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

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

CHAPTER VI
FROM CRITIC TO COLLEAGUE

ALONE of Buchanan's former cabinet, Stanton remained in Washington. Little Eleanor had fallen dangerously ill, and so he kept close to the center of events, although he and his family mingled little in the crisis-torn society of the capital.

On March 5, Lincoln submitted his cabinet choices to the Senate, and all of them were speedily confirmed: Stanton's friend Seward, Secretary of State; his old Ohio confidant, Chase, Secretary of the Treasury; Simon Cameron, Secretary of War; Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy; Caleb B. Smith, a supposedly influential Indiana politician, Secretary of the Interior; Edward Bates, a prominent Missouri lawyer, Attorney General; and Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, scion of a family whose power in politics dated back to Jackson's time, Postmaster General.

Stanton watched the beginnings of the new administration with a suspicious and critical eye, for like Buchanan he anticipated a spate of Republican investigations into their official conduct and had no confidence whatever in Lincoln. The progress of events during the first weeks of his administration confirmed the worst forebodings. It appeared that some members of Lincoln's cabinet intended to abandon the Southern forts that Stanton and his colleagues in Buchanan's council had striven so desperately to hold. Having presumed that Lincoln, with no Southern entanglements, would act decisively for the Union, he was angrier with the new President than he had ever been with Buchanan or Buchanan's secession advisers.

A horde of office seekers had descended on Washington, paralyzing government business. "Every department is overrun," he informed Buchanan, "and by the time that all the patronage is distributed the

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