January 19, Tuesday. At the Cabinet to-day the President read letters from certain Louisiana planters and from General Banks and others, urging the admission of cotton within our lines. He also read the rough draft of a letter prepared by himself, designating New Orleans and Baton Rouge as depots for cotton to be brought thither, sold for “greenbacks,” etc., etc. It had been submitted to Chase and Stanton previously, who both indorsed and perhaps advised, if they did not first suggest, it. Seward and Blair thought it might operate well. Stanton said General Grant was opposed to action in his command, but as Banks favored it, he thought it might be well to let the matter go forward as the President proposed. I suggested that the effect would be good to open the whole country west of the Mississippi above New Orleans. But the President said it might disturb General Grant.
The present demonstration of factious grumblers and interested knaves against the Navy Department is alleged want of speed in our boats. Mr. Fox, Isherwood, and others are not able to submit to this abuse with as much composure as myself, and to stop their clamor Fox desires to challenge the Chamber of Commerce to a trial of speed. I told him that nothing would be made by it. If we were to have a trial and they were beaten, they would at once abuse the Navy Department for wasting time and money in boat-racing. Governor Dennison was present and thought the effect of a race would on the whole be well. The Naval Committee are detaining the Eutaw here, and that boat might be used. Somewhat reluctantly and doubtingly I assented to his writing a letter to G. W. Blunt, who I suspect first proposed it.
Have a strange letter from C. B. Sedgwick, who is under pay, revising the Navy laws, but spends much of his time in advocating suspicious claims from scheming contractors. He advises, with some tact and ability, an abandonment of the trials now in progress in Philadelphia for malfeasance.