Lincoln Discussion Symposium
Lincoln and Fremont - Printable Version

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Lincoln and Fremont - Gene C - 06-16-2020 08:36 PM

Most of us are familiar with some of the people who came in contact with Lincoln who were difficult to work with. Within his own cabinet there was Seward, Chase and Stanton. Of his generals there was Ben Butler and McClellan.

For a few of us (including me), know very little of Lincoln and John Fremont.
Fremont had been the Republican candidate for president in 1856, and was still very popular among Republicans as the war started.

President Lincoln appointed Fremont as a Major General in the regular army and not long after that he was assigned the command of the Western Department.
It didn't take long for things to go wrong. Then they got worse. It became so bad that President Lincoln dismissed him from his position.

"The essential facts are that Mr. Lincoln, so far from trying to get rid of Fremont as a
dangerous rival, did, to the very end, what lay in his power to save him ; and that the General's downfall at last must be ascribed to circumstances which were as
much under his control as they were beyond the President,"
(from - Lincoln Master of Men, p. 312)

The reaction to Fremont's dismissal was not favorable toward Lincoln
"this letter, written by Richard Smith of the Cincinnati Gazette to his friend, Secretary Chase, a few days after the removal :—
" Could you have been among the people yesterday and witnessed the excitement, could you have seen sober citizens pulling from their walls and trampling under foot
the portrait of the President, and could you hear to-day the expressions of all classes of men—of all political parties, you would, I think, feel as I feel, and as every sincere friend of the government must feel, alarmed.
What meaneth this burning of the President in effigy, by citizens who have hitherto sincerely and enthusiastically supported the war?
What meaneth these boisterous outbursts of indignation, and these low mutterings favorable to a Western Confederacy that we hear?
Why this sudden check to enlistments ? Why this rejection of treasury notes by German citizens ?
Why is it that on the 6th of November, 1861, not one dollar was subscribed here to the national loan ?
Why is it that it would not be safe to go into places where the Germans resort, and publicly express an opinion favorable to the President ?
Why this sudden, this extraordinary, this startling change in public sentiment, on 'change, in the street, in the bankinghouse, in the palace and the cottage, in country and city ?
Is it not time for the President to stop and consider whether, as this is a government of the people, it is not unsafe to disregard and override public sentiment, as has been done in the case of General Fremont?
The public consider that Fremont has been made a martyr of. . . . Consequently he is now, so far as the West is concerned, the most popular man in the country.
He is to the West what Napoleon was to France ; while the President has lost the confidence of the people." *°

For the moment, it did indeed look, in some quarters, as if Lincoln had reaped the whirlwind.
But was this storm fierce enough to bear out Judge Hoadly's warning that to displace Fremont might result in making him President ?
(Lincoln, Master of Men p314-315)

So what brought all this about?
What did Lincoln do?
Stay tuned for future posts, .....but if you can't wait, if you can't sleep, your appetite is gone, your pacing the floor, barking at the dog or hissing at the cat....
you can go ahead and read Chapter 7 ( at no cost to you) of 'Lincoln, Master of Men'
and find out for yourself.