With her 2005 book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin allows readers to discern the intimate details of the lives of four influential figures of the Civil War era. Abraham Lincoln's rivals from the battles for ascendency in the late 1850s Republican Party were subsequently brought into his cabinet after he became presidency. William Henry Seward, Salmon Chase, and Edward Bates each aspired to the presidency only to eventually lose to the "Illinois rail splitter." The biographies of these men are traced in some detail providing historical context for the subsequent discussion centering around America's ongoing struggles with slavery and sectional conflict.
While all four men were afflicted with what Kearns Goodwin terms a "longing to rise," their individual backgrounds were strikingly different. William Henry Seward, the oldest of the four, was born May 16, 1801 in Orange County, New York. African-Americans remained oppressed by chattel slavery during this period and the Seward family were slave-owners. His prosperous father grew rich by working as a physician, magistrate, judge, merchant, and land speculator. Seward himself turned against slavery as a small child when he witnessed the repeated beatings of a neighboring slave boy of his age. He never forgot the sight of the suffering boy after they had placed an iron yoke around his neck after he had responded to a beating by running away(31).
Born in Cornish, New Hampshire in 1808 into a family that had lived in the area three generations, Salmon Portland Chase was the eighth of eleven children. Ithamar Chase, his father, was a civically prominent farmer whose ties to family and elite boosted his stature(34). After his father died when Salmon was nine, he was sent to live with his father's brother, Philander Chase who headed a boarding school for boys in Worthington, Ohio. In exchange for a variety of chores, Salmon received room and board in addition to a classical education. When his uncle, a bishop, was named president of Cincinnati College, Chase moved to Cincinnati and benefited from an early start in college and soon began studies at Dartmouth College. Moving to Washington, D.C. he used his friendship with William Wirt, the Attorney General, to study law in his free time. At age 22 in 1829 he was admitted to the bar and soon took his talents to the new state of Ohio (40).
Kearns Goodwin's chapter "The Lure of Politics" vividly describes the path to power taken by the four men. For Salmon Chase it was an act of rare heroism and courage in July 1836 that led him to embrace political life. After a mob in Cincinnati attacked the office of the abolitionist paper Philanthropist edited by James Birney, Chase heard that they were going to the hotel where the editor lived to tar and feather him. Alarmed, Chase raced to the hotel and placed himself in front of the entrance, blocking it from the anti-abolitionist mob. A large, imposing man, Chase stood the mob down, braving their threats with swagger responding, "I can be found at any time(109)."
Doris Kearns Goodwin writes that "His passionate awakening to the antislavery cause was not surprising, given his receptiveness to religious arguments in favor of emancipation and equality(109)."
The year after Chase faced down the mob, he was involved with the abolitionist publisher Birney once again. A runaway slave named Matilda was surreptitiously given employment in Birney's house but was located by a slave catcher who took her before a judge to be delivered back to slavery. In Matilda's case she had been brought from Missouri to Ohio by a man who was both her slave master and her father while he was on a business trip. The novel legal argument Chase introduced was to use the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territory to argue that the Fugitive Slave Law was not applicable. While he lost the case and Matilda was sent back to slavery, his legal arguments and subsequent publicity made him a significant figure in the era's public life.
Edward Bates was born to slaveholding family on the Belmont plantation near Richmond, Virginia. His father, a large slaveholder, ranked among the local elite and counted Thomas Jefferson and James Madison among his friends. By the time Edward Bates decided to move west to Missouri, his brother Frederick had already been appointed by President Jefferson as the secretary of the new Missouri Territory. Seven years after he arrived Missouri became a state and he found himself well-situated as an attorney with key political and social connections.(45) Objecting to a requirement that all children of the enslaved would be emancipated upon their twenty-first birthday, Bates found himself drawn to politics during the 1820 crisis over Missouri statehood His father's friend Thomas Jefferson described the crisis, this "momentous question" "like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror" and he "considered it at once as he knell of the Union."(62) Given his interests, associations, and mentality, it is not surprising that Edward Bates strenuously opposed the anti-slavery measure. He eventually joined the Whig Party that had as its priority the championing of internal improvements. His speech at the historic River and Harbor Convention in the late 1840s was very well-received during an era when such speeches could lift one to a sudden prominence. Bates was basically content with the status quo of slavery concerned mainly with the periodic crises involving agitation against slavery and abolitionist activism. Yet, he himself unburdened himself from slavery by freeing his slaves.
While still relatively young William and Frances Seward embarked upon a tour of the South accompanied by their five-year old son, Fred, and their coachman, ex-slave William Johnson. The three-month trip crossed Pennslyvania and Virginia, a slow, gradual journey that allowed them to witness the changes that had occurred in the decades prior to the mid-1830s that already sharply distinguished southern society from northern society. Powerful social, demographic, economic, and political forces including European immigrations, industrial development, infrastructural development and innovations in transportation. All these invigorated and stimulated Northern society leading to social, cultural and economic differentiation. Southern society, on the other hand, seemed stagnant doomed to only slight changes due to their reliance on slavery with its resultant supression of cultural, political, and economic development. Traveling in Virginia, as other travelers of the era also noted, meant viewing blight, waste, underdevelopment. Instead of prosperous farms and solid farmhouses, taverns, and occasional shops they saw slave huts, tattered clothes, and obvious oppression(77).
During the trip Frances Seward witnessed the "wrongs of this injured race" referring to the genocidal treatment and exploitation of African-Americans. Once she encountered an elderly woman who, while toiling at hard labor, told her that her husband and kids had all been sold off to some unknown location, and she never heard from them again. Later, the travelers encountered a group of enchained slave children on a road near Richmond.
"Ten naked little boys, between six and twelve years old, tied together, two and two, by their wrists, were all fastened to a long rope, and followed by a tall, gaunt white man, who, with his long lash, whipped up the sad and weary little procession, drove it to the horse-trough to drink, and thence to a shed, where they lay down on the ground and sobbed and moaned themselves to sleep." (78)
The children had recently been purchased from several plantations and were being taken to be sold at auction in Richmond. It was a typical scene of the era, routine cruelty and daily outrages meted out to those enslaved, young, old, or middle-aged. Yet, it was so upsetting, and, no doubt the accumulation of such scenes, made the Sewards cut short their tour and return home. (78)
As governor of New York state Seward dramatically improved schools for African-Americans. On another front in New York, Seward as governor refused to arrest and deliver to the South three free black seaman who had helped hide a fugitive slave. In retaliation Virginia took measures to damage New York commerce. Kearns Goodwin writes that Seward "spurred the Whig-dominated state legislature to pass a series of antislavery laws affirming the rights of black citizens against seizure by Southern agents, guaranteeing a trial by jury for any person so apprehended, and prohibiting New York police officers and jails from involvement in the apprehension of fugitive slaves." (84)
Abraham Lincoln had been in New Salem, Illinois only six months before deciding to run for the state legislature. The confident 23-year-old had already attained an impressive intellectual level when he ran for the seat from Sangamon County. The young Whig wrote, "I am young and unknown to many of you. I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations to recommend me." He promised, however, if elected to be "unremitting in" his "labors" to repay the confidence of the voters in electing him. His campaign was interrupted by the need to fight the local Indians in the Black Hawk War. Unfortunately for Lincoln, while he was fighting the Sax and Fox Indians his campaign took a turn for the worse. He was heartened, however, by the overwhelming support he received in New Salem itself, garnering 277 out of 300 votes cast. (88-89)
Abraham Lincoln always plainly stated: Lincoln always said, "if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong."(91) Born into a family with anti-slavery views, Lincoln could always say this with conviction but many times kept silent as it was the political thing to do. Not possessing the passion of the abolitionist his stance against slavery lacked the emotion and fire that would heat his arguments with a defender of slavery or a slaveholder himself. His brand of moderation meant that slaveholders could be good friends and associates. In addition, Lincoln's political vision, shaped by the Whig Party, prioritized other issues. Henry Clay was described by Lincoln as his "beau ideal" of a politician.
Arriving in Washington, D. C. in December 1847, Lincoln experienced the growing pangs of a city with only two paved streets. Lincoln demonstrated some amount of courage and honesty when he challenged President Polk on the origin and cause of the Mexican War. He boldly stated, "It is a fact that the United States Army, in marching to the Rio Grande, marched into a peaceful Mexican settlement, and frightened the inhabitants away from their homes and their growing crops." He soon introduced a resolution that called on Polk to show whether the exact spot on which the blood of Americans was shed was on Mexican or United States land.(121)
In June 1848 Abraham Lincoln and the Whig Party nominated slaveholder Zachary Taylor for president. Lincoln was quite satisfied with Taylor's candidacy, viewing the military man as very electable. Seward was not, pointing to his slaveholder status, and was critical of the party platform and program which avoided many issues. Edward Bates, also a Whig, took the hard line on African-Americans. He was a slaveholder who believed in black inferiority and advocated discrimination and disfranchisement for blacks. His contempt for black family ties could be readily seen after a woman he owned escaped to Canada. He promptly broke apart the remainder of the family, selling off her three daughters.
Chase got involved deeply in the emergence of the Free Soil Party while Seward's destiny wsa linked closely to kingmaker and master strategist Thurlow Weed and adroitly manuevered to position himself for a run at the presidency. As Senator Daniel Webster seemed to lose both his anti-slavery voice and his luster, Seward's prominence in the Senate rose. Webster's March 7, 1850 speech endorsing the Compromise of 1850 with his promises to track down fugitives from slavery, and his denunciations of abolitionists, dashed the hopes of his anti-slavery constituents and ended his run as a leader in the Senate. Ralph Waldo Emerson said in this regard, "Mr. Webster has deliberately taken out his name from all the files of honour. He has undone all that he spent his years in doing."(145) Seward's "higher law" speech followed this and the popularity of this speech, printed and distributed by the thousands across the northern states, made him most notable antislavery figure in the Senate.(146) African-Americans praised the speech but not surprisingly it was denounced by mainstream figures as "fanaticism" and wild abolitionism.
Did these political positions surrounding the Compromise of 1850 betray some moral failings of an entire segment of American political leaders? Are elements of these positions still troubling our politics in contemporary America? The obvious conclusion that certain politicians did not care, and openly said so, if Africans suffered under slavery for eternity. Whether this was due to their beliefs or convictions that Africans were not human, or fully human, or whether this was simply the politically opportune thing to say and believe, it represents a serious moral failing.
Mainstream politicians freely admitted that they cared about national unity more than the suffering resulting from slavery. Others indicated that they did not care at all about the welfare of black slaves. A feeling of relief was experienced by a huge swath of contemporary politicians as a result of the agreement cementing the Compromise of 1850. Abraham Lincoln was one of those who seemed satisfied that the crisis had passed. William and Frances Seward, however, were among those despondent over the agreement, that many hoped was the "final" solution to the slavery problem. This meant all "agitation" over abolition would cease, and slavery would be left alone and that the crisis over the status of new states and territories would be resolved(149). Sneering at what he termed "the lovers of free negroes in the North" he nevertheless set himself apart from the slaveholders of the South. The debates over slavery to Bates were merely battles by opportunistic politicians for supremacy (159). American energies could be better spent, he felt, by working on exploiting the tremendous economic opportunities the opening of the West afforded.(159)
Another turning point in the personal destiny of these men occurred with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. Chase took the leadership on the Senate floor during the debate over the the legislation delivering a February 3, 1854 speech. Kearns Goodwin writes:
"At midnight, Douglas began his concluding speech, which lasted nearly four hours. At one point, Seward interrupted to ask for an explantion of something Douglas had said. 'Ah,' Douglas retorted, 'you can't crawl behind that free nigger dodge.' In reply, Seward said: 'Douglas, no man will ever be President of the United States who spells 'negro' with two gs." (163)
Many northern activists were roused to action by the passage of the bill. Lincoln said that the bill that stirred him "as he had never been before" as he no longer felt that slavery was on the path of extinction. (164) Chase took the leadership on the Senate floor during the debate over the Kansas-Nebraska bill. The reactivated Lincoln won a seat in the Illinois state assembly and then declared his candidacy for the United States Senate. As Lincoln followed the lead of Republican activists in some other states, he decided to organize the new Republican Party in Illinois rallying anti-Nebraska forces. In the meantime, a virtual civil war in Kansas broke out between free and pro-slave forces, and soon the North-South conflict further intensified after Congressman Preston Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner senseless on the Senate floor with his prized gutta-percha cane.
By the election of 1860 things had changed. Now Lincoln enjoyed the aid of Thurlow Weed as he plotted his electoral strategy. Stephen Douglas was now viewed in the South as closet abolitionist or, even, traitor to their cause of eternal enslavement of blacks (260). Lincoln was careful to put some distance between himself and more determined anti-slavery figures, much less actual abolitionists. Kearns Goodwin notes that the Chicago mayor, John Wentworth, in campaigning for the Republican ticket, made an argument that the party would have preferred him not to make. He contended that if the Republicans won, slavery would be abolished, moving Lincoln and his campaign to reassure their more conservative potential supporters of LIncoln that a vote for Republicans did not at all threaten the existence of slavery in the South for the foreseable future.
Kearns Goodwin also notes that Stephen Douglas, in campaigning across the country, violated the old custom that the presidential candidate himself not engage in actual campaigning until after the official campaign began, but instead allowed surrogates and supporters to do the actual work of campaigning. After Douglas heard, however, that Republicans had won state elections in Indiana and Pennsylvania, he transformed his campaign from one dedicated to his election to one dedicating to saving the American Union. He went South conceding that Lincoln would win the election but fearing that the result would prove disastrous to the Union. He faced hostile audiences but garnered appreciation for his efforts from some, such as historian Allan Nevins who termed it his "finest hour." (274)
Lincoln's views on race were illuminated by his anger, during the post-election pre-inaugural period, at being accused of being in "a meeting of negroes". He objected to reports that Mississippi, for example, opted for secession because Lincoln was "pledged to the ultimate extinction of slavery, holds the black man to be the equal of the white, & stimatizes our whole people as immoral & unchristian". Lincoln responded that this was said by an apparent "mad-man" and that he "was never in a meeting of negroes in [his] life." In addition, Lincoln informed the newspaperman, "Mr. Lincoln is not pledged to the ultimate extinction of slavery; does not hold the black man to be the equal of the white, unqualififiedly as Mr. S. states it; and never did stigmatize their white people as immoral & unchristian."(295)
The prospect of the breakup of the Union moved many of the nation's political representatives to sadness, some shedding tears in memory of the past battles earlier generations experienced together. Last-minute efforts were made to avoid war and reach a settlement of the crisis. President-elect Lincoln was prepared to compromise to avoid secession by being willing to resolve that the constitution should never be altered to allow interference by Congress with slavery in the states, much less abolish it. Another would give fugitive slaves jury trials and a third would abolish all personal liberty laws in states. Compelled by the leadership vacuum during the pre-Inaugural period, Seward felt compelled to address the issues and try to head off the crisis. In his words he tried "to set forth the advantages, the necessities to the Union to the people" against "the vast calamities to them and to the world which its destruction would involve." (300) In addition to Lincoln's concessions, Seward suggested a new Constitutional Convention to help resolve the standoff.
Lincoln's and Sewards's flexibility and willingness to concede key issues to the South was not shared by their political allies, friends, and associates, however. Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, and Salmon Chase all vehemently objected to Seward's concessions. His wife Frances, and Charles Sumner had both made personal appeals to Seward not to offer the concessions. Frances Seward worried that her husband was:
"in danger of taking the path which led Daniel Webster to an unhonored grave ten years ago. Compromise based on the idea that the preservation of the Union is more important than the liberty of nearly 4,000,000 human beings cannot be right. The alteration of the Constitution to perpetuate slavery--the enforcement of a law to recapture a poor, suffering fugitive. . . .these compromises cannot be approved by God or supported by good men."(303)
Lincoln's inaugural speech was designed to show his resoluteness in defending the Union, yet "mitigate" the hostilities of the rebellious states.(324) The original draft was modified mainly by Seward who thought the original draft to be excessively aggressive and bellicose. Originally it read that as president Lincoln was bound by duty to strictly adhere to the Republican's Chicago platform, which had been accused of favoring black equality. By beginning on such a forceful note, Seward felt, would risk angering slaveholders in Maryland and Virginia making it difficult even for the new administration to enter the national capital. Congress did pass an amendment immediately preceding Lincoln's inauguration binding the federal government eternally to a hands-off approach to "the domestic institutions," that is slavery, of the individual states. Lincoln, having flip-flopped on this issue, said he supported it. (326)
Although Lincoln and many moderate Republicans were not totally committed to black emancipation their political positions stood far apart from those of the Democrats, including General George B. McClellan. President Lincoln began to sour on McClellan soon after fighting with the South began. After a October 1861 defeat during which one of Lincoln's closest friends, Colonel Edward Baker from Illinois was among the fifty slain, Lincoln was emotionally shaken. Just the day before they had engaged in leisurely discussion on the White House grounds. No one told Lincoln of Baker's death, he was routinely going through the dispatches at the telegraph office and discovered the dispatch himself. Shaken, tears flowing, he stumbled out of the office in an emotional state.
While McClellan blamed the latest defeat on General Winfield Scott who was soon ushered into retirement, he soon turned his hostility toward Lincoln and began occasionally referring to him in private as the "gorilla."(382) On one occasion President Lincoln accompanied by Seward and John Hay went to McClellan's house and, after being told that he was away at a wedding, they waited a hour before he arrived. Arriving, McClellan passed by the parlor where they were waiting and went upstairs to his private quarters. Impatient after waiting another half hour, Lincoln reminded his aide that he and the others were waiting and was told that the general had gone to sleep. Lincoln pretended not to be offended but the incident was not forgotten.
Lincoln was repeatedly frustrated by McClellan's vacillations, defiance, and outright contempt for the president, cabinet members, and other generals. President Lincoln's meekness and lack of confidence in military matters made him hesitant to seriously critique McClellan's actions and establish control over hiim. A long learning period led to serious mistakes in the prosecution of the war. Time after time McClellan made big promises of progress to Lincoln while his great Army of the Potomac remained in camp. Criticism grew, Congressman George Julian couldn't believe that Lincoln "himself did not think he had any right to know, but that, as he was not a military man, it was his duty to defer to General McClellan.(425)
After Bates urged him to organize his own staff and be in fact the Commander-in-Chief, Lincoln read up on military strategy. Losing his patience with McClellan, Lincoln fixed a date for "a general movement" of the Union army. Lincoln proposed a plan that had the support of Stanton and other influential figures that was rejected in favor of McClellan's "circuitous plan." This peninsula plan, it was feared would leave Washington vulnerable to Confederate counterattack. To prevent this Lincoln gave a written order mandating that enough troops be kept for defense of the capital as a part of the strategy. But the day, designated for the massive attack, came and went. "A disheartened Stanton noted that 'there was no more sign of movement on the Potomac than there had been for three months before.'..." Previously a friend of McClellan's, Stanton had grew weary of the sumptuous feasts hosted by the general in the capital while Union troops suffered in the field.
Secretary of War Stanton's anger grew after McClellan kept him waiting again and again. After one incident in which he was forced to wait a hour, he vowed that that would be the last time. Stanton removed the telegraph office from McClellan's headquarters to a room connected to the War Department incurring McClellan's wrath in the process.
When McClellan finally moved his Army of the Potomac in March he found that the Confederates had already pulled out. To his profound embarassment, they found that the fortifications that he feared so much, to the point of repeated delays, consisted only of wooden logs painted to look like actual cannons. The incredible superiority in numbers and equipment would have clearly carried the day had McClellan pushed forward. The "Quaker gun" affair destroyed McClellan's prestige, leaving the radicals in Congress furious(429). Shortly thereafter McClellan was removed from his post as the army's leading general, but maintained his position in charge of the Army of the Potomac. His post was not filled immediately leaving Lincoln anad Stanton to plot war strategy.
Still President Lincoln did not totally give up on McClellan and instead was again frustrated by this behavior. Lincoln found that he had to give McClellan direct orders to move in order for any movement to occur. When McClellan finally left camp it was soon learned that he had not left the force to secure the capital like they had mandated him to do. After Stanton communicated this to him, Lincoln angrily ordered General McDowell's 1st Corps, that had been under McClellan's command, to withdraw to protect Washington.
Still defying Lincoln's and the other generals' wishes, McClellan continued to delay and do nothing. For weeks he kept defying or ignoring orders to attack with his massive, well-equipped and trained army, but used excuse after excuse to postpone. Once again the rebels were able to escape once again, by simply withdrawing.
To Kearns Goodwin's credit she describes a little-known incident in which Lincoln actually gets into the war itself. It is during his visit to Fort Monroe a 27-hour journey with Stanton and Chase during which Lincoln regaled them with stories, anecdotes and, even, readings and recitals. He also demonstrated that he still had his legendary physical strength by holding an ax with merely his forefinger and thumb for several minutes. Soon, howeever, they were preoccupied with the danger posed by the Confederate's Merrimac that had recently terrorized Union forces. Even though the Union's Monitor had fought the Merrimac to a draw recently, they remained anxious about the danger the boat posed. Unable to comprehend why McClellan hadn't attacked vulnerable Norfolk, the president and his advisors wanted to attack the city but first needed to consult Commodore Louis Goldsborough to ascertain whether troops could be landed and where. They had to sneak onto Goldsborough's ship, the Miami, climbing a dangerous series of steps to get aboard.
Later: "Lincoln, Chase, and Stanton each personally surveyed the shoreline to determine the best landing place for the troops. Under a full moon, Lincoln went ashore in a rowboat. He walked on enemy soil and then returned to the Miami. Once the best spot was chosen, Chase pushed for an immediate attack, worried that McClellan might appear and delay the attack. The next night, the convoys headed for shore."(439)
When Union troops arrived the Confederates had already had evacuated. By the time Chase and a general involved returned to the Miami news arrived of the great victory. They jumped and hugged one another in celebration while Lincoln, who had taken his clothes off for the night and Stanton, who was in a long night gown, unembarrassingly joined in the celebration. They were elated about the ending of the threat posed by the Merrimac while the capture of Norfolk would open up key supply lines from Washington to the entire peninsula(439). Soon, however, they are despondent again as McClellan's delays allowed the Confederates to gather themselves and save Richmond. It would be almost three years before Union forces were able to close in on Richmond again. The defeat on the Peninsula cast a pall on Northern morale making 1862's July 4th celebration one of the more somber national holidays ever celebrated.
Whereas Union victories early in the war combined with unprecedented Confederate flexibility and wisdom could have left slavery virtually intact, Union defeats paradoxically weakened the Northern commitment to the "peculiar institution" and forced the strategists to look to weakening the South's economic basis in order to win the war. It is true that a good part of the Democratic northern constituency was hostile to blacks and the war effort giving rise to figure like Clement Vallandigham and mass anti-war efforts. Not all northern Republicans favored emancipation, however, making for a weak pro-emancipation national constituency. American freedom was considered God-given and embodied in specific rights accorded to individual. Yet, black freedom was not popular and only a small percentage of the population were seriously concerned with the horrific conditions blacks faced under slavery. This was reflected everywhere, and, importantly, in Lincoln's cabinet.
Lincoln told Seward and Wells of his thinking on black emancipation July 13 as he rode to the funeral of Stanton's son at Oak Hill Cemetery. He told them that he had been thinking deeply about issuing a proclamation of emancipation if the Confederacy continued to make war. This would be done as a military necessity that would allow what Lincoln viewed as a constitutionally-supported slavery to be overthrown by the powers of the president during a war. A special cabinet meeting was called by President Lincoln on Monday, July 21, 1862 but had to be continued the next day when the president told them of exactly why he had called the meeting. Making it understood that he had already reached his decision to take the momentous measure but still wanted to read them his draft of an emancipation proclamation. Using his war power Lincoln emancipated the three and one-half million blacks who were covered by this proclamation. (464)
Attorney General Edward Bates based his approval on the assumption that blacks would be transported to somewhere outside the country. He felt if the two races lived side-by-side amalgamation was inevitable resulting in "degradation and demoralization to the white race." (465-66) He was not the only member of the cabinet who felt that black emancipation might not be such a good thing. Montgomery Blair whose Falkland estate in Silver Spring was an elegant testimony to his prominence, worried about the upcoming elections since this move might upset Democrats and other conservatives. He too couldn't stomach living side-by-side with the formerly enslaved African-Americans and believed that emancipation en masse for blacks was too sudden a move. Colonization and only a gradual emancipation would be his strategy. Salmon Chase strangely dissented believing the move too radical and fearing that it might lead to "depredation and massacre." (467) For his part, McClellan could'nt imagine fighting for "such an accursed doctrine" as the Emancipation Proclamation--a document he termed an "infamous" "call for servile insurrection"—he drafted an indignant letter of protest to Lincoln on it —but he didn't send it.(484)
Eventually President Lincoln concluded that McClellan was engaged in traitorous behavior hoping that his fellow general Pope was defeated. He angrily told his aide John Hay that McClellan told him to "leave Pope to get out of his own scrape."(475) Stanton was outraged and, working with Chase, was determined to get rid of McClellan now.
Pope was defeated in what was the Second Battle of Bull Run. Kearns Goodwin writes:
"Once again, as in the aftermath of the First Battle of Bull Run, Washington braced for attack. As rumors spread that General Jackson was crossing the Potomac at Georgetown, thousands of frightened residents began to flee the city. Soldiers straggled in from the front with tales of a demoralized army and units unwilling to fight under Pope. The losses were immense--out of 65,000 men, the Federals had suffered 16,000 casualties. Momentum now clearly belonged to the Confederacy..." (478)
Lincoln had been mad at McClellan for the devastating defeat but thought he was too useful to dispense with. He believed that his troops were fiercely loyal to him and that he whipped them into shape. Despite the general's sad history of failure, Lincoln agreed to restore McClellan's command over both the Army of Virginia and the Army of the Potomac(478). Stanton, Chase and others, however, continued to work to oust McClellan. Chase, in fact, felt that the general should be shot as a traitor. The restoration of McClellan to command deeply demoralized the cabinet, so much so that Lincoln noticed.
On President Lincoln's trip to City Point he ventured to the front where black soldiers spotted him and shouted, "Hurrah for the Liberator; Hurrah for the President" instantaneously creating tears in Lincoln's eyes leaving him almost speechless. He had already stated with some perspective that this would be his legacy, now he saw the living, breathing reality of his actions. African-American troops, debated among the northern policy-makers so recently, now were a reality and were making clear their gratitude to the president who made their dreams come true.
Clearly, Abraham Lincoln was a risk taker, on repeated occasions he showed a disregard for his own safety, even when his death would have been an immense setback for the Union cause. During the Confederate incursion into the Washington, D. C. area, President Lincoln and War Secretary Stanton rode together in an open carriage through the streets of Washington to demonstrate to the citizens that there was no need to panic. At one point, Lincoln was standing straight up on a parapet as bullets began whistling by. "Get down, you fool!," yelled young Oliver Wendell Holmes to the lanky president.(643)
After the Democrats met for their convention in 1864, Lincoln's worries about re-election eased considerably. People assumed that War Democrat George McClellan would be the nominee, and the Democratic platform was so reactionary it was said that Jeff Davis could have written it heightening the prospects for a Lincoln landslide. After Atlanta fell to Union Army forces, prompting Lincoln to order one hundred guns to be fired in Washington and many other cities to celebrate the historic victory, his reelection was a foregone conclusion.
President Lincoln was worried that the Emancipation Proclamation, as a war measure, would be reversed in peacetime. The 13th Amendment abolishing slavery had passed the Senate by two-thirds but didn't get two-thirds in the House as Democrats uniformly voted no. Lincoln ordered his allies in the House to use all available means to secure the necessary votes—that is, they were free to offer great posts, support in reelection campaigns, government positions for friends or relatives, for example, to those lawmakers who held the key votes (686-87). Finally, five Democrats changed their votes and the 13th Amendment was passed.
Immediately upon the passage of the 13th Amendment, there was a brief silent moment of realization followed by an explosion of celebration and cheers. Artillery was used to celebrate on Capitol Hill to announce to residents that the amendment officially and forever freeing black people had passed. Stanton ordered 100 heavy guns fired as the names of those voting in favor were read, "History will embalm them in great honor," he said(689).
One wonders did Lincoln fully realize the magnitude of the hatred slavery had imbued in many whites? Was he at all conscious of the emotional intensity of the "dislike" or animus toward blacks? His willingness to be lenient to the slaveholders and their allies and supporters and his lack of consciousness as to the hard core of resistance that would be encountered by the whites of the South seems to suggest that he did not.
Lincoln seemed determined to chart a way around the kind of repression the South required to come to terms with the changes wrought by the Civil War, especially that of black emancipation. Lincoln's last days, and in the weeks prior to the war's end to a lesser extent, were preoccupied with considerations of how the South could be rapidly reintegrated into the nation. Earlier Lincoln, braving the criticism from radicals, argued that courts and ruling iinstitutions should be maintained lest society descend into anarchy replete with "robber bands and guerillas." (729) Prior to the Confederate surrender, Lincoln gave tentative permission for the reassembling of the pre-war Virginia legislature in the hope that they would rescind secession and remove the state's troops from the war. Stanton and the rest of the cabinet vehemently disagreed with this move and pleaded with him to withdraw that permission. After a considerable amount of discussion, practically everyone else agreed that the reassembled body would engage in some form of resistance and try to sabotage the Union victory.
In his last cabinet meeting Lincoln, dressed-up and well-scrubbed for a change, spoke kindly of General Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders. Later that day he was bubbling over with cheer as he rode in his carriage with Mary. He thought about the distance they had traveled since they first danced in Springfield, Illinois. He said he hoped that now could be more cheerful, in the future as they were on this day and looked forward to travel in the nation and abroad.
Doris Kearns-Goodwin does a great job throughout Team of Rivalsin penetrating the depths of these four personalities, especially in relation to Lincoln. She vividly portrays how his wife Mary and son Tad reacted to his assassination. Mary decided not to try to reach Tad immediately since seeing his father's wounded body would inevitably be such a shock to the boy. He and his tutor had went to see Alladin at Grover's Theatre and were enjoying the program when it was suddenly announced that the president had been shot at Ford Theatre. "In the midst of the pandemonium that followed, Tad was seen running 'like a young deer, shrieking in agony.'" (742)
Edwin Stanton took over and it was he who informed the generals and initiated the search for the killers. By 7:22 am April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was pronounced dead.(743)