would be issued.” So I cannot doubt that it will be issued. There are other facts within my knowledge which convince me that it will certainly go forth. Every conceivable influence has been brought to bear upon him to induce him to withhold or modify, — threats, entreaties, all sorts of humbugs, but he is firm as a mule.

Now if Banks can start from Mobile or New Orleans with a sufficient army, or send Butler, which will be equally well, perhaps, armed with this proclamation, and enlist every able-bodied, willing, loyal negro, as he progresses into the country, until he has 100,000 of them under arms, the great work will be accomplished. If Banks was sent South for some such purpose, the expedition is a sensible one; if not, it is pure strategy, and not worth, in the aggregate, so much as one of the rotten ships in which it was embarked. I say by all means come on and be here in force the last of this month. Be ready to shout Hallelujah on the morning of 1st January, and let the President know that he is to have sympathy and support. By all means, put him up to practical measures to make it successful. Tell him the world will pardon his crimes, and his stories even, if he only makes the proclamation a success, and that if he fails he will be gibbeted in history as a great, long-legged, awkward, country pettifogger, without brains or backbone.

We have had a nice row in the cabinet. The Senate had a secret caucus and resolved to get rid of the President's evil genius, Seward. Preston King, fearing Seward, loose, would endanger his prospects for senator, slipped out and told Seward all about it. Seward tendered his resignation Wednesday evening. By Thursday morning his friends began to pour in, to threaten the President if he accepted it. The world in general only found it out on Friday. Chase, like a good boy, on Saturday went out to bring little wandering Willie back. The telegraph is forbidden to carry the startling news to the country, except, now, to my Lord Thurlow1and some others; and on Monday all goes “merry as a marriage bell” again. So the Senate is snubbed, Seward is more powerful than ever, Chase's radical friends are disgusted that he has been used to save Seward from his folly, and the great chasm into which the administration was to fall is bridged. Vive la Humbug!

1 Thurlow Weed, editor of the Albany Journal, Mr. Seward's right-hand man. — Ed.

SOURCE: Sarah Forbes Hughes, Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes, Volume 1, p. 344-6

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