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LA GRANGE, TENN., NOVEMBER 7th, 1862.
Not having much of special note to write you since your visit to Jackson, and knowing that you were fully engaged, I have not troubled you with a letter. I write now a little on selfish grounds.
I see from the papers that Mr. is to be called near the President in some capacity. I believe him to be one of my bitterest enemies. The grounds of his enmity I suppose to be the course I pursued whilst at Cairo toward certain contractors and speculators who wished to make fortunes off of the soldiers and government, and in which he took much interest, whether a partner or not. He called on me in regard to the rights of a post sutler for Cairo (an appointment not known to the law) whom he had got appointed. Finding that I would regard him in the light of any other merchant who might set up there, that I would neither secure him a monopoly of the trade nor his pay at the pay table for such as he might trust out, the sutler never made his appearance. If he did he never made himself known
In the case of some contracts that were given out for the supply of forage, they were given, if not to the very highest bidder, to far from the lowest, and full 30 per cent. higher than the articles could have been bought for at that time. Learning these facts,
I immediately annulled the contracts.
Quite a number of car-loads of grain and hay were brought to Cairo on these contracts, and a change of Quartermaster having taken place in the meantime the new Quartermaster would not receive them without my order, except at rates he could then get the same articles for from other parties. This I refused to give. The contractors then called on me, and tried to convince me that the obligation was binding, but finding me immovable in the matter, asked if General Allen's approval to the contract would not be sufficient. My reply was, in substance, that General Allen was Chief Quartermaster of the Department, and I could not control him. They immediately left me, and, thinking over the matter, it occurred to me that they would go immediately to St. Louis and present their contract for approval without mentioning the objection I made to it. I then telegraphed to General Allen the
facts, and put him on his guard against these men. For some reason, however, my dispatch did not reach St. Louis for two days. General Allen then replied to it, stating that those parties had been to him the day before, and knowing no objection to the contract he had approved it.
The parties then returned to Cairo evidently thinking they had gained a great triumph. But there being no money to pay at that time and because of the bad repute the Quartermaster's Department was in, they were afraid to take vouchers without my approval. They again called on me to secure this. My reply to them was that they had obtained their contract without my consent, had got it approved against my sense of duty to the government, and they might go on and deliver their forage and get their pay in the same way. I would never approve a voucher for them under that contract if they never got a cent. I hoped they would not. This forced them to abandon the contract and to sell the forage already delivered for what it was worth.
Mr. * * * * took much interest in this matter and wrote me one or more. letters on the subject, rather offensive in their manner. These letters I have preserved, but they are locked up in Mr. Safford's safe in Cairo. I afterwards learned from undoubted authority that there was a combination of wealthy and influential citizens formed, at the beginning of this war, for the purpose of monopolizing the army contracts. One of their boasts was that they had sufficient influence to remove any General who did not please them.
The modus operandi for getting contracts at a high rate, I suppose, was for a member of this association to put in bids commencing at as low rates as the articles could be furnished for, and after they were opened all would retire up to the highest one who was below outside any and let him take it. In many person instances probably they could buy off this one for a low figure by assuring him that he could not possibly get the contract, for if he did not retire it would be held by the party below.
WASHINGTON, D. C., March 4th, 1867.
Your telegraphic dispatch in favor of the confirmation of General Dix,* also your letter, partly on the same subject, were
* As United States Minister to France.
duly received. I lost no time in communicating the substance of your dispatch to as many Senators as I could. I am glad to be able to announce to you this morning a fact which you will, no doubt, learn by telegraph long before this reaches you, that the Senate has confirmed him.
Reconstruction measures have passed both houses of Congress over one of the most ridiculous veto messages that ever emanated from any President.* Jerry Blackt is supposed to be the author of it. He has been about Washington for some time, and I am told has been a great deal about the White House. It is a fitting end to all our controversy (I believe this last measure is to be a solution unless the President proves an obstruction) that the man who tried to prove at the beginning of our domestic difficulties that the nation had no constitutional power to save itself is now trying to prove that the nation has not now the power after a victory to demand security for the future. I hope you will see this message, Reverdy Johnson's remarks, and Governor Brown's (of Georgia) letter, and contrast the two latter with the former.
WASHINGTON, D. C., April 9th, 1869.
I have been pained to learn that a man upon whom I have conferred an appointment should have been a lobbyist to Congress (in the McGarrahan case) and failing to get the vote he wished from the committee having the matter in charge, should become the traducer of the committee which, it seems, were within one of being unanimous in their report. It seems that
has been acting in this way, and very much to the prejudice of Wilson particularly, the chairman of the committee. It may be that * * * is misrepresented in this matter, but I understand that the correspondents who are traducing Wilson give * as their authority. Now you know, and I predid, that there was no man in the Fortieth Congress for whom I had a higher regard than for the Hon. J. F. Wilson, and that he was one of the men whom I confidently hoped to have connected with my administra
* * *
*The quarrel between President Johnson and the Republican majority in Congress was at this time at its height. Every bill vetoed by the President was passed over his veto.
The Hon. J. S. Black (1810-1833), Attorney General in Buchanan's Cabinet, and the successor of General Cass as Secretary of State.
James F. Wilson (1828-1895) for two terms United States Senator from Iowa.
tion. To have him slandered over my shoulders, I feel as I would to have you, who stood by me through evil as well as through good report, slandered in the same way. I do not believe you care to have with you as Secretary of Legation a man guilty of such conduct. Of course this is presuming his guilt before hearing the other side. I would be but too glad to have the report authentically contradicted. But as the matter stands now Wilson feels terribly aggrieved, and I think very justly so. * * * has no doubt read what the correspondents Piatt and Boynton have said in this matter and knows how far they are sustained in them by his statements. His opinion of their opinion of the merits of the McGarrahan claim, or what they say about the report of the committee upon it, I have nothing to do with. The matter which concerns me is the statement that I have been influenced in my course toward Wilson by reason of dissatisfaction with his public acts, and that my notice has been called to them through some agency of * * *
WASHINGTON, D. C., Sept. 7th, 1869.
Our mutual and much esteemed friend, General Rawlins,* expired yesterday after, as you are aware, years of gradual decline. Although he has lived far beyond what his most sanguine friends hoped, yet his final taking off has produced a shock which would be felt for but few of our public men. He retained his consciousness up to within a few minutes of his death. Although I was not with him in his dying hours, I am told that his greatest concern seemed to be for his destitute family. I was at Saratoga when his rapid decline commenced. The first dispatch I received indicating any immediate danger was on Saturday evening, or night, after the last train had left. I was compelled to remain until Sunday evening, and arrived consequently about forty minutes after he had breathed his last.
I have been intending for months to write you, and have no special excuse for not doing so, except that when I do get alone for an hour I always happen to have something to do. Whilst I have been away this summer I have been very much let alone by people who have an axe to grind, but there has scarcely ever
*John A. Rawlins (1831-1869) joined General Grant's staff in August, 1861, and served with him to the close of the rebellion. He became Secretary of War in 1869. Grant was greatly attached to him.
been a minute when there were not callers. You will see by the official statements that the first six months of the administration have been successful in improving the revenue collections, and somewhat in reducing expenses. The showing is a reduction of forty-nine million of the public debt. The actual decrease is greater. McCulloch* kept no interest account, consequently on the 4th of March no interest due that day, or coupons overdue but not presented for payment, appeared as a part of the public debt. We have actually paid about six million in gold of old coupons which the statements give no credit for. In addition to this, we have paid probably as much as two million in currency on contracts fulfilled and purchases made before the 1st of March, which is another dead horse paid for.
WASHINGTON, D. C., Jany. 28th, 1870.
I received your interesting personal letter a day or two ago and snatch a few moments to answer it. In reality I have no quiet time in which to write letters, scarcely to read the current news of the day. The continuous press of people continues yet about as it was last spring. You will see by the papers that the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment is assured. With this question out of politics, and reconstruction completed, I hope to see such good feeling in Congress as to secure rapid legislation and an early adjournment. My peace is when Congress is not in session. My family are all well and wish to be remembered to Mrs. Washburne, the children, and yourself. The Emperor has been kind enough to send me pleasant messages several times, which please say to him have been duly received and are highly appreciated.
Please convey to him my best wishes for a continuance of his good health and the happiness and prosperity of the people over whom he has been called to rule. It has been the desire of my life to visit Europe and particularly France, but so far I have been too busy. If spared to get through my present office, I shall take a year or two to visit those parts of the world I have not yet
*Hon. Hugh McCulloch (1808-1895), Secretary of the Treasury in the administrations of Lincoln, Johnson and Arthur.