Thursday, February 23, 2017

Diary of John Hay: October 30, 1863

. . . The President and Mrs. Lincoln went to see “Fanchon.” About midnight, the President came in. I told him about Dennison’s note and asked if D. had not always been a Chase man. He said: — “Yes, until recently, but he seems now anxious for my reelection.”

I said Opdyke was expected here to-day, and told the President the story of Palmer and Opdyke. He went on and gave me the whole history of the visit they made to Springfield, — Barney, Opdyke, and Hopboon, — of the appointment of Barney, — of the way Opdyke rode him — of his final protest, and the break.

I said “Opdyke now was determined to have the Custom House cleaned out.”

“He will have a good time doing it.”

He went on telling the history of the Senate raid on Seward, — how he had and could have no adviser on that subject, and must work it out by himself, — how he thought deeply on the matter, — and it occurred to him that the way to settle it was to force certain men to say to the Senators here what they would not say elsewhere. He confronted the Senate and the Cabinet. He gave the whole history of the affairs of Seward and his conduct, and the assembled Cabinet listened and confirmed all he said.

“I do not now see how it could have been done better. I am sure it was right. If I had yielded to that storm and dismissed Seward, the thing would all have slumped over one way, and we should have been left with a scanty handful of supporters. When Chase sent in his resignation I saw that the game was in my own hands, and I put it through. When I had settled this important business at last with much labor and to my entire satisfaction, into my room one day walked D. D. Field and George Opdyke, and began a new attack upon me to remove Seward. For once in my life I rather gave my temper the rein, and I talked to those men pretty damned plainly. Opdyke may be right in being cool to me. I may have given him reason this morning.

"I wish they would stop thrusting that subject of the Presidency into my face. I don't want to hear anything about it. The Republican of to-day has an offensive paragraph in regard to an alleged nomination of me by the mass-meeting in New York last night.”

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 113-5; For the whole diary entry see Tyler Dennett, Editor, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and letters of John Hay, p. 111-2.

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