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

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

CHAPTER IV
AT THE HEIGHTS OF THE LAW

TME and professional preoccupation dulled the ache in Stanton's heart caused by Mary's death, and by the mid-1850's he was mingling more often in society. His renewed interest in social life had gained impetus from his acquaintance with Ellen Hutchison, a tall, well-poised girl, sixteen years his junior, with deep blue eyes and luxurious blond hair. Her father, Lewis Hutchison, was a descendant of the explorer Meriwether Lewis and had accumulated substantial wealth as a shipper, warehouseman, and wholesale foodseller. His family was socially prominent in Pittsburgh and owned the church pew directly in front of Stanton's. It was here, as the minister of the church later recalled to Ellen, "he experienced his first feeling of interest in you."

When Stanton met Ellen she was recovering from an unhappy love affair, and he afforded the young woman gentle sympathy. "The trouble of early love fell like a killing frost," he wrote, but assured her that happiness could again return. He sent her long letters from the varied places to which his cases took him, and warned Ellen that if he were to write her each time she was in his thoughts, his letters would become burdens.

They exchanged lengthy literary and philosophical observations, and Stanton delighted in her breadth of reading experience and variety of interests. He was troubled that she had no liking for poetry; "How can that be when you love Shakespeare and Milton and are so fond of music?" On a visit to Washington in 1854, he wrote her of the impressive ceremonies attending the opening of the Supreme Court session, adding: "You would laugh to see Judge Grier striding in with the tail of his gown flying in the wind."

-68-

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