Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, August 7, 1863

Went on board of steamer Baltimore Wednesday evening in company with a few friends, for a short excursion. My object was to improve the time set apart for Thanksgiving in a trip to the capes of Chesapeake, and there imbibe for a few hours the salt sea air in the hope I should thereby gather strength. Postmaster-General Blair, Governor Dennison of Ohio, Mr. Fox, Mr. Faxon, Dr. Horwitz, and three or four others made up the party. We returned this A.M. at 8, all improved and invigorated.

The papers contain a letter of mine to Senator Sumner, written last April, denying the reckless falsehood of John Laird, made on the floor of Parliament, to the effect that I had sent an agent to him or his firm to build a ship or ships. There is not one word of truth in his statement. Had I done so, is there any one so simple as to believe the Lairds would refuse to build? — those virtuous abolitionists who, as a matter of principle, would not use the product of slave labor, but who for mercenary considerations snatched at the opportunity to build ships for the slave oligarchy? But I employed no agent to build, or to procure to be built, naval vessels abroad of any description. My policy from the beginning was not to build or have built naval vessels in foreign countries. Our shipbuilders competed strongly for all our work. The statement of Laird is mendacious, a deliberate falsehood, knowingly such, and uttered to prejudice not only the cause of our country but of liberty and human rights.

A friend of Laird's, an abolitionist of Brooklyn, New York, tried to secure a contract for Laird, but did not succeed. When Laird found he could secure no work from us, he went over to the Rebels and worked for them. After making his false statement in Parliament, fearing he should be exposed, he wrote to Howard, his abolition friend in Brooklyn, begging to be sustained. Howard being absent in California, his son sent the letter to Fox, through whom they tried to intrigue in the interest of Laird.

The President read to us a letter received from Horatio Seymour, Governor of New York, on the subject of the draft, which he asks may be postponed. The letter is a party, political document, filled with perverted statements, and apologizing for, and diverting attention from, his mob.

The President also read his reply, which is manly, vigorous, and decisive. He did not permit himself to be drawn away on frivolous and remote issues, which was obviously the intent of Seymour.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 394-5

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