Thursday, September 15, 2016

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: November 15, 1862

“Now, by St. George, the work goes bravely on!” Another letter on my desk from the President to the Secretary. Well, being in an official envelope, it was my duty to open it, note its contents, and send it to the Secretary. The Secretary has been responding to the short espistle he received yesterday. It appears he could not clearly understand its purport. But the President has used such plain language in this, that it must be impossible to misunderstand him. He says that the transferring of generals commanding important military districts, without conference with him and his concurrence; and of high disbursing officers; and, above all, the making of appointments without his knowledge and consent, are prerogatives that do not pertain to the Secretary of War in the first instance; and can only be exercised by him under the direction of the Chief Executive. In regard to appointments, especially, the President has no constitutional authority nor any disposition to transfer the power. He discussed their relative duties, — for the benefit of all future Secretaries, I suppose.

But it looks like a rupture. It seems, then, after acting some eight months merely in the humble capacity of clerk, Mr. Randolph has all at once essayed to act the President.

The Secretary of War did not go to the President's closet today. This is the third day he has absented himself. Such incidents as these preceded the resignation of Mr. Walker. It is a critical time, and the Secretary of War ought to confer freely with the President.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 189-90

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