The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6 by Abraham Lincoln
To Attorney-General Bates. November 29, 1862.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON,
MY DEAR SIR:--Few things perplex me more than this question between Governor Gamble and the War Department, as to whether the peculiar force organized by the former in Missouri are State troops or United States troops. Now, this is either an immaterial or a mischievous question. First, if no more is desired than to have it settled what name the force is to be called by, it is immaterial. Secondly, if it is desired for more than the fixing a name, it can only be to get a position from which to draw practical inferences; then it is mischievous. Instead of settling one dispute by deciding the question, I should merely furnish a nest-full of eggs for hatching new disputes. I believe the force is not strictly either "State troops" or "United States troops." It is of mixed character. I therefore think it is safer, when a practical question arises, to decide that question directly, and not indirectly by deciding a general abstraction supposed to include it, and also including a great deal more. Without dispute Governor Gamble appoints the officers of this force, and fills vacancies when they occur. The question now practically in dispute is: Can Governor Gamble make a vacancy by removing an officer or accepting a resignation? Now, while it is proper that this question shall be settled, I do not perceive why either Governor Gamble or the government here should care which way it is settled. I am perplexed with it only because there seems to be pertinacity about it. It seems to me that it might be either way without injury to the service; or that the offer of the Secretary of War to let Governor Gamble make vacancies, and he (the Secretary) to ratify the making of them, ought to be satisfactory.