Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary of Gideon Welles.

Diary of Gideon Welles.

June 23, 2014

Diary of Gideon Welles

June 23, Thursday. A call in force this A. M. from a large portion of the Massachusetts delegation in behalf of the Smith brothers, now in Fort Warren, wanting them to be bailed, but at the same time admitting a bail bond to be useless or valueless. They proposed, however, the whole Massachusetts delegation should unite in a bond, guaranteeing the appearance of the Smiths for trial. Told them I thought this not a proper proceeding, that it was perhaps doubtful whether bail could properly be taken, that I had written to Mr. Wilson that I wished, if it could be done, that there should be bail, etc., etc. The interview was long; Senator Wilson, Mr. Rice, Mr. Dawes were the principal speakers.

In the afternoon Mr. Rice called at my house with a telegram to the effect that Mr. Wilson would be willing to take bail, but that Assistant Secretary Fox, who has the matter in special charge, had written him not to do so without the consent of Colonel Olcott, etc. I told Mr. Rice, I thought there must be some misapprehension, that I thought Mr. Wilson would act discreetly and properly, that we should probably hear from him by to-morrow morning’s mail. He was earnest, sensitive, and expressed great distrust, or want of confidence in Mr. Fox. I told him, while Mr. Fox was very earnest and persevering, I thought it an error to impute to him personal enmity against the Smiths and others.

Admiral Lee sends me some papers relative to a permit issued by General Butler to one Lane, of the steamer Philadelphia, to trade in Chowan River, North Carolina. It was a little, dirty, speculating intrigue, initiated as early as last March, in a letter from General Butler addressed to the President, proposing to send in ploughs, harrows, and farming utensils to loyal farmers in North Carolina, in exchange for cotton and products of the country, – plausible and taking rascality. The President indorsed that he approved the object. On this General Butler granted a permit. Captain Smith, senior officer in the Sounds, declined to recognize it, but detained the boat and sent the papers to Admiral Lee. The latter failed – called the paper many names, said President’s permit must be respected.

I showed the papers to Seward and Blair, and was disposed to telegraph and detain the vessel. B. was inclined, though doubtingly, to favor my views, S. advised waiting the arrival of the President, but both condemned the proceedings as wholly improper.

Some warm discussion took place, Rice tells me, in the House on the currency and financial questions, showing serious differences in the Ways and Means Committee and between them and the Secretary of the Treasury. It will not surprise me should radical differences be developed. The whole system is one of error, ruinous error to the country.

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