Thursday, January 26, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, March 10, 1863

I saw last evening a communication from the State Department inclosing several pages of regulations for letters of marque. The subject was to-day before the Cabinet, and there is a stronger disposition for the policy than I expected. I told the President I had given the proposed regulations but a cursory examination. The subject was therefore postponed to our Friday meeting, with an understanding that I should in the mean time examine them and report if they were objectionable. On looking over the sections, I find they are a transcript of the laws of 1812 and 1813, which the Secretary of State has embodied in a series of regulations which he proposes to issue. The old laws of half a century ago have expired. It is not pretended they have vitality. But the Secretary of State legislates by regulations. I am not favorably impressed with the law or the regulations, nor with the idea of sending out privateers against a couple of piratical cruisers, even if there are private parties fools enough to go on that hunt, which he says there are, but I doubt. The law undertakes to delegate legislative power to the President, which is in itself wrong. But the subject is, I fear, a foregone conclusion. Both Seward and Chase favor it, and the commercial community is greatly exasperated against the robbers. If the subject goes forward, S. will turn the whole labor and responsibility over to the Navy Department.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 246-7

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