Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War

By Benjamin P. Thomas; Harold M. Hyman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
ON THE WAY UP

STANTON remained in Steubenville throughout the winter of 1846, lonely, but so crushed in spirit that he seldom left his house. He kept up law practice out of necessity, and dabbled fitfully in politics as an antidote to grief. Mostly he busied himself with correspondence, writing especially to his partner, McCook, who was now in Mexico commanding a cavalry troop. Their friendship grew warmer during their exchange of letters.

To Chase, with whom his relationship was also becoming very close, Stanton bared his innermost thoughts. His letters to the antislavery leader increasingly took on a vocabulary of rapturous spiritualism. "Allow me my dear friend this evening to enter your study," Stanton wrote on one occasion, "let me take you by the hand, throw my arm around you, say I love you, & bid you farewell." The words came from the heart of a desperately lonely man who had found an understanding friend. Chase, like Stanton a Kenyon student, had been twice a widower and had seen a number of his children die. In November 1846 he married for a third time, and Stanton found vicarious solace in Chase's new happiness.

Chase seized the opportunity offered by Stanton's eagerness to correspond, to draw the man out of himself and to recruit him for the antislavery cause. He seemed to be succeeding. Stanton deplored to his friend the conservative influences which were gaining dominance in both the Whig and the Democratic parties. "Last summer," he admitted to Chase, "I did not fully understand you, when speaking of aristocracy in this country, you insisted that its stronghold was in the South." But it had become clear to him from reading Thomas Arnold's History of Rome, at Chase's suggestion, that an aristocracy like the one in the

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