Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary of Gideon Welles.

Diary of Gideon Welles.

August 29, 2013

Diary of Gideon Welles

August 29, Saturday. Have reluctantly come to the conclusion to visit the navy yards. It is a matter of duty, and the physicians and friends insist it will be conducive to health and strength. If I could go quietly it would give me pleasure, but I have a positive dislike to notoriety and parade, — not because I dislike well-earned applause, not because I do not need encouragement, but there is so much insincerity in their showy and ostentatious parades, where the heartless and artful are often the most prominent.

The President cordially approves my purpose, which he thinks and says will do me good and strengthen me for coming labors.

Chase has been to me, urging the dispatch of several vessels to seize the armored ships which are approaching completion in Great Britain and which may be captured off the English coast. The objections are: first, we cannot spare the ships; second, to place a naval force in British waters for the purpose indicated would be likely to embroil us with that power; third, the Secretary of State assures me in confidence that the armored vessels building in England will not be allowed to leave. This third objection, which, if reliable, is in itself a sufficient reason for non-action on my part, I am not permitted to communicate to the Secretary of the Treasury, who is a part of the government and ought to know the fact. It may be right that the commercial community, who are deeply interested and who, of course, blame me for not taking more active and energetic measures, should be kept in ignorance of the true state of the case, but why withhold the truth from the Secretary of the Treasury? If he is not to be trusted, he is unfit for his place; but it is not because he is not to be trusted. These little things injure the Administration, and are in themselves wrong. I am, moreover, compelled to rely on the oral, unwritten statement of the Secretary of State, who may be imposed upon and deceived, who is often mistaken; and, should those vessels escape, the blame for not taking preliminary steps to seize them will fall heavily on me. It grieves Chase at this moment and lessens me in his estimation, because I am doing nothing against these threatened marauders and can give him no sufficient reasons why I am not.

The subject of a reunion is much discussed. Shall we receive back the Rebel States? is asked of me daily. The question implies that the States have seceded, — actually gone out from us, — that the Union is at present dissolved, which I do not admit. People have rebelled, some voluntarily, some by compulsion. Discrimination should be made in regard to them. Some should be hung, some exiled, some fined, etc., and all who remain should do so on conditions satisfactory and safe. I do not trouble myself about the Emancipation Proclamation, which disturbs so many. If New York can establish slavery or imprison for debt, so can Georgia. The States are and must be equal in political rights. No one State can be restricted or denied privileges or rights which the others possess, or have burdens or conditions imposed from which its co-States are exempt. The Constitution must be amended, and our Union and system of government changed, to reach what is demanded by extreme men in this matter.

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