4000bce - 399
400 - 1399
1400 - 1499
1500 - 1599
1600 - 1699
1700 - 1799
1800 - 1899
1900 - 1999
Copy of letter addressed to each of the members of the Cabinet present at the conversation between the President and General Grant on the 14th of January, 1868, and the answers thereto:
Washington, D. C.,
February 5, 1868.
Sir:--The Chronicle of this morning contains a correspondence between the President and General Grant, reported from the War Department, in answer to a resolution of the House of Representatives. I beg to call your attention to that correspondence, and especially to that part of it which refers to the conversation between the President and General Grant, at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the 14th of January, and to request you to state what was said in that conversation.
Very respectfully yours,
Washington, D. C., February 5, 1868.
Sir:---Your note of this date was handed to me this evening. My recollection of the conversation at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the 14th of January, corresponds with your statement of it in the letter of the 31st ultimo, in the published correspondence. The three points specified in that letter, giving your recollection of the conversation, are correctly stated.
To the President.
Treasury Department, February 6, 1868.
Sir:--I have received your note of the 5th instant, calling my attention to the correspondence between youself and General Grant, as published in the Chronicle of yesterday, especially to that part of it which relates to what occurred at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday the 14th ultimo, and requesting me to state what was said in the conversation referred to.
I cannot undertake to state the precise language used, but I have no hesitation in saying that your account of that conversation. as given in your letter to General Grant under date of the 31st ultimo. substantially and in all important particulars accords with my recollection of it.
With great respect, your obedient servant.
To the President.
Post Office Department Washington, February 6, 1868.
Sir:--I am in receipt of your letter of the 5th of February, calling my attention to the correspondence published in the Chronicle between the President and General Grant, and especially to that part of it which refers to the conversation between the President and General Grant at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the 14th of January, with a request that I state what was said in that conversation. In reply, I have the honor to state that I have read carefully the correspondence in question, and particularly the letter of the President to General Grant, dated January 31, 1868. The following extract from your letter of the 31st January to General Grant is, according to my recollection, a correct statement of the conversation that took place between the President and General Grant at the Cabinet meeting on the 14th of January last. In the presence of the Cabinet the President asked General Grant whether, "in conversation which took place after his appointment as Secretary of War ad interim, he did not agree either to remain at the head of the War Department and abide any judicial proceedings that might follow the non-concurrence by the Senate in Mr. Stanton's suspension, or, should he wish not to become involved in such a controversy, to put the President in the same position with respect to the office as he occupied previous to General Grant's appointment by returning it to the President in time to anticipate such action by the Senate." This General Grant admitted.
The President then asked General Grant if, at the conference on the preceding Saturday, he had not, to avoid misunderstanding, requested General Grant to state what he intended to do; and further, if in reply to that inquiry he (General Grant) had not referred to their former conversations, saying that from them the President understood his position, and that his (General Grant's) action would be consistent with the understanding which had been reached. To these questions General Grant replied in the affirmative.
The President asked General Grant if, at the conclusion of their interview on Saturday, it was not understood that they were to have another conference on Monday, before final action by the Senate in the case of Mr. Stanton.
General Grant replied that such was the understanding, but that he did not suppose the Senate would act so soon; that on Monday he had been engaged in a conference with General Sherman, and was occupied with "many little matters," and asked if General Sherman had not called on that day.
I take this mode of complying with the request contained in the President dent's letter to me, because my attention had been called to the subject before, when the conversation between the President and General Grant was under consideration.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Alexander W. Randall,
To the President.
Department of the Interior,
Washington, D. C.,
February 6, 1868.
Sir:--I am in receipt of yours of yesterday, calling my attention to a correspondence between yourself and General Grant, published in the Chronicle newspaper, and especially to that part of said correspondence "which refers to the conversation between the President and General Grant at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the 14th of January," and requesting me "to state what was said in that conversation."
In reply, I submit the following statement: At the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the 14th of January, 1868, General Grant appeared and took his accustomed seat at the board. When he had been reached in the order of business the President asked him, as usual, if he had anything to present?
In reply, the General, after referring to a note which he had that morning addressed to the President, inclosing a copy of the resolution of the Senate refusing to concur in the reasons for the suspension of Mr. Stanton, proceeded to say that he regarded his duties as Secretary of War ad interim terminated by that resolution, and that he could not lawfully exercise such duties for a moment after the adoption of the resolution by the Senate. That the resolution reached him last night, and that this morning he had gone to the War Department, entered the Secretary's room, bolted one door on the inside, locked the other on the outside, delivered the key to the Adjutant General, and proceeded to the headquarters of the Army, and addressed the note above mentioned to the President, informing him that he (General Grant) was no longer Secretary of War ad interim.
The President expressed great surprise at the course which General Grant had thought proper to pursue, and, addressing himself to the General, proceeded to say, in substance, that he had anticipated such action on the part of the Senate, and being very desirous to have the constitutionality of the Tenure-of-Office bill tested, and his right to suspend or remove a member of the Cabinet decided by the judicial tribunals of the country, he had some time ago, and shortly after General Grant's appointment as Secretary of War ad interim, asked the General what his action would be in the event that the Senate should refuse to concur in the suspension of Mr. Stanton, and that the General had agreed either to remain at the head of the War Department till a decision could be obtained from the court or resign the office in the hands of the President before the case was acted upon by the Senate, so as to place the President in the same situation he occupied at the time of his (Grant's) appointment.
The President further said that the conversation was renewed on the preceding Sunday, at which time he asked the General what he intended to do if the Senate should undertake to reinstate Mr. Stanton; in reply to which the General referred to their former conversation upon the same subject, and said. "You understand my position, and my conduct will be conformable to that understanding:" that he (the General) then expressed a repugnance to being made a party to a judicial proceeding, saying that he would expose himself to fine and imprisonment by doing so, as his continuing to discharge the duties of Secretary of War ad interim, after the Senate should have refused to concur in the suspension of Mr. Stanton would be a violation of the Tenure-of-Office bill. That in reply to this he (the President) informed General Grant he had not suspended Mr. Stanton under the Tenure-of-Office bill, but by virtue of the powers conferred on him by the Constitution: and that, as to the fine and imprisonment, he (the President) would pay whatever fine was imposed and submit to whatever imprisonment might be adjudged against him (the General.) That they continued the conversation for some time, discussing the law at length, and that they finally separated without having reached a definite conclusion, and with the understanding that the General would see the President again on Monday.
In reply, General Grant admitted that the conversation had occurred, and said that at the first conversation he had given it as his opinion to the President that in the event of non-concurrence by the Senate in the action of the President in respect to the Secretary of War the question would have to be decided by the court; that Mr. Stanton would have to appeal to the court to reinstate him in office; that he would remain in till they could be displaced and the outs put in by legal proceeding; and that he then thought so, and had agreed that if he should change his mind he would notify the President in time to enable him to make another appointment, but that at the time of the first conversation he had not looked very closely into the law; that it had recently been discussed by the newspapers, and that this had induced him to examine it more carefully, and that he had come to the conclusion that if the Senate should refuse to concur in the, suspension Mr. Stanton would thereby be reinstated. and that he (Grant) could not continue thereafter to act as Secretary of War ad interim, without subjecting himself to fine and imprisonment; and that he came over on Saturday to inform the President of this change in his views, and did so inform him, that the President replied that he had not suspended Mr Stanton under the Tenure-of-Office bill, but under the Constitution, and appointed him (Grant) by virtue of the authority derived from the Constitution, &c.; that they continued to discuss the matter some time, and finally he left without any conclusion having been reached, expecting to see the President again on Monday. He then proceeded to explain why he had not called on the President on Monday, saying that he had had a long interview with General Sherman; that various little matters had occupied his time till it was late, and that he did not think the Senate would act so soon, and asked, "did not General Sherman call on you on Monday?"
I do not know what passed between the President and General Grant on Saturday, except as I learned it from the conversation between them at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and the foregoing is substantially what then occurred. The precise words used on the occasion are not, of course, given exactly in the order in which they were spoken, but the ideas expressed and the facts stated are faithfully preserved and presented. I have the honor to be, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant.
O. H. Browning.
Department of State,
February 6, 1868.
Sir: The meeting to which you refer in your letter was a regular Cabinet meeting. While the members were assembling, and before the President had entered the Council Chamber, General Grant, on coming in, said to me that he was in attendance there, not as a member of the Cabinet, but upon invitation, and I replied by the inquiry whether there was a change in the War Department. After the President had taken his seat business went on in the usual way of hearing matters submitted by the several secretaries. When the time came for the Secretary of War General Grant said that he was now there not as Secretary of War, but upon the President's invitation, that he had retired from the War Department. A Blight difference then appeared about the supposed invitation, General Grant saying that the officer who had borne his letter to the President that morning, announcing his retirement from the War Department, had told him that the President desired to see him at the Cabinet, to which the President answered, that when General Grant's communication was delivered to him the President simply replied that he supposed General Grant would be very soon at the Cabinet meeting. I regarded the conversation thus begun as an incidental one. It went on quite informally, and consisted of a statement, on your part, of your views in regard to the understanding of the tenure upon which General Grant had assented to hold the War Department ad interim, and of his replies by way of answer and explanation. It was respectful and courteous on both sides. Being in this conversational form, its details could only have been preserved by verbatim report. So far as I know, no such report was made at the time. I can give only the general effect of the conversation.
Certainly you stated that although you had reported the reasons for Mr. Stanton's suspension to the Senate, you nevertheless held that he would not be entitled to resume the office of Secretary of War, even if the Senate should disapprove of his suspension. and that you had proposed to have the question tested by judicial process, to be applied to the person who should be the incumbent of the Department, under your designation of Secretary of War ad interim in the place of Mr. Stanton. You contended that this was well understood between yourself and Gen. Grant; that when he entered the War Department as Secretary ad interim he expressed his concurrence in a belief that the question of Mr. Stanton's restoration would be a question for the courts; that in a subsequent conversation with General Grant you had adverted to the understanding thus had, and that General Grant expressed his concurrence in it: that at some conversation which had been previously held General Grant said he still adhered to the same construction of the law, but said if he should change his opinion he would give you seasonable notice of it, so that you should in any case, be placed in the same position in regard to the War Department that you were while General Grant held it ad interim. I did not understand General Grant as denying, nor as explicitly admitting, these statements in the form and full extent to which you made them. The admission of them was rather indirect and circumstantial. though I did not understand it to be an evasive one. He said that, reasoning from what occurred in the case of the police in Maryland, which he regarded as a parallel one, he was of opinion, and so assured you, that it would be his right and duty, under your instructions, to hold the War Office after the Senate should disapprove of Mr. Stanton's suspension until the question should be decided upon by the courts; that he remained until very recently of that opinion, and that on the Saturday before the Cabinet meeting a conversation was held between yourself and him in which the subject was generally discussed.
General Grant's statement was, that in that conversation he had stated to you the legal difficulties which might arise, involving fine and imprisonment under the civil tenure bill, and that he did not care to subject himself to those penalties; that you replied to this remark, that you regarded the civil tenure bill as unconstitutional. and did not think its penalties were to be feared, or that you would voluntarily assume them; and you insisted that General Grant should either retain the office until relieved by yourself according to what you claimed was the original understanding, between yourself and him, or, by seasonable notice of change of purpose on his part, put you in the same situation which you would be if he adhered. You claimed that General Grant finally said in that Saturday's conversation that you understood his views, and his proceedings thereafter would be consistent with what had been so understood. General Grant did not controvert nor can I say that he admitted this last statement. Certainly General Grant did not at any time in the Cabinet meeting insist that he had in the Saturday's conversation either distinctly or finally advised you of his determination to retire from the charge of the War Department otherwise than under your own subsequent direction. He acquiesced in your statement that the Saturday's conversation ended with an expectation that there would be a subsequent conference on the subject, which he, as well as yourself, supposed could seasonably take place on Monday.
You then alluded to the fact that General Grant did not call upon you on Monday, as you had expected from that conversation. General Grant admitted that it was his expectation or purpose to call upon you on Monday. General Grant assigned reasons for the omission. He said he was in conference with General Sherman; that there were many little matters to be attended to. He had conversed upon the matter of the incumbency of the War Department with General Sherman, and he expected that General Sherman would call upon you on Monday. My own mind suggested a further explanation, but I do not remember whether it was mentioned or not-namely, that it was not supposed by General Grant on Monday that the Senate would decide the question so promptly as to anticipate further explanation between yourself and him if delayed beyond that day. General Grant made another explanation--that he was engaged on Sunday with General Sherman, and, I think, also on Monday, in regard to the War Department matter, with a hope, though he did not say in an effort, to procure an amicable settlement of the affair of Mr. Stanton, and he still hoped that it would be brought about.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
William H. Seward.
To the President.