I have been trying for several weeks to go to Washington but ill health bad traveling and the business of the office have prevented. Now the discovery of the misconduct by my late confidential clerk and others, in connection with the bonding of shipments to neutral ports imposes upon me duties inconsistent with immediate absence from my post — I shall however go there as soon as further investigations shall enable me to dispose of these matters in a satisfactory manner.Mr. Stanton and his son were not permitted to remain in their places one hour after Mr Jordan’s investigations were communicated to me1 Mr [Albert] Hanscom , another Deputy Collector of great experience & capacity was immediately put in charge of Mr Stanton’s bureau with directions to allow no book or paper belonging to the office to be taken from it and to institute a rigid examination of all the files and books of the bureau, and a careful examination of the bonds in connection with the manifests of shipments with a view of determining if the bonds are valid and sufficient to cover all the shipments — There were many thousands of these bonds and Mr Hanscom has besides this examination the charge of the current business of two bureaus, both very important to the interests of the government He has nearly or quite finished the investigations but has not given me his report. I hope to get it on Monday or Tuesday the 12th inst. His labors have been so severe as to impair his health; but he has been relieved since Dec 31st by Mr. Runkle the successor of Mr Stanton. Mr Runkle the Deputy Collector of the 9th Division of the Customs is a lawyer of character & experience— He has charge of all suits and claims against the Government or my self as Collector and the taking of bonds for shipments of cargo. He keeps a register of all such suits and claims and of the proceedings in those and collects the facts and the points of law applicable to these cases for the use of the District Attorney. H He furnishes daily, to Mr Hanscom the Deputy Collector of the 10th Division who has charge of all cases of fines penalties and seizures and all other claims & suits in favor of the Government, a list of the bonds taken by him with a brief description of each— Mr Hanscom delivers that list to me the next day with each bond described therein checked with his initials showing that he has exam received & examined approved and filed the bonds— I do not see what better arrangement can be made to guard against errors or frauds — and hope that none will occur in the future. Mr [Albert] Palmer’s misconduct was discovered rather accidentally by an examination of the contents of Mr Benjamin’s safe— In Benjamin’s check book was found memoranda of checks given to Mr. Palmer and a note from Palmer to Benjamin requesting his check for $150— It was also discovered by Mr. Hanscom that Palmer had signed as surety one of Benjamin’s bonds of $500 for a shipment of Goods to Nassau. These discoveries were made on the 7th while I was absent from the office for a few hours on Special duty official duty— The Naval Officer and Marshal & Mr Hanscom came to my office to report the facts and in my absence on the advice of Mr a Special Agent of the Treasury Department now here aiding me in investigations of the affairs & business of the Custom House with references to important suggestions & recommendations which will when approved by the Secretary be laid before the appropriate Committee of Congress— He advised they laid the evidence before the General [John] Dix who ordered Palmer’s arrest— I was absent from half past one till 4. O’clock — when I returned Palmer had been arrested & was on his way to Fort Lafayette— I was much surprised and shocked by the discoveries and the consequent arrest— His integrity had been twice assailed by prominent political gentlemen and the matters alledged against him had been thoroughly investigated by very competent autho officers of the Treasury Department and he was completely exh onerated in both instances — in the latter case his accuser himself gave a written statement to the investigating officer retracting the charges & expressing his entire satisfaction of his innocence— He was afterwards made a member of the State Union Committee & placed by them on the Executive Committee of that body in which I understand he served efficiently at during the last State Election canvass— I was opposed to his going on the State Committee and refused permission for him to go to the State Convention and requested him to deny the use of his name for the Committee— I thought it unwise to advance so young a man to such a position especially as he was in close relations to me— I understood that he did what he could to prevent it— But he was appointed & his acceptance urged so that I finally yielded my consent to his attending the meetings of the Committee in this City. His connection with public & political matters has brought him into notice to his injury — & he contracted expensive habits— These I suppose led him to seek money outside of his Salary; hence he was induced to assist Benjamin in getting sales factory bonds bondsmen to complete bonds which Mr Stanton accepted— I have no evidence of any other failure in his duties— I had confidence in him up to the time when I left the office on the day of his arrest. But I have since learned of some associations of his which would have impaired my confidence in him & caused his dismissal if I had learned them before. I am now engaged in investigations which will show, I am sure, whether other persons in or outside of the Custom House have had improper connections with this bond business and you may rest assured that the proper punishment so far as my power goes will be meted out to all guilty parties— I regret most deeply these disgraceful transactions and I am mortified that I should have reposed confidence in unworthy persons But is it possible to avoid some mistakes of this character so long as the government officers are filled in the manner they are & subject to political influences as they must be to a considerable extent-The Custom House I am assured by those acquainted with its business & history for 20 or 30 years was never so well officered and its business never so well conducted as it has been during your administration— Of course I am incompetent to make a comparison; but I know it is incomparably better than I found it— And I hope to improve it so as to make it confessedly a credit and not a reproach to your administration— I have never allowed articles complimentary to myself to go into the newspapers when I could prevent it — nor have I authorised any defence of attacks made upon me by them— Perhaps I have undervalued the importance of publishing what is done in the way of correcting evils that have come down through former administrations— I may hereafter give information on these matters to the daily press — and it may save to silence their clamor, and satisfy their desire to publish something about the Custom House, continually— It is better they should publish truth than falsehood. If I have erred in imposing confidence in an unworthy person I suppose I am not the only public officer who has made such a mistake If a chief officer is to be held responsible for the fidelity of his Subordinates who is safe in the assumption of such responsibility or who would risk a fair character & position in the community by taking office? I have written you a long letter — when I began I intended only to write a note which should assure you that I am not unmindful of all your kindness to me & of my duty to the Country and yourself …”3
I have already sent you a letter signed by several leading business men, in relation to the Collectorship of New York— I address you again because I wish to communicate to you some veiws [sic] on that subject which could not well be included in the former communication— I regret extremely that I cannot see you — I would have called upon you but am suffering from lameness which renders travelling impracticableIt is impossible to overestimate the importance of immediate action with regard to the Custom house in this City— While the personal integrity of the present Collector is not impugned, there is felt universal and intense dissatisfaction with his Administration of affairs — the Commercial portion of this Community are thoroughly persuaded that he is incompetent and incapable of managing the office — they demand a change —Mercantile men cannot understand why an office which requires of its incumbent such thorough & practical knowledge of the principles of trade and commerce and all their applications should be held by a lawyer — a man whose professional training habits of thought and business methods are not only different from but inconsistent with those of merchants — They may be wrong in their view of it but the leading business men are firmly convinced that no lawyer can adequately fill the position —The party which in this City has rendered to your administration and to you personally the most efficient support, composed as it is of men representing a large portion of the wealth of the Country feels entitled to some consideration at your hands in a matter which affects not only their personal feelings and interests but the character and repute of the Commercial Metropolis of the Nation — the present management of the Custom House in their judgment is discreditable in the extreme — they desire such a change as will hold out to them some reasonable prospect of a reform —An appointment which would place the patronage of the office under the control of men who are known to have regard for nothing but their own aggrandizement would not only be a bitter disappointment to your reliable friends but would probably induce many of them who have heretofore warmly supported you to consider themselves at liberty to withdraw from any further action on your behalf and perhaps to adopt entirely different views with regard to the future from those they have hitherto entertained-You may not be aware of the fact that none of the socalled “regular” organizations in the State took any action whatever with regard to your re[-]nomination until after the publication of the proceedings of the Association formed in this City by gentlemen not belonging to or in any way connected with these organizations — they were unwilling to commit themselves and refrained as long as possible — they now, at the very outset of the Campaign while ostensibly supporting you discourage all efforts in your behalf and demand a price for their exertions —So far as I am informed all official influences are working against you and if more power is placed in the hands of mere place hunters you can have no reliable assurance that it will not be used to your detriment—Mr Draper is the unanimous choice of the Merchants of this City for the Collectorship — they have confidence in his abilities and integrity — he will not have to have the duties of the office and no appointment that could possibly be made would secure to you a stronger or more effective support in this community—We all feel that he has legitimate claims upon the Administration although he has never been willing to press them — No man in this State gave more freely of his means or his personal exertions to bring it into power or sustain and strengthen it since—His labors and sacrifices have received neither acknowledgement or return and although it cannot be claimed that they entitle him to position they should certainly be fully considered when he is proposed for a place for which he is eminently fitted and in which he could render the most important and valuable service —I have not considered it necessary to make any reference to recommendations which have been or may be laid before you bearing the signatures of members of the Legislature — signatures obtained before it was known that a change in the Collectorship was contemplated— Such recommendations can be easily traced to the influences in which they originated-This matter affects mainly, if not exclusively the Mercantile interests of New York — the representatives of that those interests have not only not been consulted but they have been entirely excluded from consideration by the gentlemen who have obtained the legislative endorsements referred to which indeed would have been given to any respectable republican who asked for them-I have written thus frankly and earnestly because I desire that your real friends here, who are sincerely devoted to your interests, should be assured of your cooperation with them and not be exposed to the danger of defeat by means which you yourself will have placed in the hands of professed friends but real adversaries-5
In January 1864, Lincoln asked Davis to send for his friend, Thurlow Weed. Ugly evidence of corruption, if not treason, in the New York Customs House was being aired in Congress; arms and contraband had escaped to the South by collusion of customs officers in New York. The President wished to consult Weed about a successor to Hiram Barney, the present Collector of Customs and Chase’s close friend. On his arrival in Washington, Weed declared that the change must be made but that he had no special candidate in mind for the post. Lincoln had already arranged to send Barney to Portugal as minister and thought he would appoint ex-Senator Preston King, a former Democrat but a good friend of Seward, as a Collector. Weed approved, but Chase, on hearing of the proposed change, threatened to resign if Barney were removed.”A month later, Weed wrote Davis that the Chase appointees in New York were blocking an endorsement of Lincoln in the New York legislature. When would the President remove Barney? Weed had heard that Lincoln now intended to appoint in Barney’s place Abram Wakeman, the Seward-Weed postmaster in New York. That appointment would be a good one, Weed admitted, but he asked to be informed if Wakeman were to be appointed. After his interview with the President, Weed had told Wakeman not to press his application because it would embarrass Lincoln“Responding to Weed’s letter, Davis asserted that Lincoln’s intention to remove Barney had never been abandoned, but the President was embarrassed by the many petitions for Wakeman’s appointment and could not act until he decided who should succeed. Davis believed that Preston King would be the man and thought that Lincoln would inform Davis before he acted, so that he could tell Weed.11
Mr. Weed was here at the Astor House on my arrival last Saturday morning, and I gave him the note you sent him.He read it over, carefully once or twice and then said he did not quite understand it. He had written a letter to Judge [David] Davis which the Judge had probably shown you, but in that he had said nothing about Custom House matters.He said that all the solicitude he had was in your behalf. You had told him in January last that you thought you would make a change in the Collectorship here, but that thus far it had not been done. He had told you he himself had no personal preference as to the particular man who is to be his [the present Collector’s] successor. He did not think Mr. Barney a bad man but thought him a weak one. His four deputies are constantly intriguing against you. Andrews is doing the same. Changes are constantly being made among the subordinates in the Custom House, and men turned out, for no other reason than that they take active part in primary meetings &c. in behalf of your re-nomination.His only solicitude he said, was for yourself. He thought that if you were not strong enough to hold the Union men together through the next Presidential election, when it must necessarily undergo a great strain, the country was in the utmost danger of going to ruin.His desire was to strengthen you as much as possible, and that you should strengthen yourself. You were being weakened by the impression in the popular mind that you hold with ‘much tenacity to men once in office, although they prove themselves unworthy. This feeling among your friends also raises the question, as to whether, if re-elected, you would change your Cabinet. The present Cabinet is notoriously weak and inharmonious — no Cabinet at all — gives the President no support. Welles is a cipher, Bates a fogy, and Blair at best a dangerous friend.Something was needed to reassure the public mind and to strengthen yourself. Chase and Fremont, while they might not succeed in making themselves successful rivals, might yet form and lead dangerous factions. Chase was not formidable as a candidate in the field, but by the shrewd dodge of withdrawal is likely to turn up again with more strength than ever.He had received a letter from Judge Davis, in which the Judge wrote him that he had read his (Weed’s) letter to you, but that you did not seem ready to act in the appointment of a new Collector, and that he (the Judge) thought it was because of your apprehension that you would be merely getting out of ‘one muss into another.’A change in the Custom House was imperatively needed because one whose bureau in it had been engaged in treasonably aiding the rebellion.The ambition of his life had been, not to get office for himself, but to assist in putting good men in the right places. If he was good for anything, it was an outsider to give valuable suggestions to an administration that would give him its confidence. He feared he did not have your entire confidence — that you only regarded him with a certain degree of leniency…as being not quite so great a rascal as his enemies charged him with being.The above are substantially the points of quite a long conversation. This morning I had another interview with Mr. Weed.He had just received Governor Morgan’s letter informing him of the nomination of [Judge John] Hogeboom to fill McElrath’s place and seemed quite disheartened and disappointed. He said he did not know what to say. He had assured your friends here that when in your own good time you became ready to make changes, the new appointments would be from among your friends; but that this promotion of one of your most active and malignant enemies left him quite powerless. He had not yet told any one, but knew it would be received with general indignation, &c &c.12
Chase availed himself of this fact and in place of awarding to you the patronage of your own State, (the only State that went solid for her candidate at Chicago) he grasped the whole patronage of the Country, and in this State he has brought out some or most of the dead political beats we had, men who had no claim to the positions they received and who were inadequate to the duties. Men received appointments who could not for want of experience and knowledge select the true men or those having capacity as well as political integrity, men whose claims were set aside or repudiated until many of our best men got disgusted and left them to run their race.Take our Custom House with Hiram Barney. I was on our Central Committee with him three years where I never knew him to offer a suggestion, support or oppose a resolution, in fact all must admit that he is a perfect negative man and possesses no knowledge of politics in any shape and makes no pretentions to such knowledge. When first appointed he stated it was war times and men should not be removed for their political opinions with such balderdash, yet we were constantly hearing of entire strangers receiving lucrative situations under the Collector, this man should be sent abroad for his Countrys good.Barney left the political working of the Custom House to R[ufus] F Andrews who was a political adventurer from the start, acting at one time with Americans at another with Whigs or Republicans or with any from whom he could get a nomination, he has been the bane to our success since he has been Surveyor acting in running opposition to the regular nominations of the party, at one time under the cognomen of the Peoples or Citizens party and at this time claiming to be running a Union party, which at one time meets at some rum shop again at Hope Chapel or the Medical Academy. at one time it is the Tucker Committee and then the Chas H Marshall Committee, and this man Andrews is suffered to remain and damage the Administration.Can it be possible that the President cannot open his eyes to the injury this sycophantic Andrews is doing the party. I have the kindest feeling towards Barney as I know him to be a gentleman and I am a member of a Loyal League Club with him and meet him frequently but consider him of no account politically,22
I have seen no one yet but Mr. Raymond and Mr. Weed, and several influential men from the country, who were in Mr. Raymond’s office when I went there.Raymond is still of opinion that the change contemplated should be made at once, although he does not seem to have conferred with any one, except Weed, who joins him very decidedly in the same belief. I myself asked Mr. Weed the distinct question whether the change ought to be made now, or after the election, and he answered, now by all means.23
You asked me to write you after a day or two & to give you my impressions as to the wisdom of carrying into effect the changes you propose to make in our City officers, just now. Every person with whom I have conversed has been positive in saying that a change was absolutely necessary, & that the sooner it was made the better. As things now stand we get no strength from the Custom House. A change in the heads will stimulate every person in office to earn retention, — & excite in everybody outside the hope of earning an appointment. Of course it should be understood that there is to be no sweeping change of subordinates before the election.Some little embarassment [sic] has been caused by the indiscreet revelation to Mr. [Simeon] Draper of the change intended. He insists on being Collector — and is or course resolute against having anything less. I cannot think it would be wise in any aspect of the case to make him Collector and I feel sure that when he finds that hopeless, he will consider half a loaf a good deal better than no bread. At all events he will have no ground for complaint.On the whole I see nothing better than the programme you originally laid down, and I am of opinion that the sooner it is done the better. And it seems, furthermore, indispensable that something should be done at once.24
On the whole I have concluded that I will endeavor to see Barney and Andrews as early as I can tomorrow, if they are in the City, and ask them for their resignations in accordance with your instructions.“Almost all those with whom I have consulted, however, unite in saying that, excepting the Collector and Surveyor, there should be very few, if any other changes in their subordinates. Those who are in should have the hope other changes in their subordinates. Those who are in should have the hope of being kept in as a motive for work, while those who are out should have the hope of being put in to prompt them. The new appointees of Collector and Surveyor should receive instructions from yourself on this point.“Mr. [William] Everts [sic] is very earnest that Draper should be made collector instead of Wakeman.Gov. [Edwin D.] Morgan and Senator Morrill have been through most of the New England States. They report an improved state of feeling in all respects, and say we will certainly [carry] Maine at the approaching September election, by a good majority.“In my conversation with Mr. Greeley I urged upon him the necessity of fighting in good earnest in this campaign. He said in reply ‘I shall fight like a savage in this campaign. I hate McClellan.’Mr. Weed and Gov Morgan concur in the opinion that Preston King will not take the Post Office in this city. Gov. Morgan suggests James Kelley instead.“I send this by Robert [Todd Lincoln]. If I get matters arranged satisfactorily I may start home tomorrow night — if not I will stay another day unless you telegraph for me.25
John G. Nicolay was President Lincoln designated envoy to arrange for resignations and replacements. Draper got the Collectorship but Wakeman was named Surveyor. James Kelly got Wakeman’s old job as Postmaster.
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Hiram Barney to Abraham Lincoln, January 9, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Moses H. Grinnell to Abraham Lincoln, February 23, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from William P. Dole to John P. Usher, February 20, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Henry J. Raymond to Abraham Lincoln, March 10, 1864).
- Roy P. Basler, editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VII, p. 413 (Letter to Salmon P. Chase, June 28, 1864).
- Willard L. King, Lincoln’s Manager: David Davis, p. 214 (Letter from Thurlow Weed to David Davis, February 9, 1864 and letter from David Davis to Thurlow Weed, February 12, 1864).
- Michael Burlingame, editor, With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865, p. 132-133 (Letter to President Lincoln, March 30, 1864).
- Michael Burlingame, editor, With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865, p. 132-133 (Letter to Therena Bates, April 1, 1864).
- Albert Bushnell Hart, Salmon Portland Chase, p. 315.
- Reinhard H. Luthin, The Real Abraham Lincoln, p. 517.
- Sidney David Brummer, Political History of New York State During the Period of the Civil War, p. 392.
- Burton J. Hendrick, Lincoln’s War Cabinet, p. 444-445.
- Roy P. Basler, editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VII, p. 412-413 (Letter to Salmon P. Chase, June 28, 1864).
- Allen Thorndike Rice, editor, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time, p. 448-449 (Chauncey M. Depew).
- David M. Jordan, Roscoe Conkling of New York: Voice of the Senate, p. 93.
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Ira Harris to Abraham Lincoln, September, 1862).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from James Kelly to William H. Seward, August, 1864).
- Michael Burlingame, editor, With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865, p. 154 (Letter to President Lincoln, August 29, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Henry J. Raymond to Abraham Lincoln, August 30, 1864).
- Michael Burlingame, editor, With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865, p. 155 (Letter to President Lincoln, August 30, 1864).
- Michael Burlingame, editor, With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865, p. 156 (Letter to President Lincoln, August 31, 1864).
- Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage, p. 262-263.
- John Niven, Salmon P. Chase: A Biography, p. 351.
- John Niven, Salmon P. Chase: A Biography, p. 345.
- Ernest A. McKay, The Civil War and New York City, p. 237.
- Willard L. King, David Davis, p. 216-217 (Letter from Thurlow Weed to David Davis, March 29, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Ira Harris to Abraham Lincoln, September 1, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Daniel E. Sickles to Abraham Lincoln, September 1, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Abram Wakeman to Abraham Lincoln, August 12, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Moses H. Grinnell to Abraham Lincoln, August 29, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from C. W. Godard to Abraham Lincoln, August 31, 1864).
- Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage, p. 280 (New York Herald, September 7, 1864).
- Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage, p. 280-281.
- Sidney David Brummer, Political History of New York State During the Period of the Civil War, .
- James A. Rawley, editor, Lincoln and Civil War Politics, (From William B. Hesseltine, “Abraham Lincoln and the Politicians, Civil War History, Volume VI, March 1960).
- Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: The Organized War to Victory, 1864-1865, p. 110.
- Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: The Organized War to Victory 1864-1865, p. 110-111.
- James G. Randall, Lincoln the President, Springfield to Gettysburg, Volume I, p. 252.
- James G. Randall, Lincoln the President: Last Full Measure, p. 250.
- Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage, p. 316 (Letter from William M. Evarts to Richard Henry Dana).
- Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage, p. 336.
James Gordon Bennett
Reuben E. Fenton
George G. Hoskins
Edwin D. Morgan
Edwin D. Morgan (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)
Thurlow Weed (Mr. Lincoln and Friends)
William H. Seward
William H. Seward (Mr. Lincoln and Friends)
William H. Seward (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)