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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE

From E. B. Washburne .

CAIRO, ILLINOIS Oct. 31, 1861.

DEAR Gov. Just before leaving St. Louis yesterday, I received your despatch in regard to the payment of the claim of Kruse, Drexel & Schmidt which was answered by Judge Holman and myself. We thought it would be well for you to examine the testimony our committee has taken on the subject before you should make the payment. That the whole thing is a swindle on the Government, not only to the extent of the original price of the arms, but the extent of the amount paid for altering a portion of them, I have no doubt. Yet you may feel constrained to pay for them, but there can be no great hardship to the sellers in a little delay. The guns cost them $2.50 each and the gov't. is to pay $6.50 each.
I was on the point of writing you from St. Louis several times, but the situation of things there was so terrible and the frauds so shocking, I did not know where to begin or where to end; and then again it appeared that everything communicated by our best men there in regard to Fremont and the condition of matters in the city and State, was utterly disregarded. Our committee labored for two weeks and our disclosures will astound the world and disgrace us as a nation. Such robbery, fraud, extravagance, peculation, as have been developed in Fremont's Department can hardly be conceived of. There has been an organized system of pillage, right under the eye of Fremont. Governor Chase: what does the administration mean by permitting this state of things to exist in the Western Department? It cannot be ignorant of what the situation of matters is. I fear things have run on so far, there is no remedy, and that all has gone. Fremont has really set up an authority over the Govt. and bids defiance to its commands. McKinstry, who directs and controls him, is not only a robber but a traitor. The Govt. in failing to strike at Fremont and his horde of pirates, acknowledges itself a failure. The credit of the govt. is ruined. Everybody knows there has been such an extent of swindling, that payment ought not to be made, and people are now afraid to trust anybody who acts for the government. I am utterly discouraged and disheartened. A people so venal, so corrupt and so dishonest and unpatriotic are not deserving of free govt.
Fremont is chasing a phantom - he will never catch Price. Nearly his whole force will have to return to St. Louis. It should be here today, ready to go down the river. We propose to make some examinations here. Genl. Grant, who is in command of this whole section, is one of the best officers in the army, and is doing wonders in bringing order out of chaos. He is as incorruptible as he is brave. Genl. McClernand, in command of this particular post i s doing admirably. But they complain they have no money, and are greatly deficient in arms. But enough - " jam claudite rivos." My paper is out.
Truly yours,E. B. WASHBURNE

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Annual Report of the American Historical Association; Volume II; Washington, Government Printing Office; 1903

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