To Edwin M. Stanton

Hon. Sec. of War         Executive Mansion,
My dear Sir:                  Washington, Dec. 26. 1863.

Shall we go down the river to-morrow? And if so, at what hour shall we leave the wharf? and which wharf?

Mrs. L. & Tad, perhaps would go. I am not at all urgent about it, & would not have you incur the least inconvenience for it. I merely mean now that if we go, the details better be fixed. Yours as ever A. LINCOLN

To Bayard Taylor

Hon. Bayard Taylor:        Executive Mansion,
My dear Sir:                        Washington, Dec. 25. 1863.

I think a good lecture or two on “Serfs, Serfdom, and Emancipation in Russia” would be both interesting and valuable. Could not you get up such a thing? Yours truly A. LINCOLN.

To Nathaniel P. Banks

                                                   Executive Mansion,
Major General Banks        Washington, December 24. 1863.

Yours of the 6th. Inst. has been received, and fully considered. I deeply regret to have said or done anything which could give you pain, or uneasiness. I have all the while intended you to be master, as well in regard to re-organizing a State government for Louisiana, as in regard to the military matters of the Department; and hence my letters on reconstruction have nearly if not quite all been addressed to you. My error has been that it did not occur to me that Gov. Shepley or any one else would set up a claim to act independently of you; and hence I said nothing expressly upon the point. Language has not been guarded at a point where no danger was thought of. I now tell you that in every dispute, with whomsoever, you are master. Gov. Shepley was appointed to assist the Commander of the Department, and not to thwart him, or act independently of him. Instructions have been given directly to him, merely to spare you detail labor, and not to supersede your authority. This, in it’s liability to be misconstrued, it now seems was an error in us. But it is past. I now distinctly tell you that you are master of all, and that I wish you to take the case as you find it, and give us a free-state re-organization of Louisiana, in the shortest possible time. What I say here is to have a reasonable construction. I do not mean that you are to withdraw from Texas, or abandon any other military measure which you may deem important. Nor do I mean that you are to throw away available work already done for re-construction; or that war is to be made upon Gov. Shepley, or upon any one else, unless it be found that they will not co-operate with you, in which case, and in all cases, you are master while you remain in command of the Department.

My thanks for your successful and valuable operations in Texas. Yours as ever

A. LINCOLN

Endorsement on Petition Concerning Samuel B. McPheeters

December 22, 1863

The assumptions of this paper, so far as I know, or believe are entirely false. I have never deprived Dr. McPheters of any ecclesiastical right, or authorized, or excused its’ being done by any one deriving authority from me. On the contrary, in regard to this very case, I directed, a long time ago, that Dr. McPheters was to be arrested, or remain at large, upon the same rule as any one else; and that, in no event, was any one to interfere by my authority, as to who should, or should not preach in any church. This was done, I think, in a letter, in the nature of an order, to Mr. Dick. The assumption that I am keeping Dr. M. from preaching in his church is monstrous. If any one is doing this, by pretense of my authority, I will thank any one who can, to make out and present me, a specific case against him. If, after all, the Dr. is kept out by the majority of his own parishioners, and my official power is sought to force him in over their heads, I decline that also.

Dec. 22. 1863. A. LINCOLN

To Oliver D. Filley

O. D. Filley               Executive Mansion,
St. Louis, Mo.         Washington, Dec. 22. 1863.

I have just looked over a petition signed by some three dozen citizens of St. Louis, and three accompanying letters, one by yourself, one by a Mr. Nathan Ranney, and one by a Mr. John D. Coalter, the whole relating to the Rev. Dr. McPheeters. The petition prays, in the name of justice and mercy that I will restore Dr. McPheeters to all his ecclesiastical rights.

This gives no intimation as to what ecclesiastical rights are withheld. Your letter states that Provost Marshal Dick, about a year ago, ordered the arrest of Dr. McPheters, Pastor of the Vine Street Church, prohibited him from officiating, and placed the management of the affairs of the church out of the control of it’s chosen Trustees; and near the close you state that a certain course “would insure his release.” Mr. Ranney’s letter says “Dr. Saml. S. McPheeters is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, but can not preach the gospel!!!” Mr. Coalter, in his letter, asks “Is it not a strange illustration of the condition of things that the question of who shall be allowed to preach in a church in St. Louis, shall be decided by the President of the United States?”

Now, all this sounds very strangely; and withal, a little as if you gentlemen making the application, do not understand the case alike, one affirming that the Dr. is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, and another pointing out to me what will secure his release! On the 2nd. day of January last I wrote Gen. Curtis in relation to Mr. Dick’s order upon Dr. McPheeters, and, as I suppose the Dr. is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, I only quote that part of my letter which relates to the church. It is as follows: “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 the churches, as such must take care of themselves. It will not do for the U.S. to appoint Trustees, Supervisors, or other agents for the churches.” This letter going to Gen. Curtis, then in command there I supposed of course it was obeyed, especially as I heard no further complaint from Dr. M. or his friends for nearly an entire year.

I have never interfered, nor thought of interfering as to who shall or shall not preach in any church; nor have I knowingly, or believingly, tolerated any one else to so interfere by my authority. If any one is so interfering, by color of my authority, I would like to have it specifically made known to me.

If, after all, what is now sought, is to have me put Dr. M. back, over the heads of a majority of his own congregation, that too, will be declined. I will not have control of any church on any side. Yours Respectfully

A. LINCOLN

Permit to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Craig

Executive Mansion, December 21, 1863.

Mr. and Mrs. Craig, of Arkansas, whose plantation, situated upon the Mississippi River a few miles below Helena, has been desolated during the present war, propose returning to reoccupy and cultivate said plantation; and it is my wish that they be permitted to do so, and that the United States military forces in that vicinity will not molest them or allow them to be molested, as long as the said Mr. and Mrs. Craig shall demean themselves as peaceful, loyal citizens of the United States. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

To Edwin M. Stanton

Hon. Sec. of War:           Executive Mansion,
My dear Sir                       Washington, Dec. 18. 1863.

I believe Gen. Schofield must be relieved from command of the Department of Missouri, otherwise a question of veracity, in relation to his declarations as to his interfering, or not, with the Missouri Legislature, will be made with him, which will create an additional amount of trouble, not to be overcome by even a correct decision of the question. The question itself must be avoided. Now for the mode. Senator Henderson, his friend, thinks he can be induced to ask to be relieved, if he shall understand he will be generously treated; and, on this latter point, Gratz Brown will help his nomination, as a Major General, through the Senate. In no other way can he be confirmed; and upon his rejection alone, it would be difficult for me to sustain him as Commander of the Department. Besides, his being relieved from command of the Department, and at the same time confirmed as a Major General, will be the means of Henderson and Brown leading off together as friends, and will go far to heal the Missouri difficulty.

Another point. I find it is scarcely less than indispensable for me to do something for Gen. Rosecrans; and I find Henderson and Brown will agree to him for the commander of their Department.

Again, I have received such evidence and explanations, in regard to the supposed cotten transactions of Gen. Curtis, as fully restores in my mind the fair presumption of his innocence; and, as he is my friend, and, what is more, as I think, the countries friend, I would be glad to relieve him from the impression that I think him dishonest, by giving him a command. Most of the Iowa and Kansas delegations, a large part of that of Missouri, and the delegates from Nebraska, and Colorado, ask this in behalf of Gen. C. and suggest Kansas and other contiguous territory West of Missouri, as a Department for him.

In a purely military point of view it may be that none of these things is indispensable, or perhaps, advantageous; but in another aspect, scarcely less important, they would give great relief, while, at the worst, I think they could not injure the military service much. I therefore shall be greatly obliged if yourself and Gen. Halleck can give me your hearty co-operation, in making the arrangement. Perhaps the first thing would be to send Gen. Schofield’s nomination to me. Let me hear from you before you take any actual step in the matter. Yours very truly A. LINCOLN