Saturday, February 25, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Saturday, April 18, 1863

Went to the President and read to him my letter of this date to Mr. Seward, on the subject of the Peterhoff mail. I have done this that the President may have both sides of the question, and understand what is being done with his “approval,” without consultation with me and the members of the Cabinet in council. The Secretary of State, for reasons best known to himself, if he has any reason for his action, has advised with no one in a novel and extraordinary proceeding on his part, where he has made concessions by which our rights and interests have been given up and the law disregarded. When confronted, he, instead of entering upon investigation himself or consulting with others, has gone privately to the President, stated his own case, and got the President committed to his unauthorized acts. I therefore prepared my letter of this date, and before sending it to Mr. Seward, I deemed it best that the President should know its contents. He was surprised and very much interested; took the letter and reread it; said the subject involved questions which he did not understand, that his object was to “keep the peace,” for we could not afford to take upon ourselves a war with England and France, which was threatened if we stopped their mails; and concluded by requesting me to send my letter to Seward, who would bring the subject to his attention for further action. My object was gained. The President has “approved,” without knowledge, on the representation of Seward.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 275-6

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