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GIDEON WELLES - AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED 08/31/1847 - HFSID 17295

As Chief of the US Navy Bureau of Provisions and Clothing, he writes a frosty letter to Secretary of the Navy John Y. Mason, unhappy with Mason's reluctance to dismiss an incompetent clerk. Welles and Mason were increasingly at odds politically, and the tension is reflected in this letter.

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GIDEON WELLES
As Chief of the US Navy Bureau of Provisions and Clothing, he writes a frosty letter to Secretary of the Navy John Y. Mason, unhappy with Mason's reluctance to dismiss an incompetent clerk. Welles and Mason were increasingly at odds politically, and the tension is reflected in this letter.
Autograph Letter signed: "Gideon Welles", 4 pages, 8x10 Bureau of Provision and Clothing, US Navy [Washington], 1847 August 31. To "John Y. Mason/Secretary of the Navy", in full: "I this morning had the honor to receive yours of yesterday, in relation to the Accounting Clerk of this bureau. As there seems to be some misconception, and our views are different, I beg leave, in justice both to you and myself, to explain them. If the matter in relation to Mr. Pugh has been changed from an informal verbal, to written communications, I most respectfully submit that the change was neither sought nor commenced by me. On the contrary, I made a personal request to you to withdraw the written order of the 25, because persistent advertising to the disregard of my opinion long & frequently expressed it was the first, and then only matter on file or record, and because, isolated and unexplained it carried, unintentional I presume, an implication of wrong or misconduct on my part. This is a mistake originating in misconception or misapprehension as regards the errors of the Ledger. You state that I 'did not bring them to [your] notice until since the commencement of the present fiscal year. They were made [you] presume prior to the 30 June 1846'. This mistake is, in supposing those errors were committed at the time of the audit of the accounts, whereas it was at their entry by Mr. Pugh. These entries were compiled for the fiscal year 1846 during the winter. Previous to that time I had stated to you that our accounts were in a lamentable condition, and had expressed to you my want of confidence in Mr. Pugh's accuracy and qualifications as an accountant. Considering his labor useless at the Ledger, he was placed upon Pursers returns, where the same inaccuracy was exhibited. To me nothing could be more unpleasant than constant repetition of opinions unfavorable of one with one towards whom I had, previously, none other than kind and friendly feelings, I therefore a few days since began an examination of the postings of the Ledger, that you, and his friend if necessary, might draw something besides my opinion in regard to his qualifications. And that all might be satisfied it was not the hostility of Mr. Goldsborough or Mr. Pease, as was represented, but defects in Mr. Pugh himself, that had led to these proceedings. In November last, when making my annual report, I had a conversation with you, in which I explained my doubts whether Mr. Pugh was competent to discharge his duties. Without intending to be obvious, I saw on other times in the course of the winter, as I have found opportunities to raise the subject, and in March immediately after the adjournment of Congress had a few conversations, in which I gave un unreservedly, my opinion of Mr. Pugh and his qualifications, and asked his removal. Several conversations followed, and in May, you requested, and I gave you a confidential written communication. In June, soon after your return from North Carolina, you stated your determination to bring the subject to a conclusion at the close of the fiscal year, and obligingly opined me, in a manner that should be satisfactory to myself. For reasons it was again deferred, and by your direction a temporary arrangement was made for two or three weeks - Mr. Pugh at his own request being placed at the secondary desk. Early in August, this temporary arrangement still continuing, and the bureau being deprived of a book keeper I addressed you a letter on the subject to some points of this communication, you called my attention a few days after, and at the close of the conversation, said you would answer again and make a complete organization of the bureau on the first of the ensuing month. Until this time, no point of this subject had been a matter of file or record, and my surprise & regret was great on receiving the order of the 25th last, standing alone and unexplained, does it carry no imputation upon me? Yet I ask in sincerity and candor, if I have been unreasonable in pursuing this subject, of if I have improperly withheld from Mr. Pugh his appropriate duties? I have been compelled to enter into some d etail because your letter of yesterday leaves, unintentionally perhaps, the impression that I have but recently reporte the unfitness of Mr. Pugh. I stated some larger issues, but I should by no means wish to have it understood that they were all. His whole labors, as I long since stated, are unworthy of an accountant, and no reliance whatsoever can be placed on them. The demand for a 'weekly report on the work of Mr. Pugh' I shall endeavor to comply with, although I know not how full it is expected these reports will be made. If there is to be a thorough review, and the whole labor of Mr. Pugh as to be gone over in detail, it will besides being unpleasant in many respects, draw on the limited force of the bureau, already largely in arrears in its accounts. It will be in effect putting a double force on the same duty, though if his place is staked on a single arm, it is improbably that his progress will be rapid. Assuring you of my sincere desire in this, as in other practices, to consult your views and wishes, and expecting I may well be misunderstood I am Very Respectfully Your Obedient Servant". Gideon Welles (1802-1878), formerly a Jacksonian Democrat, joined the newly founded Republican Party in 1854 because of his strong opposition to slavery. An able administrator, he served as Secretary of the Navy throughout the Presidencies of Abraham Lincoln (who called him "Neptune") and Andrew Johnson (1861-1869). Welles generally supported Johnson's policies, including Johnson's reluctance to impose far-reaching changes and full rights for African-Americans during the Reconstruction of the South. Secretary of the Navy John Y. Mason (1799-1859), who had held that post under President Tyler (1844-1845) and was appointed to it again by President Polk (1846-1849), was a "states' rights" Virginia Democrat and a strong proponent of slavery. At the time he wrote this letter, Gideon Welles was about to break with the Democratic Party and support Free Soil candidate Martin Van Buren in the Presidential election of 1848. He would join the new Republican Party soon after its 1854 formation, motivated by his abhorrence of slavery. These underlying political differences must have underpinned the tension between the two men, as the ever-efficient Welles attempted to rid his bureau of an appointee he deemed incompetent. Lightly toned. Normal mailing folds. Fine condition.

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