Sunday, November 27, 2016

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, December 23, 1862

It was announced yesterday morning that the President had requested Mr. Seward and Mr. Chase to withdraw their resignations and resume their duties. This took the public by surprise. Chase's resignation was scarcely known, and his friends, particularly those in the late movement, were a little disgusted when they found that he and Seward were in the same category.

Seward's influence has often been anything but salutary. Not that he was evil inclined, but he is meddlesome, fussy, has no fixed principles or policy. Chase has chafed under Seward's management, yet has tried to conceal any exhibition of irritated feelings. Seward, assuming to be helmsman, has, while affecting and believing in his own superiority, tried to be patronizing to all, especially soothing and conciliating to Chase, who sees and is annoyed by it. The President feels that he is under obligations to each, and that both are serviceable. He is friendly to both. He is fond of Seward, who is affable; he respects Chase, who is clumsy. Seward comforts him; Chase he deems a necessity.

On important questions, Blair is as potent with the President as either, and sometimes I think equal to both. With some egotism, Blair has great good sense, a better knowledge and estimate of military men than either or both the others, and, I think, is possessed of more solid, reliable administrative ability.

All the members were at the Cabinet-meeting to-day. Seward was feeling very happy. Chase was pale; said he was ill, had been for weeks. The subject principally discussed was the proposed division of Virginia and the creation of a new State to be called Western Virginia. Chase is strongly for it; Blair and Bates against it, the latter, however, declining to discuss it or give his reasons except in writing. Stanton is with Chase. Seward does not show his hand. My impressions are, under the existing state of things, decidedly adverse. It is a disturbance that might be avoided at this time and has constitutional difficulties.

We have news that General Foster has possession of Goldsborough, North Carolina.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 205-6

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