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

To James B. Fry [1]

Executive Mansion,
Provost-Marshal-General: Washington February 6, 1865.

These gentlemen distinctly say to me this morning that what they want is the means from your office of showing their people that the quota assigned to them is right. They think it will take but little time---two hours, they say. Please give them double the time and every facility you can. Yours, truly, A. LINCOLN.

February 6, 1865.

The Provost-Marshal brings this letter back to me and says he cannot give the facility required without detriment to the service, and thereupon he is excused from doing it. A. LINCOLN.


[1]   OR, III, IV, 1142. Following receipt of Lincoln's endorsement of February 4, supra, James B. Fry wrote the Committee of the Board of Supervisors of New York on February 5 that having laid their request before the president and having ``received their instructions to this effect, I beg you will excuse me from giving time to an investigation into the December assignment.'' (Ibid., p. 1128).

To this letter the committee replied on the same date that they thought the figures necessary, ``in order to show the occasion of the increase of the quotas assigned in January,'' but that they ``desire now to be allowed to copy from the records the enrollment of the remaining Congressional districts of the loyal States. . . .'' (Ibid., pp. 1129-30).

Fry replied on the same day, quoting Lincoln's and Stanton's endorsement on the committee's letter of February 4, supra (ibid., 1132-33). On February 6, the committee interviewed the president and submitted their case in writing:

``To His Excellency the President of the United States:

``Under your call of Dec. 19, 1864, for 300,000 men, there was assigned to the County of New-York, on the 23d of December, a quota of 4,423 men.

``On the 24th of January, 1865, our quota was increased to 21,019 men.

``We ask:

``1. Inasmuch as the increase in our quota is due in great part to a reassignment of quotas after the correction of the enrollment in other districts, we think it but fair that our quota should be reassigned after the correction of our enrollment. We ask, therefore, that upon the completion of the correction of our enrollment, which will be in about twenty days, our quota be reassigned.

``2. In case our County shall keep her Provost-Marshals reasonably busy mustering in recruits, that the Provost Marshals be not withdrawn from that duty to enforce the draft.

``3. To satisfy our constituents as to the justice of this increase of our quota, we ask leave to copy the figures on which the quotas of December and January are based. As the quota of each district depends on the figures for every other district, we shall be obliged to copy the figures of all the districts of the loyal States. This we will do at any hour of day or night which may be least inconvenient to the War Department, and we will do it in less than two hours.'' (New York Tribune, February 9, 1865. The original document has not been found and does not appear in the Official Records.)

Page  263The committee's account of Lincoln's response is as follows:

``Although your Committee received no positive assurance from the President to the two first points presented to him, they were led to believe that His Excellency saw their force and justice.

``In regard to the third point, however, in which our correspondence with the Provost-Marshal General had been so unsatisfactory, he remarked that it had been represented to him that we desired these figures for the purpose of showing that the Government was wrong. Your Committee assured him, however, that their only object was to be put in possession of the data on which they might satisfy themselves and their constituents that the quota assigned them was just.'' (Ibid.)

During the interview, Lincoln gave the committee the letter to Fry (as above). Upon receiving Lincoln's letter, Fry went to the president and obtained the endorsement excusing him at Lincoln's request. Fry addressed two further letters to the committee on February 6, refusing their request and dismissing the matter with the statement, ``I have no further time at my disposal to devote to this subject.'' (OR, III, IV, 1144).

Much disgruntled, the committee returned to New York and published their report, including the correspondence exchanged with Provost Marshal Fry (New York Tribune, February 9, 1865).