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Lincoln is our Minister of War, and the election to that office has been to you most honorable, for all agreed that you were the proper person, and nothing prevented your unanimous appointment, but an opinion almost as unanimous, that, if recalled from your command, you could not be replaced.
That you were not chosen I do truly lament, for I can with great truth assure you, that I know not a man who is in my opinion equal to the office except yourself. It is, however, much consolation to me, that General Lincoln is an honest and a sensible man, and, what is also of importance, that he is an industrious man. These are qualities, which will make him a good Minister, if not a great one, and these qualities will go far towards restoring or rather creating that order and regularity, without which a Minister of the most superior genius and talents would be only a lion in the toils, and be the sooner exhausted in proportion to his superior strength and more vigorous struggles.
I shall not now attempt to remove your obstacles to the acceptance, though it is right that they should not weigh with you too heavily, because it is not impossible that your country may still call you from the field to serve in the cabinet. I cannot, however, omit the present opportunity of lodging in the bosom of friendly confidence my sentiments of our interior political situation. That Congress have not proper powers I see, I feel, and I lament. Their Ministers have the arduous task before them to govern without power, nay, more, to obtain the power necessary to govern. They must persuade where others command, and the strong phalanx of private interest, with the impetuous sallies of private politics and party, encounters them at every step.
These features of our character and situation are very disagreeable, but are not these the distinguishing marks of government in its infancy, in every age and in every clime ? To reinforce the reasonings, to impress the arguments, and to sweeten the persuasions of the public servants, we have that great friend to sovereign authority, a foreign war. Conviction goes but very slowly to the popular mind, but it goes. The advantages of union and decision in carrying on a war, the disadvantages, which flow from the want of them, the waste, the expense, and inefficacy of disjointed efforts over the face of an immense region, the incompetency of determining what is best for the whole through thirteen different communities, whose rulers are yet ignorant of what is best even for the single one which they govern ; these, with the thousand others, which it is hardly in language to enumerate or in genius to conceive, or in anything but experience to show, these must at last induce the people of America, if the war continues, to entrust proper powers to the American sovereign, as they have already compelled that sovereign reluctantly to relinquish the administration, and entrust to their Ministers the care of this immense republic. I say, if the war continues, or if it does not continue, I have no hope, no expectation, that the government will acquire force ; and I will go further, I have no hope, that our union can subsist, except in the form of an absolute monarchy, and this does not seem to consist with the taste and temper of the people. The necessary consequence, if I am right, is, that a separation must take place, and consequently wars, for near neighbors are very rarely, if ever, good neighbors. But all political reasonings are liable to very great uncertainty, and it is only the Supreme Intelligence, who can determine sufficiently, even on facts to ground reasonings. Still, our conduct must be swayed by our opinions, and therefore from the same attachment to the happiness of mankind, which prompted my first efforts in this revolution, I am now induced to wish, that Congress may be possessed of more, much more authority, than has hitherto been delegated to them.
Though you are not Minister of War, you must act in some measure us such, and you will see that you are also to be a kind of financier. Indeed the distance of the Southern States, the interruptions in communications with them, the changes which take place before facts can be known here, and determinations on them transmitted from hence, all require that a man of sense and integrity should act on liberal principles, as circumstances may require. From considerations like these, I have been induced to think, that there was wisdom in leaving you where you are, and I might have agreed in opinion on that subject with other people, only I am inclined to think, that the Southern States will be evacuated.
You have, I am convinced, very much the confidence of those Slates, and I rely that you will press them hard on the score of revenue. YV.i remember the story of Archimedes, who said to the king of Syracuse, give me a place to stand on and I will move the earth. It may with great truth he said to the several States, give money to support us and we will establish your independence. With great regard and sincerity, I am yours,
- Gouverneur Morris
- The Life of Gouverneur Morris With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers Vol. I., Jared Sparks, 1832