Skedaddle — the e-journal
January 6, 1861
New York Herald
Our Washington Correspondence
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 1861.
There are no facts here. An event today is nothing tomorrow, and the scene shifts every hour. The storm is tremendous; but I think it will end without desolating the country. There are many unreasonable men at both extremes - men of precipitation and madness. But in the midst of all their talk I can see that they are not yet ready for savage action. The South Carolina Commissioners were calm, determined, resolute and did not yield any point. It is as well now, that they should not. In all my talk with them I was surprised at the strength of their position. The South generally is equally determined, not so hasty, but just as resolute, and firmly determined to accept no terms but those which will secures all their rights in some form or other.
There is much talk by Northern men who come here of a united feeling for protecting the federal flag and preserving the federal property. This will be done. The President will protect all the property in his power, and will undoubtedly arm the District against mobs. Yet after he shall have accomplished all in his power, the naked truth will be made more manifest, that, in consequence of the inactivity and imbecility of Congress the great array of strength will be on the side of the South. Georgia has occupied Fort Pulaski. This is the strongest position on our coast, and a small State force can prevent its being retaken, even if the united strength of our whole navy were brought against it. Pensacola is equally impregnable. If the people of New Orleans occupy the defenses at the mouth of the Mississippi, the navy of Great Britain could not dislodge them. Fort Henry in the hands of Virginia and Fort McHenry in possession of the militia of Maryland, would abundantly protect the seaboard of those two States. Mr. Buchanan has not now nor has he ever had, disposable troops to hold these places properly. How idle, foolish and absurd then it is to prattle about coercion.
It is the fashion here, as everywhere, to throw the onus of our present position on the administration. The staple of talk of members of both houses of Congress is abuse of the President for not having done what he could not do, and what but for the sheer stupidly and negligence of our national representatives would have been long since accomplished. The movement to take possession of the District of Columbia and prevent the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln is based upon the supposed necessity on the part of Virginia to take the lead in the Southern movement to recent her own interest from going to the devil. Every man in Washington believes the attempt will be made; still, not one member of Congress here had the boldness and patriotism to propose an act empowering the calling out of militia from adjoining States to secures peace in the capital. The administration fights single handed against surrounding difficulties. With nerve and statesmanship to aid him, Mr. Buchanan could become master of the situation in a fortnight; but he is shackled, impeded and prostrated by those who ought to be his most efficient support.
Abe Lincoln, the Rail Splitter, as a Cabinet Maker.
Honest Old Abe Lincoln, whose achievements as a splitter of rails now form part of the history of the country, has latterly been engaged in a new line of business, a rather higher branch of woodwork, to wit: — the manufacturing of Cabinets. There is all the difference in the world between splitting timber and putting it together; and we are not at all surprised to see that the opponents of Lincoln declare persistently that he is still at his old business of disintegration; that he has split the country in twain, and that all his Cabinet making will amount to nothing. On the contrary, it is quite natural that the friends of Lincoln should insist that he is a first rate Cabinet maker, and that he will manage to glue the North and South together and dovetail the Union so that all the seams and crack will be as smooth as if they had never been exposed to the fire of secession.
Of course the result of Old Abe’s first attempts at Cabinet making will be looked for with the utmost impatience by the country. Hon. Massa Greeley, who ought to be posted about the affair, gives the following list of Lincoln’s journeymen:
State—Wm. H. Seward, of New York
Treasury —Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio
Attorney General—Edward Bates, of Missouri
War—Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania
Navy—Robert E. Scott, of Virginia
Interior—Wm. A. Graham, of N. Carolina.
Postmaster General—Gideon Welles, of Connecticut
The first stick of timber brought to Springfield for Lincoln’s inspection was old Mr. Bates, of Missouri—a beautiful fossil, round, smooth, and in very excellent preservation. Old Mr. Bates is susceptible of a very high degree of polish, and therefore was accepted without hesitation. Next came Proviso Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, who was pressed for the Treasury Department; but being measured, weighed and tried by all the usual tests, he was set aside as not being up to the mark. Simon Cameron was the next customer, and he was declared sound as Florida oak. Simon will be the leading spirit in the new Cabinet, ruling in the kitchen as well as the parlor. Cameron gets the War Department, and will be found equal to the post. He is a descendant of the old Scottish clan—the Highland Camerons—who used to divide their time between peculation and devotion; equally fond of piety and plunder, they succeeded in serving God and Mammon as well as any of our modern jobbing and religious defaulters. In times of political troubles the Camerons were always to be found on the stronger side; and to the gentlemanly occupations previously alluded to they occasionally added a little homicide, by way of relaxation. Nobody ever questioned the pluck of a Cameron, and as this is a virtue generally transmitted in the blood, it is more than probable that Simon has a large share of it. He is a self made man. Beginning as a printer’s boy, he worked himself up the editorial chair, waxed wealthy, was cashier of a bank, and then turned professional politician. He is one of the shrewdest men in the business that the country can show. In 1856 he organized the peoples’ party in Pennsylvania, and in the very next Legislature managed to upset Forney, who had just succeeded in carrying the State for Buchanan, and fancied that he had Pennsylvania in his breeches pocket. Cameron got the place in the Senate which Forney had set his heart upon, and has been a prime mover in all party tactics since 1857. As a politician he combines the qualities of all the members of the celebrated New York firm—Seward, Weed, Greeley, & Co. —but resembles Weed more than any of the others.
Seward, as we understand, goes into the Cabinet in order that he may provide for his friends Weed, Draper & Co. Lincoln believed Seward to be a rather a crooked stick and desired that he should go abroad. The Greeley faction also insisted that Seward should be sent off; and it was finally arranged that the post should be tendered to him, and that he should keep it until after the distribution of the spoil, and then go upon a long tour to the East, visiting Japan, China, Hindostan, Persia and Tartary, bringing up at the Holy Sepulcher. Mr. Seward and Mr. Bates have accepted the posts offered to them. Mr. Chase, who is named for the Treasury, is considered as a piece of sound timber of democratic stock, and was urged by the Ohio delegation at Chicago. Chase is a smoother stick than his confrère Wade, who has a tendency to go against the grain. Chase’s appointment will be very satisfactory to the West. Robert E. Scott, of Virginia, is the identical Captain Scott whose achievements in coon hunting are well known. In 1852 Captain Scott brought down all the Presidential aspirations by opening a correspondence with them and spreading their views before the country. Now all the Presidents are bound to come down when summoned by Scott. They inquire: Are you Captain Scott - the Captain Scott whom poor Pierce sent to Rio? If so, don’t fire; I come down. It may be, however, that Scott has not leveled his rifle at Lincoln, but that the immortal Botts is to be taken to sleep with Old Abe as with Captain John Tyler. Perhaps the appointment of Botts would have the effect of curing him of the cacoethes scribendi - a frightful malady which has affected him during the last five and twenty years, more or less.
Mr. Graham is a seasoned stick of cabinet timber. He was Secretary of the Interior under Fillmore. In the present aspect of affairs it does not seem probable that he would take office under Lincoln.
Last, and most wonderful of all, we have Gideon Wells, of Connecticut, for the Post Office. Where, in the name of all the departed heroes and fossilized politicians, did they dig up that antique bit of timber? We recollect that one Gideon Welles came to his death by a political accident or blunder in Jackson’s time; that he had a great funeral; and it is certain that some wooden nutmeg Old Mortality can point out to the pensive student of epitaphs his tombstone, quite overgrown with moss, and almost hidden by a luxuriant crop of weeds. In the absence of positive proof to the contrary, we are bound to insist that Gideon Welles has been gathered to his fathers, and is, to all intents and purposes, quite incapable of taking charge of any part of the Post Office, unless it may be the Dead Letter department.
We have now finished a preliminary inspection of Mr. Lincoln’s timber, and without expressing a definite opinion upon the results of his first attempt at Cabinet making, we may yet say that it is pretty fair for a beginning. Whether the different elements, the Southern oak and Northern maple, can be worked in together, time will show. It seems that only Seward, Bates and Cameron are sure that Seward will give up his portfolio soon after the 4th of March, and that Cameron will rule at the White House. Of course there will be a tremendous rush for the federal spoils, and perhaps it will be as well for our republican friends to take some measures to assure their followers that there will be something left to struggle for. A great deal depends upon the result of the rail splitter Cabinet making. What does the country think of it?
Diary of a Yankee in the Patent Office
by Horatio Nelson Taft
SUNDAY 6—It has been said that “there are no Sundays in revolutionary times” and this has been a dark and anxious day. The Members of Congress have been together in small companies trying to agree upon some plan that will satisfy all sides. The news from the South is bad as it can well be. It looks as tho the North must prepare for a fight. If nothing but a fight will satisfy the South they can have one probably if it comes to Govt or no Govt.
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