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proved, bis steady precaution in guarding against any and every step which the secessionists might have seized on as an overt act on his part, was the wisest course that could possibly have been adopted, looking to the fearful difficulties by which he was surrounded and the grave responsibility resting upon him to preserve the peace, if, by any means short of dishonor, war could be averted. It was this moderation and forbearance that carried the Government over to President Lincoln without bloodshed, and, as we have seen, he pursued the same policy until it was apparent, beyond doubt or hope, that the only alternative now was national disgrace or civil war. Forced to decide, he chose the latter alternative and laid down his life, a martyr to the sacred cause of the Union.
Now, talk as you will-censure Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln as you may-touching their action in regard to the forts at Charleston, which it was but natural every loyal person should have wished to see strengthened, and hence the futile attempts to respond to their patriotic impulse; but I venture the assertion that after the election of Lincoln there never was a day prior to Major Anderson's removal to Sumter, when those forts would not have fallen into the hands of the secessionists before any reinforcements could have reached them, no matter how secretly ordered. As to secrecy, such a thing, as we have seen, was impossible, with secession spies in and out of Government office, everywhere around us.
WASHINGTON, February 2, 1888.
NOTE.—It is due to history that I should state here that the foregoing article was written at the desire of General Holt, who, before General Crawford's book was published, had learned from conversation with him that he intended to make some strictures upon President Buchanan's course in regard to Fort Sumter that were unjust. Shortly after the book appeared I read it carefully, and when I had finished the article I sent for General Holt to come to my house for the purpose of submitting it to him. I handed him paper and pencil with request to note the number of any page in which he might wish to make any change. He listened attentively to the end without a pencil mark or a single word, and, rising to take his leave, he said, in an earnest and emphatic manner, “You have exhausted the subject,” thus expressing entire acquiescence in and approval of the narrative.
JOHN A. DIX.
How it happened that General Dix was made Secretary of the Treasury
– The Coe-Spaulding Letters—Names of Secession Senators who voted against Mr. Holt's Nomination for Secretary of War-Plot to Poison President Buchanan.
DOUBTLESS not many have seen the remarkable correspondence between Mr. George S. Coe, of New York City, and Hon. E. S. Spaulding, formerly a member of Congress, of Buffalo, New York, relating to the removal of Philip F. Thomas, and the appointment of John A. Dix, Secretary of the Treasury, in January, 1861.
Mr. Coe writes under date of February 14, 1888, and, premising that “all incidents of the civil war are now of historic interest,” says he “recalls very vividly the fact of meeting you [Mr. Spaulding] one morning at the Bank of Commerce to confer about the payment of the Government loan, which our bank in New York had taken in connection with Baring Bros. & Co., of London, and had paid in part, when it was discovered that Thomas [then Mr. Buchanan's Secretary of the Treasury] was to transfer the money into the Confederate region, where it would be captured by the enemy. The question for us to consider was, whether we should pay or default upon the balance. Upon that question we sent Mr. Moses Taylor, John C. Green, and A. A. Lowe to Washington to confer with Mr. Buchanan. I feel quite confident that you were the trusted agent to confer with us on the subject, and it resulted in the appointment of General Dix to be Secretary of the Treasury when we paid the money.”
Mr. Spaulding's answer is dated February 17. He says, what is well known, that soon after the assembling of Congress in December, 1860, “Howell Cobb resigned the office of Secretary of the Treasury, leaving the disloyal deputy Philip Clayton, of Georgia, in charge of the Treasury Department. President Buchanan then appointed Philip F. Thomas, of Maryland, Secretary to fill the vacancy, and John J. Cisco, who was loyal to the Union, continued to act as Sub-Treasurer in the city of New York, while the Assistant Secretary at Washington was disloyal, and apparently acted with a view to discredit the bonds and financial credit of the United States."
Mr. Spaulding proceeded to give an account of the course now taken to raise 66
more money to pay current expenses and the interest on the bonds,” supposed to be the bonds about to be offered under act of Congress of December 17, 1860, for a loan to the Government. As the record which I have examined shows, Secretary Thomas, who came in soon after Mr. Cobb resigned on the 8th of December, issued an advertisement, under date of December 18, inviting sealed proposals “ until the 28th December for the issue of any portion or the whole of $5,000,000 in treasury notes in exchange for gold coin of the United States within five days from the acceptance of such proposals,” under the authority of the aforesaid act. “ After this loan was made [Mr. Spaulding states] it became apparent that more money was being transferred to the Southern States than was necessary, and that the United States army was to a large extent located in the Southern States. One or more of the instalments was paid on the bids on the last of December, 1860. The financial situation became more and more alarming at the attitude of the disloyal men in Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet. Mr. Buchanan was himself in some degree vacillating and undecided, but was generally believed to be loyal to the Union.
“ Three of his Cabinet-viz., Jeremiah Black, Edwin M. Stanton, and Joseph Holt-were known to Mr. Seward and others to be loyal to the Union, and were ready to co-operate in preserving the finances and other important measures until Mr. Lincoln should be inaugurated on the 4th of the following March.”
Under these circumstances Mr. Spaulding says that he went from Washington-he was then in Congress--to New York “to consult the brokers who had bid for the loan with a view to have them hold back the payment of further instalments until the new Secretary of the Treasury could be selected and appointed by Mr. Buchanan, and General Dix was mentioned as a good man for the place in the emergency.” The result was that through the influence, as he states, of a committee of distinguished gentlemen who returned with him to Washington, in conference with Senator Seward and the loyal members of the Cabinet, the President “ finally, in a very few days, removed Mr. Thomas and appointed John A. Dix Secretary of the Treasury in his place. General Dix came to Washington and took possession of the Treasury Department. The remaining instalments on the loan were paid, and the Treasury Department was thereafter well managed.”
In this connection, not wishing to cast the least doubt as to the correctness of Mr. Spaulding's narrative, it seems apropos that I should relate the substance of what I wrote to the New York Tribune on the 3d of May, 1879, published in that paper near that date. I had seen it stated that Judge Black had written to the Philadelphia Times that “General Dix was not appointed Secretary of the Treasury by Mr. Buchanan in consequence of a pressure from New York capitalists, as has been said, and that only one person mentioned his name to the President before the appointment was made." Quoting this, I said that I had good reason to believe that President Buchanan invited General Dix to Washington not to take charge of the Treasury Department, but with a view to his appointment as Secretary of War. At that time, January 1, 1861, Postmaster-General Holt, by designation of the President, was Secretary of War ad interim, vice John B. Floyd. Under the law this left me as acting Postmaster-General. Philip F. Thomas was Secretary of the Treasury, having succeeded Howell Cobb. The more ardent Union men near the President were not satisfied to have Mr. Thomas in the Cabinet, and when General Dix was sent for, Mr. Stanton, Attorney-General, requested me to meet General Dix on his arrival at the depot, and, if possible, obtain his acquiescence in the plan, which I was to divulge to him, of inducing the President to appoint him Secretary of the Treasury. These instructions I carried out with alacrity. I had a carriage ready, and before General Dix reached his lodgings at Willard's Hotel, he had heartily agreed to the proposition. Taking leave of him for the night-he arrived by the evening train-I was driven at once to Mr. Stanton's residence on C, near Fourand-a-half Street. Having company in the parlor, he met me in the hall, and when I informed him that all was as he desired, he was so filled with delight that he seized and embraced me in true German style. General Dix was immediately appointed to the Treasury, vice Thomas, and confirmed by the Senate January 11, 1861.
It is proper to remark here that some time after I wrote as above to the Tribune, -it may have been a year or two, more or less,-meeting Judge Black in Washington, he intimated to me, somewhat darkly, that this account of mine was not the true history of the case. I did not understand him as doubting my narrative, but he appeared disinclined to tell me wherein it was erroneous, if it were so, and greatly to my regret I never afterwards had an opportunity of speaking with him, as I intended to do, on the subject.
I am reminded by this correspondence, also, of a private letter written on the 22d of December, 1860, by President