February 3, Wednesday. Had a brief talk to-day with Chase on financial matters. He seems embarrassed how to proceed, but, being fertile in resources, listening to others still more fertile, and having resorted to expedients in one instance, he will probably experience little difficulty in finding another. There will, however, come a day of reckoning, and the nation will have to pay for all these expedients. In departing from the specie standard and making irredeemable paper its equivalent, I think a great error was committed. By inflating the currency, loans have been more easily taken, but the artificial prices are ruinous. I do not gather from Chase that he has any system or fixed principles to govern him in his management of the Treasury. He craves even beyond most others a victory, for the success of our arms inspires capitalists with confidence. He inquired about Charleston; regretted that Farragut had not been ordered there. I asked what F. could do beyond Dahlgren at that point. Well, he said, he knew not that he could do more, but he was brave and had a name which inspired confidence. I admitted he had a reputation which Dahlgren had not, but no one had questioned D.’s courage or capacity and the President favored him. The moral effect of taking Charleston was not to be questioned; beyond that I knew not anything could be gained. The port was closed.
The conversation turned upon army and naval operations. He lamented the President’s want of energy and force, which he said paralyzed everything. His weakness was crushing us. I did not respond to this distinct feeler, and the conversation changed.
Almost daily we have some indications of Presidential aspirations and incipient operations for the campaign. The President does not conceal the interest he takes, and yet I perceive nothing unfair or intrusive. He is sometimes, but not often, deceived by heartless intriguers who impose upon him. Some appointments have been secured by mischievous men, which would never have been made had he known the facts. In some respects he is a singular man and not fully understood. He has great sagacity and shrewdness, but sometimes his assertion or management is astray. When he relies on his own right intentions and good common sense, he is strongest. So in regard to friends whom he distrusts, and mercenary opponents, in some of whom he confides. A great and almost inexcusable error for a man in his position.