Friday, April 28, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Wednesday, June 3, 1863

Wrote Du Pont that Foote would relieve him. I think he anticipates it and perhaps wants it to take place. He makes no suggestions, gives no advice, presents no opinion, says he will obey orders. He is evidently uneasy, — it appears to me as much dissatisfied with himself as any one. Everything shows he is a disappointed man, afflicted with his own infirmities. I perceive he is preparing for a controversy with the Department, — laying out the ground, getting his officers committed, — and he has besides strong friends in Congress and elsewhere. He has been well and kindly treated by the Department. I have the name and blame of favoring him by some of the best officers, and have borne with his aberrations passively.

The arrest of Vallandigham and the order to suppress the circulation of the Chicago Times in his military district issued by General Burnside have created much feeling. It should not be otherwise. The proceedings were arbitrary and injudicious. It gives bad men the right of questions, an advantage of which they avail themselves. Good men, who wish to support the Administration, find it difficult to defend these acts. They are Burnside's, unprompted, I think, by any member of the Administration, and yet the responsibility is here unless they are disavowed and B. called to an account, which cannot be done. The President — and I think every member of the Cabinet—regrets what has been done, but as to the measures which should now be taken there are probably differences.

The constitutional rights of the parties injured are undoubtedly infringed upon. It is claimed, however, that the Constitution, laws, and authorities are assailed with a view to their destruction by the Rebels, with whom V. and the Chicago Times are in sympathy and concert. The efforts of the Rebels are directed to the overthrow of the government, and V. and his associates unite with them in waging war against the constituted authorities. Should the government, and those who are called to legally administer it, be sustained, or should those who are striving to destroy both? There are many important and difficult problems to solve, growing out of the present condition of affairs. Where is the constitutional right to interdict trade between citizens, to blockade the ports, to seize private property, to dispossess and occupy the houses of the in habitants, etc., etc.? In peaceful times there would be no right to do these things; it may be said there would be no necessity. Unfortunately the peaceful operations of the Constitution have been interrupted, obstructed, and are still obstructed. A state of war exists; violent and forcible measures are resorted to in order to resist and destroy the government, which have begotten violent and forcible measures to vindicate and restore its peaceful operation. Vallandigham and the Chicago Times claim all the benefits, guarantees, and protection of the government which they are assisting the Rebels to destroy. Without the courage and manliness to go over to the public enemy, to whom they give, so far as they dare, aid and comfort, they remain here to promote discontent and disaffection.

While I have no sympathy for those who are, in their hearts, as unprincipled traitors as Jefferson Davis, I lament that our military officers should, without absolute necessity, disregard those great principles on which our government and institutions rest.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 320-2

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