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

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

CHAPTER XVIII
STANTON'S LINCOLN

JOURNALIST Cadwallader's phrase--"the unloved Secretary of War"--would have been accepted as accurate by almost everyone of that generation and by most subsequent commentators as well. But one time in his life, apart from his relations with his family, and except for his intimacy with Chase years before, Stanton opened his heart to another person and found acceptance and reciprocal affection. Because Lincoln was a great man, Stanton reached in his service a plane far higher than his more prosaic spirit could have touched.

History records few instances when two men of more disparate outward characteristics were brought together in positions requiring mutual trust, complementary talents, and capacity for quick growth. Despite the differences in their natures, Lincoln and Stanton had much in common. They shared memories of a boyhood spent in the great river valleys that divide yet knit together the great plain west of the mountains. Both had come up from lowly origins, although Stanton had the advantage of a middle-class upbringing and a superior formal education. Each sought success through the practice of the law, but Stanton achieved far wider professional renown than Lincoln, driving ahead in his humorless, undeviating way toward the lucrative practice he enjoyed when Lincoln gained the pinnacle of politics.

Stanton was more closely attuned than Lincoln to the immediate present; he was in many ways a "modern" man-in-a-hurry, never tempering the inadequacies of his nature with the sweet sensitivity of soul that Lincoln brought to his experiences. Life was a way to material success for Stanton. Yet Lincoln, by offering Stanton his trust, by feeding the sense of nationalism already sparked in Stanton's breast by service in Buchanan's cabinet, and by matching Stanton's temper

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