The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6 by Abraham Lincoln
To General S. R. Curtis. January 2, 1863.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON
MY DEAR SIR:--Yours of December 29 by the hand of Mr. Strong is just received. The day I telegraphed you suspending the order in relation to Dr. McPheeters, he, with Mr. Bates, the Attorney-General, appeared before me and left with me a copy of the order mentioned. The doctor 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 anything specific is alleged against him. The charges are all general: that he has a rebel wife and rebel relations, that he sympathies 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 cannot even be charged with violating it, and who can be charged with no other specific act or omission, 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who are on the spot; and if, after all, you think the public good requires his removal, my suspension of the order is withdrawn, only with this qualification, that the time during the suspension is not to be counted against him.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 United States 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 United States to appoint trustees, supervisors, or other agents for the churches.
Yours very truly,
P. S.--The committee composed of Messrs. Yeatman and Filley (Mr. Broadhead 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., January 3, 1863.