Saturday, February 11, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Saturday, April 4, 1863

Had a message from the President, who wished to see me and also Assistant Secretary Fox. Found the matter in hand to be the Prussian adventurer Sybert, who was anxious his vessel should be taken into the naval service. The President said Seward was extremely anxious this should be done and had sent Sybert to him. I inquired if he had seen Sybert. He replied that he had and that the man was now in the audience room. He learned from Seward and Sybert that he (Sybert) had a vessel of one hundred tons into which he would put a screw, if authorized, would go on blockade, and would do more than the whole squadron of naval vessels. I asked the President if he gave credit to the promises of this man, whom Mr. Seward had sent to me as coming from responsible parties, though I knew none of them, had seen or heard of none but this adventurer himself. [I told him] that he had first applied to me and I would not trust or be troubled with him after a slight examination, but that I had sent him to Seward, who was then pushing forward his regulations for letters of marque, to which he knew I was opposed; and the result was Mr. Seward wanted me to take his first case, and had asked that the Assistant Secretary, Fox, should be present with Sybert. After a little further conversation, the President, instead of sending Sybert back to Seward, said he would turn him over to the Navy Department to be disposed of. This ends Mr. Seward's first application, and probably it will be the last. Knowing my views, he had gone to the President with his protégé, and knowing my views but in the hope he might have some encouragement from Fox, had requested the President to consult with Fox as well as myself. I know not that he requested me to be excluded on account of my opposition, but he requested that the Assistant Secretary should be consulted. And Fox assures me he has never swerved from my views on this subject. It is a specimen of Seward's management.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 261

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