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Franklin W. Smith and the U. S. Navy
07-02-2022, 09:43 AM (This post was last modified: 07-03-2022 10:31 AM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #10
RE: Franklin W. Smith and the U. S. Navy
In 2013, I indicated that another posting from me on this subject would be forthcoming. The following is Secretary Welles diary entry of March 23, 1864 Thursday:

An extra of the Boston Journal contains Senator Sumner's review, or argument, of the case of Smith Brothers. It is not a creditable document for Mr. Sumner in any aspect, and he will probably regret that he ever sent out such a document. A letter from Hooper accompanies the paper, quite as discreditable.

J. M. Forbes tells me he went into Sumner's room and found Hooper and Gooch there. The three were in high glee, and Sumner was detailing his success in getting the executive pardon. Forbes told them it was proper they should understand his position. He believed it was an executive error, but a greater error for Massachusetts Representatives to interfere and stop legal proceedings through their political influence. Sumner spoke of the smallness of the amount involved. Forbes replied that if one of his servants was detected, and convicted of having stolen a silver spoon, though only a teaspoon, he would kick him out of the house and not trust him farther. Nor would he be persuaded to excuse and take the thief into favor because he had been trusted with all his silver and only stolen, or been detected in having stolen, one small spoon.

The President has gone to the front, partly to get rid of the throng that is pressing upon him, though there are speculations of a different character. He makes his office much more laborious than he should. Does not generalize and takes upon himself questions that properly belong to the Departments, often causing derangement and irregularity. The more he yields, the greater the pressure upon him, It has now become such that he is compelled to flee. There is no doubt he is much worn down; besides he wishes the War terminated, and, to this end, that severe terms shall not be exacted of the Rebels.

The president had written his decision to Welles, the court-martial board and the Navy:

"I am unwilling for the sentence to stand and be executed, to any extent, in this case. In the absence of a more adequate motive than the evidence discloses, I am wholly unable to believe in the existence of criminal or fraudulent intent on the part of one of such well-established good character as is the accused. If the evidence went as far toward establishing a guilty profit of one or two hundred thousand dollars, as it does of one or two hundred dollars, the case would, on the question of guilt, bear a far different aspect. That on this contract, involving from one million to twelve hundred thousand dollars, the contractors should attempt a fraud which at the most could profit them only one or two hundred, or even one thousand dollars, is to my mind beyond the power of rational belief. That they did not, in such a case, strike for greater gains proves that they did not, with guilty or fraudulent intent, strike at all. The judgment and sentence are disapproved and declared null, and the accused ordered to be discharged."

Lincoln never got the opportunity to "lay my long hand upon them" who pursued the Smiths. A few short weeks after the president vacated the sentence, he was assassinated.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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RE: Franklin W. Smith and the U. S. Navy - David Lockmiller - 07-02-2022 09:43 AM

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