Tag Archives: political leaders

Freedom of the Press ~ It’s Essential

In every State, probably, in the Union, the press has exerted a freedom in canvassing the merits and measures of public men of every description which has not been confined to the strict limits of the common law. On this footing the freedom of the press has stood; on this footing it yet stands. . . . Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of everything, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the States that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigour of those yielding the proper fruits. And can the wisdom of this policy be doubted by any who reflect that to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression; who reflect that to the same beneficent source the United States owe much of the lights which conducted them to the ranks of a free and independent nation, and which have improved their political system into a shape so auspicious to their happiness? ~ James Madison (1751– 1836)

August 17 to 31 ~ Election Year 1864

Woman making American Flag

In the midst of his bid for re-election, President Lincoln must deal with divisions within his own party, hostility from those who favor peace, an opposition candidate who is a general in the Union Army, handling diplomacy, encouraging immigration and citizen peace initiatives. Quietly he considers the possibility of losing the election, while encouraging Generals Grant and Sherman and receiving a great victory from the Union Navy.

August 17– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “I am sadly oppressed with the aspect of things. Have just read the account of the interview at Richmond between Jaquess and Gilmore on one side and Jeff Davis and Benjamin on the other. What business had these fellows with such a subject? Davis asserts an ultimatum that is inadmissible, and the President in his note, which appears to me not as considerate and well-advised as it should have been, interposes barriers that were unnecessary. Why should we impose conditions, and conditions which would provoke strife from the very nature of things, for they conflict with constitutional reserved rights? If the Rebellion is suppressed in Tennessee or North Carolina, and the States and people desire to resume their original constitutional rights, shall the President prevent them? Yet the letters to Greeley have that bearing, and I think them unfortunate in this respect. They place the President, moreover, at disadvantage in the coming election. He is committed, it will be claimed, against peace, except on terms that are inadmissible. What necessity was there for this, and, really, what right had the President to assume this unfortunate attitude without consulting his Cabinet, at least, or others?” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.


Gideon Welles


August 18– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “I beg of you, as citizens of this great Republic, not to let your minds be carried off from the great work we have before us. This struggle is too large for you to be diverted from it by any small matter. When you return to your homes, rise up to the height of a generation of men worthy of a free government, and we will carry out the great work we have commenced. I return to you my sincere thanks, soldiers, for the honor you have done me this afternoon.” ~ Remarks of President Lincoln to Union soldiers from Ohio who are returning home.

August 18– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Leonard Swett meets with President Lincoln, cautioning him that it is doubtful that he can win reelection and suggesting that Lincoln withdraw his acceptance of the nomination. He informs the President that elements of the Republican Party plan to hold a another convention in September and nominate someone else. Lincoln refuses, telling Swett, “I confess that I desire to be reelected.” Later in the day, Lincoln tells another visitor, “I have the common pride of humanity to wish my past four years administration endorsed; and besides I honestly believe that I can better serve the nation in its need and peril than any new man could possibly do.” [Swett, 1825– 1899, a lawyer from Illinois, has been a confidant and friend of Lincoln for many years.]

August 19– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln meets with the abolitionist Frederick Douglass at the White House. They discuss ways to help slaves escape and how to increase black enlistment in the army and navy.


Frederick Douglass


August 22– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the services you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged, I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them, in a few brief remarks, the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for the day, but for all time to come, that we should perpetuate for our children’s children that great and free government which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen, temporarily, to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each one of you may have, through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field, and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life with all its desirable human aspirations–it is for this that the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthrights– not only for one, but for two or three years, if necessary. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.” ~ Remarks of President Lincoln to the 166th Ohio Regiment.

August 22– Monday– Geneva, Switzerland– A number of European states sign the First Geneva Convention. They include Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Spain and Switzerland. The Convention provides for: the immunity from capture and destruction of all establishments for the treatment of wounded and sick soldiers, the impartial reception and treatment of all combatants, the protection of civilians providing aid to the wounded, and the recognition of the Red Cross symbol as a means of identifying persons and equipment covered by the agreement.

August 23– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterward.” ~ Secret memorandum drafted by President Lincoln which he asks the members of his Cabinet to sign without reading it.


August 23– Tuesday– Mobile, Alabama– After heavy bombardment from Federal forces on land and sea, Fort Morgan, the last Confederate fortification guarding the entrance to Mobile Bay, falls to Union control. While the Confederates control the city itself, the harbor is closed to traffic and controlled by Federal forces. This leaves only Wilmington, North Carolina, as the only port useful to the Confederacy.

August 25– Thursday– New York City– “The peace faction grows more and more rampant and truculent. I predict that Belmont and Barlow will manipulate the Chicago convention into nominating McClellan on a non-committal platform, and that if elected, he will betray the country.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

August 25– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Henry Raymond, editor of the New York Times, meets with President Lincoln at the White House. The President assures Raymond that ending slavery is non-negotiable.

August 25– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “The Democrats hold a party nominating convention next Monday at Chicago, which is naturally attracting a good deal of attention. There is a palpable effort to give eclat, and spread abroad a factitious power for this assemblage in advance. To this the Administration journals, and particularly those of New York, have conduced. I do not think that anything serious is to be apprehended from that convention, if Seward can keep quiet; but his management, which is mismanagement, and his shrewdness, which is frequently untowardness, will ever endanger a cause.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

August 27– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “Much party machinery is just at this time in motion. No small portion of it is a prostitution and abuse. The Whig element is venal and corrupt, to a great extent. I speak of the leaders of that party now associated with Republicans. They seem to have very little political principle; they have no belief in public virtue or popular intelligence; they have no self-reliance, no confidence in the strength of a righteous cause, little regard for constitutional restraint and limitations. Their politics and their ideas of government consist of expedients, and cunning management with the intelligent, and coercion and subornation of the less informed.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.August 29– Monday– Rochester, New York– “That every slave who escapes from the Rebel states is a loss to the Rebellion and a gain to the Loyal Cause, I need not stop to argue the proposition is self evident. . . . I will therefore briefly submit at once to your Excellency the ways and means by which many such persons may be wrested from the enemy and brought within our lines: . . . 4th Let provision be made that the slaves or Freed men thus brought within our lines shall receive subsistence until such of them as are fit shall enter the service of the Country or be otherwise employed and provided for; . . . . This is but an imperfect outline of the plan but I think it enough to give your Excellency an Idea of how the desirable work shall be executed.” ~ following up on the meeting of the 19th Frederick Douglass submits to President Lincoln a plan to aid slaves escape from the South.

August 29– Monday– Chicago, Illinois– The Democratic National Convention opens with a speech by Mr August Belmont. Belmont, a wealthy businessman and Democratic politician, age 50, declares, “Four years of misrule, by a sectional, fanatical and corrupt party, have brought our country to the very verge of ruin. The past and present are sufficient warnings of the disastrous consequences which would befall us if Mr Lincoln’s re-election should be made possible by our want of patriotism and unity.”

August 30– Tuesday– Chicago, Illinois– “Resolved, That in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution as the only solid foundation of our strength, security, and happiness as a people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern. Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which . . . the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States. . . . Resolved, That the aim and object of the Democratic party is to preserve the Federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired . . . . Resolved, That the shameful disregard of the Administration to its duty in respect to our fellow-citizens who now are and long have been prisoners of war and in a suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation on the score alike of public policy and common humanity. Resolved, That the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiery of our army and sailors of our navy, who are and have been in the field and on the sea under the flag of our country, and, in the events of its attaining power, they will receive all the care, protection, and regard that the brave soldiers and sailors of the republic have so nobly earned.” ~ Platform of the Democratic Party adopted in convention.


street fight between Lincoln & McClellan supporters


August 31– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “General McClellan was to-day nominated as the candidate of the so-called Democratic party. It has for some days been evident that it was a foregone conclusion and the best and only nomination the opposition could make. . . . That factious, narrow, faultfinding illiberality of radicals in Congress which has disgraced the press ostensibly of the Administration party, particularly the press of New York City, has given strength to their opponents. McClellan will be supported by War Democrats and Peace Democrats, by men of every shade and opinion ; all discordant elements will be made to harmonize, and all differences will be suppressed. Whether certain Republican leaders in Congress, who have been assailing and deceiving the Administration, and the faultfinding journals of New York have, or will, become conscious of their folly, we shall soon know. They have done all that was in their power to destroy confidence in the President and injure those with whom they were associated. If, therefore, the reelection of Mr. Lincoln is not defeated, it will not be owing to them. In some respects I think the President, though usually shrewd and sensible, has mismanaged. His mistakes, I think, are attributable to Mr. Seward almost exclusively. It has been a misfortune to retain Stanton . . . . the President is honest, sincere, and confiding, traits which are not so prominent in some by whom he is surrounded.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

Eternal Resistance to Reunion ~ January 1865 ~ 28th to 30th

Eternal Resistance to Reunion ~ Charleston Mercury\


In South Carolina as in other parts of the Confederacy, there exists strong resistance to peace negotiations with the North. Some Southern clergy do not worry about the sinfulness of slavery itself but rather their failure to bless slave marriages. [In many parts of the South slave marriages were not blessed by white clergy in order to make it easier to sell slave spouses apart from one another.] Reports are surfacing about Yankee troops taking vengeance on South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union. It is about to become much worse. Ladies’ magazines have special offers for their readers. Whitman settles back into life in Washington.

fashionable men's clothes for 1865

fashionable men’s clothes for 1865

January 28– Saturday– New York City– “Frank Leslie’s Lady’s Illustrated Almanac for 1865. This annual contains a greater amount of useful and entertaining information than any publication of the kind ever issued. It is indeed the only Lady’s Illustrated Almanac published. It is embellished with over 70 beautiful engravings, by the finest Artists of the day, executed in the highest style of art. It contains directions for the parlor, ball-room, boudoir, store-room, kitchen, garden, nursery and sick-room. In a word, it is the matron’s vade mecum, as well as the young lady’s companion, and it should be found in every household. In addition to general illustrations, it contains splendid portraits of Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. McClellan. exquisitely engraved on steel, and a graphic Bathing-Scene at Long Branch, printed on fine paper. This complete Lady’s Manual– which contains more reading matter than an octavo volume– costs only 50 cents. It will be sent, postage free, on receipt of the price, either in currency or postage stamps.” ~ Advertisement in today’s Frank Leslie’s Weekly. [The 50 cents would equal $7.38 in today’s money using the Consumer Price Index.]

January 28– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “The Charleston Mercury of . . . the 18th, states that about two hundred and fifty refugees – men, women and children – have arrived in that city from Savannah. They nearly all concur in the statement that the general treatment of the inhabitants of Savannah by the Yankees has been mild. They say that Sherman has, with Foster’s reinforcements, eighty thousand men, and that he began his movement against Branchville and Augusta on Wednesday, January 11th. The refugees say that the privates speak of wreaking their vengeance on South Carolina; but the officers say that their actions will depend upon the amount of opposition they may encounter. They declare that if they should have hard fighting to do, and are successful, they will not attempt to restrain their men.” ~ Richmond Times Dispatch.

Southern refugees

Southern refugees

January 28– Saturday– near Thomasville, Georgia– “We left Albany at an early hour. Albert Bacon rode out home in the carriage with us, and I did the best I could for him by pretending to be too sleepy to talk and so leaving him free to devote himself to Mett. Fortunately, the roads have improved since last Saturday, and we were not so long on the way. We found sister busy with preparations for Julia’s birthday party, which came off in the afternoon. All the children in the neighborhood were invited and most of the grown people, too. The youngsters were turned loose in the backyard to play King’s Base, Miley Bright, &c., and before we knew it, we grown people found ourselves as deep in the fun as the children. In the midst of it all a servant [slave] came up on horseback with a letter for sister. It proved to be a note from Captain Hines bespeaking her hospitality for General Sam Jones and staff, and of course she couldn’t refuse, though the house was crowded to overflowing already. She had hardly finished reading when a whole cavalcade of horses and government wagons came rattling up to the door, and the general and one of his aides helped two ladies and their children to alight from an ambulance in which they were traveling. When they saw what a party we had on hand, they seemed a little embarrassed, but sister laughed away their fears, and sent the children out to join the others in the backyard and left the ladies, who were introduced as Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Creighton, with their escorts, in the parlor, while she went out to give orders about supper and make arrangements for their accommodation. Mrs. Meals, Metta, and I hustled out of our rooms and doubled up with sister and the children. Everybody was stowed away somewhere, when, just before bedtime, two more aides, Captain Warwick, of Richmond, and Captain Frazer, of Charleston, rode up and were invited to come in, though the house was so crowded that sister had not even a pallet on the floor to offer them. All she could do was to give them some pillows and tell them they were welcome to stay in the parlor if they could make themselves comfortable there. People are used to putting up with any sort of accommodations these times and they seemed very glad of the shelter. They said it was a great deal better than camping out in the wagons, as they had been doing, and with the help of the parlor rugs and their overcoats and army blankets, they could make themselves very comfortable. They were regular thoroughbreds, we could see, and Captain Frazer one of the handsomest men I ever laid my eyes on – a great, big, splendid, fair-haired giant, that might have been a Viking leader if he had lived a thousand years ago. Sister has been so put out by Mr. Ballou that I don’t see how she could keep her temper well enough to be polite to anybody. He has packed up and taken himself off, leaving her without an overseer, after giving but one day’s notice, and she has the whole responsibility of the plantation and all these Negroes on her hands. It was disgraceful for him to treat her so, and Brother Troup off at the war, too.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

January 28– Saturday– Dhudike, Punjab, India– Birth of Lala Lajpat Rai, author, politician and a leader of Indian independence movement. [Dies November 17, 1928.]

Lala Lajpat Rai

Lala Lajpat Rai

January 29– Sunday– near Thomasville, Georgia– “Breakfast early so as to let our general and staff proceed on their way, as they said they wanted to make an early start. General Jones has recently been appointed commandant of the Department of South Georgia and Florida, with headquarters at Tallahassee. It was nearly eleven o’clock before they got off. Mr. Robert Bacon says he met them on their way, and they told him they were so pleased with their entertainment at sister’s that they wished they could have staid a day or two longer. I had a good long talk with the two young captains before they left and they were just as nice as they could be. We found that we had a number of common friends, and Captain Warwick knows quite well the Miss Lou Randolph in Richmond that Garnett writes so much about, and Rosalie Beirne, too.Just before bedtime we were startled by heavy steps and a loud knocking at the front door. Having no white man within three miles, even an overseer, we were a little startled, but mustered courage, sister, Mett, and I, followed by two or three of the Negroes, to go to the door. Instead of a stray Yankee, or a squad of deserters, we confronted a smart young Confederate officer in such a fine new uniform that the sight of it nearly took our breath away. He said he was going to the Cochran plantation, but got lost in the pond back of our house and had come in to inquire his way. Sister invited him into the sitting-room, and he sat there talking with us till one of the servants [slaves] could saddle a mule and go with him to show him the road. Sister said she felt mean for not inviting him to spend the night, but she was too tired and worried to entertain another guest now, if the fate of the Confederacy depended on it. His uniform was too fresh and new anyway to look very heroic.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.


January 30– Monday– Elmira, New York– “I seat my self to write in answer yours of the 18th December which I have just received it is the first letter I have had from you since I have been a prisoner. It found me well I have had good health all the time. I was very glad to hear you all was in good health. My Dear you wrote of trouble do not be troubled about me if you can help it. Although we are miles apart. Should life last I will return to you some time I cannot say when. It will be months and may be years although do the best you can. Give my respects to Enquiring friends. School our children– tell them Papa will be home some time. I want to see them very bad.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Richard Henry Brooks to his wife Telitha.

January 30– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I have this morning written to Captain Mason, telling him where George is, & asking him, as that would be ten times more likely to get through, if he will have (or direct some proper person) to put up a box of things to eat, & given him George’s address to send it through the lines, & said that I or you would pay the bill of course, & be most deeply obliged to him & that I would have enclosed the money in the letter I sent him, but thought it safer to wait & see whether it reached him. I have written to George since I have been here in Washington. . . . We have had very cold mean weather here ever since I arrived till to-day– it is now moderated & very pleasant overhead. I am quite comfortable, have a comfortable room enough, with a wood stove, & a pile of wood in the room, a first rate & good big bed, & a very friendly old secesh landlady whose husband & son are off in the Southern army– she is different from any I have found yet here, is very obliging, starts my fire for me at 5 o’clock every afternoon, & lights the gas, even, & then turns it down to be ready for me when I come home. I get my meals where I can– they are poor & expensive. You speak of the Indian office– it is a Bureau in the Department of the Interior, which has charge of quite a large mass of business relating to the numerous Indian tribes in West & Northwest, large numbers of whom are under annuities, supplies, &c for the government. All I have hitherto employed myself about has been making copies of reports & Bids, &c for the office to send up to the Congressional Committee on Indian Affairs. It is easy enough– I take things very easy– the rule is to come at 9 and go at 4 but I don’t come at 9, and only stay till 4 when I want, as at present to finish a letter for the mail. I am treated with great courtesy, as an evidence of which I have to inform you that since I began this letter, I have been sent for by the cashier to receive my pay for the arduous & invaluable services I have already rendered to the government. I feel quite well, perhaps not as completely so as I used to was, but I think I shall get so this spring– as I did indeed feel yesterday better than I have since I was taken sick last summer. I spent yesterday afternoon in Armory Square Hospital, & had a real good time, & the boys had too. Jeff, you need not be afraid about my overdoing the matter. I shall go regularly enough, but shall be on my guard against trouble. I am also going to some of the camps about here, there is a great chance among them to do good, & they are interesting places every way, for one who goes among the men.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his brother Jeff.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

January 30– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– “The Protestant and Catholic clergy of the Confederacy are calling attention to the duty of enforcing the sanctity of the marriage relation among slaves. The Baptist Convention of Georgia has adopted an emphatic resolution upon this subject. The Southern Churchman quotes various religious authorities, setting forth the sinfulness of any neglect by masters of this Christian duty; among them Bishop Verot, (Roman Catholic Bishop of Savannah,) who says: ‘Slavery, to become a permanent institution of the South, must be made to conform to the law of God; a Southern Confederacy will never thrive unless it rests upon morality and order; the Supreme Arbiter of Nations will not bless with stability and prosperity a state of things which would be a flagrant violation of His holy commandments.’” ~ Richmond Times Dispatch.

January 30– Monday– Charleston, South Carolina– “For two days past the political atmosphere has been thick with rumors of approaching peace. The basis of these rumors appears in the despatch we publish today, announcing the appointment of three well known Confederate gentlemen, as Commissioners to confer with the Lincoln Government on the subject of peace. We should have been better pleased, had the first formal as well as actual overtures for peace come from Washington to Richmond, instead of from Richmond to Washington; but in a case where the honor, the treasure and the blood of our people are all at stake, we would not stand upon trifles; and, if there be really a prospect of achieving our independence and an honorable peace by negotiation, then we bid our Commissioners God speed! But has there been anything in the course of the Yankee Government, or press, or people, to indicate the least disposition to yield the sine qua non of an honorable settlement – Confederate Independence? We know not. Every utterance of public sentiment, official or unofficial, that has reached us from beyond the Potomac, forbids the hope of such a concession at this time. But if, in this matter we are mistaken – if, indeed, so great a change has come over the spirit of the Yankee dream that they are ready to consent to the separation which we have been fighting so long to maintain– it would, perhaps, be well worth while for our Government to dally for a season, until we can fully learn the causes which could have produced so sudden and so singular an effect. Meantime, it behooves our people to be elated by no delusive hopes, and our soldiers to stand to their arms. Let the spirit of eternal resistance to reunion with the fiends who have wrought such desolation to Southern homes everywhere, be freshly awakened throughout the land. Let the atrocities and the faithlessness of our foe be ever kept in view, and let the sea of blood shed by the hosts of devoted, martyrs to our cause forever roll between us and the hated States of the North. Let the Commissioners at Washington parley and wrangle over the terms of peace to their hearts’ content. Sherman and his insolent army are the commissioners with whom, just now, we have to deal.” ~ Charleston Mercury.