To Samuel R. Curtis
January 2, 2013 Leave a comment
Major General Curtis Washington, January 2, 1863.
My dear Sir: Yours of Dec. 29th. by the hand of Mr. Strong is just received. The day I telegraphed you suspending the order in relation to Dr. McPheters, he, with Mr. Bates, the Attorney General, appeared before me, and left with me a copy of the order mentioned. The Dr. also showed me the copy of an oath which he said he had taken, which is, indeed, very strong, and specific. He also verbally assured me that he had constantly prayed in church for the President and Government, as he had always done before the present war. In looking over the recitals in your order, I do not see that this matter of the prayer, as he states it, is negatived; nor that any violation of his oath is charged; nor, in fact, that any thing specific is alledged against him. The charges are all general —that he has a rebel wife & rebel relations, that he sympathizes with rebels, and that he exercises rebel influence. Now, after talking with him, I tell you frankly, I believe he does sympathize with the rebels; but the question remains whether such a man, of unquestioned good moral character, who has taken such an oath as he has, and can not even be charged of violating it, and who can be charged with no other specific act or omision, can, with safety to the government be exiled, upon the suspicion of his secret sympathies. But I agree that this must be left to you who are on the spot; and if, after all, you think the public good requires his removal, my suspension of the order is withdrawn, only with this qualification that the time during the suspension, is not to be counted against him. I have promised him this.
But I must add that the U.S. government must not, as by this order, undertake to run the churches. When an individual, in a church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest, he must be checked; but let the churches, as such take care of themselves. It will not do for the U.S. to appoint Trustees, Supervisors, or other agents for the churches. Yours very truly
P.S. The committee composed of Messrs. Yeatman & Filley (Mr. Brodhead not attending) has presented your letter and the memorial of sundry citizens. On the whole subject embraced, exercise your best judgment, with a sole view to the public interest, and I will not interfere without hearing you. A. LINCOLN
Jan. 3, 1863.