Diary of Gideon Welles

 

Called Neptune by President Lincoln, Gideon Welles was perhaps the most effective Secretary of the Navy the nation had, as he oversaw the expansion of the United States Navy from a miniscule force into a force of 84,000 men and more than six hundred ships, the largest fleet in the world in 1865.  His three volumes of diary entries from 1861-1869 are an invaluable source for a behind the scenes look at the Lincoln cabinet.  Welles was not afraid to put down on paper his opinion of the men and events of his time in blunt prose.  Here is his entry for June 25, 1864:

June 25, Saturday. There are some blunders in the finding of the court in Scofield’s case that I do not like. I telegraphed to Wilson, Judge-Advocate, to come here for consultation and explanation, but a telegram just received says he is unable from indisposition.

            The Treasury management is terrible, ruinous. Navy  requisitions are wantonly withheld for weeks, to the ruin of the contractor. In the end the government will suffer greatly, for persons will not under these ruinous delays deal with the government at ordinary current rates. The pay of the sailors and workmen is delayed until they are almost mutinous and riotous. There is no justifiable excuse for this neglect. But Mr. Chase, having committed blunders in his issues, is now desirous of retiring certain paper, and avails himself of funds of creditors on naval account to accomplish this. It is most unjust. The money honestly due to government creditors should not be withheld for Treasury schemes, or to retrieve its mistakes.

            I am daily more dissatisfied with the Treasury management. Everything is growing worse. Chase, though a man of mark, has not the sagacity, knowledge, taste, or ability of a financier. Has expedients, and will break down the government. There is no one to check him. The President has surrendered the finances to his management entirely. Other members of the Cabinet are not consulted. Any dissent from, or doubts even, of his measures is considered as a declaration of hostility and an embarrassment of his administration. I believe I am the only one who has expressed opinions that questioned his policy, and that expression was mild and kindly uttered. Blair said about as much and both [he and I] were lectured by Chase. But he knew not then, nor does he know now, the elementary principles of finance and currency. Congress surrenders to his capricious and superficial qualities as pliantly as the President and the Cabinet. If they do not legalize his projects, the Treasury is to be closed, and under a threat, or something approaching a threat, his schemes are sanctioned, and laws are made to carry them into effect; but woe awaits the country in consequence.

The diaries are available online from google books and they are well worth the time to read for any Civil War scholar.

 

Published in: on June 24, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Diary of Gideon Welles  
Tags: , ,
%d bloggers like this: