December 19, Saturday. There was a reception to-day from one to three at the President’s. Went over for an hour. Several of the Cabinet, most of the foreign ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and a gay assemblage of ladies, with some of the Russian officers, were present.
Told Grimes he must remain on the Naval Committee; that the country required it; that we could not dispense with his services. He says he cannot serve under a chairman whom he knows to be corrupt, indolent, faithless, worthless. He spoke of Hale in most disparaging terms as an unfit associate of honorable men, selfish and wicked, wholly regardless of the Navy or country. There is not, he says, a man in the Senate that does not know him to be an improper person to be on the committee, yet they had not the courage to do their duty and leave him off, — in other words cannot resist his appeals to be kept in the position in order to aid him in a reelection.
Sent a letter to Wilkes this afternoon inquiring if he procured, assented to, or knew of, the publication of his letter of the 11th inst. He coolly returns a negative, which does not surprise me, though palpably untrue. I am prepared to receive any affirmation of a falsehood or denial of a truth from him, provided his personal interest can be thereby subserved. His letter of the 11th is equivocal and in some respects untrue.
Had a call from Senator Trumbull, who feels that, the Senate ought not to continue Hale in the chairmanship of the Naval Committee, but says the Department will not suffer in consequence, for Hale is well understood, and I must have seen that the Senators as against him always sustain the Department. Fessenden also called with similar remarks and views. I avoided the expression of any opinion, or wish, as to the construction of the committee. If the question were open and I was consulted, I should not hesitate to give my views, but I do not care to be intrusive, to interfere with or complain of what the Senate does, or has done, in these matters. Senator Fessenden wants a portion of the prizes should be sent to Portland. Told him of difficulties. Portsmouth, Providence, New Haven, New Jersey have made similar applications. Whatever pecuniary benefit there might be to a few individuals in each locality, the true interest of the country could not be promoted by such an arrangement. Attorneys, marshals, and their set would have additional business, but to get it, a host of additional officers must be employed and paid at each place.