March 4, Friday. Seward sends me the copy of a communication which he proposes to send to Lord Lyons respecting the rights and duties of our naval officers, particularly those on blockade duty in the Gulf. It is a singularly weak and erring document. My first thought was to criticize and attempt to correct it, but this could not well be done without making a new paper of it and would appear badly. Talked over the subject with Fox and also with Watkins. Finally gave the latter my views, suggested the points, and directed him to prepare a letter based on these points.
A pleasant Cabinet-meeting. Chase and Blair both absent. Seward and Stanton had a corner chat and laugh about Chase, whose name occasionally escaped them, and whom they appeared to think in a dilemma, and they were evidently not unwilling we should know the subject of their conversation. I could not avoid hearing some of their remarks, though I changed my position to escape them.
A week or two since, Admiral Lee sent me certain papers in the case of the steamer Princeton, then at Norfolk, among them a permit from General Butler, authorizing the vessel to go on a trading voyage in the sounds and rivers of North Carolina, provided Admiral Lee would consent. The latter would not consent without orders from the Navy Department, and I approved his course in refusing. Now the Messrs. Oliver & Co. file a paper arguing their claims to proceed on the voyage under a permit of General Butler, dated last December, authorizing the Princeton to clear for Hampton Roads. This paper of Oliver & Co. is addressed to the Assistant Secretary and ingeniously designed to cover the transaction. Watkins and Fox were disposed to favor the latter application, but I told them it was not permissible, pointed out the discrepancies, told them the vessel had, as authorized, cleared for Hampton Roads, but she wanted to go further, which that permit did not warrant; and a further permit was secured.