To-day a Resolution came from the Senate asking information about War and Treasury Orders concerning exportation of arms to Mexico. I did not like to act without consulting Seward, so took the papers to him, asking if it would be well to send copies to Secretaries of War and Treasury or not. He said, — “Yes! send the Resolution to the Secretary of War; a copy to the Secretary of the Treasury; asking reports from them, and then when the reports are in, ———
“Did you ever hear Webster's recipe for cooking a cod? He was a great fisherman and fond of cod. Some one once asking him the best way to prepare a cod for the table, he said: — ‘Denude your cod of his scales — cut him open carefully — put him in a pot of cold water — heat it until your fork can pass easily through the fish — take him out — spread good fresh butter over him liberally, — sprinkle salt on the butter — pepper on the salt — and — send for George Ashman and me.’”
“When the Reports are in, let me see them!”
He got up, stumped around the room enjoying his joke, then said: — “Our friends are very anxious to get into a war with France, using this Mexican business for that purpose. They don't consider that England and France would surely be together in that event. France has the whip hand of England completely. England got out of the Mexican business into which she had been deceived by France, by virtue of our having nothing to do with it. They have since been kept apart by good management; and our people are laboring to unite them again by making war on France. Worse than that, instead of doing something effective, if we must fight, they are for making mouths and shaking fists at France, warning and threatening and inducing her to prepare for our attack when it comes.”
Carpenter, the artist, who is painting the picture of the “Reading the Proclamation,” says that Seward protested earnestly against that act being taken as the central and crowning act of the administration. He says slavery was destroyed years ago; the formation of the Republican party destroyed slavery; the anti-slavery acts of this administration are merely incidental. Their great work is the preservation of the Union, and, in that, the saving of popular government for the world. The scene which should have been taken was the Cabinet Meeting in the Navy Department when it was resolved to relieve Fort Sumter. That was the significant act of the Administration: — the act which determined the fact that Republican institutions were worth fighting for. . . . .
SOURCES: Abstracted from Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 210-12. See Michael Burlingame & John R. Turner Ettlinger, Editors, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete War Diary of John Hay, p. 211-2 for the full diary entry.