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 20, 2014

Diary of Gideon Welles

June 20, Monday. A very busy and eventful week has passed without my having time to jot down incidents, much less observations and reflections. Among other matters, on representations made by attorneys, detectives, and others, I directed the arrest of Smith Brothers, in Boston. It is stated they have attempted to defraud the government in the delivery of the articles under contract. Mr. Wilson, Mr. Goodman, Mr. Eames, Mr. Watkins, Mr. Fox, Mr. Faxon, Admiral Smith, all concur in opinion as to the criminality of the Smiths. Yet they stand high in Boston as pious, sharp men, who profess great honesty and much religion. The arrest will bring down abuse and hostility upon me from many. But duty demanded action, however unpleasant.

Mr. Rice called on me early Saturday morning with a telegram received at midnight from Mrs. Smith, concerning the arrest of her husband. She is in great distress and has the earnest sympathy of Mr. Rice, who believes the Smiths innocent. He says the arrest has ruined forever the families, whether innocent or guilty. Mr. Gooch soon came in with a similar telegram, received at midnight, and went over the same story more briefly. Gooch felt bad and had slept but little. I told Mr. Rice that the parties should have the benefit of bail, or rather that I had written Mr. Wilson, authorizing bail. Colonel Olcott writes Fox, to whom these matters are specially committed, opposing bail; wants them confined in Fort Warren, where they have been sent, until he has examined their papers. He is a cormorant, searching papers, utterly reckless. I told Fox that I wished a firm but mild man; that I would not be oppressive. But Fox is violent against these men, who, he believes, are hypocrites and rascals. While I may not differ with him in that respect, they have rights in common with us all that must be respected and not rudely violated.

Preliminary measures for the arrest and trial of Henderson, Navy Agent at New York, have been taken. From the statements of Savage, Stover, and others he has been guilty of malfeasance, although standing high in the community as a man of piety and purity. It has been with reluctance that I have come to the conclusion that it was my duty to ask his removal and take measures against him. But I am left no alternative. That he, like all the Navy Agents, was getting rich at the public expense I have not doubted, – that there were wrong proceedings in this matter I fully believed, – and yet to break with old friends was and is unpleasant. My own impression is that Henderson has kept more accurate accounts than his predecessors, and I expect his books will square up faithfully, -– accurate in dollars and cents, – but the wrong has been in another way. His representative, and friend, and fellow church-member Odell has looked into the subject, and says he has committed great frauds.

The gold bill, as it is called, has been finally enacted and we shall soon ascertain whether it effects any good. Chase and his school have the absurd follies of the Whigs and John Law in regard to money and finance. I have no confidence in his financial wisdom or intelligence on those subjects.

We get no good army news from Petersburg. Our troops have suffered much and accomplished but little, so far as I can learn. But there is disinclination to communicate army intelligence, as usual. Were the news favorable, it would be otherwise.

The President in his intense anxiety has made up his mind to visit General Grant at his headquarters, and left this P. M. at five. Mr. Fox has gone with him, and not unlikely favored and encouraged the President in this step, which I do not approve. It has been my policy to discourage these Presidential excursions. Some of the Cabinet favored them. Stanton and Chase, I think, have given them countenance heretofore.

He can do no good. It can hardly be otherwise than harmful, even if no accident befalls him. Better for him and the country that he should remain at his post here. It would be advantageous if he remained away from the War Department and required his Cabinet to come to him.

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