Frémont’s Character

“Fremont . . . was worse than a fool, he was an opportunist, an adventurer, and a blunderer on a truly dangerous scale. He was foisted on the Republic in the hour of its peril by the power of publicity, the reputation erected on his career in California during ’46 and ’47. That was the career of a military adventurer, a filibuster, and an officer of the United States Army committing mutiny. In the Civil War, as in California, he made a play for every opportunity that would serve John Charles Fremont, regardless of its effect on the United States. Then, as in California, he created spectacle but bungled what he had started out to do. Only, in the Civil War he came into the keeping of men with stronger intelligences and clearer understanding of the forces at work who could use the symbol John Charles Fremont for their private purposes. Their purposes were not pretty and Fremont did nothing to inconvenience them. That they did not destroy the United States was not their fault. Neither was it Fremont’s. (It was in part the responsibility of a major general who in February of ’47 arrived in California as a lieutenant of artillery, William Tecumseh Sherman.) Technically and in the light of his own conscience, he was not a traitor to the United States in 1864. That this was not for lack of the raw stuff out of which treason is made was clear in ’64 – and was clear in ’47.

God and events were against Fremont. He tried to be a great man but something always happened.”