Sunday, January 6, 2019

George S. Denison to Salmon P. Chase, November 29, 1862

New Orleans, November 29th, 1862.

Dear Sir: — I thank you for your kind letter of the 14th inst. Whenever it is deemed expedient to put another in the place now occupied by me, I should like to be made Surveyor, as you suggest.

Naturally it will be a little painful to occupy the second place in this Custom House where I have so long been first — which I cannot help regarding as, in some sort, created by myself in the midst of great difficulties and in the face of many obstacles — now that the great labor is done and the road is becoming smooth and easy. But that is of little moment and the President and yourself are the only proper judges of what is desirable and expedient.

I cannot recompense your constant kindness to me, except by endeavoring to deserve its continuance.

Now that it seems definitely settled that an old resident of New Orleans is to be made Collector, I can, with propriety, speak to you without reserve upon this, as I always have on all other subjects. In the organization and management of the Custom House, such satisfaction has been given here, that, I have no doubt, I could have secured the appointment of Collector for myself, had I employed the usual arts of office-seekers. Such a course would have been unworthy of myself and a betrayal of the confidence you placed in me — and therefore when prominent Union men offered to use their influence in my favor, their offers were declined.

Mr. Bullitt is an old resident of this City, and is well known here as an honest and kind gentleman — thoroughly loyal — and possessing pleasant social qualities. I have, however, frequently heard Union men express two objections to his appointment, of which the first was that he possessed hardly ordinary business capacity.

The second objection is as follows. Soon after the capture of the City, a few noble men undertook to arouse and organize the Union sentiment. Among these were Mr. Flanders, Judge Heistand, Judge Howell, Mr. Fernandez and others. It was not then a pleasant thing to be a Union man, nor a leader in such an undertaking. Their families were slighted and themselves isolated. They persevered — called meetings, made speeches — organized Union associations — Union home guards, etc. These men have borne the heat and burden of the day and have redeemed this City. The result of their efforts was apparent the other night at the great Union meeting at St. Charles Theater,1 when the thousands of members of the numerous associations were cheering Abraham Lincoln and Gen. Butler. All this time Mr. Bullitt, instead of being here to help, was in Washington looking after the loaves and fishes — and found them. For thus, Mr. Bullitt's appointment is not popular. Mr. Bouligny has also been much blamed for pursuing the same course.

In the Union movement in this City I am sorry to say that Mr. Randell Hunt and Mr. Roselius have stood aloof — especially the former. On the other hand Mr. Durant, Mr. Flanders and Mr. Rozier have done all that men could do. Mr. Durant and Mr. Rosier [Rozier] are both natives of this State, and are regarded as two of the best lawyers in Louisiana. If Senators are appointed by Gov. Shepley, Mr. Durant will probably be one, and perhaps Mr. Rozier the other.

The election of Representatives to Congress occurs on the third December. Two will be elected — one from each of the two Congressional Districts in our possession. The 1st. Dist. includes the lower half of the City and the country on this side of the River down to the Gulf. The 2nd. Dist. includes the upper half of the City and the country above and the Lafourche. In this 2nd. Dist. the candidates are Mr. Durell, Dr. Cottman and Judge Morgan. I believe they are all good men, but I can form no opinion as to the probable results of the election.

In the lower (1st. Con. Dist.) the candidates are Mr. Bouligny and Mr. Flanders. Mr. Bouligny will have the whole Creole vote and but little more. This creole population is valuable only for their votes. They are half disloyal, but took the oath to avoid confiscation. They feel but little attachment to the Government, somewhat more to the Southern Confederacy — but most of all, to Napoleon III. Unfortunately this population is large in Bouligny's District.

Mr. Flanders is the candidate of the Union Association. He did not want to run but it was urged upon him. Politically Mr. F. is an Abolitionist, but not of the blood-thirsty kind. I hope for his election. The whole real Union sentiment is in his favor. If he goes to Washington, he will let a little daylight into the darkened minds of Pro-slavery Democrats.

As an evidence of the progress of ideas I mention a remarkable resolution passed unanimously by the Union Association recently, in the lower part of the City — which was to the effect — that all loyal men, of proper age, who had taken the oath of allegiance — should be allowed to vote at this coming election. This meant negroes. Members of the Association said that a black man, who was carrying a musket for the Gov't. deserved to vote — much more than secessionists who had sworn allegiance to save their property. It seems to me, that this is too much in advance of the times. The virtuous Seymour and Van Buren have a good deal to say about Radicals. What would they say of the Union men of the South? I will inform you of the result of the election, as soon as possible after it is decided.

The expedition to the salt works (spoken of in my last) failed. The Gunboats could not get up the Bayou, and the troops could not pass through the swamps. They will have to be taken from New Iberia.

The affairs of the Dep't. of the Gulf, are managed with entire honesty, so far as I can perceive. At any rate no trade of any kind with the enemy is permitted. The pressure for permission to renew the trade, has been very great. One man offerred me $50,000 cash, for permission to take salt across the Lake. A sack of salt was worth here $1.25 — across the Lake, $60. to $100. A thousand sacks would be worth $60,000, with which cotton could be bought for 10 cts. per pound and brought here and sold for 60 cts. So that one cargo would be a great fortune. Another man wanted to bring here several thousand bales cotton, but must take back stores. He would give me one fourth of all the cotton brought hither, and there were many other cases — but they make these offers with such skill that it is impossible to get any legal hold on them. I don't know how many offers would have been made, if I had been suspected to be of easy virtue. People here think if a man has a chance to make money, however dishonorably — that he will avail himself of it, of course. I again express the hope that no trade of any kind, with the enemy, will be authorized from Washington.

1 On November 14 Military Governor Shepley issued a call for the election of members of Congress on December 3. This Union meeting was held on the 15th of November.

SOURCE: Diary and correspondence of Salmon P. ChaseAnnual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 333-6

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