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Military Justice, of which Joseph Holt, of Kentucky, was made Chief.
Of course the war was constantly the main object of public concern. At Philadelphia, on the 16th of June, the President visited a Sanitary-Commission fair, and said in the course of his speech at an evening banquet:
War at the best is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and duration, is one of the most terrible. We accepted this war — we did not begin it, but we accepted the war for an object, a worthy object, and the war will end with the attainment of that object. I hope, under God, it never will without. Speaking of the present campaign, General Grant is reported to have said: "I am going through on this line if it takes all summer." This war has taken three years. It was begun or accepted on the line of restoring the national authority over all the national domain. And for the American people, as far as my knowledge enables me to speak, I say we are going through on this line if it takes three years more.
In the Cabinet, after Mr. Stanton succeeded Mr. Cameron in the War Department, there had been but one change until this summer. Secretary Smith having been appointed Judge of the United States District Court in Indiana, his assistant, John P. Usher, of the same State, long known to the President in professional practice, was made Secretary of the Interior in January, 1863
Secretary Chase had more than once come to the point of writing his resignation, without securing its acceptance. The President, while naturally annoyed in some measure by the Secretary's ambitious ways, preferred to retain his highly valued official services. Mr. Chase no doubt believed an acceptance would be found embarrassing when — the prospects of the war and of the political canvass being for the moment especially shadowed by passing clouds — he again handed back his portfolio, proposing to retire at the close of the fiscal year. There had been some differences between the President and the Secretary as to the control of certain appointments, that of assistant treasurer at New York especially; but the Secretary had officially survived other instances in which, against his wishes, the President chose to exercise independently his constitutional prerogative in appointing Treasury officers. There were those who surmised that the Secretary expected his resignation would again prove ineffectual. It was, however, promptly accepted.
To fill the vacancy was not a light matter. Whoever supposed the President thought it so when he sent to the Senate the name of ex-Governor David Tod, of Ohio, was certainly mistaken. This nomination conformed as to locality and former political record with the principles which had governed the prior appointment. Lately one of the most efficient " War Govern
during two of the most trying years, Mr. Tod was held in high regard by the President for both executive and personal qualities; he had served abroad in a diplomatic capacity; as a business man he had been much more successful in his private affairs than Mr. Chase; and judging in advance of experience, there was no obvious reason why he might not as ably manage the Treasury Department. He was not, however, a man of such national reputation as the occasion required. His nomination satisfied Lincoln's conscience as to his own rules originally acted upon in selecting his Cabinet;
and if Governor Tod declined, -as he, in fact, at once did, — the way would then be open for pressing into the service another Cabinet officer from New England. Senator William Pitt Fessenden, chairman of , the Finance Committee, though reluctant — from the state of his health especially — was prevailed upon to accept the position, in which he fully justified universal confidence and expectation.
The Democratic National Convention had been called to meet at Chicago on the 4th of July. As the day approached, the Opposition leaders — feeling very hopeful as to the prospect, and thinking it expedient to await further developments without offering any new provocation that would divert the attention of their adversaries from their internal contentions — decided to postpone the gathering until the 29th of August. Not long after the armies of Meade and Sherman got well under way, it was given out that advances for negotiation were to be made from the Confederate side. Some of the Democratic managers may possibly have been persuaded that the war could be shortened in this way; and it is certain that they all hoped a political advantage from such a proffer, whether sincere or feigned. Mr. Greeley, too, a malcontent Republican just now, was much impressed with the danger of neglecting to entertain such an advance with alacrity. He was indulging a gloomy humor; and in his dismal moods Mr. Greeley was sometimes credulous and extravagant. His ways were known to a New York politician who had early gone South to exercise his peculiar talents in support of the rebellion at good distance from the battle
field, and who was made the medium of communication with the Radical editor.
Some weeks before the date in question a group of Confederate statesmen among whom were exSenator Clement C. Clay, of Alabama, ex-Secretary Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi, James P. Holcombe, of Virginia, and George N. Sanders, the New York refugee just alluded to — took passage on a blockaderunner for Bermuda, from whence they duly arrived in Canada. Locating on the border, they remained in the Dominion through the season, were supplied with funds from the Confederate treasury at Richmond, and kept up communication, by way of Niagara Falls and Detroit, or otherwise, with sundry persons and for divers objects on this side of the international line. Sanders wrote a letter to Mr. Greeley from Niagara Falls on the 5th of July, saying that Clay, Holcombe, and himself desired a protecting pass to visit the city of Washington, intimating that they desired to go there on a mission of peace. Confidential assurances were given that the two associates mentioned had authority from Richmond as peace commissioners. Mr. Greeley forwarded the application to President Lincoln, and not only urged him to open negotiations with the parties at Niagara Falls, but even volunteered to suggest a "plan of adjustment,” including restored and perpetual union, with “ slavery utterly and forever abolished throughout the same”; a national convention to revise the Constitution; and the payment of four hundred million dollars to compensate losses by the abolition of slavery. He believed, as he assured the President, that a just peace was then attainable; that such an offer would “at the
worst prove an immense and sorely needed advantage to the national cause,” and “might save us from a Northern insurrection.” Any offer from the other side, Mr. Greeley was sure, “ should be received, and either accepted or rejected.” The President promptly authorized him to accompany the applicants to Washington, with a guarantee of protection, on their producing evidence of having such authority from Richmond as represented.
Greeley thereupon went to Niagara Falls, and from the New York side sent (July 17th) a note to Messrs. Clay, Thompson, and Holcombe, across the river, saying that he was informed they were “ duly accredited from Richmond, as the bearers of propositions looking to the establishment of peace," and desired to visit Washington on that mission. “If my information be thus far substantially correct,” said Mr. Greeley, “I am authorized by the President of the United States to tender you his safe conduct on the journey proposed, and to accompany you at the earliest time that will be agreeable to you.” On the next day Messrs. Holcombe and Clay (for Mr. Thompson all the while kept discreetly in the background) replied that the safe conduct had been tendered them “under some misapprehension of the facts," and further said: “We are, however, in the confidential employment of our Government, and are entirely familiar with its wishes and opinions on that subject; and we feel authorized to declare that, if the circumstances disclosed in this correspondence were communicated to Richmond, we would be at once invested with the authority to which your letter refers; or other gentlemen, clothed with full powers, would