March 14, Monday. I spent yesterday with Fox, Faxon, Olcott, and a writer on the papers seized. They are bad enough, showing depravity and wickedness, but in many cases the names of persons are drawn in who are, I believe, guiltless of wrong.
I am not exactly satisfied with Olcott. Coming on in the cars with a criminal witness, he most indiscreetly talked in the sleeping-car of Henderson, Brown, Koons, and others, and their remarks reached the Navy Agent, who was also on board and called on me and stated the facts. Such a conversation in a public car was improper, and the person is not a proper one to have the liberty, character, and rights of others at his disposal. Fox, however, in his ardent nature, gives Olcott full credence and support, and is ready to follow his suggestions and suspicions to any extreme. I am reluctant to violate great fundamental principles of right. Fox says Senators Fessenden and Grimes beg that I will not hesitate.
I called on Judge Blair this morning and had half an hour’s conversation. He advises me to press on; says that there is no doubt I am right, that all of these contractors are scoundrels; and thinks I have erred in not at once laying hold of the Navy Agents everywhere and taking possession of their papers. While I cannot think well of scarcely one of the Navy Agents, I am disinclined to the harsh and unnecessary exercise of power, especially as there is no explicit law or authority. Security to persons and papers has been a maxim in my political creed, and I cannot relieve my mind from it, even when compelled to take measures with bad men.