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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
NEW ORLEANS, March 5th, 1864.
DEAR SIR: My letters have not been frequent of late, for the reason that nothing has transpired, except the election,
and concerning this, I had explained to you the situation, my own position and the results which were sure to follow. These results were as I predicted, except that Mr. Hahn's majority was larger and the vote for Mr. Flanders smaller, than was anticipated.
I had and still have, some misgivings as to what you may think of my action in this election, because, being at a distance, you form your opinion of the contest from statements of interested parties. You will know at some future time, if you do not know it now, that I have acted wisely, and pursue the only course honorable for me. After my visit to Washington, I could only follow Gen. Banks' lead. If that visit had never been made, I should probably have done the same thing. This whole contest has been a personal one, and I have failed to detect any difference in the principles of the two parties, of which one is as radical as the other. Probably Mr. Durant and some others do not take this view of the case, and it has been otherwise represented in some of the newspapers, yet I know what I say, is correct. I enclose Gov. Hahn's inaugural, marking that portion which refers to slavery. The inauguration was a very brilliant and successful affair.
I hoped that all dissensions in
party, would be ended with the election, but I now fear that they will continue. I am reluctant to say anything against Mr. Flanders whom I respect for many good qualities, and I do not say anything against him here. But to you I say that I think he confuses his principles with his interests and desire for personal advancement - that he has great zeal but no wisdom - and that while devoted to your interests, he has injured them and will injure them still more. He wastes his force in the indulgence and gratification of private resentments - he greatly overestimates his own personal influence - he makes no friends and alienates many once his friends. I think you overestimate both his ability and influence. It is not true that the extreme radicals all supported Mr. Flanders. I think an equal or greater number went for Hahn. I have continually endeavored to induce Mr. Flanders and his friends to coalesce with the other Union men, and work in harmony with the majority, instead of trying to dictate to
them. If he would do this we could control every political movement in the State, and send to the National convention delegates of our own choice. I hope to succeed but fear not. Such success would be possible if Mr. Flanders could understand what is true, that he is personally unpopular, and therefore every movement inaugurated by him, and in which he is to be leader, will fail.
Mr. Flanders and Mr. Fellows and the political friends of each, met at a dinner yesterday. I am informed on good authority that a coalition was formed between these two defeated factions, with the object of controlling the State Convention and, through the convention, of ousting Gov. Hahn, their successful rival. After this is done, each man is to pitch in for himself. Perhaps these indignant Union men, smarting under the sting of recent defeat, expect to vindicate some noble principle by a combination with copperheads, but I don't see it. To a spectator this looks more toward self-aggrandizement at all hazards and the gratification of persopal resentment. The whole project will fail utterly, as I hope will every compact with these pro-slavery semi-secessionists.
We are forming a Chase Club here and meet for organization next Monday. It will comprize some of the best men of the city of different interests and political affinities. I believe we can control the election of delegates to the National Convention, which we certainly could never do if Plumly and myself had joined ourselves to the Flanders faction. Flanders seems to hate Plumly, and I don't know the reason. Plumly has worked hard for you ever since he has been here, and works hard for you now. His commission has not come, and I sometimes fear you have changed your mind about sending it at all. I can only assure you that it will be very bad policy and injust to withhold it. It would have been much better to send it at the time first designated. Plumly will undoubtedly be a delegate to the National Convention. He has been very fortunate in his finances lately. Some old stock held by him and regarded as nearly worthless, has risen in value enormously, and brought him nearly Thirty Thousand Dollars. His family have been here this winter and he has lived with some show but not
expensively. He has been economical except on one occasion, when he gave a party which cost nearly a thousand Dollars. He has done much good here, and no man in the Dep't. has more friends. I make these statements because I do not know what representations may be prompted by Mr. Flanders' hostility to him.
Gen. Banks is doing nothing to further Mr. Lincoln's renomination. He tells me he is not and I believe him. This is all that we can ask of him, for if he should do anything against Mr. L.'s renomination, his head would be taken off without delay.
Mr. Whitlaw Read, who is to be Editor of the N. O. Times, has not yet arrived. I am sorry, for we need him very much. Hahn's paper, the "True Delta," is out for Lincoln, as I supposed it would be.
I see that many Northern papers miscontrue the order which Gen. Banks issued, about people taking the oath and voting at the recent election. This general order was intended to advise and not to compel. No one here supposed or imagined that registration and voting was compulsory, and people voted or did not vote, according to their inclinations.
If not asking too much, I wish you would write me a short letter. I always like to know if my course is approved by you - if not approved, I wish to know it, so that I may do better.
A great military movement up Red River has commenced. The enemy are in large force at Shreveport, where there probably will be a battle. Gen. Banks leaves in three or four days.
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