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[53]

Gideon Welles, war secretary of the Federal navy Rarely has so stupendous a task confronted a man as that which fell to the lot of Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy. In ordinary times the man fit for that office must be a statesman, a constitutional lawyer, a judge of international law and national obligations, as well as a man of sound judgment and executive ability of the highest order. These qualities Gideon Welles possessed in a marked degree. At the time he took his seat in the Cabinet the Navy Department was entirely unprepared for the work that was immediately required of it, work perhaps more arduous than had ever before been demanded of the maritime power of any government. The whole management of the navy during the war indicated the most remarkable administrative ability on the part of the Secretary. The herculean tasks required were performed without ostentation, with a firm and sagacious hand that never wavered before ungenerous and ignorant criticism. Not only was the physical side attended to with marvelous promptness and efficiency, but the policies of the Administration were frequently shaped by his wise influence.

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