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Lincoln's mind over matters

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Title:
Lincoln's mind over matters an analysis of the sixteenth president's situational leadership strategies in conflict with selected cabinet officials
Creator:
Bandhauer, Robert Lyle
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
viii, 156 leaves : illustrations ; 29 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of Arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Political Science, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Political science

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
1800 - 1899 ( fast )
Political and social views ( fast )
Politics and government ( fast )
Politics and government -- United States -- 19th century ( lcsh )
Politics and government -- United States -- 1861-1865 ( lcsh )
United States ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Department of Political Science.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Robert Lyle Bandhauer.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
26794047 ( OCLC )
ocm26794047
Classification:
LD1190.L64 1992m .B36 ( lcc )

Full Text
LINCOLNS MIND OVER MATTERS:
AN ANALYSIS OF TOE SIXTEENTH PRESIDENTS
SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP STRATEGIES IN
CONFLICTS WITH SELECTED CABINET OFFICIALS
by
Robert Lyle Bandhauer
B.G.S., Wichita State University, 1985
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science
1992
£
VHt$


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Robert Lyle Bandhauer
has been approved for the
Department of
Political Science
by
Glenn T. Moms


Bandhauer, Robert Lyle (M.A., Political Science)
Lincolns Mind Over Matters: An Analysis of the Sixteenth Presidents
Situational Leadership Strategies in Conflicts with Selected Cabinet
Officials
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Glenn T. Morris
ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study is to examine the connection between the
political ideology of Abraham Lincoln and his actions as a conflict manager
during his years as sixteenth president of the United States, 1861-1865. The
intent of this research is not to provide a complete management profile of
President Lincoln, but instead to appraise the effectiveness of his situational
leadership style through a narrow, but important, case study investigation of the
resolution strategies he employed in six conflicts with three members of his
cabinet. These officials include: Simon Cameron, Secretary of War (1861-
1862), Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury (1861-1864), and William
H. Seward, Secretary of State (1861-1869). Each of the six case studies
presented examines: (1) the nature of the conflict, (2) the sources of the
conflict, (3) the Presidents conflict resolution strategy, (4) the Presidents
involvement of others in the resolution of the conflict, and (5) the perceived
successes and/or failures of Lincolns decisive actions.
To facilitate better understanding of Lincolns conflict resolution strategies
as President, this study incorporates three related topical overviews to serve as a
foundation for the primary research. Chapter One highlights the national
experience at the time of Lincolns election to the presidency. Chapter Two
in


investigates tenets of Lincolns political ideology. Chapter Three forms the core
of the study with its investigation of Lincolns relationships with cabinet
officials Cameron, Chase and Seward (the Appendix provides detailed
biographical information on all fifteen members who served as cabinet members
during the Lincoln Administration). The thesis concludes with an Evaluation
offering findings from the evidence presented. Included are perceived
significances of Lincolns leadership strategies and suggestions for additional
related research.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
I recommend its publication.
Signed
Glenn T. Morris
IV


DEDICATION
This revised endeavor, finished at long last, is dedicated to the memory of a
special friend, Thomas U. Hirst, who wanted me to make something of myself,
and to succeed in life. Perhaps now I can. I miss you, friend.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I cannot explain how so large an indebtedness could have been incurred in
the writing of this thesis, but only gratefully acknowledge. During the
completion of this endeavor I have received invaluable assistance from several
individuals.
I wish to express my gratitude to the following: Ms. Ruth Cook and Ms.
Marilyn Tolbert of the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum, Fort
Wayne, Indiana, for their constantly cheerful and reliable help in providing me
with rare research material from their extensive collection; Dr. Ruth Klapthor,
of the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D.C., for sponsoring me for a research visit to examine the
Lincoln artifacts held in the Museums Civil War collection; and Mr. Mark J.
English of Kearney, Missouri, for the gift of his inspiring portrait of the
Sixteenth President. The print, now framed and mounted on the wall above my
desk, rekindled my motivation to move ahead whenever I felt a bit challenged or
overwhelmed. I also wish to also acknowledge staff members at the Denver
Public Library, Auraria Library and University of Denver libraries, Denver,
Colorado, and officials at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Together, the preceding individuals and resources greatly facilitated the
completion of this report.
Additionally, I wish to thank Dr. Glenn Morris, Dr. Michael Cummings,
and Dr. Joel Edelstein who have comprised my graduate thesis committee, and
Hannah Kelminson for her gracious assistance in reviewing this study for
institutional format requirements. Through their advice and guidance the quality
of this final product has been strengthened. Thanks, too, to each faculty
member of the department of political science I have worked with along the way
vi


for providing me with a rewarding graduate curriculum in American politics at
the University of Colorado at Denver.
Finally, there have been my close friends and family members, most of
whom have shown me great tolerance and support throughout my years of
graduate study. Their patience has meant a lot to me, especially when their
letters piled up without replies, social invitations declined and carefree moments
together were occasionally overshadowed by the struggles and frustrations I
encountered in two graduate thesis attempts. Thanks for being there.
I invite you now to sit back and make yourself comfortable. Take some
time and better get to know one of Americas most unforgettable Chief
Executives in this unique study I am proud to present.
Rob Bandhauer
Denver, Colorado
May 1992
vu


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION...............................................1
Growth of the Nation.......................................2
The Seeds of Conflict......................................6
The Election of 1860..................................... 14
The Face of the Presidency................................20
The Union Disintegrates ..................................23
Conclusion................................................31
2. THE POLITICAL IDEOLOGY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN..............32
Rise of the Prairie Politician............................34
Profile of Lincoln as 1860 Republican Nominee for President 36
A Determined President....................................38
Lincolns Ideology on Slavery and Democratic Principles...41
Conclusion/Evaluation*....................................50
3. LINCOLNS CONFLICT MANAGEMENT AND RESOLUTION
STRATEGIES WITH SELECTED CABINET OFFICIALS................53
Conflicts with Simon Cameron, Secretary of War............54
Conflicts with Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury.67
Conflict with William H. Seward, Secretary of State.......79
Conclusion/Evaluation.....................................96
4. EVALUATION................................................98
Findings................................................ 99
Conclusion...............................................102
Recommendations for Further Study........................103
APPENDIX
Lincolns Cabinet of All Factions (illustrated)........ 104
REFERENCES.............................................. **152
VHl


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between the
political ideology of Abraham Lincoln and his situational management style as
sixteenth president of the United States. In the endeavor to create a stronger
presentation, it has been deemed most appropriate to structure this study in the
following manner.
This chapter, Chapter One, anchors a three-part foundation by overviewing
the nations experience at the time of Lincolns election to the presidency in
November 1860. What significant events occurred prior to his election, and
after, which impacted Lincolns oath of office on March 4, 1861? How and
why the did the United States then stand at the brink of war? A summarization
of these events bears importantly on Lincolns policy decisions as president.
Chapter Two forms the second part of the foundation for this study by
highlighting basic tenets of Lincolns political ideology. Who was Abraham
Lincoln as a politician? What principles did he stand for? What set of political
beliefs did Lincoln bring with him to the presidency?
Completing the three-part foundation of this study is the Appendix which
contains detailed biographical information on each individual the President
appointed to his cabinet during his terms of office, 1861-1865. The text of the
preceding three sections is intended to facilitate better understanding of
Lincolns policy actions as contained in the third chapter of this study.
Chapter Three forms the core of the thesis by providing an examination of
the Presidents relationships with three of his cabinet members where conflict
1


was present. These officials include: Simon Cameron, Secretary of War
(1861-1862); Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury (1861-1864); and
William H. Seward, Secretary of State (1861-1869). These cabinet officials
and six related situational conflicts have been selected because of their
significance to the Lincoln Administration. What conflicts arose between the
President and the cabinet official? What were the sources of these conflicts?
How did the President resolve these conflicts? In what ways did Lincoln
succeed or fail in resolution of the stated conflict? Chapter Three is followed by
an Evaluation which consolidates findings from the research. Here, the
perceived significances of the study are presented, along with recommendations
for additional research.
Growth of the Nation
From a tiny republic of thirteen states in 1787 that hugged the eastern
seaboard, the young American republic became a union of thirty-three states
with boundaries touching the Pacific as well as the Adantic Oceans at the time of
Lincolns successful bid for the presidency in 1860. During the fifty years
preceding Lincolns election, the United States grew at a rate unparalleled in
modem history (McPherson, 1982, p. 1). This growth occurred in three
primary areas: territory, population and economy.
Following the establishment of the original thirteen states, the Louisiana
Purchase (1803) doubled the territory of the United States (Caughey and May,
1964, p. 157). The land acquisitions of Florida (1810 and 1819), Texas
(1845), and Oregon (1846), plus the cessions from Mexico (1848 and 1854)
nearly doubled it again (United States Bureau of the Census, 1975, p. 18). The
dramatic population growth the nation experienced during this period surpassed
the fourfold increase of territory. There were six million Americans in 1803,
and twenty-six million by 1853 (United States Bureau of the Census, 1975, p.
2


9). Concurrently, the nations slave population increased by 27 percent per
decade after 1810, at almost the same natural growth rate of the white
population (United States Bureau of the Census, 1975, p. 18). By 1860, the
nations free states had a population of nineteen million people, and the slave
states just over twelve million. Four million of the latter were slaves (U.S.
Bureau of the Census, 1975, p. 9). Increased governmental involvement
through loans, land grants, and guarantees of bond issues greatly facilitated the
high levels of economic growth the United States achieved during the first half
of the nineteenth century.
By the 1830s, a two-party system emerged as an apparently permanent
feature of American politics. While the Democrats upheld the Jeffersonian
commitment to states rights, limited government, traditional economic
arrangements and religious pluralism, the Whigs preserved the Federalist belief
in nationalism and a strong central government. In a most general sense, the
Democrats were recognized as the party of tradition and the Whigs were
identified as the party of modernization (McPherson, 1982, p. 21). Although
the two party philosophies differed, both promoted American expansion. While
the Whigs favored expansion by means of economic growth, modernization,
industrialization and federal aid for internal improvements, the Democrats
advocated states rights, a low tariff, a liberal public lands policy and limited
federal aid to internal improvements (Rawley, 1990, p. 3). The Democratic
ideology supporting Jeffersonian small government, states rights and territorial
expansion best suited the interests of the South and the slavery system.
With the partial exception of the South, the United States led the world as
the most rapidly modernizing nation during the middle decades of the 1800s
(McPherson, 1982, p. 1). Paralleling the rapid growth of the nations
population and territory, the economy grew even faster. During the first fifty
years of the nineteenth century, the nations gross national product value
increased sevenfold (United States Bureau of the Census, 1975, p. 48). Heavy
3


modernization quickly transformed localized subsistence economies into a
nationally integrated market economy. The dramatic increases in output per
capita resulted from technological innovation, the shift from labor-intensive
toward capital-intensive production, the growth of the industrial sector,
accelerated urbanization, and an increase in agricultural productivity in part due
to increased slave labor (McPherson, 1982, p. 12).
The development of a large transportation network also played an important
role in the development of a thriving national economy, particularly in the
Northern states. Here, construction crews built thousands of miles of new
roads and turnpikes. The success of the Erie Canal and other canals are well-
known, and overlapped with the construction of railroads and river steamboats.
By 1860, the United States had 22,000 miles of railroads in the North,
compared to 9,000 miles of track in the South. The combined total of 31,000
miles of track was as much as the rest of the world combined (Rawley, 1990,
p. 57). The dozen or so steamboats afloat on American rivers in 1815
multiplied to about 3,000 by 1860 (McPherson, 1982, p. 8).
Other key factors contributing to dramatic economic growth and social
progress in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century were
a growing mass media and a greater emphasis on public education. Both
promoted higher literacy levels among the general population. As a result of the
increased value of education, the United States in 1850 had the highest literacy
rate of 89% of any population in the world except that of Sweden and Denmark
(McPherson, 1982, p. 13). Reported statistics on illiteracy related to the
nations white population of 20 years of age and older (United States Bureau of
the Census, 1975, p. 365). Due to the medias expanding role, the United
States became the worlds preeminent newspaper-reading country by 1840,
after technological advances in the printing industry and domestic transportation
improvements increased circulation. By 1860, the nation had twice as many
4


newspapers as England, and nearly one-third of those in the world
(McPherson, 1982, p. 19).
As the United States experienced dramatic economic and territorial growth
during the early decades of the 1800s, the modernizing ethos of Northern
Protestantism in turn gave rise to anti-slavery, temperance and education reform
movements. These movements grew out of the Second Great Awakening, a
prolonged series of Protestant revivals occurring during the first third of the
nineteenth century (McPherson, 1982, p. 16). Due to many successful reforms
and improved work ethics, the nations population was largely literate and
employed, and had partially reversed the flow of technology and products from
Europe by 1860 (McPherson, 1982, p. 16). A great diversity of products was
being manufactured in the United States, not only for domestic consumption,
but also for international export. Although most Americans at the time made
their living by farming, growing numbers found employment in urban areas
where they worked in factories and mills, turning out textiles, boots and shoes,
flour and meal, clothing, machinery, carriages and wagons, and leather wares.
Others worked in the growing lumbering and mining industries, and in the
expanding number of white collar professions. The value added to the national
economy by manufacturing jumped from $240 million in 1839 to $815 million
twenty years later (Rawley, 1990, p. 53).
Not all citizens benefitted in this complex modernizing process, however.
While men were the leaders in society, women were the rank and file. The
position of women in America was paradoxical. Nowhere were women placed
in loftier positions, nowhere more idealized, idolized, and protected (Robinson,
1991, p. 117). But, at the same time, democratic theory was ignored, if not
rejected, as women were denied the basic rights of property, suffrage, and
education. Women, especially those who were unmarried, could work as
factory operatives, domestic servants, dressmakers, actresses, teachers and
writers, but the barriers elsewhere were many. Women surrendered property to
5


their husbands at marriage, and earnings thereafter belonged to him as well. In
no state were women permitted to vote and opportunities for their collegiate
education were nonexistent until the 1830s (Robinson, 1991, p. 117).
Strong dissent to the national modernizing process was further found in the
rural South and lower Midwest, and among populations of late immigrants.
The nations economic growth and territorial expansion also occurred at the
expense of Native Americans. A large amount of Indian land was illegally
seized and its native populations killed by disease or placed on reservations in
the largely unsettled territories west of the Mississippi River (McPherson,
1982, p. 1). According to Native American historian and author Angie Debo of
the University of Oklahoma, None of this helped the Indians in their encounter
with the white man. On the contrary, their temperamental and personality traits
were a handicap. Industrious and thrifty in their own way, they lacked the
ruthless driving force of the invading race and they had no experience to meet
it (Debo, 1970, p. 6). Americas land hunger also provoked military conflicts
in California, Texas and the Southwest with Spaniards and Mexicans whose
territory was taken by fair and unfair government settlements and through
manipulative acts of war (Faulk and Stout, 1973, p. 1).
The Seeds of Conflict
While the United States dramatically expanded its physical boundaries
during the early years of the nineteenth century, a powerful drive for territorial
growth came from the Southern states. Through slave-holding territorial
growth, the South hoped to gain the admission of new slave states to
counterbalance the more rapid population growth of the free states. The
Louisiana Purchase, annexation of Texas, and conquest of the Southwest from
Mexico were accomplished by Southern Generals, predominantly Southern
volunteer troops, with the support of Southern Presidents and Southern-
6


dominated congressional majorities (McPherson, 1982, p. 2). Despite the
Souths objective to gain new territories, however, Northern anti-slavery
leaders were eager to counter Southern maneuvers. In 1819, Northern
congressmen first tried to exclude slavery from a new state to the Union with
the addition of Missouri, acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. After
lengthy and heated debate, congressional legislators finally accepted the
Compromise of 1820 that admitted Missouri as a slave state, but prohibited
slavery in the remaining portion of the Louisiana Purchase territory that lay
north of 3630 (Robinson, 1991, p. 50). The Missouri Compromise settled the
question of slavery for a generation until the Mexican War of 1847 caused it to
surface again.
The delicate balance of power which existed between the North and South
prior to 1850 was carefully maintained through congressional adherence to an
appeasement policy which alternately admitted free and slave states to the
Union. However, representatives from the Southern states, due to their heavy
domination of the Democratic party prior to 1860, exerted a formidable force on
federal government policy shaping during the first half of the nineteenth
century. For two-thirds of the years from 1789 to 1861, twenty-three of thirty-
six Speakers of the House, numerous chairmen of key committees and thirty-
four of the thirty-six presidents pro tem of the Senate were Southerners.
During forty-nine of these seventy-two years, the nations president was a
Southerner and slaveholder. Concurrently, twenty of the thirty-five Supreme
Court justices came from slave states, and at all times since 1789, the South
maintained a majority on the high court (McPherson, 1982, p. 132). With
consistently strong representation in the offices of the federal government, the
South wielded federal political power out of proportion to its minority
population. But, as the century neared a mid-point, the controversy over
slavery ensured the Souths predominate political influence would not last
7


For nearly half a century after the American Revolution, most Southerners
regarded slavery as a necessary evil. Southern leaders at first seemed to
recognize the incompatibility of slavery with the ideals of individual liberty for
which the American revolution had been fought (McPherson, 1982, p. 45).
But, as a necessary evil, the practice of slavery could not be immediately
abolished. If it were, the South would experience great economic hardship.
Two key developments undermined the necessary evil viewpoint by the
1830s which convinced supporters of the systems true value. One was the
phenomenal growth of the Souths cotton industry which seemed to make
slavery more necessary than ever to the Southern economy. The second was
the Norths growing abolitionist movement which placed the South on the
defensive and provoked a sweeping ideological counterattack that took the form
of an assertion that slavery, far from being a necessary evil, was, in fact, a
positive good. Senator R.M.T. Hunter of Virginia voiced this popular belief in
1852 when he stated, There is not a respectable system of civilization known
to history whose foundations were not laid in the institution of domestic
slavery (McPherson, 1982, p. 45). And so the argument rested, that all great
societies relied on slavery or serfdom ancient Egypt, biblical Israel, Greece,
Rome, the France of Charlemagne, the England of the Magna Charta.
The Norths increasing attacks on the Souths peculiar institution of slavery
were countered with heated defense. Among the most notable and active of
Southern defendants was Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina.
Calhoun, the Souths leading proslavery political spokesman, played a
significant role in advancing the Souths right to self-determination in the U.S.
Congress from the 1830s to the time of his death in 1850. During his years in
the U.S. Senate, Calhoun become well known for his belief in the Souths right
to expansion and self-determination through the process of nullification.
Calhouns theory that a state convention, rather than the U.S. Supreme Court,
had final jurisdiction over constitutional questions was based on a clear-cut
distinction between the sovereign who made the Constitution and the agency
8


which governed the land. In a democracy, Calhoun argued, those who consent
to the Constitution must always reign supreme over agents they appoint to
govern (Freehling, 1967, p. xii). Governments, with their mere lawmaking
functions, remained legitimate only if they stayed carefully within the powers
granted by the constitution-makers. It thus followed that neither the Supreme
Court nor any other branch of government could be granted final authority over
what was constitutional, for the Constitution could be changed as much by
judicial interpretation as by constitutional amendment Calhoun asserted that in
order to keep the Constitution supreme over the government, and the
constitution-makers supreme over the Constitution, the original body which had
ratified the Constitution must continue to have final authority over what was
constitutional. Since state conventions were the bodies which ratified the
Constitution, they retained the authority to nullify any federal law (Freehling,
1967, p. xiii).
Further, it was Calhouns belief that the two greatest dangers to a
democratic republic were the possibilities that lawmakers could seize power
from constitution-makers and that majorities would tyrannize over minorities.
Since each major American interest group Southern slaveholders, Western
farmers, Northern merchants, Eastern manufacturers controlled at least one
state, the power of a state veto would thus enable its minorities to protect
themselves from overbearing majorities (Freehling, 1967, p. xiii). Using this
power or threatening to use it, Calhoun concluded that South Carolina planters
could force lower tariffs and halt anti-slavery legislation during the Andrew
Jackson Administration. The influence of abolitionists and protectionists would
then wither and the Union could be preserved.
Calhouns efforts to enact nullification in South Carolina on the tariff issue
was delayed by strong opposition within the state beginning in 1828. South
Carolina unionists found Calhouns logic unconvincing and impractical.
Nullification, they concluded, violated the U.S. Supreme Courts authority and
9


would inevitably end in a catastrophe with South Carolina standing alone
against the rest of the nation (Freehling, 1967, p. xiv). Further attempts to call
a state convention with a necessary two-thirds legislative majority failed until
1832 when the states economic interests were more directly threatened by a
new tariff levied by Congress in 1832. A Nullification Convention was then
held in South Carolina in December 1832 and declared the tariffs of 1828 and
1832 null and void in the state after February 1, 1833. However, the
nullification supporters, at Calhouns urging, backed down shortly thereafter to
avoid war after President Jackson sent troops to Charleston to enforce the laws
if South Carolina interfered with their enforcement. Calhouns retreat,
combined with divided opposition within the state and the lack of support from
other Southern states, led to the failure of the nullification movement early on
and ultimately narrowed the Souths options. Calhouns middle way of
negating the laws while remaining in the Union no longer proved an option after
1833 (Freehling, 1967, p. xvi). As tensions between the North and South
continued over slavery territorial issues, Southern slaveholders dedicated
themselves to influencing national politics through domination of the
Democratic party until the secession movement gained momentum following
Lincolns election in November, 1860.
All the while the United States experienced great territorial and economic
transformation during these early decades in its history, it is significant to point
out that the economy of the Northern states grew disproportionately faster and
contrasted sharply with the South in commitment to development and
modernization (Rawley, 1990, p. 56). Though the Southern states also shared
in the nations great economic boom, they remained largely rural and
agricultural in comparison to the Northern states and failed to develop an
equally strong commercial and industrial base (McPherson, 1982, p. 28). In a
general sense, Southerners, frequently valuing tradition and stability over
change and technological progress, maintained an agricultural system which
was as labor-intensive and as slave-dependent in 1860 as it was in 1800
10


(Robinson, 1991, pp. 163-165). Further, the Souths commitment to education
lagged and nearly half of its population remained illiterate (McPherson, 1982,
p. 24). Meanwhile, almost all of the slaves in the South were deliberately kept
illiterate by the statutes of various state laws known as slave codes (Robinson,
1991, p. 170). These laws, generally prohibiting their education, were upheld
by the federal government.
Beginning with the early American colonial period and extending up to the
time of the Civil War, there was a vast amount of litigation on both the state and
federal levels concerning the nations black population (Bell, 1973, p. 1). In
virtually all of the court cases of the antebellum period, blacks were regarded as
the subjects and not the primary parties. Slaves, viewed as property, could not
own property, make contracts, or be parties in legal disputes (Robinson, 1991,
p. 170).
By far the most famous of slavery-related cases during the antebellum
period was the U.S. Supreme Courts Dred Scott v. Sanford decision of 1857.
The case originated in 1846 in Missouri and raised the question whether slave
Dred Scotts temporary residence in a free territory (Illinois) at the time of his
owners death granted him freedom under common law principles. Behind
Scotts claim lurked the explosive political question of whether the U.S.
Congress could rightfully prohibit slavery in the territories (Rawley, 1990, p.
84). The opinion of Chief Justice Roger Taney is generally regarded as
reflecting the majority decision, and was shared by six other Southern justices
on the high court (Bell, 1973, p. 4).
In his opinion, Taney ruled on three major questions. First, was Scott a
citizen? Taney declared Scott was not a citizen and, therefore, was not entitled
to sue in a court of the United States. He reached his conclusion by stating that
at the time the U.S. Constitution was written, blacks were considered as a
subordinate and inferior class of beings [who] had no rights or privileges but
11


such as who held the power and the government might choose to grant them
(Bell, 1973, p. 4). According to Taney, blacks were not included under the
word citizens in the Constitution. The second question of the case was if
Scott was freed by his residence in Illinois territory at the time of his owners
death. Here, Taney asserted that Scotts temporary residence on free soil did
not grant him personal freedom. According to the Chief Justice, the law of the
slave state of Missouri, Scotts permanent residence, governed his status (Bell,
1973, p. 4). Finally, Dred Scott v. Sanford raised the controversial political
question whether the U.S. Congress had the constitutional authority to prohibit
slavery in the territories. Here, Taney cited the Fifth Amendment which
prohibits Congress from depriving persons of their property without due
process of the law. Slaves were property, he asserted, and Congress was
barred from depriving persons of their slave property (Bell, 1973, p. 4).
Despite the major victory for the South in the landmark case Dred Scott v.
Sanford, the North continued to wield an increasingly strong influence on the
Southern economy. Even though the Southern states grew all of the nations
cotton and almost all of its tobacco crop, the region possessed only six percent
of Americas cotton processing capacity in 1860 (McPherson, 1982, p. 23).
The Southern states also produced less than one-tenth of the value of the
nations manufactured goods at the time of Lincolns election (Rawley, 1990,
p. 56). Growth of the Souths important staple crops for the world market
dominated Southern economic life for decades, however, and yielded great
prosperity. All the while, slaveholders took satisfaction in the rising value of
their slaves (Rawley, 1990, p. 55). Bom of a revolution that proclaimed all to
men to be free and equal, the United States emerged as the largest slaveholding
nation in the world in 1860 (McPherson, 1982, p. 1).
While plantation agriculture operated as a successful enterprise, however, a
growing portion of its profits by the 1850s went to marketing its crops and to
maintaining the slave labor system (McPherson, 1982, pp. 27-28).
12


Consequently, the lack of capital investment in producing a diversity of
products and the heavy investment in slave labor resulted in the Souths failure
to modernize comparably with the North. The South, therefore, maintained a
colonial economic relationship with the Northern states and with its other largest
trading partner, Great Britain.
The Souths heavy dependence upon the North in the late antebellum
period is reflected in the following excerpt from an editorial which appeared an
1851 Mobile, Alabama, newspaper. Here, the articles author shared in popular
Southern resentment over the growing economic imbalances with the North,
while noting the increasing controversy over the issue of slavery:
We purchase our luxuries and necessities from the North.
Northerners abuse and denounce slavery and slaveholders, yet
our slaves are clothed with Northern manufactured goods,
have North hats and shoes, work with Northern hoes,
ploughs, and other implements.. .The slaveholder dresses in
Northern goods, rides in a Northern saddle. .sports his
Northern carriage. .reads Northern books. .In Northern
vessels his products are carried to market, his cotton is ginned
with Northern gins, his sugar is crushed and preserved by
Northern machinery; his rivers are navigated by Northern
steamboats. .His son is educated at a Northern college, his
daughter receives the finish polish at a Northern seminary; his
doctor graduates at a Northern medical college; his schools are
furnished with Northern teachers, and he is furnished with
Northern inventions. (Russel, 1924, p. 48)
Growing political tensions produced by the increasing economic disparity
and controversy over the expansion of slavery provoked several conflicts that
threatened the stability of the American republic during the 1840s and 1850s.
Among these conflicts were: (1) the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which
admitted the region as slave-holding territory after heated congressional debate;
(2) repeated congressional debate over the doomed Wilmot Proviso, a proposed
amendment which would have prevented the spread of slavery into the
territories, and (3) the Compromise of 1850 which established a stronger
fugitive slave law, abolished slavery in the District of Columbia, settled the
13


Texas boundary question, admitted California as a free state, and organized
New Mexico and Utah into territories (Rawley, 1990, pp. 38-41).
With the great turbulence the United States experienced during the 1850s,
it was largely the shared memories of a common struggle for national
independence that enabled the North and South to coexist under one flag
through the close of the decade. As the splintering decade drew to a close,
however, it became very clear that the delicate forces of balance which kept the
nation together were quickly deteriorating. The significant political conflicts
experienced during the 1850s caused the existing Democratic and Whig parties
and their followings to split, in turn giving rise to increased sectional loyalties
and new political parties. The domination of the presidency during the 1850s
by Northern Democrats followed by Lincolns promise to win the election of
1860 as a candidate of one of these new parties, the Republicans, further
demonstrated that the nation turned a decisive political comer. Southern fears
of Northern domination of national politics provoked great anxiety and
resentment in the region and turned the election of 1860 into a multi-party
regional contest unlike any the nation had experienced.
The Election of 1860
Climaxing the controversies which intensified in the United States during
the late 1850s, the election of 1860 evolved into a crucial four-party campaign
representing each primary geographical section of the nation. The most
important election in the American history to its time, the high stakes drove
voters to the polls in record proportions. The election of 1860 saw slightly
more than four out of every five eligible voters exercise the voting privilege
(Rawley, 1990, p. 112).
14


Contemporaries saw a diversity of issues as being most important to the
campaign. The editor of Illinois Springfield Republican perceived the main
issue to be majority rule while others in the North suspected a Southern
conspiracy to break up the union if a Northern president were elected. To other
Northerners, the future of republican government was at stake, while to some
the chief issue was about a free labor society and economy (Rawley, 1990, p.
112). Racism also figured in Northern and Southern minds as the editor of the
New York Herald wrote on election day, If Lincoln is elected today, you will
have to compete with the labor of four million emancipated Negroes (Rawley,
1990, p. 112). In contrast, Southerners saw Northern domination of the
government and the end of slavery as the chief issue. The issue before the
country is the extinction of slavery. Has a mans own brother. .a right to
wage war upon him and his family, and deprive him of his property? posed the
Charleston Mercury in November, 1860 (Rawley, 1990, p. 112).
As a result of rising sectionalism and the breakdown of party loyalties over
the conflicts of the 1850s, four candidates presented the choice to voters in the
presidential election of 1860. They were: John Breckinridge, Democratic
candidate of the Lower South; Stephen Douglas, candidate of the Northern
Democrats; John Bell, Constitutional Union Party candidate of the border
states, and Abraham Lincoln, candidate of the Republican party. Each
represented distinct differences in policy: Breckinridge for the protection and
expansion of slavery, Bell for compromise and maintaining a dividing line
between the slave-holding and free states; Douglas for popular sovereignty and
final determination by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Lincoln for federal law to
abolish slavery in the territories (Rawley, 1990, p. 111).
As the 1860 presidential campaign unfolded, it became clear that the only
way to defeat Lincoln was by fusing the support of the three parties of
opposition. This combined backing would enable the Democrats to carry a
solid South plus three or four crucial Northern states. Serious barriers and
15


divisions stood in the way, however, and the Democratic partys internal
disputes could not be solved or overcome and led to its collapse.
When the national Democratic convention met in Charleston, South
Carolina, on April 23, 1860, emotions ran at a fever high. The convention,
tense from the outset, ended in a Southern walkout when Southern Democrats,
protesting the nomination of Stephen Douglas, attempted to write a federal slave
code into the plank of the national party platform. When the platform came to a
vote after several days of debate, the popular sovereignty plank prevailed by a
vote of 165 to 138 (free states voting 154 to 30; slave states voting 11 to 108)
(McPherson, 1982, p. 118). In a premeditated protest of the vote, the attending
Southern delegates from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina,
Florida, Texas, Georgia and Arkansas walked out and independently adopted
the Southern rights platform, then waited to see what the main convention
would do. Thwarted by the partys rule requiring a two-thirds majority of all
delegates to proceed, the convention adjourned. Party leaders planned to
resolve the issue six weeks later, once tempers cooled, at a second convention
in Baltimore, Maryland (Angle, 1947, p. 261).
As the Democrats disbanded in Charleston, hold outs from the Whig and
Know Nothing parties, mostly numerous in the border states, convened in
Baltimore on May 9, 1860, to form the Constitutional Union Party. Though
they had no clearly recognized leader, on the second ballot they nominated John
Bell of Tennessee. The party of compromise and national unity, the
Constitional Unionists adopted a brief platform advocating, The Constitution
of the Country, the Union of the States, and the Enforcement of the Laws
(Rawley, 1990, p. 109).
Six weeks later, as planned, both wings of the Democratic Party
reconvened in Baltimore on June 18, 1860. Most Southern Democratic
delegates planned to attend. However, upon encountering discrimination over
16


their readmission to convention proceedings, the Southern Democrats protested
by walking out a second time. The break experienced at Charleston proved
beyond repair and led the last long-standing national political party to break in
two. This time led by the states of the Upper South, 110 delegates, more than a
third of the total, departed the convention (Rawley, 1990, p. 108). These
delegates immediately held their own Southern rights convention and nominated
President Buchanans Vice President, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, on a
federal slave code platform (McPherson, 1982, p. 118). The Southern
Democratic platform further denounced the Norths personal liberty laws,
favored acquisition of Cuba as a slave state, and endorsed the construction of a
transcontinental railroad (Rawley, 1990, pp. 224-225).
Just a few weeks before the split of the Democratic party, Abraham Lincoln
secured the Republican partys nomination for president in Chicago, Illinois.
The mood at the Republican convention was more optimistic, as the party was
certain to carry all but five or six Northern states (McPherson, 1982, p. 121).
Slavery was, of course, the primary issue for the young Republican party.
While the Republican platform of 1860 recognized the right of each state to
maintain slavery where it existed, it denounced the expansion of slavery into the
new territories. (See Chapter Twos Profile of Lincoln as the 1860 Republican
Nominee for President for additional information on the 1860 Republican
platform.)
Four major challengers for the 1860 Republican nomination brought to a
head the factional elements present within the political party. The frontrunners
for the nomination were: Abraham Lincoln, William Seward, Simon Cameron,
Salmon Chase and Edward Bates. Lincolns strongest rival for the nomination
was Seward who ultimately failed to gain the nomination because of his
perceived Radical tendencies and likely failure to carry the states of the Lower
North (Rawley, 1990, p. 110). Lincoln, initially having only the support of the
Illinois delegation, emerged as the sole party candidate who could carry most of
17


the North. His campaign staff, under the direction of David Davis, worked
skillfully during the convention to pick up votes and to obtain second-choice
commitments from the delegates of several key states. Lincoln prevailed over
Seward on the third ballot when Ohio changed four votes to Lincoln on May
17, 1860 (McPherson, 1982, p. 120).
The election of 1860, it has been said, was in a sense two elections, one in
the free states between Douglas and Lincoln, the other in the slave states
between Breckinridge and Bell. As the nation went to the polls, the outcome
made it clear that the nation had divided. As the votes were counted, Lincoln
carried 180 electoral votes in the North, winning every state except New Jersey.
Equally striking in the multi-party contest, he gained clear majorities in all but
three of the free states: New Jersey, California and Oregon. Even though the
election was nationwide, Lincolns name was not on the ballot in the states
south of Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri (Rawley, 1990, p. 115). In
examination of the Douglas vote, Douglas won only 12 electoral votes and only
one state, Missouri, barely prevailing over Bell. He did, however, rank second
of the four candidates in the popular vote. In the eleven states who would soon
form the Confederacy, Douglas polled less than nine percent of the vote, and in
the Lower South, only seven percent (Rawley, 1990, p. 115).
In the South, Breckinridge carried all of the future Confederacy except two
states, which he lost by thin margins. With his strength in the Lower South,
Breckinridge carried 72 electoral votes and 51 percent of the popular vote in
eleven of the fifteen slave states, losing only Missouri to Douglas and the Upper
South states of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee to Bell (Rawley, 1990, p.
115). With the smallest number of popular votes of the four candidates, Bell
carried three slave states in the Upper and Border South. He won 39 electoral
votes and only two of every five votes in the future Confederate states (Rawley,
1990, p. 115).
18


For the first time in Americas history a sectional party captured the
presidency with Lincolns election in 1860. The multi-party election,
prefigured by the split of the Democratic party and the formation of new
sectional parties, shattered the traditional two-party system. Majority rule, with
the help of the electoral college, thus produced a minority president supported
by only two of every five voters in the nation (Rawley, 1990, p. 119). Until
1856, no major political party had expressed a clear opposition to slavery.
Now, just four years later, the Northern states elected a president who hoped
for the ultimate extinction of the practice.
The Republican partys popularity in the Northern states during the election
of 1860 consequently provoked great fears in the South. The fact that Lincoln
carried nearly all of the free states created a mood of despondency and fatalism
among conservatives and among citizens throughout the South (McPherson,
1982, pp. 131-132). Fearing the rise of Black and Red Republicanism,
secessionists were quick to conjure up scenarios of future Republican actions
which included the exclusion of slavery from all of the new territories. This
would bring in so many new free states that the South would be overwhelmed
in the U.S. Congress and gradually encircled by free states. The South also
feared Lincoln would appoint Republican justices to the U.S. Supreme Court
and turn it against the South. Other fears were that Congress would repeal the
Fugitive Slave Law and slaves would flee northward by the thousands. The
President-elect would then gradually build up the Republican party in the South,
beginning with the border states (McPherson, 1982, p. 132).
A severe drought during the summer of 1860 intensified the climate of
near-hysteria in the South. Several suspected insurrectionists, black and white,
were lynched, while hundreds of Northern whites were forced to leave
(McPherson, 1982, p. 132). Southern newspapers were quick to print
sensationalized cases of arson, poison and murder attributed to slaves.
Numerous editorials appeared in newspapers across the South defying
19


Lincolns election and advocating immediate secession. One newspaper in
Atlanta, Georgia, went so far as to proclaim, Let the consequences be what
they may, whether the Potomac is crimsoned in human gore, and Pennsylvania
Avenue is paved then fathoms deep with mangled bodies. .the South, will
never submit to such humiliation and degradation as the inauguration of
Abraham Lincoln (Dumond, 1931, p. 106).
The Face of the Presidency
At the time of Lincolns election in 1860, the American presidency was not
yet the powerful institution we know it as today. Executive power was then
largely centered on a solitary individual, not focused as a group enterprise. The
question of who was to exercise ultimate control over the federal bureaucracy
was not clearly defined. Taking the oath of office as the nations sixteenth
president on March 4,1861, what did Lincoln have to go on?
The U.S. Constitution was vague and said little about the presidents role
as an administrator, except in Article II where all related responsibility is
incorporated under the heading of The Executive Power (U.S. Constitution,
1787, Article II, Section II). When the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the
Chief Executive was expected only to faithfully execute the will of the U.S.
Congress and manage the executive branch. All presidents prior to Lincoln thus
had to rely on individual persuasiveness, diplomacy and competency to inspire
popular support of ones administrations policies.
The debate over the legitimate powers of the presidency are traced to the
Federalist and Anti-Federalist campaigns of 1787-1788 concerning ratification
of the U.S. Constitution as a replacement to the obsolete and loosely configured
Articles of Confederation. According to George Washington, by 1787 the
Articles provided only for a half-starved, limping government, that appears to
20


be always moving on crutches, tottering at every step (Kramnick, 1987, p. 20).
Indeed, theorists Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay exerted a
powerful influence on the ultimate shape of the presidency and permanent
central government structure by urging ratification of the U.S. Constitution
through the publication of a series of 85 descriptive essays known as The
Federalist in the New York Independent Journal. James Madison rightfully
pointed out that these essays were the most authentic exposition of the text of
the Federal Constitution, as understood by the Body which prepared and the
authority which accepted it (Kramnick, 1987, p. 12). As discussed in essays
67-77 of the Federalist, the American presidency is designed to play an
important role as a checks and balance provision in the federal government for
the United States. The powers of the presidency, as adopted in their final form
at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September
17, 1787, greatly reflected the proposed powers as outlined by Hamilton,
Madison and Jay and in the Federalist papers.
On the other end of the political spectrum at the time of the U.S.
Constitutions ratification were the Anti-Federalists, republicans in the truest
sense of the word. The Anti-Federalists, advocates of strong participatory
democracy and states rights, accused the Federalists of abandoning the true
principles of federalism and republicanism by substituting a consolidated
system with the adoption of the Constitution (Allen and Lloyd, 1985, p. viii).
Opposed to the documents ratification, the Anti-Federalists admitted the
Articles of Confederation were weak but sought instead to grant more power to
the single chamber Continental Congress over domestic commerce and foreign
affairs without altering the basic structure of the Articles (Allen and Lloyd,
1985, p. ix). The Anti-Federalists feared the rise of despotism and aristocracy
with the creation of the federal government as outlined in the Constitution, and
believed republican liberty was best preserved in small units where the people
played an active and continuous role in government power (Allen and Lloyd,
1985, p. xii).
21


Partially due to disorganization, the Anti-Federalists failed in their efforts to
defeat ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Upon the charters
adoption, the Anti-Federalists voiced particular criticism of the presidential veto
privilege and the presidential/senate connection on treaties and appointments.
They were further alarmed by the powers the federalists gave to the president
and the judiciary at the expense of legislative autonomy and in the name of the
doctrine of separation of powers (Kramnick, 1987, p. 52). Though the Anti-
Federalists did not prevail in 1787, their continued campaigns through
pamphlets, speeches and newspaper editorials led to incorporation of the Bill of
Rights into the Constitution in 1791. Their political perspective has since
remained very much alive in the American political tradition.
Throughout the seventy-two years prior to Lincolns election in 1860, an
administrative power struggle existed between the president and the U.S.
Congress over executive authority. Though the powers of the presidency were
somewhat defined in the Constitution, conflicts nevertheless manifested through
the policy initiatives of evolving presidents and their congressional
counterparts. To the extent that Andrew Jackson and a few other early
presidents more clearly defined the scope of powers of the presidency, some
minor precedent was available to Lincoln. However, more than any other
president before him, Lincoln faced the question of where the true sources of
power rested in government during a time of national emergency. The growth
of an extensive self-interested federal bureaucracy and rampant resignations on
the basis of Southern loyalties throughout the federal government and military
on the eve of the Civil War posed further challenges to the establishment of
Lincolns authority as president.
The four months between the election of 1860 and his inauguration were
particularly anxious ones for Lincoln. As President-elect, he experienced great
turmoil during this period while shaping a firm policy toward the South, and in
making his cabinet appointments. The President-elect boldly decided to bring
22


representatives of all the major factions of the Republican party into his cabinet
to gain greater party and public support, relying on his personal skill and
persuasiveness to reconcile their views. Ultimately, Lincoln named four of
those party contemporaries who competed against him for the 1860 nomination
to his cabinet of all factions. (Please see Appendix for detailed biographical
information on each individual serving in the Lincoln Cabinet between 1861-
1865.)
The Union Disintegrates
The four months between the election of 1860 and Lincolns inauguration
as sixteenth president on March 4, 1861, were mutually difficult for the
incumbent Buchanan Administration and the U.S. Congress. Shortly after
telegraphs across the nation flashed the news of Lincolns election, the South
Carolina legislature called a state convention and took the state out of the union
on December 20, 1860. Within six weeks, by February 1, 1861, Mississippi,
Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas also voted by substantial
margins to secede (McPherson, 1982, p. 127). These actions subtracted nearly
5,000,000 people, free and slave, from the nations whole population of
31,400,000 (Rawley, 1990, p. 124). As each state seceded, it appointed
commissioners to the other Southern state conventions about to meet where the
commissioners gave rousing speeches urging each of the remaining Southern
states to join those that had already left the Union. A torrent of mass meetings
and newspaper publicity added to the political pressures and caused the minority
of Unionists in the South to retreat. Even Conditional Unionists jumped aboard
the Southern bandwagon to avoid what would appear to be treason to the
South.
Looking to 1776 as their model for revolution, the South based its right to
secede on that part of the Declaration of Independence which justified the
23


dissolution of old governments and the right to form new ones. Confederate
President Jefferson Davis echoed this popular sentiment when he stated in 1861
that, Ours is not a revolution.. .We are not engaged in a Quixotic fight for the
rights of man; our struggle is for inherited rights (McPherson, 1982, p. 131).
One of the Souths foremost journalists of the period, J.B.D. DeBow, equally
maintained the premise when he wrote, We are not revolutionists; we are
resisting revolution. We are upholding the true doctrines of the federal
Constitution. We are conservative (McPherson, 1982, pp. 130-131). During
the secession crises, many Southerners were quick to quote from varied
Republican speeches and editorials to show that it was the Republicans who
were the revolutionists, not they.
Although the secession movement proceeded with extraordinary speed in
the lower South, there remained major internal divisions. Three basic
secessionist positions emerged by December 1860. The first was immediate
secession. Supporters of this philosophy believed that each state should
secede on its own without waiting for collective action by the South as a whole.
The second approach was known as cooperation. Its proponents urged a
delay in action until the South could formulate a collective response to Lincolns
election. The third position, outright opposition to secession, was supported
by the Unconditional Unionists who lived mostly in the border states, and
were virtually silent in the deep South (McPherson, 1982, p. 126). As a result
of these varying views, there existed great controversy in the South as to what
strategy to pursue.
As the Southern states left the Union, it is significant to note that many
secessionists expected their revolution to be a peaceful one. In the South one
popular saying ran, A ladys thimble will hold all the blood that will be shed
in this crisis (Rawley, 1990, p. 126). Even in the North, some thought this
would be the case. As late as mid-February 1861, President-elect Lincoln told a
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, audience, there is no crisis, except such a one as
24


may be gotten up at any time be designing politicians. .just as other clouds
have cleared away in due time, so will this. . (Rawley, 1990, p. 126). On
the other hand, many sensed that violence was inevitable. This fear led all
seceded states to immediately strengthen their militias and form new volunteer
military companies. With some success, these states seized several federal
arsenals and forts to arm and equip their military companies (McPherson, 1982,
p. 129).
On February 9,1861, delegates from the six seceded Southern states met
in Montgomery, Alabama, to adopt a provisional constitution forming the
Confederate States of America. They elected Jefferson Davis provisional
president (Johannsen, 1966, pp. 169-170). Forging a Constitution in just a
few days, the Confederate Constitution resembled the U.S. version in many
respects, but deviated by giving each state greater independence and
guaranteeing slavery in Southern territories as well as Southern states. The
Confederate Constitution limited the president to one six-year term (Johannsen,
1966, pp. 171-182). The legislative body adopted a permanent constitution one
month later (McPherson, 1982, p. 137). One of the first formal acts of the
provisional Confederate government was to authorize the raising of a
Confederate army of 100,000 men (McPherson, 1982, p. 139).
For the leaders of the Confederacy, gaining the support of the eight slave
states of the upper South was crucial. Without them, the Confederacy would
have scarcely five percent of the industrial capacity of the Northern states and
less than one-fifth of the population (McPherson, 1982, p. 137). The
Confederate government therefore sent commissioners to all eight Upper South
states, persuading delegates to join them with only limited success. However,
in the aftermath of Lincolns call for federal troops in April, 1861, secessionists
prevailed in Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina, and brought
about a serious division of sentiment in the four Border slave states. The
addition of the Upper South States dramatically increased the strength of the
25


Confederacy by 3,758,000 people, forming 43 percent of the Confederacys
population base (Rawley, 1990, p. 141).
While the Lower South acted rapidly and decisively in secession and the
formation of the Confederate States of America, the North floundered in
uncertainty and confusion. For several weeks after Lincolns election, the
Republicans pursued a policy of inactivity (McPherson, 1982, p. 138). Party
leaders agreed to sit tight and do nothing to encourage secessionism or to
alienate Southern Unionists. President-elect Lincoln and his chosen Secretary
of State Seward supported this strategy, hoping that secession fever would run
its course and that a sense of loyalty would keep most states in the Union.
In reality, there seemed to be no solid conception in the federal government
of what to do about the secession crisis. The United States at the time was not
even prepared to fight a possible war (McPherson, 1982, p. 132). The Union
had at its disposal a poorly equipped 16,000-man federal army, and had few
officers trained in the higher art of war. Only two of its remaining generals,
aging Winfield Scott and John Wool, had ever commanded an army in the field
(Ward, 1990, p. 48). Further, West Point Academy at the time offered a
curriculum slanted toward the knowledge of fortifications, engineering and
mathematics, while neglecting strategy, staff relations and field commands.
Practical federal military experience to this time was primarily limited to fighting
Indians and building forts (Cardinale, 1980, p. 192).
The lame duck syndrome further crippled the federal governments will
and ability to act during the four months between the election of 1860 and
Lincolns inauguration. After Lincolns election, outgoing President James
Buchanan did very little to assert federal authority (Thomas, 1952, p. 231).
Holding tight, he felt the secession crisis was a direct result of Lincolns
election and was, therefore, Lincolns responsibility (McPherson, 1982, p.
133). The beleaguered Buchanan also felt, perhaps rightly, that a coercive
26


move of threat at that point by the federal government would scatter, rather than
extinguish, the sparks of secession (Roland, 1991, p. 25). Buchanan hoped
somehow he could keep government afloat and preserve peace until relieved of
his office.
Despite the Southern orientation of his Administration, President Buchanan
was frustrated and could not accept disunion when the Southern states began to
secede. In his much-publicized annual message to the U.S. Congress on
December 3, 1860, the Presidents address contained a mixture of naivete and
evasion. In his view, though he felt longstanding Northern interference with
slavery produced the secession crisis, he declared secession illegal and
unconstitutional (Rawley, 1990, p. 125). Personally reluctant to act, however,
he proposed that Congress call a constitutional convention for the purpose of
recognizing slavery in the states, protecting it in the territories, and reaffirming
its right to recover fugitive slaves. Buchanan also reaffirmed his
recommendation for the annexation of Cuba which would help alleviate
Southern discontent by adding a new slave state to the Union (Curtis, 1883,
Vol. 1, pp. 337-350).
At the time of President Buchanans message in December 1860, dozens
of other compromise measures were being introduced in Congress, including
one plan by Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky to extend the old Missouri
Compromise line westward to the California border (Rawley, 1990, pp. 126-
127). To sort out the various compromise proposals, the U.S. House of
Representatives created a special Committee of Thirty-Three composed of one
member from each state. The U.S. Senate followed suit by creating a
Committee of Thirteen. It is significant to note at this point that President-elect
Lincoln, though making no public statements on the territorial issue preceding
his inauguration, played a crucial role in preventing concessions on the issue
during congressional compromise discussions by quietly passing word of his
uncompromising sentiments to Republican party leaders (McPherson, 1982, p.
27


136). The President-elect was fearful that any gains for the South would
diminish the Republican partys victory. The numerous attempts to find a
workable compromise in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate
ultimately proved futile and intolerable as nearly all the proposed measures
urged the North, and the Republicans, to make the concessions (McPherson,
1982, p. 135).
Outside the halls of the U.S. Congress, other attempts at legislative
compromise also failed. A caucus of seven Republican governors agreed to
recommend repeal of their state personal liberty laws, but their action had no
effect in slowing the secessionist movement (Rawley, 1990, p. 128). A second
attempt to avoid dismemberment of the Union occurred when the Virginia
legislature called for all of the states to send delegates to a peace convention
mediated by former President John Tyler in Washington, D.C. on February 4,
1861. The meeting proved doomed from the start when delegates from three
Upper North States, Oregon, California and the seceded states of the South
failed to attend. The lack of full national participation, combined with the party
line stubbornness of those who did attend, prevented the meeting from
developing any fresh compromises.
As the Buchanan Administration drew to a close with Lincolns
inauguration, the nation found itself perched precariously on the brink of
conflict. Most of the nations population anxiously waited to hear how the
President-elect would define his policy toward the South. On March 4,1860,
Abraham Lincoln delivered his carefully worded first inaugural address on the
east steps of the U.S. Capitol. The speech marked a careful balancing of the
sword and the olive branch. Expressing his willingness to compromise, the
President-elect began by reassuring the South, as he had many times before,
that his Administration had no intention of interfering with slavery where it
already existed. Going beyond his, Lincoln announced he had no objection to a
proposed constitutional amendment stating that the federal government shall
28


never interfere with slavery in the states. Lincoln also noted his support for a
constitutional provision for the return of fugitive slaves, a sore point for a
decade, and gave assurance that he would back a revised fugitive slave law.
Later in the address, Lincoln criticized the Southern states acts of
secession as unconstitutional. Tracing the origin of the Union past the
Constitution to the Articles of Association of 1774, Lincoln argued that the
Union was perpetual and incapable of being broken unless agreed upon by all
parties in the legislative process. Realistically, Lincoln pointed out, physically
speaking, we cannot separate (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 256). He continued
by stating that the North and South, though politically separate, should remain
face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between
them (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 256). The old questions and controversies
would inevitably remain, the President-elect observed. Lincoln moved on to
reaffirm that it was his solemn duty to uphold the principles of the U.S.
Constitution.
In short, Lincoln vowed to uphold national authority, and, at the same
time, expressed his intent to avoid provoking the South. The President-elect
concluded his address with these dramatic and eloquent words stating that a war
would come only at the insistence of the South:
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in
mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will
not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being
yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in
Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most
solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it
I am loth to close. We must not be enemies. Though passion
may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield,
and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over
this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when
again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our
nature. (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 256).
29


In what has since proven to be perhaps the most important inaugural
address in American history, the main purpose of Lincolns first inaugural
address was an appeal for the South to reconsider its acts of secession and to
buy time for the North. Time was not on Lincolns side, however. On the
morning after his inauguration, the President received the fateful news from
South Carolinas Fort Sumter commanding officer Major Robert Anderson that
the federal government had to resupply the fort within a few weeks or the
federal army would be forced to evacuate (Potter, 1942, p. 332). The Fort
Sumter crisis launched the beginning of the Civil War just four weeks after
Lincolns inauguration when, on April 12, 1861, Confederate troops retaliated
in response to the Presidents authorized expedition to resupply the harbor
garrison.
In costs, the Civil War took a terrible toll on the United States, and has
since proved to be the most bloody in this nations history. Lasting almost four
years to the day, the war was fought at immense cost in blood and resources.
The war cost the U.S. approximately two million dollars a day for four years,
and the total cost for the South was estimated at four billion dollars. Damage to
property in the North and South was appraised in the billions of dollars (Price,
1961, p. 15).
While on both sides the war inspired valor and sacrifice, it also aroused a
profound spirit of brutality and ruthlessness. Out of the relatively small national
population of that day more Americans, Union, and Confederate, died of
wounds and disease than in all other American wars together prior to the
Vietnam conflict (Roland, 1991, p. 262). Over three million men were in
uniform during the conflict. Of these, more than a million were killed or
wounded (McPherson, 1982, p. xi). The estimated toll in lives of Union
servicemen was 360,000; in the lives of Confederate servicemen, 258,000.
Losses incurred by the population of the United States in 1990 in proportion to
30


the years 1861-1865 would be almost four million people; in proportion to
losses incurred by the Confederacys population, above 11 million.
Despite its ravages on the nations population and resources, the war
clearly settled two issues those of slavery and the permanence of the Union.
These had to be resolved in order for the United States to become the nation it
has become: a nation committed, however haltingly and incomplete in
fulfillment, to the ideals expressed by President Lincoln. Whether in time the
issues that caused the war could have been settled peacefully has been the
subject of a continuing debate that yields no answer.
Conclusion
This summarization provides a general background of the conditions and
national experience Abraham Lincoln faced upon accepting the oath as the
nations sixteenth president in March, 1860. Chapter Two will build upon this
overview by examining the set of political beliefs Lincoln brought with him to
the American presidency.
31


CHAPTER TWO
THE POLITICAL IDEOLOGY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or
not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being esteemed by
my fellow man, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem (Basler, 1953,
Vol. 1, p. 8). These words, written by Abraham Lincoln during his first
political campaign for the Illinois legislature in 1832, border on the fringe of
Lincolns political ideology. It was the Illinois prairie lawyers ambitious drive
for greater public esteem, combined with his deep-seated desire to serve the
nation in a influential political capacity, that catapulted him to the U.S.
presidency in 1860.
In the years since his untimely death in April 1865, it is not surprising that
the Sixteenth President has fallen subject to a high degree of historical
revisionism and romanticism. Indeed, Lincoln has achieved almost mystical
status as an exceptional political leader and is today revered as a great American
forefather (Anderson, 1970, p. ii). To the extent that he is popularly recognized
in the hallmarks of American democracy, what can be learned about the true
political ideology of Abraham Lincoln when the myths surrounding him are
stripped away? Who was Lincoln, genuinely, as a political statesman? What
were his political beliefs? Why was he uniquely suited to serve as leader of a
nation split by civil war? These are some of the primary questions to be
explored in this chapter of my research. A general overview of Lincolns
political ideology strengthens the foundation on which to appraise his conflict
management successes and failures in dealing with selected members of his
cabinet.
32


Commencing this investigation, it is necessary first to define ideology.
According to political theorist and author Lyman Tower Sargent of the
University of Missouri-St. Louis, An ideology is a value or belief system
accepted as fact or truth by some group (Sargent, 1987, p. 2). In the words of
political scientist and author Thomas R. Dye of Florida State University,
ideology represents an integrated system of ideas that rationalize and justify the
exercise of power in society (Dye, 1987, p. 14). Respectively, according to
political scientist and author Roy C. Macridis of Brandeis University, political
ideology is a set of ideas and beliefs that people hold about their political
regime and its institutions and about their own position and role in it (Macridis,
1989, p. 2). A more standard definition comes from Websters Dictionary
which describes ideology as, 1. visionary theorizing; 2 a: a systematic body
of concepts, especially about human life or culture; b: a manner or the content
of thinking characteristics of an individual, group, or culture; c: the integrated
assertions, theories, and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
(Websters Dictionary. 1983, p. 597). This investigation shall incorporate
components of each of the preceding definitions.
The basic research methodology employed in this chapter, and largely
throughout this study, is historical. Stephen Isaacs states that the purpose of
historical methodology is to reconstruct the past systematically and objectively
by collecting, evaluating, verifying and synthesizing evidence to establish facts
and reach defensible conclusions (Isaac, 1971, p. 17). Joseph Hill and
August Kerber claim that historical research, which is also referred to as
documentary research, is basically that method of systematic inquiry which
seeks data from personal experiences and observations, documents and
records (Hill and Kerber, 1964, p. 125).
On these premises, it is asserted that verifiable historical documentation,
by the nature of its original sources and first-hand testimonies, is the best
methodology to serve the purposes of this investigation. Each source
33


incorporated herein has been evaluated for internal and external validity, and is
authenticated by field scholars. A significant portion of the Lincoln
commentary referenced herein from comes directly from editor Roy P. Baslers
1953 series of volumes containing the complete authenticated collection of
Lincolns papers.
Rise of the Prairie Politician
The most logical place to begin this overview is to summarize the
progression of Lincolns political career from prairie politician to president,
while simultaneously revealing his developing political beliefs. Abraham
Lincoln first ran for political office in a bid for a seat in the Illinois state
legislature in 1832 (Anderson, 1970, p. 36). Although he was defeated, the
ambitious circuit lawyers political aspirations remained strong. Lincoln played
an increasingly prominent role in Illinois politics through the 1830s and
gradually rose to the leadership ranks of the states Whig party.
Lincolns political ideas took shape slowly in the late 1830s and the
1840s. He was, from the beginning of his political activism, a nationalist and
a moderate. In 1846, he was elected as a Whig Representative for Illinois to the
Thirtieth U.S. Congress (Barton, 1925, p. 278). During his tenure in the U.S.
House of Representatives (1847-1849), Lincoln took notable positions on three
major issues which shed some light on his early progressive political views.
First, he voiced strong opposition against the controversial Mexican War by
introducing his Spot Resolutions in an attempt to pressure President James
Polk to prove on which nations soil the Mexican-American War actually began.
Second, Lincoln attempted to introduce a bill to abolish slave trade in the
nations capital city, and, third, he worked against his partys leader, Henry
Clay, for the presidential election of Zachary Taylor (Wright, 1970, pp. 23-36).
34


Lincoln failed in all three preceding efforts. His argument that the United
States was the unjust and imperialistic aggressor in the Mexican War failed to
attract significant Congressional support. A lack of solid legislative support
also killed his proposed bill denouncing slavery in Washington, D.C. Finally,
it was Lincolns futile hope that his campaign work for Zachary Taylor would
land him the patronage job of Commissioner of the General Land Office.
Further unsuccessful in even gaining renomination for his congressional seat,
Lincoln, feeling a sense of strong failure, returned to Illinois at the end of his
term where he temporarily withdrew from politics to reflect and learn from past
political miscalculations (Barton, 1925, p. 286).
During the turbulent 1850s, Lincoln gradually increased his political
involvement. As the decade progressed he became known for his
dissatisfaction with existing status quo federal policies, yet was also identified
for his conviction to constitutional principles (Oates, 1979, pp. 65-66). While
Americas democratic ideals were threatened by proslavery pretensions in the
1850s, the nation witnessed the growth of the Native American party, Know-
Nothings, whose members wanted to keep the growing influx of European
immigrants out of state and national politics (McPherson, 1982, pp. 82-85).
Lincolns growing frustration with the antebellum status quo and disapproval of
the nativist Know-Nothings is clearly illustrated in these words he wrote in a
letter to his closest friend, Joshua Speed, on August 24,1855:
How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in
favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in
degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we
began by declaring that all men are created equal. We now
practically read it as all men are created equal, except
negroes. When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read
all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and
Catholics. When it comes to this, I should prefer emigrating
to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty
- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure,
and without the base alloy of hypocrisy. (Basler, 1953, Vol.
2, p. 323)
35


Lincoln, though never serious in his intention to leave the United States,
did not hesitate to make his dissatisfaction clear during this period. Although he
gained acclaim in Illinois politics during the 1850s, he was, nevertheless,
defeated in two bids for a U.S. Senate seat (1854 and 1858) after he left the
Whig party and joined the Republicans. Though Lincoln lost the 1858
senatorial election to Douglas by a narrow margin, he emerged a national figure
(Fehrenbacher, 1962, p. 120). The 1858 Illinois senate campaign, with its
series of seven debates, has since become one of the most popular folklore
events of nineteenth century American political life.
Profile of Lincoln as the 1860
Republican Nominee for President
Abraham Lincoln secured his partys nomination for president at the 1860
Republican convention in Chicago, Illinois. At the time of his nomination, he
had condemned slavery as a moral evil but, maintaining a moderate position,
discouraged radical action against it (McPherson, 1982, p. 119). As the
Republican nominee, Lincoln was dedicated to the provisions of the 1860
Republican party platform.
In its party establishment, the Republicans sought to continue the
disbanded Free Soil partys commitment to no slavery in the territories, and
opposed the addition of any new slave states to the Union. In contrast to its
more radical 1856 platform which nominated John C. Frdmont for President,
the 1860 Republican platform dropped references to polygamy and slavery as
twin relics of barbarism (Fehrenbacher, 1962, p. 156), and condemned John
Browns raid as the gravest of crimes (Potter, 1942, p. 31), while it softened
the language on exclusion of slavery from the territories. The platform also
affirmed the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions
(McPherson, 1982, p. 119).
36


In an effort to attract a broader spectrum of voters at the polls, the 1860
Republican platform paid closer attention than its predecessor to the economic
interests of regional groups. For example, the platform included a protective
tariff plan for Pennsylvania, endorsed a homestead act to attract votes in the
Midwest, and sanctioned rivers and harbors appropriations plus government aid
to build a transcontinental railroad (McPherson, 1982, p. 120). Because of its
strategic broad-based platform, the Republican party was successful in
attracting the support of a larger percentage of the population in the election of
1860. (See Chapter Ones The Election of 1860 for additional related
information.)
It is significant to note that Lincoln, as the nominee of a party which was
destined to win the 1860 election, had doubts of his leadership skills should he
be elected. This self-perception was best expressed in a July 28, 1859, letter
Lincoln wrote to Samuel Galloway in which he stated that he did not think
himself fit for the presidency (Basler, 1953, Vol. 3, p. 395). It is therefore
apparent that Lincoln questioned the validity of his administrative experience.
His lack of a strong executive background, both internally and externally
perceived, later encouraged some of the men closest to him as President to
suspect that he could be manipulated. Almost from the start of the
Administration, however, Lincoln proved determined and even shrewd in his
policy forming processes.
To point out that Lincoln was perhaps unprepared to act as Chief
Executive before 1860 is not to say that he was entirely unqualified to do so. In
the area of human relations, Lincoln proved exceptional. His twenty-five plus
years of experience in dealing with people and listening to their troubles while
in private law practice served him well while in the Executive Mansion.
Lincolns years on the law circuit also taught him to make rapid judgments and
how to better evaluate human motives (Cardinale, 1980, p. 5). Additionally,
Lincolns intimate knowledge of the U.S. Constitution proved resourceful as he
37


was forced to define the unclear boundaries of power of the American
presidency during a time of national crisis.
A Determined President
As President-elect in November 1860, Lincoln, like most of his
Republican contemporaries, was unyielding on the party platforms territorial
issue, even as the Southern states seceded (Potter, 1942, pp. 176-178).
Although he chose to observe the customary period of public silence on issues
for presidents-elect until his inauguration, he did operate behind the scenes by
quietly passing word to influential party members to remain uncompromising
on the territorial issue. On one such occasion before his inauguration Lincoln
wrote these words to Republican leaders, Entertain no proposition for a
compromise in regard to the extension of slavery. The instant you do, they
have us under again; all our labor is lost, and sooner or later must be done
over... .Filibustering for all South of us, and making slave states of it, would
follow.. .and put us again on the high road to a slave empire... .The tug has
to come and better now than later (Basler, 1953, Vol. 5, p. 142).
For the President-elect, any territorial gain for slavery meant a loss of
democracy. Lincoln didnt back down. His steadfast position was evidenced
on other occasions including in a December 15,1860, private letter he wrote to
Democrat John A. Gilmer. Here, Lincoln explicitly stated, On the territorial
question, I am inflexible, as you see by my position in the book. On that, there
is a difference between us. You think slavery is right and ought to be extended;
we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 152).
As Lincoln prepared to assume the presidency, he realized he faced a
potentially unprecedented challenge in asserting the full powers of office. He
therefore proceeded to lay a solid foundation on which to exert wartime powers
38


if necessary. This strategy consequently led him to combine political influence
with necessity in the formation of his cabinet by surrounding himself with
several party rivals who had competed against him for the 1860 Republican
nomination. Though he may have doubted his administrative skills, the
President-elect was apparently confident enough in his management abilities not
to be threatened by the presence of his competitors, but instead, to benefit from
their involvement.
As the nation teetered on the brink of civil war with his election, Lincoln
felt his primary task was to maintain the symbols of federal authority in the
South as a beacon to Unionists while reassuring Southerners that the federal
government threatened none of their vital interests (Roland, 1991, p. 31). He
also established very early on that he considered secession to be rebellious, a
position he held to the time of the wars conclusion. Upon his inaugural,
Lincoln formalized his stand on these policies. In the initial draft of his first
inaugural address, the President stated specifically that All the power at my
disposal will be used to reclaim the public property and places which have
fallen; to hold, occupy and possess these, and all other property belonging to
the government (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 254). Secretary of State Seward
encouraged Lincoln to soften his tone, however, and persuaded him to delete in
the final text the reference to reclaiming federal property already seized (Basler,
1953, Vol. 4, p. 254). The President thus read in his inaugural address that
All the power at my disposal will be used to hold, occupy and possess the
property and places belonging to the government and to collect the duties on
imposts (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 254). Among other significant revisions
Lincoln incorporated into the text of the inaugural speech from trusted advisors
was the statement that there would be no invasion or using of force.. .beyond
what may be necessary for these objects (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 256).
The seriousness of the Presidents policy intentions became clear just a
few weeks after his inaugural speech when he authorized an expedition to
39


resupply South Carolinas Fort Sumter. Lincoln stood firmly by his decision,
hoping he would have strong Northern public support if Confederate troops
responded with an attack. When the South predictably countered, the President
authorized federal military retaliation by invoking the Commander-in-Chief
power of the armed forces as provided for in Article II, Section II of the the
United States Constitution. Here, the Constitution reads, The President shall
be Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States; and of the
militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United
States (U.S. Constitution, 1787, Article II, Section II).
The nations first true wartime President, Lincoln held a Jacksonian view
of the Presidency. He saw himself as the one designated representative of the
people who could rightfully assume expanded powers to preserve the nations
government during a time of national emergency (Nelson, 1989, p. 104). The
President justified his controversial use of wartime powers to a special session
of the U.S. Congress on July 4, 1861, shortly after the outbreak of the Civil
War. Included in the text of his address were these significant words:
Now it is insisted that Congress, and not the Executive, is
vested with this power. But the Constitution itself is silent as
to which, or who, is to exercise the power, and the provision
was plainly made for a dangerous emergency, it cannot be
believed, the framers of the instrument intended, that in every
case, the danger should run its course, until Congress could be
called together; the very assembling of which might be
prevented, as was intended in this case, by the rebellion.
(Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, pp. 430-431)
As the dramatic events of the Civil War unfolded, the President, over
time, emerged a fine military strategist This was largely attributable to the great
frustration he felt over the slowness of the war, especially over Union troop
movements under the command of General George McClellan. Lincolns
impatience with the hesitant-to-fight General consequently led him to study
troop fortifications and interfere in areas in which a President had not been
40


traditionally involved (Cardinale, 1980, p. 194). In the effort to encourage
Union military advancements and battle victories during the first three years of
the war, Lincoln performed many of the military functions that today would
normally be handled by the joint chiefs of staff (Cardinale, 1980, p. 194).
Lincolns Ideology on Slavery and Democratic Principles
A significant aspect of Abraham Lincolns political ideology are his views
on some of the primary public issues which affected his Administration. The
policy controversy with which the Sixteenth President is most commonly linked
is that of slavery. Lincolns attitudes toward slavery and race before 1848 are
murky and lack clarity. Although he made some known references to his
sympathy for slaves during this period, it was during the 1850s, particularly
during the 1858 debates with Stephen A. Douglas, that his position became
clearly defined.
Lincoln launched his famed Illinois senatorial campaign against Douglas
when he accepted the Republican nomination in his House Divided address at
Springfield, Illinois, on June 16,1858. In this speech, Lincoln metaphorically
referred to the Bible and made clear his ominous belief that resolution of the
question of slavery in the United States was forthcoming and inevitable. He felt
a crisis must come and be passed on the issue, and spoke in part these words:
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this
government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half
free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved I do not
expect the house to fall but I do expect it will cease to be
divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either
the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it,
and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it
is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it
forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as
well as new North as well as South. (Basler, 1953, Vol. 2,
pp. 461-462)
41


Lincolns condemnation of slavery throughout the 1850s prompted him
to become perceived by many listeners as a one-issue politician. His criticism
of the practice was based on several premises. Fundamentally, Lincoln felt
slavery was morally wrong. He best voiced this judgment in an 1858 campaign
speech whereupon he also criticized slavery from a political perspective.
Lincoln stated, I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I
hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the
world enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as
hypocrites (Basler, 1953, Vol. 2, p. 492).
Despite the strong opposition to slavery Lincoln vocalized, in part due to
his party affiliation, he walked a careful tightrope on the issue. The caution he
exercised was particularly evident during his Senate campaign of 1858. On
several occasions Lincoln made efforts to reassure voters of his moderate
position, and went so far as to say during his fourth debate with Douglas at
Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858, [that] I am not, nor ever have
been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of
the white and black races that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making
voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to
intermarry with white people (Basler, 1953, Vol. 3, pp. 145-146). It was
Lincolns belief that blacks were inferior to whites only to the extent that they
were systematically oppressed and lacked the same opportunities of whites.
Focusing more sharply on Lincolns ideological view of slavery, as
President, it was his belief that the nations founding fathers reluctantly
accepted slavery as a Southern institution when they recognized its existence
and validated its perpetuation with the three-fifths compromise at the
Constitutional convention in 1787. Lincoln felt that the nations founding
documents (Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and U.S Constitution)
were complex, varied, contradictory and human initiatives. Although he
admitted the founders legitimated the practice of slavery, the President held that
42


the Constitutional recognition of slavery by no means meant that the founders
approved of an institution that excluded a whole race from the principles
outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln also believed many of the
nations founders including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were
tied to slavery economically but were personally morally and politically opposed
to it. Life as they knew it in the South seemed inconceivable without slaves,
but all hoped for a day when slaves could be freed and returned to Africa or
colonized elsewhere.
Lincolns commentary on this issue itself better summarizes his ideology.
Though predating his presidency, Lincoln made the following important related
statements in a June 26,1857, speech in Springfield, Illinois:
I think the authors of that notable instrument [Declaration of
Independence] intended to include all men, but they did not
intend to declare all men equal in all respects.
They did not mean to say that all were equal in color, size,
intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined
with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider
all men equal equal in certain, inalienable rights, among
which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This they
said and this they meant
They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were
then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet that they were
about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no
power to confer such a boon.
They simply meant to declare the right, so that the enforcement
of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.
They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which
should be familiar to all and revered by all; constantly looked
to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly
attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly
spreading and deepening its influence and augmenting the
happiness and value of life to people of all colors everywhere.
43


The assertion that all men are created equal was of no
practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and
it was placed in the Declaration not for that, but for future use.
Its authors meant it to be, thank God for it is now proving
itself, a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek
to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism.
The knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and
they meant when such should reappear in this fair land and
commence their vocation they should find left for them at least
one hard nut to crack. (Basler, 1953, Vol. 2, pp. 405-406)
Lincolns preceding words not only reveal his criticism of slavery as
being in direct conflict with the ideals of democracy, but also partially reveal his
logic in extending the text of the founding charters in their broadest possible
terms to blacks.
Although Lincoln thus disapproved of slavery on the nations founding
principles, his primary professed goal throughout his term as President was to
keep the Union intact and to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Lincolns
exceptionally strong commitment to the Union was, to a great extent, rooted in
his fear that a successful Confederacy would mean the destruction of a unique
Union which had an important exemplary role to play in the global community
(Current, 1967, p. xv). These beliefs are best revealed in his July 4, 1861,
address to the U.S. Congress in which he denounced the Confederacy as the
aggressors in the Civil War conflict and defended his enactment of war powers.
The President stated:
And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United
States. It presents to the whole family of man, the question,
whether a constitutional republic, or a democracy a
government of the people, by the same people can, or
cannot, maintain its territorial integrity, against its own
domestic foes. It presents the question, whether discontinued
individuals, too few in numbers to control administration,
according to organic law, in any case, can always, upon the
pretences made in this case, or on any other pretences, or
arbitrarily, without any pretence, break up their Government,
44


and thus practically put an end to free government upon the
earth. It forces us to ask: Is there, in all republics, this
inherent, and fatal weakness? Must a government, of
necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or
too weak to maintain its own existence? (Basler, 1953, Vol.
4, p. 426)
The President also asserted the following relative contention later in the address:
Our popular government has often been called an experiment.
Two points in it, our people have already settled the
successful establishing, and the successful administering of it.
One still remains its successful maintenance against a
formidable attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to
demonstrate to the world, that those who can fairly carry an
election, can also suppress a rebellion that ballots are the
rightful, and peaceful, successors of bullets; and that when
ballots have fairly, and constitutionally, decided, there can be
no successful appeal, back to bullets; that there can be no
successful appeal, except to ballots themselves, at succeeding
elections. (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 429)
Clearly the preservation of the federation of states was the one issue
which superceded all others, including slavery, for the President. Lincolns
primary concern for the Union was continuously evident, but never more so
than in his words in an August 1862 written reply to New York Tribune Editor
Horace Greeley who had criticized the Administrations policy in a stinging
editorial on July 25, 1862. Lincolns response to Greeley included these key
words:
As to the policy I seem to be pursuing as you say, I have not
meant to leave anyone in doubt -1 would save the Union. I
would save it the shortest way under the Constitution.. .My
paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is
not either to save or destroy slavery If I could save the Union
without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it
by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by
freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that -
What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I
believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forebear, I
forebear because I do not believe it would help save the Union
-1 shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts
45


the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing
more will help the cause. (Homer, 1953, p. 144)
Although many during and since his own time questioned the Presidents
pursuit of a formal wartime policy, Lincoln practiced an effective situational
management strategy throughout his term of office. Because each conflict the
President encountered posed a unique challenge, he handled each one as it
came. Lincolns basic philosophy of management as the nations chief
executive was, I have simply tried to do what seemed best each day, as each
day came (Cardinale, 1980, p. 3). Further bearing on his practical strategy, on
one other occasion Lincoln remarked, I claim not to have controlled events, but
confess plainly that events have controlled me (Basler, Vol. 7, p. 282). He
refused to become doctrinaire in his resolution of conflicts. To better
accommodate this approach, the President did not maintain a tightly organized
schedule.
Testament to the effectiveness of Lincolns situational management
approach, the Emancipation Proclamation of September 1862 which freed the
slaves was carefully developed and timed by the President as a military measure
intended to pressure the South to negotiate a formal peace (Parish, 1975, pp.
248-249). It was only after the Confederate governments failure to respond
during a three-month grace period allowance that the Proclamation took effect
on January 1, 1863 (Davis, 1982, p. 287). Prior to the time of the
Proclamations enactment during two years of bitter military conflict between
the North and South, the President tolerated slavery where it existed for at least
three reasons. First, the U.S. Constitution gave the federal government no
power to proceed against slavery within the states (Current, 1967, p. xvi). In
some states, slavery was already well established at the time the Constitution
was adopted. These states would never had agreed to the new union had they
not had reason to believe that slavery would continue to be safe inside their
territories. Second, even if the federal government possessed the power to
46


abolish slavery, and even if that power could be exercised without danger to the
union, immediate abolition would potentially create more problems that it would
solve (Current, 1967, p. xvi). Freeing the slaves would immediately release
millions of people who, with little or no experience in making their own way,
would be handicapped by widespread prejudice. Third, Lincoln felt there was
no need to take action against slavery, for the institution would eventually die of
its own weight if it were confined to the Southern states (Current, 1967, p.
xvi).
At the time of his inaugural in March 1861, Lincoln believed that slaves
would be kept as underlings in American society or they needed to be made
fully equal. Both alternatives seemed impossible in his view and in the white
perspective just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Lincoln thus favored a
plan of gradual, compensated emancipation with the consent of slave owners,
stretching over a generation or more to minimize labor and social disorder
(Basler, 1953, Vol. 5, p. 317). In his own words, Lincoln said that he wanted
to stand on middle ground, avoid dangerous extremes, and achieve his
goals through the spirit of compromise. .[and] of mutual concession
(McPherson, 1991, p. 23). Until late in the war when he realized it was
unrealistic, the President supported a plan to resettle Americas black population
outside the United States in Africa, the West Indies or Central America where
their color would be no bar to their future success (Parish, 1975, p. 239). By
the end of the war, the President abandoned the idea of resettling freed slaves
outside the United States. He accepted the reality that Negroes, as a matter of
justice as well as practicality, must be allowed to remain in this land and given
equal access to education and opportunities for self-support, and assimilated
completely into American society.
Although Lincoln presided over a nation split by war and differing
perceptions of slavery and democracy, his confidence in the democratic process
during the war period never waned. What did democracy mean to the Sixteenth
47


President? It was Lincolns ideological conviction that all men are created equal
in the sense that all are endowed with the same rights to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. Government exists to secure these rights, and when it
fails to do so, the people may alter or abolish it The majority must rule, though
always with due regard to the rights of minorities (Current, 1967, p. xiii).
Along with free government, Lincoln felt there must exist free institutions of
other kinds promoting the advancement for men of industry, enterprise, and
intelligence. A fluid society must be maintained in which the worker can rise to
become an independent enterpriser or a capitalist, with his own employees who,
in turn, will have an opportunity to rise according to their merits. This
philosophy was voiced in part by Lincoln in a fragmentary reference note for a
campaign speech he gave on September 17, 1859, at Cincinnati, Ohio. Here,
he wrote, There is no permanent class of hired laborers amongst us. Twenty-
five years ago, I was a hired laborer. The hired laborer of yesterday labors on
his own account to-day [sic] and will hire others to labor for him to-morrow
[sic]. Advancement improvement in condition is the order of things in a
society of equals (Basler, 1953, Vol. 3, p. 462). According to Lincoln, free
labor insists on universal education (Basler, 1953, Vol. 3, p. 462). There
must be no favored, aristocratic, elite educated class who, as superior beings
lord it over the rest. Rather, the spread of literacy and learning must abolish
slavery of the mind and establish freedom of thought (Current, 1967, p. xiv).
Through science and invention, men will make life more abundant and pleasant,
thereby assisting in the general pursuit of happiness. Free men can improve
both the individual and society.
What was Lincolns ideological view of the purpose of government? In
his own words, from a note fragment dated July 1,1854, Lincoln penned, The
legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever
they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for
themselves, in their separate and individual capacities. In all that the people can
individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere
48


(Basler, 1953, Vol. 2, p. 221). What private groups could not accomplish,
Lincoln felt the government should undertake. The state governments should
do what they can to provide schools, improve transportation, regulate interest
rates, etc. The federal government should finance those improvements which
are too costly for the states. Lincoln thus favored a strong and active
government which would promote social progress and economic prosperity
(Current, 1967, p. xv).
While considering Lincolns ideological perceptions of the principles and
benefits of democratic government, his thoughts on the concept of liberty
deserve mention. Insightful is this excerpt from a speech the President
delivered on April 18,1864, at a Sanitary Fair in Baltimore, Maryland. There,
Lincoln voiced his perceived lack of societal examples of true liberty in history,
while he contrasted the difference of ideologies between the North and South on
the principle itself. The President remarked:
The world has never had a good definition of liberty, and the
American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all
declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all
mean the same thing.
With some, the word liberty may mean for each man to do as
he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor, while
with others the same word may mean for some men to do as
they please with other men, and the product of other mens
labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible
things, called by the same name liberty. And it follows that
each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two
different and incompatible things liberty and tyranny.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheeps throat, for
which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the
wolf denounces him for the same act, as the destroyer of
liberty, especially if the sheep was a black one. Plainly the
sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the
word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today
among us human creatures. (Basler, 1953, Vol. 7, pp. 301-
302)
49


Finally, it is significant to consider Lincolns perception of politicians.
Lincoln once gave his somewhat cynical definition of politicians in a speech to
the Illinois legislature on January 11,1837. Not exempting himself, he defined
them as, A set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people
and who, to say the most of them, are taken as a mass, at least one long step
removed from honest men. I say this with the greater freedom because, being a
politician myself, none can regard it as personal (Basler, 1953, Vol. 1, pp. 65-
66). Although Lincoln made this statement perhaps half in jest early in his
career, there is evidence that his distrust of politicians continued. On at least
one other occasion he voiced a similar sentiment. At Lawrenceburg, Indiana,
while enroute to his first inaugural in February 1861, the President-elect said,
If the politicians and leaders of parties were as true as the people, there would
be little fear that the peace of the country would be disturbed (Basler, 1953,
Vol. 4, p. 197). To the degree that Lincoln may of remained suspicious of
politicians motives, he always remained a proponent of strong leadership. On
February 17, 1864, he wrote these words in a letter to William M. Fishback,
Some single mind must be master, else there will be no agreement in anything
(Kemer, 1965, p. 150).
Conclusion /Evaluation
A man of principle, deep conviction and settled purpose, Abraham
Lincoln was, of course, a politician. In his efforts to gain and hold political
power, Lincoln sometimes made statements that seem inconsistent or
contradictory. For example, while campaigning against Douglas for a seat in
the U.S. Senate in 1858, he spoke somewhat differently to anti-slavery
audiences in northern Illinois and to pro-South audiences in the southern part of
the state. In Chicago, he emphasized the idea that all men are created equal, but
at Charleston, stressed his opposition to bring about the equality of white and
black races. At times, Lincoln, as President, also appeared to drift along with
50


public opinion rather than directing and leading it. After all, he once said, I
claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have
controlled me (Basler, 1953, Vol. 7, p. 282).
Though Lincoln was a politician, he was not a political theorist of
philosopher. He did not widely read the theoretical literature available to him.
According to his law partner, William Herndon, Lincoln particularly liked the
essays of John Stuart Mill, especially On Liberty, but he considered the works
of Herbert Spencer and Charles Darwin entirely too heavy for an ordinary
mind to digest (Current, 1967, p. xxix). Self-educated, Lincoln instead
preferred to acquaint himself thoroughly with the Bible and with the plays of
William Shakespeare. He studied textbooks on the history of the United States,
he read and reread Parson Weems Life of Washington, and familiarized
himself with the writings of American statesmen, particularly Thomas
Jefferson, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Above all, he mastered those
classic instruments forming the foundation of the American political faith the
Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Undoubtedly, these
readings combined profoundly influenced the formation of his political
ideology.
Lincolns genius lay not in theorizing about government, but rather in
taking familiar ideas and giving them new life and vigor, by applying them
through practical politics and expressing them inspiringly. He originated no
philosophy of politics, and never took the time to work out and write down a
systematic statement of his views on society and politics (Current, 1967, p.
xxx). Fortunately, however, many important elements of Lincolns ideology
can be explored by perusing the words of his political speeches and state
papers, his many letters, the several lectures he delivered and fragmentary notes
he jotted on scrap paper.
51


The investigation of Lincolns political ideology poses a serious challenge
for any scholar. The topic is vast, aspects of which deserve much deeper
exploration their own right. In selection of excerpts from Lincolns speeches
and other correspondence, the aim herein has been not to reflect on Lincolns
personal and political life as a whole, but simply to reveal, directly or indirectly,
the way he thought about the persisting issues of American democracy, and to
provide glimpses as to how he applied his ideological views to the controversies
of his time. Chapter Three carries Lincolns political ideological beliefs a step
further by revealing its relationship to the situational leadership strategies he
employed in conflicts with three key members of his cabinet.
52


CHAPTER THREE
PRESIDENT LINCOLNS
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
AND RESOLUTION STRATEGIES
WITH SELECTED CABINET OFFICIALS
During his tenure as Sixteenth President of the United States (1861-
1865), Abraham Lincoln worked closely with many advisers. The most
important of these individuals were the fifteen officials who comprised his
cabinet circle.
By its very nature, the executive cabinet experiences conflict as
administration policies are formed and implemented. Respectively, the purpose
of this chapter is to evaluate the conflict management and resolution strategies of
President Lincoln in dealing with three cabinet officials with whom he
experienced significant conflicts. These individuals include: Simon Cameron,
Secretary of War (1861-1862), Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury
(1861-1864), and William H. Seward, Secretary of State (1961-1869). These
officials have been selected for study because of their primary importance to the
policies set forth during the Lincoln Administration. In each of the related
conflicts presented, the following elements are investigated: (1) the nature of
the conflict, (2) the source of the conflict, (3) the Presidents resolution
strategy, (4) the Presidents involvement of others in resolution of the conflict,
and (5) the perceived successes and failures of Lincolns actions.
53


Conflicts with Simon Cameron.
Secretary of War (1861-1862)
First Conflict
The most difficult appointment for President-elect Lincoln to make to
make to his original cabinet was Simon Cameron as Secretary of War.
Cameron was a rich, dominating, behind-the-scenes wire puller to whom
politics had been a profitable business (Arnold, 1909, p. 37). Of Pennsylvania,
Cameron was a four-time U.S. Senator and a powerful figure for decades in his
states political hierarchy. Camerons strong political influence enabled him to
control a significant voting faction in Pennsylvania at the time of the election of
1860. Because of this influence, Lincolns campaign manager, David Davis,
promised Cameron a cabinet post in exchange for his delegations support of
Lincoln at the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago, Illinois (Thomas, 1952,
p. 234). Lincoln was not informed of the promise until after his election to the
presidency (King, 1960, pp. 163-165).
The continuously tense working relationship Lincoln and Cameron shared
actually began prior to Camerons selection for a cabinet post. As President-
elect, Lincoln was hesitant to appoint Cameron to a cabinet portfolio because
some of the descriptions he had heard about Cameron from prominent
Republicans implied an untrustworthiness of character, a lack of faithfulness to
his spoken word, and a tendency to sacrifice principles in the pursuit of
personal aims (Hendrick, 1965, p. 52). Lincoln was not the only president
who developed this unscrupulous perception. Cameron was also known to
Andrew Jackson, James Polk, and James Buchanan, all of whom recorded
unflattering views of his character (Hendrick, 1965, p. 51).
54


It is significant to note that Camerons unsavory reputation was best
known inside his own state. Following his election to the presidency, Lincoln
was so impressed by opposition to Camerons appointment from leading party
politicians that he reconsidered Davis pledge to appoint Cameron to a cabinet
portfolio. This reversal in Lincolns decision occurred just after Camerons
visit to Springfield, Illinois, in December, 1860, to confer with Lincoln, and
after Lincolns correspondence of December 31,1860, in which he wrote that at
the promised time, and with Camerons permission, he would nominate him for
either Secretary of the Treasury or Secretary of War (Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, pp.
165-67).
Lincolns decision to withdraw his offer of a cabinet post for Cameron
largely resulted from two developments. First, on January 3, 1861, Alexander
K. McClure, Pennsylvania state chairman of the Republican committee and
Philadelphia editor, met with Lincoln in Springfield to convince him to
withdraw the offer of a post for Cameron due to past allegations involving
bribery and corruption. During the meeting, Lincoln demanded that McClure
specify the charges against Cameron. Lincoln made careful note of these
charges and told McClure that he and his colleagues must prove them. Before
he left Springfield, McClure wrote in reply to Lincoln, If then you throw upon
us the disagreeable duty of establishing his want of personal and political
integrity, it will be done with fearful fidelity (King, 1960, p. 165). Though
McClure and his group possessed solid evidence to back their charges, they
failed to defend their accusations, and a few weeks later, joined in requesting
Camerons appointment.
It is significant to note that prior to McClures departure from Springfield,
the President-elect wrote to Cameron on January 3 and stated that things had
developed which make it impossible to take him into the cabinet, and directly
suggested that Cameron reply by declining the appointment at once before
things change, and he could not honorably decline (Bradley, 1966, p. 169).
55


In the letter, Lincoln added, You will say this comes of an interview with
McClure; and this is partly, but not wholly true. The more potent part is
wholly outside of Pennsylvania; and yet I am not at liberty to specify it (King,
1960, p. 165). Here, Lincoln referred to a letter he had just received from U.S.
Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois which stated, The probable appointment of
Mr. Cameron meets with the decided opposition of our truest friends in the
Senate. There is an odor about Mr. C which would be very detrimental to your
administration as our best friends think. They say he has not the confidence of
the country. Not a Senator I have spoken with thinks well of such an
appointment (King, 1960, p. 166).
Upon receipt of the President-elects letter of January 3, 1861, Cameron
boldly ignored Lincolns request for a declination. He neither wired nor wrote
the reply the President-elect sought. Instead, he dispatched supporters to
besiege Lincoln with letters and personal visits. On January 13, 1861, the
President-elect wrote again to Cameron and expressed his regret for the January
3 letter. In this second letter, Lincoln assured Cameron he intended no
offense, and suggested not definitely that he might give him a cabinet
portfolio if he should make a cabinet appointment for Pennsylvania (Randall,
1945-55, Vol. 2, p. 66). Lincoln accompanied this second letter with a letter
pre-dated to his meeting with McClure on January 3, 1861, in which he
tactfully asked Cameron to relieve him from great embarrassment by
allowing him to recall the offer of a cabinet position (Randall, 1945-55, Vol.
2, p. 66).
Still, Lincoln didnt receive Camerons desired cooperation. Cameron
instead responded by leaking word of the possible offer to the press. The
question of Camerons appointment thus continued. When Salmon Chase was
appointed to head the Treasury in mid-February, only the War Department
portfolio remained vacant. It was only after the President-elect arrived in
Washington for his inauguration that he finally bowed to the pressure of the
56


pro-Cameron faction, and against his better judgment, named Cameron
Secretary of War the day following his inaugural (Bradley, 1966, p. 173). The
difficulties Lincoln encountered in Camerons appointment were certainly
ominous of more conflicts between the two men to come during the
Administration. Though Cameron served in Lincolns cabinet only ten months,
his actions in office caused great concerns for the President during the critical
first months of the Administration. In Henry Croces opinion, the Cameron
appointment was one of the worst political mistakes ever made by Abraham
Lincoln (Croce, 1968, p. 42).
Lincolns first conflict with Cameron has three sources: (1) Davis failure
to inform Lincoln of his promise to Cameron for a cabinet post in exchange for
Pennsylvanias support for Lincoln at the 1860 Republican convention, (2)
Camerons refusal to oblige Lincolns requests for a declination of a cabinet
post, and (3) value differences between Cameron and Lincoln over Camerons
worthiness for the post. The basic source of this conflict clearly from a lack of
communication between Lincoln and his campaign manager, David Davis.
Davis should have immediately informed Lincoln of his convention promise of
a cabinet position for Cameron. Even though Davis did not initiate this
communication, Lincoln had, nevertheless, given Davis consent to act and
speak for him at the convention, and he was therefore bound to honor pledges
made by Davis. The President-elects failure to persuade Cameron to decline
the appointment prompted him to later yield to political pressure and honor
Davis pledge. The underlying responsibility for negligence in this case must,
therefore, be attributed to Lincoln for not more thoroughly instructing or
investigating Davis actions at the Chicago Republican convention. Had
Lincoln better communicated with Davis or quickly admitted there had been a
mistake and refused to give Cameron a post, perhaps the conflict could have
been avoided. Consequently, as a result of the poor communication illustrated
in this case, Lincolns political honor was put to the test
57


The second source of this conflict was Camerons behavior. He
consistently refused to cooperate with Lincolns requests to decline a cabinet
position. Cameron was emotionally involved in the promise for a cabinet
appointment, and his pride was deeply wounded when Lincoln decided to
rescind the offer. The President-elect tried to appease Cameron by establishing
direct communication with him on at least two occasions. He sent Cameron a
letter on January 3,1861, asking him to decline the cabinet post. His plea was
unanswered and he received no feedback. Lincoln then sent a second letter
changing the tone of the request to a possible offer, thus again trying to
establish genuine authenticity with Cameron (Randall, 1945-55, Vol. 1, p.
266). This second attempt also proved unsuccessful. Lincoln eventually
compromised on Camerons appointment against his better judgment The third
source of this conflict involved a difference of values. Camerons perception of
his worthiness for the post was clearly much higher than that of the President-
elect.
In the effort to strategically resolve the pledge of an appointment for
Cameron, Lincoln pursued an unsuccessful win/win approach. He clearly
wanted both parties involved to be agreeable with the outcome of the crisis.
Lincoln therefore attempted to find a solution that would allow him to withdraw
the offer of cabinet position without causing embarrassment to himself or for
Cameron. To achieve success, however, both parties must agree on the final
solution. This could not be accomplished. Lincoln also largely preferred to
keep the involvement of other parties to a minimum. His written
correspondence with Cameron was kept strictly confidential until Camerons
decisions to disclose the text of the letters to personal supporters. Other
individuals clearly played key roles in impacting Lincolns decisionmaking
process in this conflict. David Davis, Alexander McClure and the other anti-
and pro-Cameron delegates were the primary individuals influencing Lincolns
decision concerning the appointment
58


In terms of the successes and failures of Lincolns actions in this conflict,
the President-elect was unsuccessful with the leadership strategies he employed.
Although Lincoln pursued a win/win strategy, the final outcome resulted in a
win/lose situation with Cameron the winner. The appointment of Simon
Cameron to the Lincoln Cabinet represents one of compromises the President
was compelled to make in his effort to weld together a geographically balanced
cabinet to solidify the Union (Hendrick, 1965, p. 261).
Second Conflict
With the outbreak of the Civil War on April 15, 1861, the ill-prepared
U.S. War Department was no more ready to fight than it was on March 4,
1861, the day of Lincolns inauguration (Croce, 1968, p. 73). Despite the
secession of eight Southern states following Lincolns election, there is little
evidence to show that the President and Cameron cooperated and strategized on
significantly strengthening the Union military prior to Lincolns decision to
resupply South Carolinas Fort Sumter on April 5,1861. Evidence does show,
however, that Cameron was active making self-interested business deals instead
of preparing for the possibility of war (Bradley, 1966, p. 87). The exact nature
of these charges are spelled out in a three-thousand page Congressional
document issued in 1862. Through his indirect self-profiting business dealings
during his tenure of office, Cameron was so successful that it is believed he
increased his personal fortune by nearly a million dollars (Hendrick, 1965, p.
262).
Under Camerons direction, the U.S. War Department was plagued with
inefficiency and corruption. The excesses grew so serious that by December
1861, Congressional legislators were giving fiery speeches calling out the
excesses and inefficiencies of the Department. Stories of the Secretarys
corruption and selfish interests were numerous. Cameron was most criticized
59


for appointing favored men to handle the purchasing of Union war supplies.
These personal appointees, mostly politicians and speculators by vocation,
often bypassed previously established regional purchasing coordinators and
arranged supply contracts without allowing for public bidding processes
(Hendrick, 1965, p. 264). The speculators would then sell their war contracts
to dealers who actually provided the goods while they pocketed large profits in
every case (Hendrick, 1965, p. 264).
The most outrageous of these controversial transactions involved the
purchases of horses for the Union military. Camerons appointed speculators
awarded contracts to political middlemen who, in turn, sublet them to
professional breeders and traders. As a result, the speculators made large
profits while the military got very poor horses (Hendrick, 1965, p. 264). In
one incident, under Camerons direct orders, a quartermaster authorized two
Pennsylvania contracts for the delivery of 1,000 cavalry horses to a regiment in
Louisville, Kentucky, at $117 per head. Appraisers said most of the horses
actually averaged thirty to forty dollars in value. Transportation costs amounted
to $10,000. Upon their arrival in Louisville, 485 horses were discarded as
diseased and worthless blind, ringboned, spavined, or afflicted with heaves
and glanders (Hendrick, 1965, pp. 264-265). In these two transactions alone,
the government lost nearly $50,000 (Bradley, 1966, p. 198). Other scandals
involved the purchase of inferior mules, food staples, uniforms, ammunition,
blankets and shoes. In most contract dealings, Cameron exhibited a strong
favoritism toward Pennsylvania suppliers.
This second conflict between Lincoln and Cameron, involving Camerons
unethical handling of government monies and contracts during the first ten
months of the Administration, is attributed to the following sources: (1) the
Presidents failures to confront Cameron on allegations of corruption and to
establish a sound code of ethical conduct with cabinet officials, (2) Camerons
unethical behavior by using his power to pursue self-interested business deals,
60


and (3) value differences between Lincoln and Cameron over personal conduct
in public office.
The Presidents failure to confront Cameron on the charges of
inefficiencies and corruption was clearly the primary reason for this conflict.
While the President focused on war strategy and asserting wartime executive
powers during the early days of the Administration, Cameron managed the War
Department without intervention or confrontation. The President should have
expressed his concerns about the evidence of corruption and mismanagement in
Camerons department earlier on. Second, the President should have
established a stronger code of ethics as guidelines for his cabinet officials. Had
he done this, perhaps the mounting allegations of Camerons corruption could
have been avoided. However, such action was not consistent with Lincolns
management philosophy. He allowed each cabinet member to work somewhat
autonomously and held each official responsible for his own conduct in office.
Camerons crafty behavior by pursuing self-interested business dealings
was clearly another primary factor in this conflict The President could have
acted quickly by dismissing the Secretary as an example to other cabinet
members to maintain high professional ethical standards. Lincoln was reluctant
to do this, however, in fear of jeopardizing vital Pennsylvanian support for the
Administration. Cameron was Pennsylvanias most influential politician.
Finally, value differences between Lincoln and Cameron contributed to this
conflict. Cameron appears to have felt that his involvement in politics should
result in personal gain for his Pennsylvania constituency, friends and for
himself.
To resolve this conflict with Cameron, the President invoked a
conservative strategy. It is probable that Lincoln preferred to dismiss or sharply
reprimand Cameron, but he also realized that he and the nation might suffer
major political consequences if the Administration lost the strategic support of
61


industrial giant Pennsylvania for the Union war effort (Hendrick, 1965, p.
232). Was this likely? Would Lincoln have really lost Pennsylvanias support
with Camerons dismissal? It is doubtful. Though Cameron was an influential
politician, he certainly had opponents in the state. Further, Cameron never
commanded any real support outside his own state (King, 1960, p. 135).
Instead, the President yielded, hoping Cameron would eventually bow to public
pressure and reform his ways or resign. Though Lincoln remained superficially
calm on the issue, he began to consider ways to remove Cameron from the
cabinet without jeopardizing the Secretarys and Pennsylvanias support. As
Lincolns concerns over Camerons inability to ethically handle the duties of
office mounted, he kept his concerns private to save the Administration and
Cameron from public embarrassment. Withdrawal and smoothing over the
problem was not necessarily the best approach for Lincoln to employ.
Consequently, Camerons continued tenure cost the government many
unnecessary thousands of dollars (Bradley, 1966, p. 89). In terms of success,
however, Lincolns resolution strategy of how to dismiss Cameron with
minimal friction proved ultimately successful. The Presidents successful
strategy will be examined in the third conflict study.
Third Conflict
As public and congressional outcries for his removal increased in mid- to
late 1861, Cameron became more sensitive to the criticism of excesses and
corruption in the War Department. Realizing that his days as Secretary of War
might be numbered, he attempted to reestablish his credibility by winning
influential and protective friends in the Administration. Cameron first aligned
himself with Seward, and then with Chase and the anti-slavery Radical
Republicans (Hendrick, 1965, p. 269). In December 1861, in a bold action to
win Radical Republican support, Cameron inserted into his annual report to
Congress a message advocating the emancipation of male slaves and their
62


eligibility as soldiers in the Union military (Thomas, 1952, p. 293). In this
attempt to dictate important government policy, Cameron did not consult the
President. His report was printed and distributed.
Shortly after the documents release, the President was informed of
Camerons policy advocation by a government printer. Lincoln responded
immediately by sending telegraph orders to recall all copies of the report.
Cameron was then instructed to delete the unauthorized passage. The original
report was destroyed and a revised edition released. Lincoln confronted
Cameron on the issue at the next cabinet meeting. In a quiet but firm tone, he
called his War Secretary to account, not only for the views expressed, but also
for his act of attempting to announce an Administration policy, a decision which
should be proclaimed only by the president (Hendrick, 1965, p. 275).
Cameron offered a weak defense. He was befriended in his appeal only by
Treasury Secretary Chase. The President, calling Cameron to account as an
example to others in the cabinet, made no further mention of the incident after
the session concluded (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 5, p. 122). Though
Lincoln decided against additional steps of reprimanding Cameron, he foresaw
that Camerons days as Secretary of War were coming to an end. The
Presidents treatment of the Secretary over the following month, however,
caused Cameron to believe Lincoln had decided to forget and forgive the
incident (Hendrick, 1965, p. 276).
This third conflict brought the Presidents frustration with Cameron to a
climax. Either he could keep Cameron in the cabinet and face continuing
charges of the War Departments inefficiency and corruption or possibly
jeopardize the support of the Union organizations in Pennsylvania by
dismissing Cameron. Without that support, the Republican party could have
suffered great damage (Hendrick, 1965, p. 232). The President thus continued
to look for ways to reassign or dismiss Cameron, and finally found a
convenient opportunity shortly after the release of Camerons 1861 War
63


Department annual report The Secretary began to vocalize that he was growing
weary of his responsibilities and hinted to the President that he would prefer the
less demanding duties of a foreign mission. In reply, Lincoln said nothing for
several weeks. He waited for a favorable moment when he could make the
change in such a way as to cause the least amount of friction. Suddenly, on
January 11,1862, the President wrote the following note to Cameron:
My Dear Sir: As you have more than once expressed a desire
for a change of position, I can now gratify you, consistently
with my view of the public interest. I therefore propose
nominating you to the Senate, next Monday, as Minister to
Russia. (Cardinale, 1980, p. 106)
The President accompanied this note with a private letter to Cameron in
which he expressed his high personal regard and confidence in Camerons
ability, patriotism and fidelity to public trust (Hendrick, 1965, p. 277). To
the uncertain extent to which Lincoln may have truly meant these words of
praise, this curious and controversial gesture has been interpreted by many
scholars as an attempt to ensure Camerons continuing support for the
Administration. Despite evidence of Camerons offense at being reassigned, he
nevertheless accepted Lincolns ministry appointment and resigned his cabinet
position on January 14, 1862.
The sources of this third conflict between Lincoln and his first Secretary
of War were: (1) the Presidents failure to convince cabinet officials that all
important Administration policy would be decided for himself, (2) Camerons
deliberate action to dictate important policy as a way to gain personal support
and support of a program the President was known to disfavor, (3) value
differences between Lincoln and Cameron over the authority of cabinet
officials. The President clearly clearly should have established with his cabinet
early on that important, controversial policies would be decided and announced
by himself. Camerons behavioral action in attempting to dictate an important
administration policy through his annual report was also a primary reason for
64


the crisis. Camerons different value perception of his own authority enabled
him to take the action of including advocation of the policy in his annual report.
Even as he privately preferred Camerons resignation at this time, the
President pursued a constructive strategy of building mutual trust with his
Secretary. This was evident in Lincolns lack of mention of the incident after
calling Cameron to account in front of other members of the cabinet. Lincoln
also spared causing Cameron great personal embarrassment. The President
thus resorted to compromise with Cameron as a strategy of resolution of this
conflict. Lincoln did not gain everything he sought, but neither did he
jeopardize the vital Pennsylvania support he needed by dismissing Cameron in
an unfavorable manner. The President clearly chose to pursue a win/win
strategy in his relationship with Cameron. Ironically, although the President
agreed in principle with Cameron in the right of the government to use
emancipated slaves for military service, Lincoln did not think the time had yet
arrived for implementation of this policy (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 5, p.
126). The President later favored and implemented this policy to bring a
quicker end to the war.
In this third conflict with Secretary Cameron, the President again chose to
keep the involvement of others to a minimum. Lincoln did choose, however, to
call Cameron to account for his action in front of other cabinet officials as an
example to others. In this incident, the President made it quite clear that the
power to dictate important government policy was reserved for himself.
Lincoln also deserves credit for asserting executive power in this instance by
directing that the text of Camerons report be changed. This was one of the few
occasions that the President interfered in the workings of the cabinet
departments when he perceived that a policy was inconsistent with the
Administrations goals. Lincolns resolution strategy with Cameron over the
release of Camerons annual report should therefore be judged as highly
successful. The President applied a creative win/win solution in his plan to call
65


Cameron to account, and then succeeded in removing the Secretary from office
in a timely manner which did not cause embarrassment to Cameron, the
Administration or to himself. The President also succeeded in his goal to
maintain Pennsylvanian support for the Republican party and the Union war
effort.
Summary
Lincolns position with his first Secretary of War was always a difficult
one. The Presidents chief problem in dealing with Cameron was establishing
effective communication. In each case, the cabinet post promise from Davis,
Camerons poor performance as Secretary of War, and Camerons attempt to
dictate important Administration policy, more communication should have
existed between the two men. Perhaps through more confrontation and
communication, these conflicts could have been minimized or avoided.
Lincolns situational management style becomes ever clearer in
relationship with Cameron. Though the President chose to compromise in his
relationship with Cameron, Lincolns leadership strategies proved ultimately
successful, even when overdue. The President had one main goal in all of his
conflict management strategies. His primary goal was to save the Union
(Thomas, 1952, p. 342). Through his actions with Cameron, Lincoln
maintained Pennsylvanias vital support while compromising one set of
problems (the possible loss of Pennsylvanian support pending Camerons
dismissal) for another set of issues (temporary tolerance of Camerons behavior
and the excessive wartime financial drain on the Treasury).
It is curious to note at this point that throughout the Administration, the
Presidents feelings toward Cameron remained very positive (Thomas, 1952, p.
295). Following Camerons dismissal, the two men maintained a mutually
66


supportive relationship. Cameron even remained one of the Presidents closest
confidants and acted as one of the earliest and most effective advocates of
Lincolns reelection to the presidency in 1864. Was their mutually supportive
designed to protect the Administration? To a great extent, this may be true.
Indeed, the President sought to preserve the integrity of his Administration.
The extent to which the President continued to publicly support Cameron
became most evident three or four months after the Secretarys dismissal when
a faction in the House of Representatives passed a resolution of censure
charging the former Secretary with having adopted, in certain transactions, a
policy highly injurious to the public service (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 5, p.
129). In reply, the President wrote a special protective message to the House of
Representatives explaining that the censured transactions occurred during the
early days of the war in a period of extreme crisis and that the acts in question
were not authorized by Cameron alone, but were also ordered by himself with
the full knowledge of his cabinet (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 5, p. 129).
The President was successful in curbing further congressional action. Here,
Lincolns protection of the Secretary who had caused the Administration great
embarrassment, once again illustrates Lincolns effective situational leadership
strategy.
Conflicts with Salmon P. Chase.
Secretary of the Treasury (1861-1864)
First Conflict
The most radical of Republicans in Lincolns Cabinet, Salmon Chase was
also the most irritating for the President until his fifth resignation attempt was
accepted in June 1864. Chase, an influential Ohio politician, possessed little
experience in financial affairs prior to his appointment to Secretary of the
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Treasury. His strategic representation of Ohio, coupled with his reputation for
honesty and strong administrative experience, were convincing factors in
Lincolns decision to appoint him to the cabinet portfolio (Croce, 1968, p. 38).
The President-elect knew little about the management of money and was willing
to let Chase devise his own methods to relieve the problem of debt and revenue
pending the outbreak of the Civil War (Croce, 1968, p. 70).
Chase, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860,
quickly accepted Lincolns offer of the Treasury appointment even though he
doubted Lincolns qualifications for office. Perhaps Chase was motivated in
part to influence the President toward a Radical Republican course in handling
the problems of secession and slavery, or sought to use the position as a
stepping stone to the presidency.
In the early days of the Administration, Chase was particularly critical of
the Presidents lack of cabinet organization and was further frustrated by the
lack of communication between cabinet departments (Nicolay and Hay, 1890,
Vol. 7, p. 255). As the Civil War progressed, Chase grew even more
embittered by feeling he had minimal input into formation of the
Administrations war policies. He voiced his frustrations on at least two
occasions. On May 30, 1861, Chase protested against a proposed call of
additional troops, complaining that in the cabinet meeting the President did not
give me a chance to express my views (Hart, 1969, p. 298). His frustration
was further evident in these words he stated in 1862, I am not responsible for
the management of the war and have no voice in it, except that I am not
forbidden to make suggestions (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. VII, p. 261).
Chases frustrations grew to include complaints about the greater
influence he perceived Secretary of State Seward wielded upon the President
According to cabinet colleague Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, an
intense rivalry between Chase and Seward thus developed as the war
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progressed (Welles, 1960, p. 139). It was Chases perception that Lincoln
settled too many conflicts based on the advise of Seward while his own
influence remained questionable. Chases resentment of Seward provides the
foundation for the first conflict to be investigated in the relationship between the
President and his first Treasury Secretary.
Sewards conservative resistance on the slavery issue prompted Chase to
vocalize criticisms of his colleague to fellow Radical Republicans in mid- to late
1862. Chases dissatisfaction with Seward became well-known and attracted
enough attention in the U.S. Senate that a Radical Republican caucus was called
to settle the matter (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 7, p. 264). On December 17,
1862, the caucus members voted unanimously, with one dissension, for the
dismissal of Seward and for the President to reconstruct his cabinet. A
committee was then appointed to present the decision to Lincoln. Before this
action was carried out, Senator Preston King of New York informed Secretary
Seward of the proceedings, and Seward offered his resignation to the President
(Blue, 1987, p. 192).
On the morning of Tuesday, December 19, 1862, a delegation of nine
Radical Republican Senators called upon Lincoln at the Executive Mansion to
present their resolution attacking Secretary Seward for his lukewarmness in the
conduct of affairs (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 7, p. 265). The conference
ended with the Presidents invitation for the committee to call again at the
Executive Mansion that same evening. Immediately thereafter, Lincoln
convened his cabinet and presented the matter. He assured the cabinet members
that he did not want any resignations because he could not afford to lose any of
them. The President then dismissed the cabinet by asking them, too, to return
to meet with him again that evening (Hendrick, 1965, p. 399).
As the President requested, the Radical Republican delegation and the
cabinet members, with Secretary Seward absent, reconvened that evening.
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Each party was greatly surprised to find the other present (Nicolay and Hay,
1890, Vol. 7, p. 265). The President was determined to have a frank
discussion with all involved to best prevent any future misunderstandings.
While gathered, Lincolns cabinet members defended their group, including
absent Seward. Chase thus found himself placed in an awkward position.
Summoned by the President to speak before both groups to the controversy at
hand, he naturally felt the embarrassment of the situation he instigated. He
could not join the nine Senators in their attack upon the Administration, and he
could not defend his colleague Seward in the presence of the Senators, to whom
he had spoken so unfavorably (Blue, 1987, p. 193). Chase responded by
strongly protesting against the circumstance in which he was placed and said he
would not have come if he had expected to be arraigned (Nicolay and Hay,
1890, Vol. 7, p. 265). Throughout the meeting, Lincoln maintained a cordial,
yet firm tone. He left no doubt for those present that he regarded the cabinet as
his own responsibility and that he was not disposed to submit to a senatorial
dictation of its composition (Thomas, 1952, p. 354). The meeting adjourned at
midnight after a four-hour session.
The next morning, December 20, 1862, Secretary Chase called upon
Lincoln and expressed his concerns over the events of the previous night. He
then offered the President his resignation. Where is it? asked Lincoln. Chase
hesitantly took the letter from his pocket and gave it to the President. Lincoln
opened the seal, scanned the letter and smiled (Thomas, 1952, p. 354).
Holding both the resignations of Secretaries Seward and Chase, Lincoln was in
a power position to inform the Radical Republican caucus that if Secretary
Seward was dismissed, Chase must go, too. The President then responded by
sending Chase and Seward identical notes stating that the public interest forbade
his acceptance of their resignations and asked each man to resume his duties of
office (Van Deusen, 1967, p. 211).
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In analysis of Chases three letters written to the President during the
three days following the December 19, 1862 meeting between the cabinet and
senatorial delegation, it is evident that Chase expected that more attention would
thenceforward be given to his own opinions, and to those of his colleagues, by
the President. In the first letter, dated December 20, 1862, Chase resigned
without any suggestion of reasons. When the President immediately replied to
Chase [and Seward] that the public interest did not allow him to accept their
resignations, Seward cheerfully resumed the duties of his office. Chase,
however, with wounded pride, held out on the grounds that being once
honorably out of the cabinet, no important public interest now requires my
return to it (Hart, 1969, p. 303). On December 22,1862, Chase sent a second
letter to Lincoln stating that he had been led to the conclusion that I ought in
this matter to conform my action to your judgment and wishes (Hart, 1969, p.
303). With his second letter, Chase included a third letter, written two days
beforehand, in which he indicated his strong dissatisfaction with the cabinets
role and organization. Chase stated, I could not, if I would, conceal from
myself that recent events have too rudely jostled the unity of your cabinet, and
disclosed an opinion too deeply seated and too generally received in Congress
and in the country, to be disregarded, that the concord in judgment and action,
essential for successful administration, does not prevail among its members
(Hart, 1969, p. 203). Although it cannot be proven, it is probable that Chase
expected Seward to join him in making some definite terms with the President
to diffuse the crisis. When he was informed that Seward had withdrawn his
resignation, however, he speedily rejoined the cabinet and resumed the duties of
office (Thomas, 1952, p. 354).
There are three underlying sources of this first conflict between Secretary
Chase and President Lincoln. Factors include: (1) Chases misperception of
Sewards true influence on the President, (2) Lincolns and Chases value
differences on the role of the cabinet and extent of Chases authority, and (3)
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Chases efforts to oust Seward from the cabinet through Radical Republican
support.
Secretary Chase clearly overestimated the influence of Seward on the
President (Cardinale, 1980, p. 173). However, his perception of Sewards
influence on Lincoln was shared by many political contemporaries during the
Administration. Chase was determined to end Sewards influence through
Radical Republican intervention. Value differences between Lincoln and Chase
over the role of the cabinet and Chases authority also contributed to this
conflict. Whereas Chase felt somewhat excluded from the Administrations
wartime policy development, he somewhat opposed the Presidents right to
make final decisions for himself. Finally, this conflict resulted from a
behavioral action. Chase spoke unfavorably of Secretary of State Seward to
influential Radical Republican contemporaries in the effort to gain their
assistance in removing Seward from the cabinet.
To resolve this crisis, the President invoked a successful win/win strategy
involving confrontation, direct feedback and teambuilding intervention by
bringing the cabinet and Radical Republican delegation together. Lincolns
successful resolution strategy in this incident sheds further light on his effective
situational leadership style. This crisis clearly posed a serious challenge to
Lincolns leadership skills. He was faced with the possibility of reorganizing
the cabinet at the discretion of the Radical Republicans, or to resolve the matter
in another way more suitable to him. The President accomplished as he set out
to do. The involvement of others was necessary and important in the resolution
of this conflict The Radical Republican caucus and entire cabinet were utilized
to resolve the conflict with Lincoln serving as mediator.
The Presidents resolution strategy in this conflict should be regarded as
highly successful. First, he maintained the critical geographical and factional
party balance of his cabinet. Secretary Sewards and/or Chases resignation
72


could have destroyed the delicate cabinet balance which existed at the time.
Second, the President retained the talents and support of two men who were
important resources to his Administration. These men played important roles
throughout the Union war effort. Third, Lincoln emerged with enhanced
prestige as a powerful President through his clever resolution of the crisis. His
crafty assertion of authority allowed him to prevail over Secretaries Chase and
Seward and the Radical Republicans of the U.S. Senate.
To the extent that the President was successful in quickly resolving this
conflict, he did experience failures. Lincolns relationship with Chase
continued to suffer. The best response for the President at this time might have
been to establish a climate of mutual trust and improved communication
channels with Chase. This did not occur. Although the immediate crisis was
resolved, the stormy relationship between Lincoln and Chase continued until
Chases fifth and final resignation attempt in June 1864. The grounds of
Chases final resignation attempt forms the second conflict to be investigated.
Second Conflict
Chases first attempt to resign following his embarrassing effort to oust
Seward from the Cabinet was succeeded by four other threats before his final
resignation was accepted by the President in June 1864. In each instance, it is
probable that Chase resorted to resignation as a strategy to win his own way in
disputes with the President. In part, he was successful. Lincoln compromised
with Chase in each instance to keep him in the Cabinet
Shortly after the 1864 Republican convention in Baltimore, Maryland,
renominated Lincoln for a second term, the President and Secretary Chase
reached a breaking point in their strained relationship. Chase, perhaps
embittered over his failure to win the 1864 Republican nomination against
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Lincoln, was further stressed by the depletion of conventional financial sources
for the national government in the darkest days of the war. With his mind and
temper sorely tested, the Secretary grew increasingly reluctant to obey the
Presidents requests concerning appointments in the Treasury Department.
Though both men were concerned with the honesty and competency of
appointees, Lincoln wished to respect the custom that Treasury officeholders
gain the approval of the Senators and Representatives of their respective state or
district prior to confirmation of an appointment. Chase was determined to make
his own appointments.
Early in 1864, Treasury appointments in New York City became the
subject of frequent dialogues between Chase and Lincoln. The President
received numerous complaints of inefficiency in the conduct of affairs in the
New York customshouse. He therefore believed that a change of officers
would be in the public interest (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 9, p. 85). On
June 6, 1864, the President called on Chase to remove employee Hiram
Barney. A few days later, employee John J. Cisco resigned his post as
assistant treasurer. Chase notified Lincoln that he would quickly designate a
successor. After several failures to secure a prominent New York financier for
the job, Chase then offered the position to Maunsell B. Field, Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury. The President, after informing the New York
Senators of the appointment, replied to Chase that I cannot, without much
embarrassment, make this appointment, principally because of Senator
Morgans very firm opposition to it (Thomas, 1952, p. 430). Morgan,
instead, suggested three other men for the position, and insisted to the President
that it was necessary to appoint a man who would reorganize the assistant
treasurers office and dismiss numerous clerks. Morgans request offended
Chase who felt personally assaulted. To resolve the matter, Lincoln suggested
a conference between Senator Morgan and Chase, and promised to appoint any
man upon who they could agree. In a defiant response to his suggestion, Chase
asked for a personal conference with Lincoln. The President denied Chases
74


request on the basis that the difficulty does not, in the main part, lie within the
range of a conversation with you (Hart, 1969, p. 316).
Chase is to be credited for resolving the crisis by persuading Cisco to
retain his post as assistant treasurer. The matter might have ended here, but
Chase then proceeded to submit a letter of resignation to the President. Angry,
he felt Lincoln had acted unwisely in declining his request for a meeting and
should be subjected to some discipline (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 9, p. 93).
Perhaps believing the President would back down as he had before, Chase
offered Lincoln his resignation which included these words:
I can not help feeling, that my position here is not altogether
agreeable to you; and it is certainly too full of embarrassment
and difficulty and painful responsibility, to allow in me the
least desire to retain it. I think it my duty, therefore, to enclose
to you my resignation. I shall regard it as a real relief if you
think proper to accept it, and will most cheerfully render to my
successor any aid he may find useful in entering upon his
duties. (Hart, 1969, p. 317)
The Presidents immediate acceptance of Chases resignation without
argument or confrontation was apparently unexpected by the Secretary. Chase
could hardly believe he had been replaced when informed by a messenger
during a June 30, 1864 meeting that Lincoln had submitted the name of a
successor, William Fessenden, to the U.S. Senate for confirmation. (Lincolns
first choice of a successor was former Ohio governor David Tod, who declined
the nomination due to ill health). Upon returning to his office at the Treasury
after the meeting, Chase found a letter from the President, with these words,
waiting for him:
Your resignation of the office of Secretary of the Treasury,
sent to me yesterday, is accepted. Of all I have said in
commendation of your ability and fidelity, I have nothing to
unsay; and yet you and I have reached a point of mutual
embarrassment in our official relation which it seems cannot
75


be overcome, or longer sustained, consistently with the
public service. (Thomas, 1952, p. 431).
As with his first four resignation attempts, there is evidence that Chases
final resignation attempt was yet another effort to win his way with the
President. Chases feelings of disappointment and anger are frankly recorded
in his diary. Still refusing to take responsibility for his differences with
Lincoln, Chase wrote, I had found a good deal of embarrassment from him but
what he found from me I could not imagine (Donald, 1954, p. 223). Self-
righteously, Chase suggested that his only crime had been his unwillingness to
have offices distributed as spoils or benefits with more regard to the claims of
divisions, factions, cliques and individuals than to fitness of selection (Donald,
1954, pp. 223-224). He went on to complain that the President had never
given him the support he needed on financial matters, failing even then to urge
Congress to provide the revenue to match its lavish appropriations. Chase,
unwilling to acknowledge that he had become a liability to the President, also
suggested that part of the problem was a difference in temperament (Donald,
1954, p. 224), for I have never been able to make a joke out of this war
(Donald, 1954, p. 224). The solemn Chase had never understood Lincolns
humor. In the next week, Chase continued to rationalize his own position and
in doing so defended himself on some of the real differences he had with the
President. One the issue of abolition, he contended, I am too earnest, too anti-
slavery (Donald, 1954, p. 228). Moreover, I was too much for going ahead;
he was. .too much for drifting (Donald, 1954, p. 228). Blind to his own
faults, Chase could not believe that his services were no longer regarded as
indispensable by the President. And so the stormy relationship between
Lincoln and Chase came to a close. Fessendens nomination was confirmed by
the Senate just a few days later.
Even as the President dismissed Chase from the Cabinet, it is significant
to note that Lincoln continued to value Chases abilities. At the time his
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resignation was tendered, Chase received some assurances that Lincoln
intended to appoint him to the Chief Justiceship of the U.S. Supreme Court
upon incumbent Roger B. Taneys death. Lincoln, upon naming Chase to the
high court seat in October 1864, reportedly said, Chase is about one and a half
times bigger than any other man I ever knew (Blue, 1987, p. x). Although
open to various interpretations, the Presidents statement was in all likelihood a
high complement to his former Secretary. Chase remained a supporter of the
Lincoln Administration and even campaigned for the Presidents reelection in
the fall of 1864.
This second conflict between Chase and Lincoln had the following
sources: (1) Chases stubborn insistence on having greater authority, (2) the
Presidents reluctance to compromise, and (3) Lincolns and Chases value
differences over the authority of cabinet officials. First, Chases behavior must
be attributed as the primary source of the conflict. He took offense at the
slightest words of disagreement, and if blocked in his aims, he threatened to
resign (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 9, p. 84). He attempted this on five
occasions during his tenure of office. Despite his manipulative attempts,
Second, the President must also be called to account for his reluctance to
compromise with Chase. An effort to improve communication on his part with
Chase, particularly by granting him a meeting, could have diffused this crisis.
Instead, the President chose to exert, perhaps rightfully, a course of strong
leadership. Must a President be forced to compromise with cabinet
subordinates? I am inclined to disagree on the basis that a cabinet secretary
works for the president. The third source of this conflict between the two men
were value differences. While the President wished to respect tradition by
gaining the approval of Treasury appointees by respective Senators, Chase felt
the appointments fell solely under his jurisdiction. The Presidents assertion of
preeminent authority clearly undermined the authority sought by Chase.
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To sum, the President invoked a clear win/lose strategy in resolution of
this conflict. Lincoln opted to respect the tradition of securing approval by local
Senators when appointing officials to a regional Treasury office. When Chase
did not comply and chose to give him the ultimatum of his resignation, the
President called his bluff and accepted his resignation on the premise that their
relationship had reached a point of mutual embarrassment. In resolution of this
crisis, the President once again kept the involvement of others to a minimum.
Summary
The relationship of Salmon Chase and Abraham Lincoln has been much
discussed and much misunderstood by scholars. Through both men at times
found his patience sorely tried by the other, the two apparently maintained a
genuine respect for each other despite their significant differences. Chase and
Lincoln were perhaps more nearly in accord in their judgment on significant
political questions than were any others in the cabinet council (Hart, 1969, p.
290). In the great questions of the Civil War, the two men shared the same
high commitment to preserving the Union. Unfortunately, they largely failed to
pull together in important political matters.
Lincolns and Chases ideological differences on the role of cabinet
officials and their authority was the primary cause of conflict throughout their
relationship. This difference of values was best voiced by Chase in September
1862, when he wrote these insightful words to New York Tribune Editor
Horace Greeley: It seems to me that in this government the President and his
cabinet ought to be well advised on all matters vital to the military and civil
administration; but each one of us, to use a presidential expression, turns his
own machine, with almost no comparison of views or consultation of any kind.
It seems to me all wrong and I have tried very hard to have it otherwise-
unavailingly (Hart, 1969, pp. 292-293).
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Chases criticisms must have certainly frustrated the President who gave
him great flexibility in overseeing Treasury matters. Yet the authority given to
him by the President was not enough for Chase. Perhaps Lincolns acceptance
of his resignation was thus the best solution when their working relationship
deteriorated in the summer of 1864. Chases confidence that he could
manipulate the President through the threat of resignation was bolstered by
correspondents across the country who assured him that Lincoln could not
afford to lose him. Chase also drew confidence from his successes in
overseeing one of the most important departments of the government Despite
the significant differences experienced between the President and his Treasury
Secretary, Chase nevertheless deserves praise for his significant contributions
to the Lincoln Administration and the Union war effort. He competently
secured financing of the enormous costs of war, and kept the Treasury on a
solid foundation until late in his tenure of office.
Conflict with William H. Seward
Secretary of State (1861-1869)
First Conflict
Lincolns strongest rival for the 1860 Republican nomination was William
H. Seward, ex-Govemor and Senator of New York. Upon accepting Lincolns
appointment to the traditional head position of the cabinet as Secretary of State,
Seward assumed that he would be premier of the Administration (Croce,
1968, p. 34).
Several factors contributed to Sewards confidence that he would wield
great influence on the President-elect. First, six of his predecessors were
eventually elected president, while several others prior to his appointment were
regarded as the prime ministers of the administrations for which they served
79


(Taylor, 1991, p. 138). Further, several presidents in the first half of the
nineteenth century deferred to politically prominent members of their cabinet.
John Quincy Adams had on occasion allowed policy to be set by his Secretary
of State, Henry Clay. Daniel Webster was generally regarded as the dominant
figure in the Fillmore Administration, and Jefferson Davis enjoyed similar
status in the Administration of Franklin Pierce (Taylor, 1991, p. 138).
Sewards confidence was also bolstered by many people across the nation
who looked to him for proven leadership following his appointment to
Lincolns cabinet. The letters he received during the early days of the
Administration reassured him of his potential importance. One such letter came
from a writer who identified himself only as a sincere friend. The unknown
author advised him that the Nation looks to you, under providence, for its
salvation. It is feared that Mr. L. is not equal to the emergency of the times
(Sewards letters cited in Taylor, 1991, p. 138). Frederick L. Roberts, a
Unionist in Eden ton, North Carolina, wrote in a similar tone, All eyes are
turned to Mr. Seward and not to Abraham Lincoln for a peaceful settlement.
Mr. Lincoln is looked upon as a third rate man, whilst you are called the Hector
or the Atlas of not only the Cabinet but. .of the whole North (Sewards
letters cited in Taylor, 1991, p. 139). Sewards political prestige at the time of
his appointment also crossed party lines. Edwards Pierrepont, a prominent
conservative Democrat from New York City, wrote to William Evarts, There is
no man of sense in the Democratic Party who does not think that Seward at the
head of the cabinet will give your party more strength, both North and South,
than any other man in the nation. There is but one opinion in this matter
(Taylor, 1991, p. 139).
Because of these reassurances, Seward thus came to see himself early on
as the great savior and peacemaker for the Lincoln Administration (Nicolay and
Hay, 1890, Vol. 3, p. 319). Ultimately it was this high degree of personal
confidence which led to the one significant conflict he experienced with
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President Lincoln during the course of the Administration. In this instance,
Seward, doubting Lincolns leadership abilities, submitted a memorandum
encouraging the President to turn Administration policy development over to
him. To facilitate better understanding of this conflict, it is important to
examine the events leading to the crisis.
During March 1861, the first month of the Lincoln Administration,
Secretary Seward was busy with various efforts. He advised the President on
staff appointments, wrote diplomatic notes, and carried on negotiations with a
team of Confederate commissioners who sought recognition for the Confederate
States of America (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 3, p. 444). Sewards most
important role at this time was to offer his solicited oral and written advice to the
President, as did all cabinet members, concerning the possible evacuation of
South Carolinas Fort Sumter. Cabinet discussions about resupplying the
garrison took place from March 5 through early April, 1861. As war threatened
during these anxious weeks, Seward successfully stalled Confederate
commissioners about federal intentions to protect federal properties in the South
with excuses of official appointments and problems related to his new duties at
the State Department (Van Deusen, 1967, p. 278).
On March 15, 1861, the President held one of several cabinet meetings
devoted largely to the Fort Sumter question. At the meeting, Seward voiced his
opposition to any relief expedition. He cited military reports that any mission
would be costly in terms of casualties without assuring success, and further
held that the North should not make the first offensive move which might
provoke war (Taylor, 1991, p. 148). To Seward, the fort was a useless
symbol of federal authority which he felt would fall to Southern assault as soon
as word leaked out that a federal relief expedition was on its way. Seward
further believed that military coercion would then drive the crucial border states
into the arms of the secessionists and civil war would make the chance for a
81


national reunion. .hopeless, at least under this Administration (Hendrick,
1965, p. 196).
At the March 15 meeting, the President polled his cabinet officials on their
positions on the Fort Sumter situation. The only clear votes in favor of
reinforcing the fort came from Secretaries Blair and Chase. Secretary Smith
waived while the rest of the members opposed a federal expedition (Van
Deusen, 1967, p. 278). The outcome of the poll convinced Seward that
Lincoln would not override his cabinet on this important matter. Seward was
thereupon confident enough the same day to reassure the Confederate
commissioners in Washington, without the Presidents knowledge, that Fort
Sumter would be evacuated within a few days. Seward reassured the
commissioners again of an impending withdrawal just a few days later on
March 21, 1861 (Taylor, 1991, p. 149).
Days passed and the Fort Sumter situation continued without action.
Meanwhile, Seward grew increasingly frustrated with the President because
dramatic decisions on Lincolns part about Fort Sumter were lacking (Van
Deusen, 1967, p. 280). He felt Lincolns inexperience caused him to vacillate
and demonstrate weakness by pursuing a path of indecisiveness and inaction.
He therefore questioned whether the President really had a policy of dealing
with the seceded states. Seward was not alone in this perception. Public
opinion seemed to agree. During March 1861, the best that the New York
Times could do was to sum up Lincolns policy as one of masterly inactivity
(Taylor, 1991, p. 148), while other Northern newspapers printed such
headlines as Have We a Government?, and, Wanted A Policy! (Taylor,
1991, p. 148).
However Seward perceived the Presidents pursuit of a policy at the time,
Lincoln did remain somewhat undecided about the Fort Sumter question. Yet
the President was gradually coming to the conclusion that he must assert federal
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authority or lose the confidence of Unionists, both in the North and the South.
In his inaugural address, Lincoln promised to defend federal property. Prior to
giving the speech, the President-elect adopted several of Sewards suggested
revisions to the text including those to the statement in its final form, All the
power at my disposal will be used to hold, occupy and possess property and
places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties on imposts
(Basler, 1953, Vol. 4, p. 254). Lincoln, though slow in making a decision on
the matter, fully realized the possible evacuation of Fort Sumter was an
improper way for him to uphold his inaugural pledge.
On March 29,1861, the President held another special cabinet session in
order to discuss a memorandum received from General Winfield Scott which
urged the immediate evacuation of Fort Sumter. In the Generals words, The
evacuation.. .would instantly soothe and give confidence to the eight remaining
slave-holding states, and render their cordial adherence to this Union perpetual
(McPherson, 1988, p. 269). At this emergency session, Lincoln polled the
cabinet again. This time the result was dramatically different than at the March
15,1861, session. Secretaries Seward and Smith were now the only ones who
opposed resupplying Fort Sumter. Secretaries Blair, Chase and Welles were in
favor of holding on to the fort, while Bates equivocated and Camerons view
went unrecorded (Taylor, 1991, p. 154).
Though the President refrained from taking immediate action, he did send
several special envoys to Charleston to appraise the situation. With the outcome
of the March 29, 1861, meeting, Sewards hope quickly began to fade.
Perhaps predicting the President would soon send a relief expedition to the fort,
Seward became increasingly desperate to honor his promise of evacuation to the
Confederate commissioners. He therefore found it appropriate to offer his own
plan of action to the President.
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On the morning of April 1, 1861, Seward forwarded a memorandum to
Lincoln entitled, Some thoughts for the Presidents consideration. The
Secretarys primary objective was clearly to persuade the President to abandon
Fort Sumter while preserving his own credibility. The memorandum read as
follows:
Some thoughts for the Presidents consideration:
April 1, 1861.
First. We are at the end of a months administration and yet
without a policy, either domestic or foreign.
Second. This, however, is not culpable, and it has been
unavoidable. The presence of the Senate, with the need to
meet applications for patronage, have prevented attention to
other and more grave matters.
Third. But further delay to adopt and prosecute our policies
for both domestic and foreign affairs would not only bring
scandal on the Administration, but danger upon the country.
Fourth. To do this we must dismiss the applicants for office.
But how? I suggest that we make the local appointments
forwith, leaving foreign or general ones for ulterior and
occasional action.
Fifth. The policy at home. I am aware that my views are
singular, and perhaps not sufficiently explained. My system is
built upon this idea as a ruling one, namely that we must
change the question before the public from one upon Slavery
for a question upon Union or Disunion. In other words, from
what would be regarded as a Party question to one of
Patriotism or Union.
The occupation or evacuation of Fort Sumter, although not in
fact a slavery or party question, is so regarded. Witness the
temper manifested by the Republicans in the Free States, and
even by Union men in the South.
I would therefore terminate it as a safe means for changing the
issue. I deem it fortunate that the last Administration created
the necessity.
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For the rest, I would simultaneously defend and reinforce all
the Forts in the Gulf, and have the Navy recalled from foreign
stations to be prepared for a blockade. Put the Island of Key
West under Martial Law.
This will raise distinctly the question of Union or Disunion. I
would maintain every fort and possession in the South.
For Foreign Nations
I would demand explanations from Spain and France
categorically, at once.
I would seek explanations from Great Britain and Russia, and
send agents into Canada, Mexico, and Central America, to
rouse a vigorous continental spirit of independence on this
continent against European intervention, and if satisfactory
explanations are not received from Spain and France, would
convene Congress, and declare war against them.
But whatever policy we adopt, there must be an energetic
prosecution of it. For this purpose, it must be somebodys
business to pursue and direct it, incessantly.
Either the President must do it himself, and be all the while
active in it, or devolve it on some member of his Cabinet.
Once adopted, debate on it must end, and all agree, and abide.
It is not my special province; but I neither seek to evade, nor
assume, responsibility. (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 3, pp.
444-445)
Clearly Sewards memorandum gained the Presidents serious attention
for its bold introduction which stated the Administration, after a month in
office, was without a policy, either domestic or foreign (Nicolay and Hay,
1890, Vol. 3, pp. 444-445). Seward conceded in the document there were
extenuating circumstances complicating the Presidents pursuit of a policy, but
he felt the President was spending too much time on minor matters including
appointments. On domestic affairs, it is noteworthy that Seward encouraged
Lincoln to change the focus of the crisis from the partisan question of slavery to
an issue of national unity. Curiously, yet clearly as a result of his dialogues
with the Confederate commissioner delegation, Seward stated that even though
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Fort Sumter should be evacuated, all other federal forts in the South should be
reinforced.
The most controversial portion of the memorandum is the text dealing
with foreign relations. Seward took notice of concurrent ventures by France
and Spain in the Caribbean which violated the Monroe Doctrine. Spanish
forces had just annexed San Domingo, and by arrangement with France, were
moving to occupy neighboring Haiti (Van Deusen, 1967, p. 281). With these
developments, Seward urged that the President demand immediate explanations
from Spain and France for their actions. If satisfactory assurances were not
forthcoming, the Secretary encouraged consideration of convening Congress
and to declare war against them (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 3, pp. 444-
445). The nations of Great Britain and Russia were also addressed in the
memorandum as they, too, were believed to be considering direct interference in
American affairs in case of civil war. Respectively, Seward further encouraged
that envoys be sent to Canada, Mexico and Central America to rouse the spirit
of independence from European intervention (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 3,
pp. 444-445).
It is clear in Sewards Some thoughts for the Presidents consideration
that he offered a program of vigorous and dramatic action. Whatever policy
was adopted by the President, however, the Secretary urged that there must be
an energetic prosecution of it (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 3, pp. 444-445).
Either the President must take the lead or a member of his cabinet should do so.
Seward did not shrink from the possibility of taking responsibility if delegated
to him by the President Significantly, Seward further believed that a foreign
war crisis would reunite the Union and change the question before the Public
from one upon Slavery, or not Slavery for a question upon Union or Disunion
(Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 3, pp. 444-445). The Secretarys misperceived
confidence in the Souths reaction was particularly evident in a statement he
wrote in a letter shortly thereafter, When the Southern states see that we mean
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them no wrong. .they will see their mistake and come back into the Union
(Sewards letter cited in Taylor, 1991, p. 159).
In assessment of Sewards memorandum, historians have generally
agreed that the seceded states had no intentions of rejoining the Union, and that
the Souths vulnerability to the appeal for national unity and patriotism had
already passed. Therefore, scholarly judgment of Sewards memorandum has
been largely unfavorable. The Presidents secretaries, John Nicolay and John
Hay, shared this sentiment. In their 1890 multi-volume biography, Abraham
Lincoln: A History, the authors called the document an .. .extraordinary state
paper, unlike anything to be found in the political history of the United States
(Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 3, p. 445). Lincoln biographer Thomas voiced a
similar tone by noting Sewards memorandum as .. .so presumptious, that he
would appear to have lost all sense of perspective under the strain (Thomas,
1952, p. 253).
What was the Presidents response to Sewards memorandum? Lincolns
reply illustrates his effective assertion of presidential power early on in his
relationship with his ambitious Secretary of State. The President, upon
receiving the correspondence, wrote Seward an immediate reply. However,
because the letter remained in Lincolns collection of papers without a reply, it
is believed the letter was never delivered (Taylor, 1991, p. 153). Conceivably,
the President may have handed the letter to Seward personally or sent it by
messenger. If so, he must have therefore requested its return. The fact that no
biography of Seward mentions such a letter among the Seward papers indicates
the document in the Lincoln papers is probably the original.
Did the President change his mind about delivering the letter to Seward, or
did he perhaps write the reply as a way to best organize his thoughts before
personally discussing the matter with Seward? The Presidents strategy
remains uncertain, but it is known that Lincoln resolved the matter with Seward
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the same day. No actual record exists of what possible dialogue passed
between Lincoln and Seward on April 1, 1861, but the Presidents remarks, if
any, were probably to a high degree, based on the thoughts he expressed in the
written reply he intended for Seward. The text of the Presidents letter follows:
Executive Mansion
April 1,1861
Hon. W.H. Seward:
My dear Sir:
Since parting with you I have been considering your paper
dated this day, and entitled Some thoughts for the Presidents
consideration. The first proposition in it is, First. We are at
the end of a months administration, and yet without a policy,
either domestic or foreign.
At the beginning of that month, in the inaugural, I said, The
power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy and
possess the property and places belonging to the government,
and to collect the duties and imposts. This had your distinct
approval at the time; and, taken in connection with the order I
immediately gave to General Scott, directing him to employ
every means in his power to strengthen and hold the forts,
comprises the exact domestic policy you now urge, with the
single exception, that it does not propose to abandon Fort
Sumter.
Again, I do not perceive how the re-inforcement of Fort
Sumter would be done on a slavery, or party issue, while that
of Fort Pickens would be on a more national, and patriotic
one.
The news received yesterday in regard to San Domingo,
certainly brings a new item within the range of our foreign
policy; but up to that time we have been preparing circulars,
and instructions to ministers, and the like, all in perfect
harmony, without even a suggestion that we had no foreign
policy.
Upon your closing propositions, that whatever policy we
adopt, there must be an energetic prosecution of it
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For this purpose it must be somebodys business to pursue
and direct it incessantly
Either the President must do it himself, and be all the while
active in it, or devolve it on some member of his cabinet
Once adopted, debates on it must end, and all agree and
abide.
I remark that if this must be done, I must do it. When a
general line of policy is adopted, I apprehend there is no
danger of its being changed without good reason, or
continuing to be a subject of unnecessary debate; still, upon
points arising in its progress, I wish, and suppose I am
entided to have, the advice of all the cabinet.
Your ObL Servt.
A. Lincoln
(Basler, 1953, Vol. 3, pp. 316-317)
Clearly the President firmly asserted his power in his immediate reply to
Seward. First, Lincoln informed Seward that he would find the domestic
policy of the Administration outlined in his inaugural address. Lincoln further
voiced his existing belief of Sewards support for the policy (at the time of his
inauguration) when he stated, This had your distinct approval at the time; and,
taken in connection with the order I immediately gave to General Scott,
directing him to employ every means in his power to strengthen and hold the
forts, comprises the exact domestic policy you now urge, with the single
exception, that it does not propose to abandon Fort Sumter (Basler, 1953, Vol.
3, pp. 316-317). Here, the President expressed his curiosity over Sewards
proposed evacuation of Fort Sumter as an exception to all other forts in the
South which he felt should be reinforced. He added, I do not perceive how
the re-inforcement of Fort Sumter would be done on a slavery, or party issue,
while that of Fort Pickens would be on a more national, and patriotic one
(Basler, 1953, Vol. 3, pp. 316-317).
It is further significant to note that the Presidents assertion of power
included reference to his right of responsibility for taking any actions on behalf
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of the Administration, and that he was entitled to the advice of the entire cabinet.
To this end Lincoln stated, I remark that if this must be done, I must do it.
When a general line of policy is adopted, I apprehend there is no danger of its
being changed without good reason, or continuing to be a subject of
unnecessary debate; still, upon points arising in its progress, I wish, and
suppose I am entitled to have, the advice of all the cabinet. (Basler, 1953, Vol.
3, pp. 316-317). Finally, although the President approved of Sewards intent
to obtain explanations from Spain, France, Great Britain and Russia of their
intentions in the Western Hemisphere, he disputed the Secretarys advocation of
instigating a foreign war crisis to unify the Union. On this issue, Lincoln gave
no written response.
Whatever shape resolution of the conflict between the President and
Secretary Seward took, it is highly probable that Lincoln underscored whatever
must be done with his words, I must do it (Basler, 1953, Vol. 3, pp. 316-
317). The President emerged highly successful in establishing his preeminent
authority in this conflict while retaining Sewards loyalty to the Administration.
Sewards attempt to dominate the Administration thus ended with Lincolns
assertion of presidential power and led to a harmonious working relationship
which continued until Lincolns assassination in April 1865. Interestingly,
because neither the President nor Seward referred to the conflict publicly, the
incident remained a secret until publication of the multi-volume biography,
Abraham Lincoln: A History, by John Nicolay and John Hay in 1890.
On April 4,1861, President Lincoln authorized a relief expedition for Fort
Sumter. Because a full-scale attempt to reinforce the fort was expected to result
in conflict, Lincoln authorized only the shipment of supplies (Taylor, 1991, pp.
155-156). The Navys warships and transports were to be called into action
only if the supply vessels were fired upon. With the arrival of the ships into
Charleston harbor on on April 12, 1861, rebel batteries opened fire on the fort
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and military force and forced the forts surrender the following day. The
assault formally marked the beginning of the Civil War.
The sources of this primary conflict between Lincoln and Seward were:
(1) Sewards perception that the President did not really have a policy toward
the seceded states, (2) the Presidents failure to clearly define a policy to the
members of his cabinet, (3) Sewards action of submitting his April 1
memorandum to the President, and (4) Lincolns and Sewards value
differences over who should exert authority for the Administration. Sewards
perception of Lincolns lack of a domestic or foreign policy was clearly the
primary cause of this conflict. The President, however, stands equally
negligent in failing to make clearer his policy toward the Southern states,
although it was his belief that the policy was formulated with Sewards
approval. Further, Sewards behavioral action of authoring and submitting his
memorandum, Some thoughts for the Presidents consideration is attributed a
source of this conflict. Finally, value differences between the President over
who should exert authority for the Administration becomes apparent. Seward,
with his perception of Lincolns lack of adequate administrative experience, felt
he could be of greater assistance by personally taking on some of the powers of
the presidency. The Presidents values proved much different. If anything
must be done, Lincoln stated, I must do it (Basler, 1953, Vol. 3, pp. 316-
317).
The resolution strategy the President invoked in this crisis with Seward
proved successful on many fronts. First, Lincoln dealt effectively with Seward
by providing immediate feedback in which he established Sewards role as a
subordinate. Undoubtedly, the likelihood of Lincolns face-to-face action was
more persuasive than that of a written reply. The President made it clear that he
would control his own Administration (Taylor, 1991, p. 151). Second, the
President succeeded in immediately gaining Sewards increased confidence.
This can be deducted from the words Seward wrote to his wife shortly after the
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incident, Executive skills and vigor are rare qualities. The President is the best
of us (Sewards letter cited in Taylor, 1991, p. 171). Third, Lincoln
succeeded in retaining the loyalty and service of Seward who was the most
powerful leader in the cabinet (Nicolay and Hay, 1890, Vol. 3, p. 447).
Finally, the President succeeded in keeping the conflict private, sparing both
Seward and the Administration public embarrassment. This was a high priority
for Lincoln. Public disclosure of the correspondence could have destroyed
confidence in the cohesiveness of the Administration at a time when it was
needed most. If the President failed in any way in this incident, it was in his
ability to demonstrate to other members of the cabinet that Seward did not
continue to have a strong influence on him. Many of the Lincoln cabinet
officials thus continued to believe that Seward wielded a strong impact on the
President throughout the course of the Administration (Hendrick, 1965, p.
423).
Despite Sewards criticisms of the Presidents slowness in developing a
firm policy toward the South during the cabinets Fort Sumter discussions,
Lincoln deserves credit for the decisive actions he did take during the first
eleven weeks of the Administration. There were eight efforts on his part to
raise troops and money, he blockaded Southern ports and expedited naval
readiness. Lincoln also extended a line from Philadelphia to New York City
along which the writ of habeas corpus might be suspended in case of war
(Rossiter, 1959, p. 15). The actions Lincoln took during this period were
unparalleled for a Chief Executive up to this time in American history (Rossiter,
1959, p. 15). Moreover, the President had declared a well-defined policy
expressed prior to and after the slave states seceded. Seward had agreed to the
policy. In Sewards view, however, the President came to have no system, no
relative ideas, no conception of his situation (Taylor, 1991, p. 150). Lincolns
policy toward the South, however, is well-illustrated with the Fort Sumter
expedition. After considering a range of options, the President was clearly
92