Lincoln's War Cabinet

Lincoln's War Cabinet

Lincoln's War Cabinet

Lincoln's War Cabinet

Excerpt

THUS SEWARD, in the political amalgamation which came into power March 4, 1861, represented the steady old-line Whig turned Republican, and Chase the Democratic element which had abandoned the party of Jackson and Buchanan, and joined the new party solely on the question of slavery. Edward Bates, the third member of the trio which loomed large as the first inevitable cabinet choices, typified a different following. This lifelong "old fogy" Whig, as Bates described himself, rather took pride in the fact that he had never been a Republican and never intended to become one. A mild opponent of the slavery extensionists who, by 1856, had gained absolute control of the Federal government in all three departments -- the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court -- Bates still had declined to follow Seward and other Whig leaders into the Republican Party, supporting in 1856 the candidate of the Americans, or Know-Nothings, Millard Fillmore. The old gentleman tenaciously retained his favorite Whig allegiance long after the party having that name had ceased to exist, presiding over the last convention held in Baltimore in 1856. When Bates's admirers in the Southwest, under the leadership of the Blair family, proposed him as a presidential leader for 1860, they did not press him specifically as a Republican, but as the candidate of the "Opposition" -- opposition, that is, to the Buchanan and Douglas Democrats and all their works. To nominate as a Republican candidate a man who had rejected Frémont in 1856, and who, in short, had enlisted in a cause so discredited as that of the Know-Nothings, put a severe strain on the groups who had decided that the time had finally come to fight a straight antislavery issue. Bates's nomination and election, however, seemed to a more compromising element to be the one way of preventing Civil War. Long after Lee's surrender, his admirers bewailed Bates's failure to head the Republican ticket in 1860; had he been the standard-bearer, they always insisted, the dangerous controversy would have been peacefully and equitably adjusted. For Bates was perhaps the leading man in the great Southwest, the region . . .

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