Monday, March 6, 2017

Diary of John Hay: November 28, 1863

The Secretary of State came in this morning and gave me his contribution to the President's Message, relating exclusively to Foreign Affairs.

He then said he had a matter to submit which was strictly confidential: — “I saw a great while ago that the President was being urged to do many things which were to redound to the benefit of other men, he taking the responsibility and the risk. I preferred to leave to these men the attitude they coveted, of running before, and shouting for the coming events. I preferred to stay behind, to do with and for the President what seemed best, to share with him the criticism and the risk, and to leave the glory to him and to God.

“Among other measures to unite good men and to divide the opposition was the Loyal League Association of the country. I saw very early that they would be valuable in bringing over to our side the honest War Democrats, and I therefore encouraged them as far as possible with my influence and my money. Soon I discovered a wheel within the enterprise — a secret, Know Nothing, Masonic Order with signs and pass-words. They asked me for money. They sent to me from California for charters. Not to make trouble I complied with all requests. You will see for what purpose this machine is being used.” Here he handed me a scrap of paper on which was scrawled in Thurlow Weed’s handwriting: — “Loyal Leagues, into which Odd Fellows and Know Nothings rush, are fixing to control delegate appointments for Mr. Chase.” Seward still scribbling, said: —  “If you want to be cheated, join a secret society. They are all swindlers. If I have an idiosyncrasy it is a hatred of secrets. The Consul at London tells me that he has received trustworthy information of an alliance between France and the rebels; but his sources of information being secret, he cannot give his authority. I answer, asking him what right he has to have a secret from the President concerning public affairs, and directing him to lay his information, whatever it may be, before the American Minister at London.”

He handed me a paper upon which he had copied this extract: — “The more I reflect, the less I am inclined to trust the Pa. proposition. The public men of that State are queer.”

I am to give both to the President.

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 130-2; For the whole diary entry see Tyler Dennett, Editor, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and letters of John Hay, p. 128-30.

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