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A resolution extending the payment of bounties, in accordance with this recommendation, to the 1st of April, was at once reported by the Military Committee of the Senate, and passed by both Houses of Congress.
The action of Congress thus far during the session has related mainly to questions connected with taxation and the currency, and does not call for detailed mention in this connection. Considerable time has been consumed, and a good deal of ill-feeling created, by a controversy between General F. P. Blair, junior, of Missouri, whose seat in Congress is contested, and other members of the Missouri delegation. General Blair was accused by one of his colleagues of very discreditable transactions in granting permits to trade within the limits of his department, from which he was, however, completely exonerated by the investigations of a Committee of the House. After this matter was closed, General Blair resigned his seat in the House and returned to bis post in the army. The House, by resolution, called upon the President for information as to the circumstances of his restoration to command, and received on the 28th of April the following in reply:
To the House of Representatives :—
In obedience to the resolution of your honorable body, a copy of which is herewith returned, I have the honor to make the following brief statement, which is believed to contain the information sought.
Prior to and at the meeting of the present Congress, Robert C. Schenck, of Ohio, and Frank P. Blair, Jr., of Missouri, members elect thereto, by and with the consent of the Senate, held commissions from the Executive as Major-Generals in the volunteer army. General. Schenck tendered the resignation of his said commission, and took his seat in the House of Representatives, at the assembling thereof, upon the distinct verbal understanding with the Secretary of War and the Executive that he might at any time during the session, at his own pleasure, withdraw said resignation and return to the field.
General Blair was, by temporary agreement of General Sherman, in command of a corps through the battles in front of Chattanooga, and in marching to the relief of Knoxville, which occurred in the
latter days of December last, and of course was not present at the assembling of Congress. When he subsequently arrived here he sought and was allowed by the Secretary of War and the Executive the same conditions and promise as was allowed and made to General Schenck.
General Schenck has not applied to withdraw his resignation; but when General Grant was made Lieutenant-General, producing some changes of commanders, General Blaff sought to be assigned to the command of a corps. This was made known to General Grant and General Sherman, and assented to by them, and the particular corps for him was designated. This was all arranged and understood, as now remembered, so much as a month ago; but the formal withdrawal of General Blair's resignation, and the reissuing of the order assigning him to the command of a corps, were not consummated at the War Department until last week, perhaps on the 23d of April instant. As a summary of the whole it may be stated that General Blair holds no military commission or appointment other than as herein stated, and that it is believed he is now acting as Major-General upon the assumed validity of the commission herein stated and not otherwise.
There are some letters, notes, telegrams, orders, entries, and perhaps other documents, in connection with this subject, which it is believed would throw no additional light upon it, but which will be cheerfully furnished if desired, ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
April 28, 1864.
On the same day the President sent to Congress the following Message, which sufficiently explains itself:
To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives :—
I have the honor to transmit herewith an address to the President of the United States, and through him to both Houses of Congress, on the condition of the people of East Tennessee, and asking their attention to the necessity for some action on the part of the government for their relief, and which address is presented by the Committee or Organization, called "The East Tennessee Relief Association." Deeply commiserating the condition of those most loyal people, I am unprepared to make any specific recommendation for their relief. The military is doing, and will continue to do, the best for them within its power. Their address represents that the construction of a direct railroad communication between Knoxville and Cincinnati, by way of Central Kentucky, would be of great consequence in the present emergency. It may be remembered that in my annual Message of December, 1861, such railroad con
struction was recommended. I now add that, with the hearty concurrence of Congress, I would yet be pleased to construct the road, both for the relief of those people and for its continuing military importance. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
The diplomatic correspondence of the year 1863, which was transmitted to Congress with the President's Message, was voluminous and interesting. But it touched few points of general interest, relating mainly to matters of detail in the relations between the United States and foreign powers. One point of importance was gained in the course of our correspondence with Great Britain,—the issuing of an order by that Government forbidding the departure of formidable rams which were building in English ports unquestionably for the Rebel service. Our minister in London had been unwearied in collecting evidence of the purpose and destination of these vessels and in pressing upon the British Government the absolute necessity, if they wished to preserve peaceful relations with the United States, of not permitting their professedly neutral ports to be used as naval dépots and dock-yards for the service of the rebels. On the 5th of September, 1863, Mr. Adams had written to Lord Russell, acknowledging the receipt of a letter from him in which the deliberate purpose of the British Government to take no action in regard to these rams was announced. Mr. Adams had expressed his regret at such a decision, which he said he could regard as no otherwise than as practically opening to the insurgents free liberty in Great Britain to prepare for entering and destroying any of the Atlantic seaports of the United States. "It would be superfluous in me," added Mr. Adams, " to point out to your lordship that this is war. No matter what may be the theory adopted of neutrality in a struggle, when this process is carried on in the manner indicated, from a territory and with the aid of the subjects of a third party, that third party to all intents and purposes ceases to be neutral. Neither is it necessary to
show, that any Government which suffers it to be done, fails in enforcing the essential conditions of international amity towards the country against whom the hostility is directed. In my belief it is impossible that any nation, retaining a proper degree of self-respect, could tamely submit to a continuance of relations so utterly deficient in reciprocity. I have no idea that Great Britain would do so for a moment." On the 8th of September Earl Russell wrote to Mr. Adams, to inform him that "instructions had been issued which would prevent the departure of the two iron-clad vessels from Liverpool." The Earl afterwards explained in Parliament, however, when charged with having taken this action under an implied menace of war conveyed in the letter of Mr. Adams, that it was taken in pursuance of a decision which had been made previous to the receipt of that letter and in ignorance of its existence.
On the 11th of July Mr. Seward forwarded a dispatch to Mr. Adams, elicited by the decision of the British Court in the case of the Alexandra, which had been seized on suspicion of having been fitted out in violation of the laws of Great Britain against the enlistment of troops to serve against nations with which that government was at peace. The decision was a virtual repeal of the enlistment act as a penal measure of prevention, and actually left the agents of the Rebels at full liberty to prepare ships of war in English ports to cruise. against the commerce of the United States. Mr. Seward conveyed to Mr. Adams the President's views on the extraordinary state of affairs which this decision revealed. Assuming that the British Government had acted throughout in perfect good faith and that the action of its judicial tribunals was not to be impeached, this dispatch stated that "if the rulings of the Chief Baron of the Exchequer in the case of the Alexandra should be affirmed by the Court of last resort, so as to regulate the action of Her Majesty's Government, the President would be left to understand that there is no law in Great
Britain which will be effective to preserve mutual relations of forbearance between the subjects of her Majesty and the Government and people of the United States in the only point where they are exposed to infraction. And the United States will be without any guarantee whatever against the indiscriminate and unlawful employment of capital, industry and skill by British subjects, in building, arming, equipping, and sending forth ships-of-war from British ports to make war against the United States." The suggestion was made whether it would not be wise for Parliament to amend a law thus proved to be inadequate to the purpose for which it was intended. If the law must be left without amendment and be construed by the Government in conformity with the rulings in this case. then, said Mr. Seward, "there will be left for the United States no alternative but to protect themselves and their commerce against armed cruisers proceeding from British ports as against the naval forces of a public enemy; and also to claim and insist upon indemnities for the injuries which all such expeditions have hitherto committed or shall hereafter commit against this Government and the citizens of the United States." "Can it be an occasion for either surprise or complaint," asked Mr. Seward, "that if this condition of things is to remain and receive the deliberate sanction of the British Government, the of the United States will receive instructions to pursue these enemies into the ports which thus, in violation of the law of nations and the obligations of neutrality, become harbors for the pirates?" Before the receipt of this dispatch, Mr: Adams had so clearly presented the same views, of the inevitable results of the policy the British Government seemed to be pursuing, to Lord Russell, as to render its transmission to him unnecessary,-Mr. Seward, on the 13th of August, informing Mr. Adams that he regarded his "previous communications to Earl Russell on the subject as an execution of his instructions by way of anticipation."