Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 8.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To Edward R. S. Canby [1]

Executive Mansion, Washington,
Major General Canby: Dec 12, 1864.

I think it is probable that you are laboring under some misapprehension as to the purpose, or rather the motive of the government on two points---Cotton, and the new Louisiana State Government. It is conceded that the military operations are the first in importance; and as to what is indispensable to these operations, the Department Commander must be judge and master. But the other matters mentioned, I suppose to be of public importance also; and what I have attempted in regard to them, is not merely a concession to private interest and pecuniary greed.

As to cotton. By the external blockade, the price is made certainly six times as great as it was. And yet the enemy gets through at least one sixth part as much in a given period, say a year, as if there were no blockade, and receives as much for it, as he would for a full crop in time of peace. The effect in substance is, that we give him six ordinary crops, without the trouble of producing any but the first; and at the same time leave his fields and his laborers free to produce provisions. You know how this keeps up his armies atPage  164 home, and procures supplies from abroad. For other reasons we cannot give up the blockade, and hence it becomes immensely important to us to get the cotton away from him. Better give him guns for it, than let him, as now, get both guns and ammunition for it. But even this only presents part of the public interest to get out cotton. Our finances are greatly involved in the matter. The way cotton goes now carries so much gold out of the country as to leave us paper currency only, and that so far depreciated, as that for every hard dollar's worth of supplies we obtain, we contract to pay two and a half hard dollars hereafter. This is much to be regretted; and while I believe we can live through it at all events, it demands an earnest effort on the part of all to correct it. And if pecuniary greed can be made to aid us in such effort, let us be thankful that so much good can be got out of pecuniary greed.

As to the new State Government of Louisiana. Most certainly there is no worthy object in getting up a piece of machinery merely to pay salaries, and give political consideration to certain men. But it is a worthy object to again get Louisiana into proper practical relations with the nation; and we can never finish this, if we never begin it. Much good work is already done, and surely nothing can be gained by throwing it away.

I do not wish either cotton or the new State Government to take precedence of the military, while the necessity for the military remains; but there is a strong public reason for treating each with so much favor as may not be substantially detrimental to the military.

Allow me a word of explanation in regard to the telegram which you kindly forwarded to Admiral Faragut for me. [2] That telegram was prompted by a piece of secret information inducing me to suspect that the use of a forged paper might be attempted on the Admiral, in order to base a claim that we had raised our own blockade.

I am happy in the hope that you are almost well of your late and severe wound Yours very truly,


[1]   Copy, DLC-RTL. The copy is on Executive Mansion stationery. On December 2, apropos of Lincoln's communication to Hurlbut of November 14, supra, General Canby had written Lincoln:

``Major General Hurlbut has shown me your communication of the 14th inst., in which that officer and myself are charged with bitter animosity to the new State Government of Louisiana.

``I have had very little official connection with the convention, and none at all with the State Government, or the State Legislature. Matters connected with these bodies, being under the supervision of the Department Commander, do not reach me, except by way of appeal, and my own duties have been sufficiently engrossing, to prevent any disposition to interfere, unless the subject was submitted to me for decision. Of the three instances cited in evidence of this bitterPage  165 animosity, the first is the only one of which I have any knowledge, either official or personal. The others I had never heard of until I read your letter. In the case of Mr. [Thomas P.] May I did interfere upon an appeal, and for the reason simply, that the power claimed by the Convention to punish for contempt not committed in its presence, could not be admitted without establishing, in the military circumstances of the community, a very dangerous precedent. That opinion I still entertain. I saw then, and I see now, no reason why the usual limit of legislative power, and which the convention had, a few days previous, (Act 30, of the Convention,) defined for the Legislature, and, by implication, for itself, should have been transcended. There was no necessity for it, for the convention was under military protection, and that protection would have been given to it under any circumstances, and to any extent.

``Of the details of the insult offered to the convention in the release of Mr. May, I know nothing. My decision was communicated to General Banks, and the orders were given by him; but I do know, that, while we differed on some points, we concurred in the opinion, that the convention had no legitimate power to arrest, or try, or punish any one, for a contempt, not committed in its presence.

``I think it only necessary to add to this, that it has been, and is my purpose, not only as a question of duty, but of feeling, to give whatever support and aid I can, to the State Government; but it is proper that your Excellency should be advised, that matters that will, ultimately, come under the control of the State Government, are now so complicated with questions of military administration, that, in the changes to be made, differences of opinion may arise, which should not subject officers of the army to the imputation of opposition or animosity. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

[2]   See Lincoln to Canby, November 6, supra.