« PreviousContinue »
WASHINGTON, May 27, 1863. General J. M. SCHOFIELD:
DEAR SIR:—Having removed General Curtis and assigned you to the command of the Department of the Missouri, I think it may be of some advantage to me to state to you why I did it. I did not remove General Curtis because of my full conviction that he had done wrong by commission or omission. I did it because of a conviction in my mind that the Union men of Missouri, constituting, when united, a vast majority of the people, have entered into a pestilent, factious quarrel, among themselves, General Curtis, perhaps not of choice, being the head of one faction, and Governor Gamble that of the other. After months of labor to reconcile the difficulty, it seemed to grow worse and worse, until I felt it my duty to break it up somehow, and as I could not remove Governor Gamble, I had to remove General Curtis. Now that you are in the position, I wish you to undo nothing merely because General Curtis or Governor Gamble did it, but to exercise your own judgment, and do right for the public interest. Let your military measures be strong enough to repel the invaders and keep the peace, and not so strong as to unnecessarily harass and persecute the people. It is a difficult róle, and so much greater will be the honor if you perform it well. If both factions, or neither, shall abuse you, you will probably be about right. Beware of being assailed by one and praised by the other.
This action gave special dissatisfaction to the more radical Unionists of the State. They had been anxious to have the Provisional Government, of which Governor Gamble was the Executive head, set aside by the national authority, and the control of the State vested in a Military Governor clothed with the authority which General Fremont had assumed to exercise by his proclamation of August 31st, 1861 ;-and the Germans enlisted in the movement had made very urgent demands for the restoration of General Fremont himself. Several deputations visited Washington, for the purpose of representing these views and wishes to the President,—though they by no means restricted their efforts at reform to matters within their own State, but insisted upon sundry changes in the
the dismissal of General Halleck from the position of Commander of the Armies of the United States and upon other matters of equal magnitude and importance.
The following report of President Lincoln's reply to these various requests, was made by a member of a Committee appointed at a mass meeting, composed mainly of Germans, and held at St. Louis on the 10th of May: although made by a person opposed to the President's action, it probably gives a substantially correct statement of his remarks:
Messrs. EMILE PRETORIOUS, THEODORE OLSHAUSEN, R. E. ROMBAUR, etc.:
GENTLEMEN :-During a professional visit to Washington city, I prebented to the President of the United States, in compliance with your instructions, a copy of the resolutions adopted in mass meeting at St. Louis on the 10th of May, 1863, and I requested a reply to the suggestions therein contained. The President, after a careful and loud reading of the whole report of proceedings, saw proper to enter into a conversation of two hours' duration, in the course of which most of the topics embraced in the resolutions and other subjects were discussed.
As my share in the conversation is of secondary importance, I propose to omit it entirely in this report, and, avoiding details, to communicate to you the substance of noteworthy remarks made by the President.
1. The President said that it may be a misfortune for the nation that he was elected President. But, having been elected by the people, he ineant to be President, and perform his duty according to his best understanding, if he had to die for it. No General will be removed, nor will any change in the Cabinet be made, to suit the views or wishes of any particular party, faction or set of men. General Halleck is not guilty of the charges made against him, most of which arise from misapprehension or ignorance of those who prefer them.
2. The President said that it was a mistake to suppose that Generals John C. Fremont, B. F. Butler, and F. Sigel are “systematically kept out of command," as stated in the fourth resolution; that, on the contrary, ho fully appreciated the merits of the gentlemen named ; that by their own actions they had placed themselves in the positions which they occupied ; that he was not only willing, but anxious to place them again in command as soon as he could find spheres of action for them, without doing injustice to others, but that at present he “had more pegs than holes to put them in."
3. As to the want of unity, the President, without admitting such to be the case, intimated that each member of the Cabinet was responsible
mainly for the manner of conducting the affairs of his particular department; that there was no centralization of responsibility for the action of the Cabinet anywhere, except in the President himself.
4. The dissensions between Union men in Missouri are due solely to a factious spirit which is exceedingly reprehensible. The two parties “ought to have their heads knocked together.” “Either would rather see the defeat of their adversary than that of Jefferson Davis.” To this spirit of faction is to be ascribed the failure of the Legislature to elect senators and the defeat of the Missouri Aid Bill in Congress, the passage of which the President strongly desired.
The President said that the Union men in Missouri who are in favor of gradual emancipation represented his views better than those who are in favor of immediate emancipation. In explanation of his views on this subject, the President said that in his speeches he had frequently used as an illustration, the case of a man who had an excrescence on the back of his neck, the removal of which, in one operation, would result in the death of the patient, while “tinkering it off by degrees” would preserve life. Although sorely tempted, I did not reply with the illustration of the dog whose tail was amputated by inches, but confined myself to arguments. The President announced clearly that, as far as he was at present advised, the Radicals in Missouri had no right to consider themselves the exponents of his views on the subject of emancipation in that State.
5. General Curtis was not relieved on account of any wrong act or great nistake committed by him. The System of Provost-Marshals, established by him throughout the State, gave rise to violent complaint. That the President had thought at one time to appoint General Fremont in his place; that at another time he had thought of appointing General McDowell, whom he characterized as a good and loyal though very unfortunate soldier; and that, at last, General Schofield was appointed, with a view, if possible, to reconcile and satisfy the two factions in Missouri. He has instructions not to interfere with either party, but to confine himself to his military duties. I assure you, gentlemen, that our side was as fully presented as the occasion permitted. At the close of the conversation, the President remarked that there was evidently a “serious misunderstanding” springing up between him and the Germans of Sl. Louis, which he would like to see removed. Observing to him that the difference of opinion related to facts, men, and measures, I withdrew.
I am, very respectfully, etc.
On the 1st of July the State Convention, in session at Jefferson City, passed an amendment to the Constitution declaring that slavery should cease to exist in Missouri on the
4th of July, 1870, with certain specified exceptions. This, however, was by no means accepted as a final disposition of the matter. The demand was made for immediate emancipation, and Gov. Gamble and the members of the Provisional Government who had favored the policy adopted by the State Convention, were denounced as the advocates of slavery and allies of the rebellion. In the early part of Angust a band of rebel guerrillas made a raid into the town of Lawrence, Kansas, and butchered in cold blood over two hundred unarmed citizens of the place. This brutal act aroused the most intense excitement in the adjoining State of Missouri, of which the opponents of the Provisional Government took advantage to throw upon it and General Schofield, who had command of the State militia as well as of the national forces, the responsibility in having permitted this massacre to take place.
A Mass Convention was held at Jefferson City on the 2d of September, at which resolutions were adopted denouncing the military policy pursued in the State and the delegation of military powers to the provisional government. A Committee of one from each county was appointed to visit Washington and lay their grievances before the President; and arrangements were also made for the appointment of a Committee of Public Safety, to organize and arm the loyal men of the State, and, in the event of not obtaining relief, to call on the people in their sovereign capacity to “take such measures of redress as the emergency might require.” In the latter part of September the Committee appointed by this Convention visited Washington and had an interview with the President on the 30th, in which they represented Governor Gamble and General Schofield as in virtual alliance with the rebels, and demanded the removal of the latter as an act of justice to the loyal and anti-slavery men of the State. The Committee visited several of the northern cities, and held public meetings for the purpose of enlisting public sentiment in their support.
At these meetings it was claimed that the radical emancipation party was the only one which represented the loyalty of Missouri, and President Lincoln was very strongly censured for “ closing his ears to just, loyal, and patriotic de mands of the radical party, while he indorsed the disloyal and oppressive demands of Governor Gamble, General Schofield, and their adherents."
On the 5th of October President LINCOLN made to the representations and requests of the Committee the following reply:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 1863. Hon. CHARLES DRAKE and others, Committee:
GENTLEMEN :-Your original address, presented on the 30th ult., and the four supplementary ones presented on the 3d inst., have been carefully considered. I hope you will regard the other duties claiming my attention, together with the great length and importance of these documents, as constituting a sufficient apology for my not having responded
These papers, framed for a common object, consist of the things demanded, and the reasons for demanding them.
The things demanded are:
First—That General Schofield shall be relieved, and General Butler be appointed as Commander of the Military Department of Missouri;
Second-That the system of enrolled militia in Missouri may be broken up, and National forces be substituted for it; and
Third–That at elections, persons may not be allowed to vote who are not entitled by law to do so.
Among the reasons given, enough of suffering and wrong to Union men, is certainly, and I suppose truly, stated. Yet the whole case, as presented, fails to convince me that General Schofield, or the enrolled militia, is responsible for that suffering and wrong. The whole can be explained on a more charitable, and, as I think, a more rational hypothesis.
We are in civil war. In such cases there always is a main question; but in this case that question is a perplexing compound-Union and Slavery. It thus becomes a question not of two sides merely, but of at least four sides, even among those who are for the Union, saying nothing of those who are against it. Thus, those who are for the Union with, but not without Slavery—those for it without but not with—those for it with or without, but prefer it with, and those for it with or without, but prefer it without