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

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

CHAPTER XVI
HIS IRON MASK TORN OFF

IN THE midst of what Lincoln called "the passion-exciting subject of the election," Chief Justice Taney died, and in private conversations Lincoln indicated that he had Chase in mind for the place. Since his resignation from the cabinet, Chase had been morose and bitter, but he had stumped for Lincoln against McClellan. Now Chase admitted to Stanton that if Lincoln offered him the vacated position, he felt inclined to accept it.

This was a blow to Stanton, for he had secret hopes for the appointment. His lawyer's mind was entranced by the vision of the nation's highest judicial post. Secretly concerned at the precarious state of his health and increasingly worried about his family's finances, Stanton would have welcomed the secure future which the Supreme Court leadership offered. Still, he did nothing himself to indicate this desire to the President, but, probably with Stanton's knowledge, his wife, who usually kept out of official matters, took a hand. At Ellen's request, Orville H. Browning, Lincoln's close friend, interceded with the President.

Browning was motivated more from distrust of Chase than from admiration for Stanton. Meeting with Lincoln, however, Browning professed real enthusiasm concerning Stanton's qualifications. The President admitted his own high regard for Stanton but offered no further comment.1

A number of Stanton's influential friends worked for his appointment with greater conviction than Browning displayed. Justice Rob

____________________
1
Browning, Diary, I, 687-8; Browning to Ewing, Oct. 17, Ewing Family Papers, LC; Ewing to Browning, Oct. 24, 1864, Ewing Letterbook, ibid.; Stanton to Chase, Oct. 13, 1864, Chase Papers, HSP; Chase to Stanton, Oct. 13, 1864, Stanton MSS; Lincoln, Works, VIII, 120.

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