Tag Archives: Edward Bates

The Army of the Potomac: The Grand Review

April 4, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln headed a group leaving Washington to review Major General Joseph Hooker’s revamped Army of the Potomac.

Lincoln boarded the steamer Carrie Martin to go to Hooker’s headquarters at Falmouth in northern Virginia. He was accompanied by First Lady Mary Lincoln, his son Tad (celebrating his 10th birthday), Attorney General Edward Bates, old Springfield friend Dr. Anson G. Henry, Sacramento Union correspondent Noah Brooks, and others. The trip began amidst a heavy snowstorm.

Maj Gen Joseph Hooker | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

At Falmouth, Hooker proceeded with plans to destroy the Confederate army and march on Richmond. He directed all corps commanders to move surplus baggage to the rear and notified the War Department to have siege equipment ready for when the army arrived outside the Confederate capital. This included shovels, picks, axes, and sandbags, along with a naval flotilla to bring 1.5 million rations up the Pamunkey River for the troops.

The presidential party arrived on the 5th, Easter Sunday. They disembarked at Aquia Creek, which had been decorated with patriotic bunting and flags to welcome them. A special train took them to Hooker’s headquarters, three miles from the Rappahannock River. Hooker’s chief of staff, Major General Daniel Butterfield, showed the guests to their quarters, which consisted of three large hospital tents.

Lincoln met with Hooker and began discussing strategy. When Lincoln said, “If you get to Richmond, General,” Hooker cut him off: “Excuse me, Mr. President, but there is no ‘if’ in this case. I am going straight to Richmond if I live.” Lincoln later told Noah Brooks, “That is the most depressing thing about Hooker. It seems to me that he is over-confident.” The president later added, “The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation, because she never cackles until the egg is laid.”

Lincoln also disapproved of Hooker’s ongoing debate with his commanders on how best to get around the Confederate army and take Richmond. Hooker’s recent request for siege equipment indicated that his grand objective was the enemy capital and not the enemy army. Lincoln tried settling this matter with a memorandum making it clear that “our prime object is the enemies’ army in front of us, and is not with, or about, Richmond…”

Hooker planned a cavalry review of the “finest army on the planet” for his visitors that day, but the snowstorm postponed it to the 6th. On that date, the presidential party watched over 15,000 horsemen pass them in the largest concentration of cavalry ever assembled on the continent. This was the new Cavalry Corps that Hooker had created, led by Major General George Stoneman.

Attorney General Bates called the cavalry parade “the grandest sight I ever saw.” Young Tad especially enjoyed the pageantry. Hooker made sure to stage the review in plain sight of the Confederates across the Rappahannock as an impressive show of force. Hooker also hoped that staging such reviews would boost army morale. He told Lincoln, “I only regret that your party is not as large as our hospitality.”

Lincoln and the other guests spent the next few days observing more reviews and riding among the troops. Hooker staged a “Grand Review” of the infantry on the 9th, which a Pennsylvania officer called “the most magnificent military pageant ever witnessed on this continent.”

Nearly 85,000 troops marched past President and Mrs. Lincoln and their son in lines stretching for miles on Falmouth Heights. A correspondent on the scene reported that “the President merely touched his hat in return salute to the officers, but uncovered to the men in the ranks.”

Lincoln and Hooker sat upon their horses beside each other, with Lincoln in his usual tailcoat and stovepipe hat, and Hooker in full dress uniform. Many soldiers considered Lincoln “an ungainly looking man,” but they cheered him out of respect “for his integrity, and good management of the war.” A soldier described the first lady as “a pleasant, but not an intelligent looking woman.”

The president met with Hooker and Major General Darius N. Couch, the senior corps commander, before returning to Washington on the morning of the 10th. The Army of the Potomac now numbered 133,450 effectives and 70 batteries totaling 412 guns. The Confederates had less than half this strength. Lincoln told Hooker and Couch, “I want to impress upon you two gentlemen, in your next fight, put in all your men.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 271-72; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 9192-203, 9214-25; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 235, 249-51; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 278; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 513-16; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 102-03, 111; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 335-36; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 585; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 127-29

Lincoln Ponders Colonization and Emancipation

September 11, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln approved a contract to deport slaves to Central America. He later hosted a delegation urging him to abolish slavery.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln endorsed a government contract with the Chiriqui Improvement Company, under which slaves would be sent to the Chiriqui Lagoon area in Panama to mine coal. Republican Senator Samuel Pomeroy of Kansas “was to be the sole judge of the fitness of the Chiriqui site,” with power to allocate up to $50,000 for finding a ship and collecting slave volunteers. According to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, this was part of Lincoln’s larger effort to deport slaves, which had been ongoing “for months, almost from the commencement of this administration…”

Lincoln followed in the footsteps of his political hero, Henry Clay, by supporting black colonization as a means of “returning to Africa her children.” Earlier this year, Congress had appropriated $600,000 for the colonization of all blacks, slave or free, who agreed to leave. Interior Secretary Caleb Smith and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair had urged Lincoln to approve the contract. Anticipating the prospect of freed slaves after he issued his Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln made the deal.

Welles was skeptical of the idea because there was no guarantee that coal would be there to mine. It was also unclear how many freed slaves would be willing to move to Central America. But Lincoln pushed the plan by asking if a treaty could be negotiated between the U.S. and Costa Rica (which owned the land) to make the region a slave refuge. Welles wrote that Lincoln “thought it essential to provide an asylum for a race which we had emancipated, but which could never be recognized or admitted to be our equals.”

Attorney General Edward Bates supported the plan but urged Lincoln to impose mandatory deportation because he believed no freed slave would voluntarily leave the U.S. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase opposed deportation but liked the idea of expanding U.S. interests into Central America. Secretary of State William H. Seward opposed deportation because he believed the labor of freed slaves would still be needed in the South. Ultimately all members of Lincoln’s cabinet except Welles and Chase supported negotiating treaties with nations to import freed American slaves.

As Lincoln pondered what to do with the slaves once they were freed, those who were unaware that Lincoln was about to issue an emancipation decree continued pushing for abolition. A group of Chicago clergymen of all Christian denominations met the president at the White House and urged him order the freedom of all slaves. They feared that since Lincoln had reinstated George B. McClellan, he might also revert to his original policy of not interfering with slavery where it already existed.

Lincoln agreed that “slavery is the root of the rebellion,” and freeing slaves would “weaken the rebels by drawing off their laborers” and “would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition.” However, he noted that the Second Confiscation Act had not “caused a single slave to come over to us,” and said:

“What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope’s bull against the comet. Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel states? Is there a single court or magistrate or individuals that would be influenced by it there?…

“I will mention another thing, though it meet only your scorn and contempt. There are 50,000 bayonets in the Union armies from the border slave states. It would be a serious matter if, in consequence of a proclamation such as you desire, they should go over to the rebels. Do not misunderstand me because I have mentioned these objections… I have not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement… I can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and night, more than any other. It is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is I will do it!”

Lincoln shrewdly declined to issue an order but left open the possibility that he may do so in the future. One of the ministers said, “What you have said to us, Mr. President, compels me to say to you in reply, that it is a message to you from our Divine Master, through me, commanding you, sir, to open the doors of bondage that the slaves may go free.”

Lincoln replied, “That may be, sir, for I have studied this question by night and by day, for weeks and for months. But if it is, as you say, a message from your Divine Master, is it not odd that the only channel he could send it by was the roundabout route by way of that awful wicked city of Chicago?”

The clergymen left unsatisfied and unaware that Lincoln was simply waiting for some type of military success before he published his Emancipation Proclamation.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7905-16; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 15013-23; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 705-06; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 271; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 510; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

Ex Parte Merryman

May 25, 1861 – Pennsylvania militia seized John Merryman at his Maryland home for suspected secessionist activity. This provoked a controversial legal dispute between the president and the U.S. chief justice.

At 2 a.m., forces led by Samuel Yoke surrounded the Cockeysville home of Merryman, a Baltimore County farmer and leader of a secessionist drill company. Merryman’s company had allegedly sabotaged bridges, railroad tracks, and telegraph lines during the April unrest in Maryland.

The militia hauled Merryman out of bed and took him to Brigadier General George Cadwalader, commanding the Department of Annapolis. Cadwalader ordered Merryman imprisoned at Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. Merryman, arrested by a force outside his home state without either a warrant or official charge against him, became a political prisoner.

Roger B. Taney in 1849 | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Roger B. Taney in 1849 | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The next day, Merryman’s attorney petitioned the Federal circuit court in Baltimore for a writ of habeas corpus for his client. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a Marylander and the court’s senior judge, granted the writ by ordering General Cadwalader to either deliver Merryman to district court tomorrow to show just cause for his arrest or release him.

When a Federal marshal delivered the writ to Fort McHenry on the 27th, General Cadwalader refused to accept it. Citing President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus on April 27, Cadwalader declared that he recognized no authority except for that of his commander-in-chief. Upon the marshal’s return, Taney issued a legal opinion:

“I ordered the attachment yesterday, because upon the face of the return the detention of the prisoner was unlawful upon two grounds: 1) The President, under the Constitution and laws of the United States, can not suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, nor authorize any military officer to do so. 2) A military officer has no right to arrest and detain a person not subject to the rules and articles of war for an offense against the laws of the United States, except in aid of the judicial authority and subject to its control; and, if the party is arrested by the military, it is the duty of the officer to deliver him over immediately to the civil authority, to be dealt with according to law.”

Taney issued his ruling “ex parte” since the administration refused to bring Merryman to court. He asserted that suspending habeas corpus, as defined in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, could only be done by Congress, not the president. Taney also reminded Lincoln of his duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” and if civil liberties continued to be disregarded, “the people of the United States are no longer living under a government of laws.”

The circuit court held Cadwalader in contempt for refusing to obey the writ, but he was not punished for violating Merryman’s civil liberties, and Merryman remained imprisoned. This was one of many cases in which the Lincoln administration violated the personal freedoms in the name of putting down the rebellion.

The next day, Attorney General Edward Bates issued a 26-page legal opinion on Merryman’s arrest, upholding Lincoln’s decision to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and mandate Merryman’s incarceration at Fort McHenry. Bates asserted that in case of national emergency, the president had the power to suspend the writ as the public safety required.

According to Bates, “in a time like the present, when the very existence of the Nation is assailed, by a great and dangerous insurrection, the President has the lawful discretionary power to arrest and hold in custody, persons known to have criminal intercourse with the insurgents.” However, Bates did not elaborate on how the Confederacy assailed the U.S. other than merely trying to break away. Most northerners agreed with Bates, contending that suspending habeas corpus was an emergency power to be used in times of rebellion, and only the president could act quickly enough to meet the emergency, especially since Congress (at Lincoln’s behest) would not convene until July 4.

Lincoln issued an order to General Cadwalader at Fort McHenry, written by Assistant Adjutant-General E.D. Townsend: “In returns to writs of habeas corpus by whomsoever issued you will most respectfully decline for the time to produce the prisoners, but will say that when the present unhappy difficulties are at an end you will duly respond to the writs in question.” Thus, the administration essentially ignored Taney’s ruling.

Civil liberties continued to be violated, and Merryman remained imprisoned for seven weeks. He was indicted in Federal circuit court, but his case never went to trial because administration officials doubted that a Maryland jury would convict him.

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Sources

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19367-74; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6271; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 33-34; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 355; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 79; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 287-88; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 529; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

Fort Sumter: The Reinforcement Decision

March 29, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln held a cabinet meeting after deciding what he would do about Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor | Image Credit: Learnnc.org

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor | Image Credit: Learnnc.org

Lincoln assembled his cabinet officers at 12 p.m. and announced he had already decided to reinforce both Forts Sumter and Pickens. Focusing on Sumter, Lincoln shared reports from Federal agents, most notably Gustavus V. Fox, describing how Sumter could be reinforced. In Fox’s opinion, a naval fleet could avoid the Confederate batteries in Charleston Harbor by supplying Fort Sumter from the sea.

Lincoln—having less than a month of Federal executive experience—had bypassed the military chain of command by working directly with Fox to assemble the fleet in New York. Fox provided Lincoln with data on the amount of men, supplies, and equipment needed to reinforce Sumter. Fox said the fleet could leave for South Carolina within a week, and Lincoln told Fox to await further orders.

After Lincoln explained Fox’s plan, each cabinet member submitted a written opinion on the matter. Secretary of State William H. Seward, who had stalled Confederate envoys by assuring them that Sumter would be evacuated, still opposed reinforcing the fort. Interior Secretary Caleb B. Smith also opposed reinforcement. Attorney General Edward Bates vacillated, writing “I think the time is come either to evacuate or relieve it (Sumter).”

On the other side, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair all supported reinforcing Sumter, with Blair even threatening to resign if it was not done. Secretary of War Simon Cameron did not vote. Thus the final cabinet vote stood at three-to-two (not counting Bates or Cameron), marking a reversal of the five-to-two vote against reinforcement two weeks before.

When the meeting ended, Lincoln handed Welles the order to resupply Fort Sumter: “I desire than an expedition, to move by sea, be got ready to sail as early as the 6th of April next, the whole according to the memorandum attached, and that you cooperate with the Secretary of War for that object.”

The next day, the Confederate envoys in Washington (Martin J. Crawford, John Forsyth, and A.B. Roman) received a telegram from South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens inquiring about the purpose of Colonel Ward Hill Lamon’s visit to Charleston and the Federal delay in evacuating Sumter. Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell, acting as intermediary between the Seward and the envoys, brought the message to Seward’s attention.

Lincoln’s decision to reinforce Sumter threatened to expose Seward’s duplicity in negotiating with the Confederate envoys without presidential consent. It also violated Seward’s pledge of March 15 that the Federals would evacuate the fort. On March 20th, Seward had called any delay in the evacuation “accidental,” and when Campbell confronted him with this latest correspondence, Seward scheduled a meeting for April 1.

By the end of March, rumors swirled through Washington that Sumter would be evacuated. The Confederate envoys still believed that the Lincoln administration would abandon the fort based on their communications with Seward through Campbell. But Lincoln, unaware of these communications, had other ideas.

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Sources

  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 4788-800
  • Davis, William C., Brother Against Brother: The War Begins (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 132-33
  • Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 31-32
  • Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6064
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 46
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 51-52
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 269-70
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161

The Incoming Lincoln Administration

December 5, 1860 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln expressed great dissatisfaction with President Buchanan’s message released yesterday. Lincoln disagreed with Buchanan placing responsibility for the sectional crisis on the northern free states.

Abraham Lincoln in 1860 | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Abraham Lincoln in 1860 | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Lincoln spent this month considering cabinet appointments and political patronage, and clarifying his position on the sectional crisis. But he offered no specifics on what he planned to do once he would become president in March of next year. Lincoln explained to his private secretary that the very existence of government “implies the legal power, right, and duty… of a President to execute the laws and maintain the existing government.”

On December 8, President-elect Lincoln offered a political rival, Senator William H. Seward of New York, the post of secretary of state. Lincoln later met with another rival, Edward Bates, in Springfield and told him that his presence in Lincoln’s administration was “necessary to its complete success.” Lincoln offered Bates the post of attorney general, explaining he had to offer Seward the secretary of state job for political reasons. Lincoln intimated a hope that Seward would decline; in the meantime, Bates accepted the attorney general spot.

Near month’s end, Seward accepted Lincoln’s offer “after due reflection and much self distrust.” Some speculated that Lincoln’s slowness in offering the post to Seward indicated a reluctance to bring such a powerful rival into his cabinet. Lincoln had explained this to Seward, who took it into consideration before accepting. Seward took the job mainly because he believed Lincoln to be “incompetent,” especially on foreign affairs, and he needed an experienced politician such as Seward to be his de facto “prime minister.”

Lincoln expressed his views in a letter to Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois on the 10th: “Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again… The tug has to come & better now, than any time hereafter.” Lincoln wrote several letters this month urging a rejection of any compromise on extending slavery beyond where it already existed.

On the 15th, President-elect Lincoln wrote a confidential letter to Congressman John A. Gilmer of North Carolina, repeating his reluctance to make any public statements out of fear they would be misinterpreted. Lincoln wrote, “I never have been, am not now, and probably never shall be, in a mood of harassing the people, either North or South.” But regarding slavery, Lincoln asserted, “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. For this, neither has any just occasion to be angry with the other.”

Lincoln also wrote to Congressman Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, attempting assurances that his administration would not interfere with slavery in any way where it already existed: “The South would be in no more danger in this respect, than it was in the days of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub.”

Lincoln offered on opinion on the dispute taking place in Charleston Harbor between South Carolina officials and the Federal troops garrisoning the forts. He wrote to influential Democrat Francis P. Blair, Sr on the 21st.: “According to my present view if the forts (at Charleston) shall be given up before the inaugeration (sic), then General (Winfield Scott) must retake them afterwards.” Lincoln wrote a similar letter to Congressman Elihu B. Washburne of Illinois.

Lincoln met with Senator Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania in Cameron’s hotel room at Springfield on the 28th. The men had a friendly meeting, but Lincoln was still unsure whether to offer Cameron a cabinet post due to charges of corruption, fraud, and influence peddling against him. Nevertheless, Lincoln leaned more toward appointing Cameron because of this meeting and the many letters of recommendation from Cameron’s colleagues.

The next day, President-elect Lincoln wrote to Cameron, promising to nominate him for either secretary of war or the treasury. However, Cameron’s political enemy, A.K. McClure, met with Lincoln at Springfield and revealed documentation showing that Cameron’s moral deficiencies made him unfit for a cabinet post.

Lincoln conferred with Cameron again in Springfield on the 30th. Cameron alleged that Lincoln’s campaign managers had assured him control of the treasury, but critics objected to Lincoln putting such a corrupt man in that post. Cameron had been nicknamed “Winnebago Chief” for allegedly swindling Native Americans years ago, and opponents called him “a man destitute of honor and integrity.” Criticism prompted Lincoln to drop Cameron from consideration, but Cameron’s backers continued pushing to get him into the cabinet.

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Sources

  • Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 5491, 5525-35, 5557-68
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 4-6
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 9-11, 14, 17
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 246-49, 259-60