The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIX
RECONSTRUCTION: THE FIRST PLAN

THE new President gave at once the best possible reassurance as to his general course by retaining all the members of Lincoln's Cabinet. They remained, not as a temporary formality, but for a considerable time in full harmony with the President. Chase having left the Cabinet for the chief- justiceship, by far the two strongest secretaries remaining were Seward and Stanton. Seward had been struck down at the same time with Lincoln, and dangerously wounded, but after a few weeks was able to resume his duties. Thus the two foremost men, after Lincoln, of the Republican party, Sumner and Seward, had been murderously assaulted, yet neither of them was embittered or altered in his course. Seward probably had great influence on President Johnson's early measures. The degree of that influence is a disputed point among historians, but the internal evidence points strongly to his having had a large share in the President's original plans, and materially aided their execution, though Johnson's strong will and hot temper marred and thwarted Seward's efforts. One of the secretary's special powers was a genial and persuasive skill in conversation; his historic place as the Republican premier gave him influence with the President; he had been in full sympathy with Lincoln's late course; and his constitutional theories and his optimism appear in the reconstruction scheme which the President soon proposed. Responsibility had steadied and sobered Johnson; his vindictiveness toward the South had disappeared,--one guesses with Seward's aid; and his

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