Sunday, July 9, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Monday, July 27, 1863

Had a strange letter from Senator John P. Hale, protesting against the appointment of Commodore Van Brunt to the command of the Portsmouth Navy Yard, because he and V. B. are not on friendly terms. He wishes me to become a party to a personal controversy and to do injustice to an officer for the reason that he and that officer are not in cordial relations. The pretensions and arrogance of Senators become amazing, and this man, or Senator, would carry his private personal disagreement into public official actions. Such are his ideas of propriety and Senatorial privilege and power that he would not only prostitute public duty to gratify his private resentment, but he would have the Department debased into an instrument to minister to his enmities.

I have never thought of appointing Van Brunt to that yard, but had I intended it, this protest could in no wise prevent or influence me. With more propriety, I could request the Senate not to make Hale Chairman of the Naval Committee, for in the entire period of my administration of the Navy Department, I have never received aid, encouragement, or assistance of any kind whatever from the Chairman of the Naval Committee of the Senate, but constant, pointed opposition, embarrassment, and petty annoyance, of which this hostility to Van Brunt is a specimen. But I have not, and shall not, ask the Senate to remove this nuisance out of their way and out of my way. They have witnessed his conduct and know his worthlessness in a business point of view; they know what is due to the country and to themselves, as well as to the Navy Department.

The Mexican Republic has been extinguished and an empire has risen on its ruins. But for this wicked rebellion in our country this calamity would not have occurred. Torn by factions, down-trodden by a scheming and designing priesthood, ignorant and vicious, the Mexicans are incapable of good government, and unable to enjoy rational freedom. But I don't expect an improvement of their condition under the sway of a ruler imposed upon them by Louis Napoleon.

The last arrivals bring us some inklings of the reception of the news that has begun to get across the Atlantic of our military operations. John Bull is unwilling to relinquish the hope of our national dismemberment. There is, on the part of the aristocracy of Great Britain, malignant and disgraceful hatred of our government and people. In every way that they could, and dare, they have sneakingly aided the Rebels. The tone of their journals shows a reluctance to believe that we have overcome the Rebels, or that we are secure in preserving the Union. The Battle of Gettysburg they will not admit to have been disastrous to Lee, and they represent it as of little importance compared with Vicksburg and Port Hudson, which they do not believe can be taken. Palmerston and Louis Napoleon are as much our enemies as Jeff Davis.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 384-5

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