Thursday, July 20, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Monday, August 10, 1863

Have not been well for the last two days, and am still indisposed, but cannot omit duties. The weather is oppressively warm. Friends think I ought to take a few days repose. Dr. Horwitz advises it most earnestly. Rest and a change of atmosphere might be of service, but I think quiet here better than excitement and uncertainty elsewhere. I had arranged in my own mind to spend a couple of weeks in entire seclusion at Woodcliff, but M., after the exhibition of mob hostility in New York, is apprehensive that my presence there will jeopardize him and his property. I must therefore seek another place if I go from Washington, which I now think is hardly probable.

The papers are discussing very liberally the Parliamentary statement of Laird and my denial. To sustain himself, Laird publishes an anonymous correspondence with some one who professes to be intimate with the “Minister of the Navy.” His correspondence, if genuine, I have reason to believe was with Howard of Brooklyn, whom I do not know and who is untruthful.

Charles B. Sedgwick, Chairman of the Naval Committee of the House, writes Chief Clerk Faxon, that Howard called on him in the summer of 1861 in behalf of the Lairds, with plans and specifications and estimates for vessels; that he, Sedgwick, referred H. to me; that I refused to negotiate. In other words, I doubtless refused to entertain any proposition. Of Howard I know very little, having never, that I am aware, seen him. I may have done so as the agent or friend of Laird in 1861, and if so declined any offer. From his letters to Laird I judge he tried to palm himself on Laird for all he was worth, and as possessing an intimacy which I neither recognize nor admit. He seems to have gone to the Naval Committee instead of the Navy Department or “Minister of the Navy” with his plans. Was confessedly an agent of Laird, who is an unmitigated liar and hypocrite. Professing to be an antislavery man from principle and an earnest friend of the Union, he and his firm have for money been engaged in the service of the slaveholders to break up our Union.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 395-6

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