Edwin Stanton

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Edwin Stanton
Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of War.jpg
27th United States Secretary of War
In office
January 20, 1862 – May 28, 1868
President Abraham Lincoln
Andrew Johnson
Preceded by Simon Cameron
Succeeded by John Schofield
25th United States Attorney General
In office
December 20, 1860 – March 4, 1861
President James Buchanan
Preceded by Jeremiah Black
Succeeded by Edward Bates
Personal details
Born Edwin McMasters Stanton
(1814-12-19)December 19, 1814
Steubenville, Ohio, U.S.
Died December 24, 1869(1869-12-24) (aged 55)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Democratic (Before 1862)
Republican (1862–1869)
Spouse(s) Mary Lamson
Ellen Hutchison
Alma mater Kenyon College
Religion Methodism

Edwin McMasters Stanton (December 19, 1814 – December 24, 1869) was an American lawyer and politician who served as Secretary of War under the Lincoln Administration during most of the American Civil War. Stanton's effective management helped organize the massive military resources of the North and guide the Union to victory. He also organized the manhunt for Lincoln's killer, John Wilkes Booth.

After Lincoln's assassination, Stanton remained as the Secretary of War under the new President Andrew Johnson during the first years of Reconstruction. He opposed the lenient policies of Johnson towards the former Confederate States. Johnson's attempt to dismiss Stanton ultimately led to President Johnson being impeached by the House of Representatives. Stanton returned to law after retiring as Secretary of War, and in 1869 was nominated as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by Johnson's successor, Ulysses S. Grant; however, he died four days after his nomination was confirmed by the Senate.

Family and early life[edit]


Before the American Revolution, Stanton's paternal ancestors, the Stantons and the Macys, both of whom were Quakers, moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina. In 1774, Stanton's grandfather, Benjamin Stanton, married Abigail Macy. Benjamin wanted to free his slaves, as many Quakers in the North did; but this was illegal in North Carolina. Instead, Benjamin resolved to require in his will that "all the poor black people that ever belonged to me be entirely free whenever the law of the land will allow, until which time, my executor I leave as guardian to protect them and see that they be not deprived of their rights, or in any way misused".[1] Benjamin Stanton died in 1800. That year, Stanton's widow moved to the Northwest Territory (later Ohio), where slavery was disallowed. She was accompanied by six of her children, along with her married daughter and her son-in-law. Two years afterwards, Macy's three remaining daughters, who were now married, also came to the territory.[1] Soon, Ohio was admitted to the Union,[2] and Abigail Macy proved to be one of the early developers of the new state. Macy bought a tract of land at Mount Pleasant, Ohio from the government and settled there.[1] One of her sons, David, became a physician in Steubenville, and married Lucy Norman, the daughter of a Virginia plantation owner. Their marriage was met with the ire of Ohio's Quaker community, as Lucy was a Methodist,[3] and not a Quaker. This forced David Stanton to abandon the Quaker sect.[4] However, Stanton remained an abolitionist vehemently opposed to slavery.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Stanton's birthplace in Steubenville, Ohio

The first of David and Lucy Stanton's four children, Edwin McMasters Stanton, was born to them on December 19, 1814 in Steubenville, Ohio.[6] The Stantons later had two daughters, Oella and Pamphilia, and another son, Darwin.[7] In his youth, Edwin was "physically delicate, grave and studious",[8] as well as frank, eloquent and empathetic, according to his classmates.[9] He was fond of giving monologues to the children in his neighborhood on such topics as God, the Bible, Moses and the Great Flood, something he did in a stable at the rear of the family's home.[10] When Edwin's father put a human skeleton in the same stable, hoping that he would study the skeleton and gain an interest in becoming a physician, he lectured his peers on that as well.[11]

Stanton began his formal education at a private school when he was seven years old. The following year, he was trained at a seminary behind the Stantons' residence, called "Old Academy".[8] When he was ten, Edwin was transferred to a school taught by a Presbyterian minister, Reverend George Buchanan, where he studied Latin, Greek, history and other "higher branches".[12][8] It was also at ten that Stanton experienced his first asthma attack, a malady that would haunt him for the rest of his left, making him convulse at times. His asthma assured him that he would be unable to partake in sports or other highly physical activities, so he found interest in other things.[8] Edwin was a voracious reader of books and poetry. He even formed a "circulating library" where books were borrowed among him and his friends.[13] Stanton's interest in religion led him to attend Sunday school, and Methodist Church services regularly. In January 1827, Edwin became a probationary member of the Methodist Church. On December 24 of that year, at the age of thirteen, Stanton become a full member of the church.[9]

David Stanton's medical practice afforded him and his family a decent, but not affluent existence. When David Stanton suddenly died of apoplexy on December 30, 1827 at his residence,[9] his widow and her four children were left destitute.[14] Edwin's mother opened a store in the front room of their residence, selling the medical supplies her husband left her, along with books, stationery and groceries.[9] A youthful Edwin, the eldest of the Stanton children but still only thirteen, was removed from school, and employed at the store of a local bookseller, James Turnbull.[15] His wage was only four dollars a month, but to the impoverished Lucy Stanton, this money was not inconsiderable.[14]

Stanton was tutored by Reverend Buchanan in the evenings. Buchanan's tutelage prepared Stanton for Kenyon College, into which he was admitted in 1831 at the age of seventeen. At Kenyon, Stanton worked earnestly at his studies. He was also prominently involved in Kenyon's Philomathesian Literary Society. Stanton sat on several of the society's committees, and often partook in its exercises and debates. One such debate concerned states' rights, and the Nullification Crisis of 1832. Stanton adamantly opposed John Calhoun's view that individual states were greater than the United States. The debate grew so contentious that several of the Philomathesians from the Southern states who did subscribe to Calhoun's theory left to form another society.[16] Afterwards, Stanton became the secretary to the remaining Philomathesians.[17]

A lack of money meant that Stanton was unable to finish at the Kenyon, and he left in September 1832.[17] Stanton had completed his courses on history, mathematics, chemistry, political economy, geology and Latin.[18] In 1833, Stanton was again employed by James Turnbull; this time was sent to Columbus, Ohio to run a bookstore there. Stanton had hoped to obtain enough money to complete his final year at Kenyon. With such a small salary, however, this notion was dashed. He soon left Turnbull's employ permanently.[19] Stanton returned to Steubenville, and pursued jurisprudence studies.[20]

First marriage and early career[edit]

Around this time, at the age of eighteen, Stanton attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus, and met Mary Ann Lamson, the priest's sister-in-law.[21] They were engaged soon after, but Stanton would not marry her until his law studies were finished. His studies did finish after three years of vigorous learning when in August 1835,[Note 1] Stanton passed his bar examination and went into the practice of law.[17] The following January, Stanton began working at a prominent law firm in Cadiz, Ohio, the seat of Harrison County, which was operated by Chauncey Dewey, a wealthy and well-known attorney.[25]

Stanton's home in Cadiz, Ohio

With Dewey, Stanton worked tirelessly and his law career began to flourish; this took a toll on his health, leaving him severely sick. In the summer of 1836, Stanton's mother also fell ill. Despite his own ailments, Stanton hurried to Steubenville, where he found that his sister Oella had left school to become a housekeeper and tend to their mother. Without a home of his own, Edwin sent Lucy Stanton to her father's home in Virginia.[26] When he returned to Cadiz, Stanton established a law practice separate from Chauncey Dewey in the upper level of a local carpenter's shop. Rather than paying rent, Stanton gave the carpenter legal advice and often ate meals at his home. He also concluded that he should delay marrying his betrothed no longer. After buying a home on the fringes of Cadiz, he went to Columbus, where Mary Lamson was. Stanton and Lamson had wished to be married at the Trinity Episcopal Church where they had met, but Stanton's illness rendered this idea moot. Instead, the ceremony was performed at the home of Reverend William Preston, the rector at Trinity Episcopal, on December 31, 1836.[27]

After their union, Edwin and Mary went on what Edwin called "the brightest, sweetest journey of all my life", a 125-mile (201-kilometre) sleigh ride from Columbus to the couple's new home in the outskirts of Cadiz.[27] Soon after, Stanton left his wife to visit the home of Benjamin Tappan in Steubenville. Stanton had been acquainted with Tappan from a young age, as he and Tappan's son had attended school together at one point. Tappan was also a good friend for Stanton to have; he was a wealthy man who was well connected politically—these connections got him a nomination for a position as a federal judge, which was eventually rejected in the United States Senate—and, like Stanton, Tappan had a disdain for slavery, but unlike his brothers, Tappan was more quiet about his abolitionist tendencies. At Tappan's home, the two men agreed to form a partnership to practice law in Steubenville, even though Stanton would maintain his residence in Cadiz. When the partnership was done, Stanton sojourned to Virginia where his mother and sisters were, and then escorted the women back to Cadiz, where they would live with him and his wife.[28]

There was a notable change in Edwin Stanton after his marriage that many in his family, especially Pamphilia, noticed. Stanton himself said in a letter to a friend that "his reprehensible qualities had been repressed by her presence", and that he was "very happy".[29] At nights, Stanton often gave an account of the day's happenings to his family, or read books to them. Oella was kept busy by her mother's recurring illnesses, and was unable to attend school, so Stanton prodded her to read such works as Plutarch's Lives, and poems by John Greenleaf Whittier, an abolitionist, and William Cullen Bryant, the author of the acclaimed poem "Thanatopsis".[29] In Cadiz, Stanton was situated prominently in the local community. He worked with the town's anti-slavery society, and with a local newspaper, the Sentinel, writing and editing articles there.[30] In 1837, Stanton was elected the prosecutor of Harrison County on the Democratic ticket.[Note 2] The position paid a relatively small sum of $200 a year, but allowed Stanton to purchase eighty acres (thirty-two hectares) of land in Washington County, and several lots in Cadiz.[33][30]

Rising attorney (1839—1860)[edit]

Collaboration with Tappan[edit]

Stanton's relationship with Benjamin Tappan changed dramatically in the time subsequent to their partnership. Stanton's sister Oella was married to Tappan's son; and Tappan, having been elected a United States Senator from Ohio in December 1838, needed someone to tend to his legal practice, and chose Stanton.[30] This led the 24-year-old Stanton to return to Steubenville when his term as county prosecutor was finished in the fall of 1839.[34] He purchased a home on Third Street in Steubenville for $800. It was only him and his wife who lived in the house initially, as his mother and sister had moved to Hollidays Cove, West Virginia to live with Stanton's brother Darwin, who had recently completed a medical education at Harvard University. However, when Darwin was married in July 1839 to a woman named Nancy Hooker, Lucy and Pamphilia Stanton resumed their residency with Edwin and his wife.[30] Stanton's work in politics also expanded; he was a delegate at the Democrats' 1840 national convention in Baltimore, and was featured prominently in Martin Van Buren's campaign in the 1840 presidential election. When Van Buren lost the election to his Whig rival, William Henry Harrison, Stanton withdrew from politics for a time. On March 11, 1840, Edwin and Mary Stanton welcomed their first child, a daughter they named Lucy Lamson. Later, Stanton would recall this time as the happiest in his life. He "adored the baby, loved his wife, was advancing in the profession he wanted to practice, and was overcoming the financial problems that had beset the family for so many years".[35]

Stanton's home in Steubenville, Ohio

Edwin Stanton's joy turned to fear and anxiety when baby Lucy, just months after her birth, was stricken by an unknown illness. Stanton gave all of his work to six acolytes who worked at his law practice, left active politics and spent the summer of 1841 at Lucy Lamson Stanton's bedside.[36] On September 17, 1841, Stanton received "his first taste of real sorrow", according to historian Frank Abial Flower, with the death of his young daughter.[37][22] Mary Stanton, who had also lost her sister about this time, became ill soon after, and Edwin's grief left him disoriented. At the urging of his wife and sister, who felt he was in need of a distraction, Stanton returned to law and politics. Issues relating to the Panic of 1837 and the Second Bank of the United States left Democrats in the country split. Originally, Democrats were united in their enmity towards the bank's influence of the federal government; now, some members of the party were "revolting", endorsing Whig-backed pro-bank articles. Stanton worked with other party members to control and suppress the contention among Democrats. He wanted the nonconformist Democrats "severely punished", but party leaders, fearing that harsh treatment might turn party members toward the Whig cause, chose to reaccept the dissenters back into the party.[38]

On March 7, 1842 Stanton was elected by the Ohio Legislature to a three-year term as the Supreme Court of Ohio's court reporter, a position which paid $300 a year. The following month, Stanton went to Virginia to assist his brother Darwin to be elected as a Whig to the state's lower house, an election he won; Darwin, with his brother's help, was again elected the next spring to the same position, but as a Democrat.[39] On August 11, 1842, the Stantons had their second child, a healthy and active son whom they named Edwin Lamson. The boy's birth refreshed the spirits in the Stanton household after baby Lucy's death. By December of that year, Stanton had returned to Columbus, where he had been just before the birth of his son, to "widen his acquaintance with lawyers and politicians". In Columbus, Stanton was befriended by Salmon P. Chase. Chase, a lawyer from Cincinnati, was nicknamed "the attorney general for runaway slaves", and tried to engage him with the abolitionist movement and the newly formed and ardently abolitionist Liberty Party. Stanton deeply disagreed with the concept of slavery, but thought abolitionism was best suited to the Democratic Party, rather than a third party. Both men remained intransigent in their beliefs, but became friends.[40]

Stanton spent most of 1843 rallying the Democrats in the Ohioan counties of Jackson and Carroll around Martin Van Buren in advance of the 1844 Democratic National Convention. However, the nomination ended up in the hands of a dark horse candidate, James K. Polk. By the time Polk's nomination occurred, Stanton was more preoccupied with grief than anything else. In February 1844, Mary Stanton was left bedridden by a bilious fever. Her condition continued to worsen until she died on March 13.[41] Stanton's grief "verged on insanity", says historians Benjamin P. Thomas and Harold M. Hyman.[42] He had Mary's burial attire redone repeatedly, as he demanded she look just as she had when they were wed seven years prior. "This is my bride and she shall be dressed and buried like a bride", he declared. In the evenings, Stanton would emerge from his room with his eyes filled with tears and search the house frantically with a lamp, all the while asking, "Where is Mary?"[42] Stanton's wits regrouped about him eventually, but even then he continued to read Mary's letters. He eventually compiled the letters into one book and gave them to his son and other relatives.[42]

By the middle of summer in 1844 Stanton returned to lawyering. As the head of Jefferson County's Democratic committee, Stanton worked to consolidate support in the county around Polk, despite the fact that he was initially Van Buren's man. Polk won the county, but his rival, Henry Clay, carried Ohio.[43] Polk ended up winning the 1844 presidential election. Afterwards, Stanton withdrew from politics in 1845 to focus on his cases.[44] One such case was defending Caleb J. McNulty, whom Stanton labelled "a glorious fellow". McNulty was the Democratic clerk of the United States House of Representatives, but was dismissed from his position by a unanimous vote in the House, and charged with embezzlement when $45,500 of the House's money went missing. McNulty was shrouded in scandal, as were Stanton and Tappan—Tappan was one of McNulty's sureties, and Stanton's brother was McNulty's assistant. Democrats, fearing their party's disrepute, made clamorous cries for McNulty to be punished, and his conviction was viewed as a foregone conclusion, even by his own legal defense. Tappan wanted Stanton to defend McNulty, and Stanton obliged. Stanton came to Washington a day before the trial's commencement and spent a considerable amount of time examining the facts associated. Stanton brought forth a motion to dismiss McNulty's indictment, something thought unlikely to be approved, but through the use of numerous legal technicalities, the motion was granted, and all charges against McNulty were dropped, to the shock and applause of the courtroom and case watchers. The ruling was delivered on Stanton's thirty-first birthday, and as every detail of the affair was covered by newspapers around the United States, Stanton's name was featured prominently nationwide.[45][46]

Later years in Steubenville[edit]

After the McNulty scandal, Stanton and Tappan parted ways professionally. In Tappan's place, Stanton formed a partnership with a former student of his, George Wythe McCook of the "Fighting McCooks".[47] Around this time, tensions with Mexico reached their peak, and war was seen as an inevitable prospect. After a vigorous plea by President Polk, the U.S. Congress authorized a declaration of war against Mexico. Men across the country hastened to enlist in the United States Army. Stanton's initial misgivings over the annexation of Texas were eclipsed by the patriotic zeal that blanketed the United States. The "Steubenville Greys", Steubenville's contribution of recruits to the war effort, was led by Stanton's partner, George McCook. Stanton, too, attempted to enlist, but was dissuaded by his doctor, who feared how his asthma would affect his condition in battle. Instead, he gave his horse to the Greys, and convinced local women to give their Bibles to the men. Despite his best efforts, Darwin Stanton would also be forced to remain a non-participant of the Mexican–American War, as he had contracted a fever that hampered his brain's function. Darwin left his duties as McNulty's assistant and returned to Virginia in August 1846. Late the following September, a deeply depressed and ill Darwin Stanton committed suicide by opening up his throat with a lance, bleeding out in moments. When Edwin Stanton heard what his brother had done, and saw the extent of the event, he darted out into the woods amid a cold night without his hat or coat. The men who were with Stanton feared that he too would commit suicide; when they found him, they watched him carefully.[48]

His brother's death, so closely accompanied by the death of his wife and infant daughter, left Stanton, who was once a joyful man, with a bitter, brusque and saturnine intensity. He brought his brother's widow and three children to his home in Steubenville, where they would live with Stanton's mother and son. For several months in early 1847, Stanton lingered in Steubenville—he extricated himself from social events and politics as well, but in the latter count, only temporarily. Stanton's law operation was no longer only in Ohio, having expanded to Virginia and Pennsylvania. He concluded that Steubenville would no longer prove adequate as a headquarters, and thought Pittsburgh most appropriate for his new base. By late October 1847, Stanton had been admitted to the bar in Allegheny County.[49][50]

Attorney in Pittsburgh[edit]

A lithograph of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge

In Pittsburgh, Stanton formed a partnership with a prominent retired judge, Charles Shaler, while maintaining his collaboration with McCook, who had remained in Steubenville after returning from service in the Mexican–American War. While based in Pittsburgh, Stanton argued several high-profile suits. One such proceeding was State of Pennsylvania v. Wheeling and Belmont Bridge Company and others in the United States Supreme Court. The case concerned the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in the world at that time, and an important connector for the National Road. The bridge's center rose some ninety feet (twenty-seven meters) but proved to be a nuisance to passing ships with tall smokestacks. With ships unable to clear the bridge, enormous amounts of traffic, trade and commerce would be redirected to Wheeling, West Virginia. On August 16, 1849 he urged the Supreme Court to injunct Wheeling and Belmont, as the bridge was obstructing traffic into Pennsylvania, and hindering trade and commerce. Associate Justice R. C. Grier directed those who were aggrieved by the bridge's operations to go to a lower court, but left an avenue open for Stanton to file the injunction in the Supreme Court, which he did.[51][Note 3]

Oral arguments for the Pennsylvania v. Wheeling and Belmont began on February 25, 1850, which was also when Stanton was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court.[52] Wheeling and Belmont argued that the court lacked jurisdiction over the matters concerning the case; the justices disagreed.[53] The case proceeded, allowing Stanton to exhibit a dramatic stunt, which was widely reported on and demonstrated how the bridge was a hindrance—he had the steamer Hibernia ram its eighty-five-foot (twenty-six-meter) smokestack into the bridge, which destroyed it and a piece of the ship itself.[54] May 1850 saw the case handed over to Reuben H. Walworth, the former Chancellor of New York, who returned a vivid opinion in February 1851 stating that the Wheeling Bridge was "an unwarranted and unlawful obstruction to navigation, and that it must be either removed or raised so as to permit the free and usual passage of boats." The Supreme Court concurred; in May 1852, the court ordered in an 7–2 ruling that the bridge's height be increased to one hundred eleven feet (thirty-four meters). Wheeling and Belmont were unsatisfied with the ruling and asked Congress to act.[53] To Stanton's horror, a bill declaring the Wheeling bridge permissible became law on August 31, effectively overriding the Supreme Court's ruling and authority. Stanton was disgruntled that the purpose of the court—to peacefully decide and remedy disputes between states—had been diminished by Congress.[55][56]

McCormick v. Manny and second marriage[edit]

An engraving of Cyrus H. McCormick

A by-effect of Stanton's performance in Pennsylvania v. Wheeling and Belmont was that he was sought after for other prominent cases. Perhaps most notably is the case of inventor Cyrus McCormick. In 1831, a young McCormick created a machine to harvest crops. The device was particularly useful in the burgeoning wheat fields of the Western United States. Demand for McCormick's invention grew rapidly, attracting fierce competition, especially from fellow inventor and businessman John Henry Manny. In 1854 McCormick and his two prominent lawyers, Reverdy Johnson and Edward M. Dickinson, filed suit against Manny claiming he had infringed on McCormick's patents. McCormick demanded an injunction on Manny's reaper. Manny was also defended by two esteemed lawyers, George Harding and Peter H. Watson. McCormick v. Manny was initially to be tried in Chicago, and the two lawyers wanted another attorney local to the city to join their team; the recommended choice was Abraham Lincoln. When Watson met Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, he had a dim first impression of him, but after speaking with Lincoln, Watson saw that he might be a good choice. However, when the venue of the proceedings was transferred to Cincinnati rather than Chicago, and the necessity for Lincoln was negated, Harding and Watson went for their first choice, Edwin Stanton. Lincoln was not made aware that he had been replaced, and still appeared at the proceedings in Cincinnati with his arguments prepared.[57] Stanton's apprehension towards Lincoln was immediate and severe, and he did well to indicate to Lincoln that he wanted him to absent himself from the case. The case proceeded with Harding, Watson and Stanton and Manny's true defenders; Lincoln did not actively participate in the planning or arguing of the case, but kept in Cincinnati as a spectator.[58]

Stanton's role in Manny's legal trio was as a researcher. Though he admitted that George Harding, an established patent lawyer, was more adept at the scientific aspects of the case, Stanton worked to summarize the relevant jurisprudence and case law.[59] To win McCormick v. Manny for Manny, Stanton, Harding and Watson had to impress upon the court that McCormick had no claim to exclusivity in his reaper's use of a divider, a mechanism on the outer end of the cutter-bar which separated the grain. A harvesting machine would not have worked properly without a divider, and Manny's defense knew this. However, to assure a win, Watson opted to use duplicity—he employed a model maker named William P. Woods to retrieve an older version of McCormick's reaper and alter it to be presented in court. Woods found a reaper in Virginia which was built in 1844, one year prior to McCormick's patent being granted. He had a blacksmith straighten the curved divider, knowing that the curved divider in Manny's reaper would not conflict with a straight one in McCormick's reaper. After using a salt and vinegar solution to add rust to where the blacksmith had worked to ensure the antiquity of the machine was undeniable, Woods sent the reaper to Cincinnati. Stanton was joyed when he examined the altered reaper, and knew the case was theirs. Arguments for the case began on September 1855. In March 1856, Justices John McLean and Thomas Drummond delivered a ruling in favor of John Manny. McCormick appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, and McCormick v. Manny, was, all of a sudden, a political issue, and the matters concerning the case found their way to the floor of Congress.[60][61]

While the Supreme Court and Congress brooded on the case, Stanton attended to some personal matters. In February 1856 Stanton became engaged to Ellen Hutchinson, a girl sixteen years Stanton's junior.[62] Stanton and Hutchinson met at a Pittsburgh church. She came from a prominent family in the city; her father was Lewis Hutchinson, a wealthy merchant and warehouseman and a descendent of Merriweather Lewis.[63] Despite the Hutchinson's mother's apprehensiveness that her 26-year-old daughter was getting married to the 41-year-old Stanton, the two were married on June 25, 1856 at Hutchinson's father's home. They honeymooned at Niagara Falls, Montreal, the White Mountains and Nahant, Massachusetts.[64][65] In his relationship to Hutchinson, Stanton reclaimed what he thought he had forever lost after the death of Mary, "love of the abiding sort."[66] Stanton and Hutchinson moved to Washington after their marriage; part of this decision was rooted in Stanton's belief that he would see important work with the Supreme Court. They leased a home on C Street in Washington.[67]

Emergence in Washington[edit]

Stanton's home in Washington, D.C.

In Pennsylvania Stanton had become intimately acquainted with Jeremiah S. Black, the chief judge in the state's supreme court. This friendship proved profitable for Stanton when on March 4, 1857, James Buchanan was inaugurated the fifteenth President of the United States; Buchanan made Black his Attorney General.[68][69] Black's accession to his new post was soon met with a land claims issue in California. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican–American War and gave California to the United States, the United States agreed to recognize valid land grants by Mexican authorities. This was followed by the California Land Claims Act of 1851, which established a board to review claims to California lands. One such claim was made by José Y. Limantour, a French-born merchant who asserted ownership of an assemblage of lands that included important sections of the state, such as a sizeable part of San Francisco. When his claims were recognized by the land commissioners, the U.S. government appealed. Meanwhile, Black corresponded with a person named Auguste Jouan, who stated that Limantour's claims were invalid, and that he, under Limantour's employ, forged the date listed on one of the approved grants. Black needed an individual loyal to the Democratic Party and to the Buchanan administration, who could faithfully represent the administration's interests in California; he chose Stanton.[70][71]

Ellen Stanton loathed the idea. In California Edwin would be thousands of miles away from her for what was sure to be months, leaving her lonely in Washington, where she had few friends. Moreover, on May 9, 1857 Ellen had a daughter whom the Stantons name Eleanor Adams. After the girl's delivery, Ellen fell ill, which frightened Edwin and delayed his decision to go to California. In October 1857 Stanton finally agreed to represent the Buchanan administration's interests in California. Having agreed to a compensation of $25,000, Stanton set sail from New York on February 19, 1858 aboard the Star of the West, along with his son Eddie, James Buchanan, Jr., the President's nephew, and Lieutenant H. N. Harrison, who was assigned to Stanton's detail by the Navy.[72] After a tempestuous voyage, the company docked in Kingston, Jamaica, where slavery was disallowed. On the island, the climate pleased Stanton greatly, and at a church there, Stanton was surprised to see blacks and whites sitting together. Afterwards, Stanton and his entourage landed in Panama, and left there on a ship three times larger than the one on which they came, the Sonora. On March 19 the company finally docked in San Francisco, and bunkered at the International Hotel.[73]

Stanton took to his work with haste. In aid if his case Stanton, along with his entire party and two clerks, went about arranging disordered records from California's time under Mexico. The "Jemino Index" that he uncovered gave information on land grants up to 1844, and with the assistance of a Congressional act, unearthed records from all over the state pertaining to Mexican grants.[74] Stanton and company worked for months sorting the land archives; meanwhile, Stanton's arrival in California produced gossip and scorn from locals, especially from those whose land claims would be in jeopardy should Stanton's work prove victorious.[75] Further, President Buchanan and Senator Douglas were wrestling for control of California, and Stanton was caught in the crosshairs, resulting in a defamatory campaign against Stanton by Douglas' supporters. The campaign disheartened Stanton, but barely distracted him.[76] Limantour had built up a speciously substantial case. He had accrued a preponderance of ostensibly sound evidence, such as witness testimony, grants signed by Manuel Micheltorena, the Mexican governor of California prior to cessation, and paper with a special Mexican government stamp. However, Auguste Jouan's information was instrumental in Stanton's case. According to Jouan, Limantour had received dozens of blank documents signed by Governor Micheltorena, which Limantour could fill in as he willed. Further, Jouan had bore a hole in one of the papers to erase something, a hole that was still present in the document. Stanton also acquired letters that explicitly laid out the fraud, and stamps used by customs officials, one authentic and the other fraudulent. The fraudulent one had been use eleven times, all on Limantour's documents. When Stanton sent to Minister of the Exterior in Mexico City, they could not locate records corroborating Limantour's grants. In late 1858 Limantour's claims were denied by the land commission, and he was arrested on perjury charges. He posted a $35,000 bail and left the country.[77]

As 1858 drew to a close, and Stanton prepared to return home, Eddie became sick. Whenever Stanton made arrangements to leave California, his son's condition grew worse.[78] Edwin had written Ellen as often as he could as her anxiety and loneliness increased in Washington. She criticized him for leaving her in the town alone with young "Ellie".[76] January 3, 1859 saw Stanton and company leave San Francisco.[79] He was home in early February. In the nation's capital Stanton advised President Buchanan on patronage, and helped Attorney General Black extensively, even being mistaken as an Assistant Attorney General. Nonetheless Stanton's affairs in Washington paled in comparison to the excitement he had experienced on the other side of the country—at least until he found himself defending a man who had become fodder for sensationalists and gossipers around the country.[80]

Daniel Sickles trial[edit]

A Harper's Weekly depiction of Sickles shooting Key

Daniel Sickles was a member of the United States House of Representatives from New York. He was married to Teresa Bagioli Sickles, the daughter of composer Antonio Bagioli. Sickles' wife had began an affair with Philip Barton Key, the Attorney General of the District of Columbia and the son of The Star-Spangled Banner creator Francis Scott Key. On Sunday, February 27, 1859 Sickles confronted Key near his Washington home. "Key, you scoundrel, you have dishonored my home; you must die", Sickles declared, and shot Key to death.[79] Sickles then went to the home of Attorney General Black and admitted his crime.[80] The subsequent Thursday he was charged with murder by a grand jury. The Sickles affair gained nationwide media attention for both its scandalous nature and its proximity to the White House. Soon, the press speculated that Daniel Sickles' political esteem was on the account of an affair between his wife and President Buchanan. Prominent criminal lawyer James T. Brady and his partner, John Graham, came to Sickles' defense, and solicited Stanton to join their team.[80]

A depiction of the scene in the courtroom during Daniel Sickles' trial

Arguments for the trial began on April 4. The prosecution wanted to advance the theory that Sickles had also committed adultery and did not pay very much mind to this wife or her activities. When the judge disallowed this, the prosecution opted instead to highlight the heinous nature of Sickles' murder, and not address his reasons for doing the crime. Sickles' defense countered that Sickles had suffered from a temporary bout of insanity, the first such instance of an insanity plea in American jurisprudence. The events in the courtroom during the trial were nothing if not dramatic. When Stanton delivered closing arguments, stating that marriage is sacred and that a man should have the right to defend his marriage against those who chose to defile the purity of the sacrament, the courtroom erupted in cheers. A law student described Stanton's argument during the trial, "a typical piece of Victorian rhetoric, an ingenious thesaurus of aphorisms on the sanctity of the family."[81] The jury in the case deliberated for just over an hour before declaring Sickles not guilty. The judge ordered that Sickles be released from his arrest. Outside the courthouse, Sickles, Stanton and company met a throng of individuals in adulation of the victory.[82]

Early work in politics (1860—1862)[edit]

In Buchanan's cabinet[edit]

In late 1860 President Buchanan was formulating his yearly State of the Union address to Congress, and asked Attorney General Black to offer insight into the legality and constitutionality of secession. Black then asked Stanton for advice.[83] Stanton approved a strongly-worded draft of Black's response to Buchanan, which denounced secession from the Union as illegal. Buchanan gave his address to Congress on December 3.[84] Meanwhile, Buchanan's cabinet were growing more discontent with his handling of secession, and several members deemed him too weak on the issue. On December 5 his Secretary of the Treasury, Howell Cobb resigned. On December 9 Secretary of State Lewis Cass, disgruntled over Buchanan's failure to defend the government's interests in the South, tendered his resignation. Black was nominated to replace Cass on December 12.[85] About a week later, Stanton, at the time in Cincinnati, was told to come to Washington at once, for he had been confirmed by the Senate as Buchanan's new Attorney General. He was sworn in on December 20.[85][86]

Stanton met a cabinet in disarray over the issue of secession. Buchanan did not want to agitate the South any further, and sympathized with the South's cause.[87] On December 9 Buchanan had agreed with South Carolinian congressmen that the military installations in the state would not be reinforced unless force against them was perpetrated. However, on the day that Stanton assumed his position, Maj. Robert Anderson moved his unit to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, which the Southerners viewed as Buchanan reneging on his promise. South Carolina issued an ordinance of secession soon after, declaring itself independent of the United States.[88] The South Carolinians demanded that federal forces leave Charleston Harbor altogether; they threatened carnage if they did not get compliance.[89] The following day, Buchanan gave his cabinet a draft of his response to the South Carolinians. Secretaries Thompson and Philip Francis Thomas, of the Treasury Department, thought the President's response too pugnacious; Stanton, Black and Postmaster General Joseph Holt thought it too placatory. Isaac Toucey, Secretary of the Navy, was alone in his support of the response.[90]

Stanton was unnerved by Buchanan's ambivalence towards the South Carolina secession crisis, and wanted to stiffen him against complying to the South's demands.[91] On December 30 Black came to Stanton's home, and the two agreed to pen their objections to Buchanan ordering a withdrawal from Fort Sumter. If he did such a thing, the two men, along with Postmaster General Holt, agreed that they would resign, delivering a crippling blow to the administration. Buchanan obliged them.[92][Note 4] The South Carolinian delegates got their response from President Buchanan on New Year's Eve 1860; the President would not withdraw forces from Charleston Harbor.[94]

By February 1, six Southern states had followed South Carolina's lead and passed ordinances of secession, declaring themselves to no longer be a part of the United States.[95] On February 18 Jefferson Davis was sworn in as the President of the Confederate States.[96] Meanwhile, Washington was astir with talk of coups and conspiracies. Stanton thought that discord would ravage the capital on February 13, when electoral votes were being counted; nothing happened. Again, Stanton thought, when Lincoln was sworn in on March 4 there would be violence; this did not come to pass. Lincoln's inauguration did give Stanton a flickering of hope that his efforts to keep Fort Sumter defended would not be in vain, and that Southern aggression would be met with force in the North. In his inauguration speech, Lincoln did not say he would outlaw slavery throughout the nation, but he did say that he would not support secession in any form, and that any attempt to leave the Union was not lawful. In Stanton, Lincoln's words were met with cautious optimism.[97] The new President submitted his choices for his cabinet on March 5,[98] and by that day's end, Stanton was no longer the attorney general.[99] He lingered in his office for a while to help settle in and guide his replacement, Edward Bates.[98]

Cameron's advisor[edit]

Simon Cameron, Lincoln's Secretary of War before Stanton

On July 21, the North and the South experienced their first major clash at Manassas Junction in Virginia, the First Battle of Bull Run. Northerners thought the battle would end the war, and defeat the Confederacy decisively; however, the bloody encounter ended in with the Union Army retreating to Washington. Lincoln wanted to bolster Northern numbers afterwards, with many in the North believing the war would be more arduous than they initially expected, but when more than 250,000 men signed up, the federal government did not have enough supplies for them. The War Department had states buy the supplies, assuring them that they would be reimbursed. This led to states selling the federal government items that were usually damaged or worthless at very high prices. Nonetheless, the government bought them.[100]

Soon, Simon Cameron, Lincoln's Secretary of War, was being accused of incompetently handling his department, and some wanted him to resign. Cameron sought out Stanton to advise him on legal matters concerning the War Department's acquisitions, among other things.[101] Calls for Cameron to resign grew louder when he endorsed a bombastic November 1861 speech given by Col. John Cochrane to his unit. "[W]e should take the slave by the hand, placing a musket in it, and bid him in God's name strike for the liberty of the human race", Cochrane said.[102] Cameron embraced Cochrane's sentiment that slaves should be armed, but it was met with repudiation in Lincoln's cabinet. Caleb B. Smith, the Secretary in the Department of the Interior, scolded Cameron for his support of Cochrane.[103]

Cameron inserted a call to arm the slaves in his report to Congress, which would be sent along with Lincoln's address to the legislature.[103] Cameron gave the report to Stanton, who amended it with a passage that went even further in demanding that slaves be armed,[104] stating that those who rebel against the government lose their claims to any type of property, including slaves, and that it was "clearly the right of the Government to arm slaves when it may become necessary as it is to use gunpowder or guns taken from the enemy".[105] Cameron gave the report to Lincoln, and sent several copies to Congress and the press. Lincoln wanted the portions containing calls to arm the slaves removed, and ordered the transmission of Cameron's report be stopped and replaced with an altered version. Congress received the version without the call to arm slaves, while the press received a version with it. When newspapers published the document in its entirety, Lincoln was excoriated by Republicans, who thought him weak on the issue of slavery, and disliked that he wanted the plea to arm slaves removed.[104]

The President resolved to dismiss Cameron when abolitionists in the North settled over the controversy. Cameron would not resign until he was sure of his successor, and that he could leave the cabinet without damaging his reputation. When a vacancy in the post of Minister to Russia presented itself, Cameron and Lincoln agreed the he would fill the post when he resigned. As for a successor, Lincoln thought Joseph Holt best for the job, but his Secretary of State, William H. Seward, wanted Stanton to succeed Cameron. Salmon Chase, Stanton's friend and Lincoln's Treasury Secretary, agreed.[106] Stanton had been preparing for a partnership with Samuel L. M. Barlow in New York, but abandoned these plans when he heard of his possible nomination.[107] Lincoln nominated Stanton to the post of Secretary of War on January 13. He was confirmed two days following.[108]

Lincoln's Secretary of War (1862—1865)[edit]

Early days in office[edit]

Stanton as Secretary of War

Under Cameron, the War Department had earned the moniker "the lunatic asylum."[109] The department was barely respected among soldiers or government officials, and its authority was routinely disregarded. The army's generals held the brunt of the operating authority in the military, while the President and the War Department interceded only in exceptional circumstances.[110] The department also had strained relations with Congress, especially Representative John Fox Potter, the head the House's "Committee on Loyalty of Federal employees", which sought to root out Confederate sympathizers in the government. Potter had prodded Cameron to remove about fifty individuals he suspected of Confederate sympathies; Cameron had paid him no mind.[111]

Stanton was sworn in on January 20.[112] Immediately, he set about repairing the fractious relationship between Congress and the War Department. Stanton met with Potter on his first day as secretary, and on the same day, dismissed four persons. This was well short of the fifty person Potter wanted gone from the department, but he was nonetheless joyed. Stanton also met with Senator Benjamin Wade and his Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. The committee was a necessary and fruitful ally; it had subpoena power, thus allowing it to acquire information Stanton could not, and could remove unsavory members of the government with ease. Wade and his committee were happy to find an ally in the executive branch, and met with Stanton often thereafter.[113] Stanton made a number of organizational changes within the department as well. He appointed John Tucker, an executive at the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, and Peter H. Watson, his partner in the reaper case, to be his assistant secretaries,[114] and had the staff at the department expanded by over sixty employees.[109] Further, Stanton appealed to the Senate to cease appointments of military officials until he could review the more than 1,400 individuals up for promotion. Until then, military promotions were a spoils system, where individuals favorable to the administration were given promotions, regardless of merit. This ceased under Stanton.[115][Note 5]

On January 29 Stanton ordered that all contracts to manufacturers of military materials and supplies outside the United States be voided and replaced with contracts within the country, and that no such further contracts be made with foreign companies. The order provoked apprehension in Lincoln's cabinet.[118] The United Kingdom and France were searching for cause to recognize and support the Confederates, and Stanton's order may give it to them.[119] Secretary of State Seward thought the order would "complicate the foreign situation." Stanton persisted, and his January 29 order stood.[120]

Meanwhile, Stanton worked to create an effective transportation and communication network across the North. His efforts focused on the railroad system and the telegraph lines. Stanton worked with Senator Wade to push through Congress a bill that would codify the ability of the President and his administration to forcibly seize railroad and telegraph lines for their purposes. Railroad companies in the North were accommodating to the needs and desires of the federal government for the most part, and the law was rarely used.[121] Stanton also secured the government's use of telegraph. He relocated the military's telegraphing operations from McClellan's army headquarters to his department, a decision the general was none to pleased with. The relocation gave Stanton closer control over the military's communications operations, and he exploited this. Stanton forced all members of the press to work through Assistant Secretary Watson, where unwanted journalist would be disallowed access to official government correspondence. If a member of the press went elsewhere in the department, they would be charged with espionage.[122]

Prior to Stanton's incumbency as War Secretary, President Lincoln apportioned responsibility for the security of government against treachery and other unsavory activities to several members of his cabinet, mostly Secretary Seward, as he did not trust Attorney General Bates or Secretary Cameron. Under Secretary Stanton, the War Department would have consolidated responsibility for internal security. A lynchpin of Seward's strategy to maintain internal security was the use of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and Stanton continued this practice. Democrats harshly criticized the use of arbitrary arrests, but Lincoln contented that it was his primary responsibility to maintain the integrity and security of the government, and that waiting until possible betrayers committed an guilty act would hurt the government.[123] At Stanton's behest Seward continued the detention of only the most risky inmates, and released all others.[124]


Photograph of Edwin Stanton from around this time

Lincoln eventually grew tired of McClellan's inaction, especially after his January 27, 1862 order of advance against the Confederates in the Eastern Theatre had provoked little military response from McClellan. On March 11 Lincoln relieved McClellan of his post as general-in-chief of U.S. forces—leaving him in charge of only the Army of the Potomac—and replaced him with Stanton. This created a bitter chasm in the relationship between Stanton and McClellan, and implored McClellan's supporters to claim that Stanton "usurped" the role of general-in-chief, and that a Secretary of War should be subordinate to military commanders.[125][126] Lincoln ignored such calls, leaving military power consolidated within himself and Stanton.[127]

Meanwhile, McClellan was preparing for the first major military operation in the Eastern Theatre, the Peninsula Campaign. The Army of the Potomac began their movement to the Virginia Peninsula on March 17.[128] The first action of the campaign was at Yorktown. Lincoln wanted McClellan to attack the town outright, but McClellan's inspection of the Confederate defensive works there compelled him to lay siege to the town instead.[129] Washington politicians were angered at McClellan's choice to delay an attack. McClellan, however, requested reinforcements for his siege—the 11,000 men in Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin's division, of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell's corps. Stanton wanted Maj. Gen. McDowell's corps to stay together and march on to Richmond, but McClellan persisted, and Stanton eventually capitulated.[130]

McClellan's campaign lasted several months. However, after Gen. Robert E. Lee became the commander of local Confederate forces on June 1, he launched a series of offensives against the Army of the Potomac, who, by late June 1862, was just a few miles from the Confederate capital, Richmond.[131] McClellan and the Army of the Potomac were pushed back to Harrison's Landing in Virginia, where they were protected by Union gunboats.[132] In Washington, Stanton was blamed for McClellan's defeat by the press and the public. On April 3 Stanton had suspended military recruiting efforts under the mistaken impression that McClellan's Peninsula Campaign would end the war. With McClellan retreating and the casualties from the campaign piling up, the need for more men rose significantly. Stanton restored recruiting operations on July 6, when McClellan's defeat on the Peninsula was firmly established, but the damage was done. The press, angered by Stanton's strict measures regarding journalistic correspondence, unleashed torrents of scorn on Stanton, furthering the narrative that he was the only encumbrance to McClellan's victory.[133]

The attacks hurt Stanton, and he considered resigning; but he remained in his position, at Lincoln's request.[134] As defeats piled up, Lincoln sought to unify the disparate divisions of Union forces in Virginia. He decided to unify the commands of Maj. Gens. McDowell, John C. Frémont, and Nathaniel P. Banks into the Army of Virginia, which was to be commanded by Maj. Gen. John Pope.[135] Lincoln was also convinced that the North's army needed reform at the highest ranks; he and Stanton being the de facto commanders of Union forces had proved too much to bear, so Lincoln would need a skilled commander. He chose Gen. Henry W. Halleck. Halleck arrived in Washington on July 22, and was confirmed as the general-in-chief of Union forces the following day.[136]

Emancipation Proclamation[edit]

Further information: Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln's hesitance to emancipate slaves was demonstrated when he tried to veto the Confiscation Act of 1862, which allowed for the seizure and use of land and slaves from disloyal citizens, and the emancipation of slaves captured by the Union Army. Before he could, Congress passed a resolution elucidating their purpose with the Act, which assuaged Lincoln, who signed it without contention. On July 22, 1862, Stanton argued fervently for hours that slaves should be freed and armed. That same day, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was read for the first time. Nonetheless, Lincoln's apprehensiveness towards freeing and arming slaves continued for months.[138] This did not stop Stanton from issuing an order in late August to Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton, the head of the Negro troops corps, instructing him to use captured slaves as soldiers and laborers.[139]

Stanton became more and more restless as Lincoln delayed issuing the proclamation. The arguments over the issue were "earnest and acrimonious", according to Secretary Seward. Stanton's tireless persistence brought its first result on September 22, 1862, when Lincoln outlined, in the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, his intent to free all slaves in states that had failed to return to the Union by January 1, 1863. When New Year's Day 1863 came, not a single Confederate state had returned to the Union when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves in the states that were in rebellion against the United States to be free.[140] Many credited Stanton with the President's change of heart.[141]

War rages on[edit]

In the final days of August 1862, Gen. Lee had delivered a second rout at Manassas Junction in the Second Battle of Bull Run; this time, against Maj. Gen. Pope and his Army of Virginia. A number of people, including Maj. Gen. Halleck and Secretary Stanton, thought Lee would turn his attention to Washington. Instead, Lee began the Maryland Campaign. The campaign started with a skirmish at Mile Hill on September 4, followed by a major confrontation at Harpers Ferry. Lincoln, without consulting Stanton, perhaps knowing Stanton would object, merged Pope's Army of Virginia into McClellan's Army of the Potomac. With 90,000 men, McClellan launched his army into the bloody Battle of Antietam, and emerged victorious, pushing the Army of Northern Virginia back into Virginia, and effectively ending Lee's Maryland offensive.[142] McClellan's success at Antietam Creek emboldened him to demand that Lincoln and his government cease obstructing his plans, Halleck and Stanton be removed, and he be made general-in-chief of the Union Army. Meanwhile, he refused to move aggressively against Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, which was withdrawing towards Richmond. McClellan's unreasonable requests continued, as did his indolence, and Lincoln's patience with him soon grew thin.[143] He dismissed him from leadership of the Army of the Potomac on November 6. Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside replaced McClellan the following day.[144]

Burnside, at Halleck's request, submitted a plan to create a ruse at Culpeper and Gordonsville, while the brunt of his force took Fredericksburg, then moved on to Richmond. Halleck's response was sent on November 14: "The President has just assented to your plan. He thinks that it will succeed, if you move rapidly; otherwise not."[145] The following Battle of Fredericksburg was a disaster, and the Army of the Potomac was handily defeated.[146]

Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker replaced Burnside on January 26, 1863. Stanton did not much care for Hooker, who had loudly denounced Lincoln's administration, and had been insubordinate while serving under Burnside. He would have preferred for Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans to head the army; Lincoln disregarded Stanton's opinion. As Thomas and Hyman tell it, Lincoln "chose Hooker because that general had a reputation as a fighter and stood higher in popular esteem at that moment than any other eastern general."[147] Hooker spent considerable time strengthening the Army of the Potomac, especially regarding morale. Hooker's first major engagement with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was the Battle of Chancellorsville in early May 1863. Lee had Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson engage Hooker's rearguard in a precipitous flanking maneuver. Stonewall Jackson's maneuver was skilfully employed, resulting a Confederate victory when the fighting ended on May 6, leaving 17,000 casualties.[148]

Stanton's attempts to raise Northern spirits after the defeat were hampered by news that, under Hooker, the Army of the Potomac had become grossly undisciplined. Indeed, Hooker's camps were described as "combination of barroom and brothel." Stanton petitioned for liquor and women to be forbidden in Hooker's ranks.[149] Meanwhile, Lee was again pushing into the North. Lee's movements were racking nerves in Washington by mid-June, more so when disturbing reports came from Hooker's subordinates, such as that of Brig. Gen. Marsena Patrick: "[Hooker] acts like a man without a plan, & is entirely at a loss what to do, or how to match the enemy, or counteract his movements."[150] Further, like McClellan, Hooker kept overestimating Lee's numbers, and said the Lincoln's administration did not have full confidence in him. Hooker resigned on June 27; Stanton and Lincoln decided that his replacement would be Maj. Gen. George Meade, who was appointed the following day.[151]

Lee and Meade first clashed in the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1. News of a victory at Gettysburg, and a great Confederate retreat, came on July 4. Soon after, word came of Maj. Gen. Grant's victory at Vicksburg. Northerners were exultant. Stanton even gave a rare speech to a huge crowd outside of the War Department's headquarters.[152] The administration's celebrations soon ended, however, when Maj. Gen. Meade refused to launch an attack against Lee while the Army of Northern Virginia was stuck on the banks of the Potomac river. When Lee crossed the river untouched on July 14, Lincoln and Stanton were upset.[153] Stanton affirmed in a letter to a friend that Meade would have his support unreservedly, but that "since the world began no man ever missed so great an opportunity of serving his country as was lost by his neglecting to strike his adversary." Stanton knew, though, that Meade's reluctance came at the advice of his division commanders, who outranked him.[154]

While action in the Eastern Theater winded down, action in the west heated up. After the two-day Battle of Chickamauga in late September, Maj. Gen. Rosecrans, the commander of the Army of the Cumberland, was left trapped in Chattanooga, Tennessee and beset on all sides by Gen. Braxton Bragg's forces. Rosecrans telegraphed Washington: "We have met a serious disaster, extent not yet ascertained." The situation in Chattanooga was desperate. The North needed the town in its hands. According to journalist Charles Anderson Dana, who had been Stanton's assistant secretary since March 1863,[155] Rosecrans might only be able to fight for another 15–20 more days and that without at least 20,000 to 25,000 men, Chattanooga would be lost.[156] Lincoln and Stanton greed to make Maj. Gen. Grant the commander of almost all forces in the west, while dismissing Rosecran from command of the Army of the Cumberland, and replacing him with Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas.[157] Grant and Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman broke the Gen. Bragg's siege at Chattanooga in late November. Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet attempted to besiege Maj. Gen. Burnside's army at Knoxville, but Sherman attacked the Confederates, sending them retreating.[158]

End of the war[edit]

Grant, having been promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and made the commanding general of the Union Army, crossed the Rapidan River on May 4. The following day, he and Lee's armies clashed in the Battle of the Wilderness. The result was inconclusive, but Grant, unlike previous commanders, was loathe to stop his onward push; "there would be no turning back", he told Lincoln.[159] Grant again engaged Lee at Spotsylvania Court House, emerging victorious.[160] Several days later, Grant and Lee battled at Cold Harbor, where Grant launched numerous assaults in an open field, incurring heavy losses. Grant pushed on, moving his army to a position just south of Richmond, near Petersburg; so began the Siege of Petersburg.[161] "Long lines of parallel entrenchments curled south and east of Richmond as both armies dug in", say Thomas and Hyman. "Grant stabbed at Lee's fortifications, always keeping the pressure on, and at the same time probed westward, feeling for the railroads that brought Lee's supplies."[162]

In the 1864 presidential election, Lincoln and his new Vice President, Andrew Johnson, emerged victorious against their Democratic opponents, George B. McClellan and George H. Pendleton. Republicans also won major congressional and gubernatorial victories in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and New York.[163] Stanton played no small part in securing the victory. Several days prior to the election, he ordered soldiers from key states such as Illinois, Lincoln's home state, to be returned home to vote. "The men who were doing the fighting had voted for more of it in order to make their efforts worth while", Thomas and Hyman state. Stanton also used his powers at the War Department to ensure that Republican voters were not harassed or threatened at the polls. Thomas and Hyman credit Stanton's troop furlough and other moves with much of the Republican success in the 1864 elections.[164]

On March 3, 1865, the day before Lincoln's second inauguration, Grant wired to Washington that Lee had sent representatives to him to sue for peace. Lincoln initially told Grant that he should get peace with the South by any means necessary. Stanton declared, however, that it is the president's duty to sue for peace; otherwise, the president is useless and little more than a figure-head. This engendered an immediate change of tone from the president. Stanton, at Lincoln's urging, told Grant that he was to "have no conference with General Lee unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. Lee's army, or on some minor, and purely, military matter". Further, Grant was not to "decide, discuss, or confer upon any political questions. Such matters the President holds in his own hands; and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions". Grant agreed.[165] Days later, Lincoln visited Grant at his siege headquarters (the Siege of Petersburg was still ongoing). Once Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan had rejoined his army from the Shenandoah Valley, Grant was prepared to make his final push into Richmond.[166] On April 1, 1865, Sheridan defeated Lee's army in the Battle of Five Forks, forcing a retreat from Petersburg. Stanton, who had stayed close to his telegraph for days, told his wife the following evening: "Petersburg is evacuated and probably Richmond. Put out your flags."[167] Stanton was worried that President Lincoln, who had stayed around to watch Grant's push into Richmond, was in danger of being captured, and warned him. Lincoln disagreed, but was happy for Stanton's concern. The President wrote Stanton: "It is certain now that Richmond is in our hands, and I think I will go there to-morrow."[167]

News of Richmond's fall, which came on April 3,[168] touched off a furious excitement throughout the North. "The news spread fast, and people streaming from stores and offices speedily filled the thoroughfares. Cannons began firing, whistles tooted, horns blew, horsecars were forced to a standstill, the crowd yelled and cheered", say Thomas and Hyman.[169] Stanton was overjoyed. At his bidding, candles were put in the windows of each of the Department's properties, while bands played "The Star-Spangled Banner". Further, the department's headquarters was adorned with American flags, along with an image of an bald eagle holding in its talons a scroll with "Richmond" written on it.[169] The night Richmond fell, Stanton tearily gave an impromptu speech to the crowd outside the War Department.[168]

Lee and his army had slipped out of Richmond before its fall, though.[169] Grant marched west to stymie Lee's retreat, while Lincoln remained in Richmond. News of Grant's victories over the withdrawing Confederates lit up Washington's telegraphs. The Union Army was pressing on Lee's tail, and capturing thousands of Confederate prisoners of war. On April 9 Lee finally surrendered, ending the war.[170] On April 13, Stanton suspended conscription and recruiting, as well as the army's acquisition efforts.[171]

Lincoln assassinated[edit]

On April 13, Lincoln invited Stanton, Grant and their wives to join him at Ford's Theatre the next evening. Lincoln had invited Stanton to go with him to the theatre several times, invitations Stanton routinely rejected. Further, neither of Stanton or Grant's wives would go unless the other went. The Grants used a visit to their children in New Jersey as their excuse. Finally, Lincoln decided to go to the theatre with Major Henry Rathbone and his betrothed. Stanton retired home that night after visiting a bedridden Secretary Seward. He went to bed at about 10 pm. Soon after, he heard Ellen yell from downstairs: "Mr. Seward is murdered!"[172] Stanton rushed downstairs. Upon hearing that Lincoln, too, might be dead, Stanton grew intensely animated. He wanted to leave immediately. He was cautioned: "You mustn't go out ... As I came up to the house I saw a man behind the tree-box, but he ran away, and I did not follow him."[172] Stanton paid little mind to the man; he found a taxi and went to Seward's home.[172]

At his arrival, Stanton was told that Lincoln had in fact been attacked. Stanton ordered that the homes of all members of the cabinet and the Vice President be put under guard.[173] Stanton pushed through a crowd at the Secretary's home to find an unconscious Seward being attended to by a doctor in a bloody third-floor room. Seward's son, Frederick, was left paralyzed by the attack. Stanton and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, who had come to Seward's home moments before, decided to go to Ford's Theatre to see the President. The two secretaries went by carriage, accompanied by Quartermaster General Meigs and David K. Cartter, a justice on the District Court for the District of Columbia.[174]

Abraham Lincoln lay on his deathbed at the Petersen House in Washington, surrounded by family, friends and government officials.

Stanton found Lincoln at the Petersen House across from the theatre. Lincoln lay on a bed diagonally, because of his height.[174] When he saw the dying President, several accounts say Stanton began to weep. However, William Marvel states in his book, Lincoln's Autocrat: The Life of Edwin Stanton that "Stanton's emotional detachment and his domineering persona made him valuable that night, as others wallowed in anguish".[175] Thomas and Hyman also state: "Always before, death close at hand had unsettled him close to the point of imbalance. Now he seemed calm, grim, decisive, in complete outward control of himself".[176] Andrew Johnson, about whom Stanton, and the country, knew little, was sworn in as President at 11 am on April 15, in the Kirkwood Hotel.[177] However, Stanton, who had planned to retire at the end of the war, "was indeed in virtual control of the government", say Thomas and Hyman. "He had charge of the Army, Johnson was barely sworn in and vastly unsure of himself, and Congress was not in session."[178]

Life was ebbing slowly from the President when Stanton ordered testimony taken from those who saw the attack. Witnesses soon blamed actor John Wilkes Booth for the assassination.[179] Stanton put all soldiers on Washington on guard,[180] and ordered a lockdown of the city.[181] Rail traffic to the south was to be halted, and fishing boats on the Potomac were not to come ashore.[180] Stanton also called Grant back to the capital from New Jersey.[175]

On April 15, Washington was, as journalist George A. Townsend said, "full of Detective Police". At Stanton's request, the United States Secret Service and the New York Police Department joined the War Department's detectives' tireless search for Booth and any accomplices.[182] Stanton had the lower deck of the monitor USS Montauk, which was placed near the Washington Navy Yard,[183] host several of the conspirators, Lewis Powell, Michael O'Laughlen, Edmund Spangler, and George Atzerodt. The other plotters, except Booth and Mary Surratt, were confined aboard the USS Saugus. The prisoners on both boats were bound by ball and chain, with handcuffs attached to an iron rod. Stanton also ordered a bag placed over the captives' heads, with a hole in it to allow for eating and breathing.[184] Surratt was kept at Old Capitol Prison, where she had been since her arrest.[185] Booth, the remaining culprit, had been shot at a barn in Virginia, and died soon after. Booth's cadaver was put aboard the Montauk. After an autopsy was performed, and Booth's identity confirmed beyond any doubt, he was buried in a "secret, unmarked, and unhallowed grave", on Stanton's orders. Stanton knew Booth would be lionized in the South, and thought he would not give anyone the opportunity.[186] The conspirators went on to be tried and convicted. All but three were hung.[187]

Johnson administration (1865—1868)[edit]


The war was done, and Stanton now bore the substantial task of reshaping the American military establishment such that it would be as capable an apparatus in peacetime as it had proven to be in wartime.[188] To this end, in the North, Stanton reorganized the army into two section; one to handle "training and ceremonial chores", and another to quell the American Indians in the west, who were agitated and blusterous as a result of the war.[189] In the South, a high priority was mending the power vacuum left in Southern states after the rebellion.[190] Stanton presented his military occupation proposal, which had been endorsed by Lincoln, to the President: two military governments would be established in Virginia and North Carolina, with provost marshals to enforce laws and establish order, tasks the marshals had proven most capable of in the weeks after the end of the war.[191]

BEP engraved portrait of Andrew Johnson as President
BEP engraved portrait of Andrew Johnson as President

President Johnson had promised to his Cabinet in their first meeting on April 15 that he would uphold his predecessor's plans for Reconstruction, plans that the deceased President had discussed at length with Stanton.[192][Note 6] On May 29, 1865 Johnson issued two proclamations; one appointed William Woods Holden as the interim governor of North Carolina, and another pardoned individuals involved in the rebellion, with a few exceptions, if they agreed to loyalty and acceptance of all laws and edicts regarding slavery.[194] Johnson also recognized Francis Harrison Pierpont's government in Virginia, as well as the governments in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee, which were formed under Lincoln's ten percent plan. Further, Johnson offered the ten percent plan to several other Southern states.[195]

In his 1865 message to Congress, the Democratic Johnson contended that the only necessary proof of loyalty a state needed to show was ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. Republicans in Congress disagreed; Senators Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens thought black suffrage was vitally necessary to the nation's security and the continuing dominance of the Republican Party. Republicans used parliamentary procedures to ensure none of the Southern delegates, who were mostly former Confederate leaders, took a seat in Congress, and established a predominantly-Republican joint committee to decide Reconstruction matters.[196] The Johnson–Congress divide precipitated with his veto of Senator Lyman Trumbull's two bills in early 1866, which surprised many who thought the moderate bills would have the President's support.[197] The Civil Rights Bill would have extended and protected Negro civil rights, and the Freedman's Bureau Bill would have extended the authorization of the Freedmen's Bureau.[198] Johnson's veto of the Civil Rights Bill was overridden by a supermajority in both houses, while his Freedmen's Bureau veto failed to achieve the required supermajority to override.[199]

Daguerreotype photograph from about 1855 of Radical Republican senator and staunch Stanton ally Charles Sumner

Thomas and Hyman paint Stanton as a conciliator. When it came to Reconstruction, the President and Congress were on separate islands with increasingly large chasms dividing them. Johnson, even when his amnesty policy had come under heavy criticism, had obdurately supported and continued it. Republicans in Congress, however, came to prefer Stanton's military occupation proposal. Having the support of congressional Republicans like Senator Sumner, and being in Johnson's cabinet, some saw Stanton as the only remaining link.[200] However, even members of the cabinet found themselves at odds with Johnson. Stanton was in close cooperation with Sumner, possibly trying to push Johnson towards Sumner's radicalist Republican ideals. Meanwhile, he maintaining spurious public support for the President's Southern policies.[201] Sumner, based on sources within the cabinet (likely Stanton), thought Stanton, Interior Secretary James Harlan, Attorney General James Speed, and Postmaster General William Dennison objected to Johnson's approach towards handling the South, while secretaries Gideon Welles, William Seward and Hugh McCulloch agreed.[202]

Johnson's isolation grew throughout 1866. Dennisson, Speed and Harlan resigned from the cabinet, while Stanton remained, perhaps because he had few sources of income other than his secretaryship, and his resignation would leave him practically penniless.[203] The President's support from moderate Republicans dwindled after the gruesome anti-Negro riots in Memphis and New Orleans, which Stanton may have encouraged, or at least did little to prevent.[204] Johnson's strained relationship with the people was shown in stunning clarity in the 1866 elections. The governorships of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Maine, all went to Republicans. Further, in both the House and Senate elections, Republicans gained a two-thirds plurality of the seats.[205] In the new year, some Republicans sought to use their majority to oust Johnson. They presented the Tenure of Office Bill, written with Stanton in mind.[206] The President had long considered dismissing Stanton and replacing him with Maj. Gen. Sherman; the Tenure of Office Bill would have made the former illegal without the advice and consent of Congress, which was unlikely to be given for Stanton, who was firmly supported by and cooperating with the Radicals.[207] Stanton denounced the bill to Johnson and the cabinet; however, when Johnson asked him to pen the veto message, he claimed he had rheumatism in his right arm.[208]

The other measures Radicals considered and supported were no more accommodating to Johnson, whose administration had been "reduced ... to impotence, if not to irrelevance".[209] Seemingly as a matter of course, Congress refused to appoint any of Johnson's nominations, even the most minor of them. Meanwhile, the First Reconstruction Act, which disassembled Southern state governments and replaced them with five military districts, easily passed Congress. Johnson and his cabinet noted the striking similarities between Congress' Reconstruction plan and Stanton's. On March 2, Johnson vetoed both the First Reconstruction and Tenure of Office acts; his vetoes were overridden the same day. Republicans also passed a military appropriations bill containing a clause that outlawed the dismissal of the army's commanding general without the advice and consent of Congress. At the advice of numerous people in his cabinet, he signed the bill with little resistance.[210]

With the protection offered by the Tenure of Office Act, Stanton's opposition to Johnson became more open.[211] In the following months, Johnson grew increasingly exasperated with his War Secretary.[212] Johnson told Grant he intended to remove Stanton, and give him the War Secretaryship. Grant opposed the idea. He argued for Stanton's retention and stated that the Tenure of Office Act protected Stanton. Further, Grant said, should the tenure law prove impotent, public opinion would turn further against the administration. Seward, who still respected Stanton greatly, also disagreed with his removal.[213] The two men's words made Johnson teeter in uncertainty; however, his will was stiffened with the support from Secretary Welles and Salmon Chase, now the Supreme Court's Chief Justice—the former previously described Stanton as "selfish, insincere, a dissembler, and treacherous", and the latter's friendship with Stanton was abandoned for the sake of Chase's political aspirations.[214] On August 12, Johnson sent a note to Stanton saying that he was suspended from his position as Secretary of War, and was to turn over the department's files and power to Grant. Stanton grudgingly, but with little resistance, complied.[215]


Antebellum career[edit]

Stanton began his political life as a lawyer in Ohio and as an antislavery Democrat. After leaving Kenyon College he returned to Steubenville in 1833 to get a job to support his family. He began studying law, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1835. At 21, he argued his first court case.[3] Stanton built a house in the small town of Cadiz, Ohio, and practiced law there until 1847, when he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He resided at one point in Richmond, Ohio, in what is now Everhart Bove Funeral Home.

Stanton and Clement Vallandigham were very close friends before the Civil War. Stanton loaned Vallandigham $500 for a course and to begin a law practice.[216] Both Vallandigham and Stanton were Democrats, but had opposing views of slavery.

Legal career[edit]

In 1835 Stanton passed the Ohio state bar and began practicing as a lawyer. Over the next 10 years, he built a robust law practice in Ohio. He then moved his law practice to Pittsburgh before settling in Washington, D.C., in 1856. While in Washington, Stanton was involved in several high-profile legal cases, including the murder trial of future Union General Daniel Sickles, in which he made one of the earliest successful uses of the insanity defense.[217]

Antebellum relationship with Lincoln[edit]

Stanton first met Lincoln in the McCormick-Many Reaper Trial, better known as the "Reaper" suit. The John Manny Company of Rockford, Illinois, was indicted with a patent infringement charge by Cyrus McCormick, the original inventor of the reaping machine. The case was an important test case between several outstanding patent lawyers, Edward Dickerson of New York and former Attorney General Reverdy Johnson for McCormick, against George Harding. As the case was to be tried before a judge in Chicago, Harding decided to engage a local lawyer who best understood the judge. Lincoln's name was recommended. No sooner had Lincoln started working on the legal arguments, had Harding received word that the case had been transferred from Chicago to Cincinnati. The change of venue to Ohio allowed Harding the partner with Edwin Stanton, his original choice.

Unaware of the new circumstances, Lincoln made his way to Cincinnati, where he introduced himself in front of Harding and Stanton, proposing "Let's go up in a gang." At this point, Stanton drew Harding aside and whispered, "Why did you bring that long armed Ape here...he does not know anything and can do you no good." With that Stanton and Harding turned from Lincoln and continued to court on their own. In the days that followed, Stanton made it clear that Lincoln was expected to remove himself from the case.[218]

Daniel Sickles' Murder trial[edit]

Edwin Stanton was among the group of defenders for Daniel Sickles. In the case, he made use of a plea of temporary insanity plea for the first time in the legal history of America, arguing that Sickles was simply too overcome with passion to control himself. And despite Daniel Sickles own infidelity, the case quickly flipped from a murder trial to an adultery trial, publicly scorning Teresa and making a kind of hero out of Sickles. After a 20-day trial, Sickles was found not guilty.[219]

Political career[edit]

Stanton was sent to California in 1858 by the U.S. Attorney General as special Federal agent for the settlement of land claims, where he succeeded in breaking up a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government of vast tracts of land of considerable value.[220]

Attorney general[edit]

In 1860 Stanton gave up a successful law practice and was appointed United States Attorney General in the lame-duck presidential administration of James Buchanan.[221][222] He strongly opposed secession, and is credited by historians for changing Buchanan's governmental position away from tolerating secession to denouncing it as unconstitutional and illegal.

Time of war[edit]

Civil War[edit]

After Lincoln was elected president, Stanton agreed to work as a legal adviser to the inefficient Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, who was reassigned by Lincoln because of allegations of corruption. Cameron was replaced by Stanton on January 15, 1862. He accepted the position only to "help save the country", giving up his private practice and a salary of nearly fifty thousand dollars a year for the post with a salary of eight thousand dollars as a patriotic duty. He was very effective in administering the huge War Department, but devoted considerable energy to the prosecution of Union officers whom he suspected of having traitorous sympathies for the South, the most notable of whom was Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter. Stanton used his power as Secretary to ensure that every general who sat on the court-martial would vote for conviction or else be unable to obtain career advancement.

On August 8, 1862, Stanton issued an order to "arrest and imprison any person or persons who may be engaged, by act, speech or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments, or in any way giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or in any other disloyal practice against the United States".

The president recognized Stanton's ability, but whenever necessary Lincoln managed to "plow around him". Stanton once tried to fire the Chief of the War Department Telegraph Office, Thomas Eckert. Lincoln prevented this by praising Eckert to Stanton. Yet, when pressure was exerted to remove the unpopular secretary from office, Lincoln refused. He said of Stanton:

Running The Machine
An 1864 cartoon featuring Stanton, William Fessenden, Abraham Lincoln, William Seward and Gideon Welles takes a swing at the Lincoln administration

Stanton became a Republican and apparently changed his opinion of Lincoln.[citation needed]

Lincoln's assassination[edit]

On April 15, 1865, Stanton rushed to the Petersen House, where President Lincoln had been taken after he had been shot at Ford's Theatre. Upon hearing that Secretary of State William H. Seward had been stabbed, he became convinced that South was making one last-ditch effort to destroy the United States. The Secretary of War took charge of the scene at the theater immediately, dispatching 1,500 soldiers to track down the perpetrators and offering a reward of up to $100,000 for any information that would lead to their capture. Mary Lincoln was so unhinged by the experience of the assassination that Stanton had her ordered from the room by shouting, "Take that woman out and do not let her in again!" At Lincoln's death Stanton uttered what became a memorable quote "Now he belongs to the ages" (or possibly "angels"), and lamented,[221] "There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen." He vigorously pursued the apprehension and prosecution of the conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination. These proceedings were not handled by the civil courts, but by a military tribunal, and therefore under Stanton's tutelage. Stanton has subsequently been accused of witness tampering, most notably of Louis J. Weichmann, and of other activities that skewed the outcome of the trials.

Stanton's Supreme Court nomination

Andrew Johnson's administration[edit]

Stanton continued to hold the position of secretary of war under President Andrew Johnson until 1868. Stanton strongly disagreed with Johnson's plan to readmit the seceded states to the Union without guarantees of civil rights for freed slaves. The two clashed over implementation of Reconstruction policy, and Johnson dismissed Stanton and named Ulysses S. Grant as his replacement. The dismissal was overruled by the Senate. Stanton barricaded himself in his office when Johnson tried again to dismiss him, this time appointing Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas as his successor. Radical Republicans initiated impeachment proceedings against Johnson on the grounds that Johnson's removal of Stanton without Senate approval violated the Tenure of Office Act.[224][3][221][222] Stanton played a central role in the attempt to impeach President Andrew Johnson. Johnson avoided removal from office by a single vote in the Senate.[221]

U.S. Supreme Court appointment and death[edit]

After this, Stanton resigned and returned to the practice of law. He campaigned heavily for Ulysses S. Grant in 1868, and Grant rewarded him with an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in December 1869. The Senate confirmed Stanton on December 19. However, Stanton (whose health had worsened during the war), suffered a severe asthma attack on December 23, and died at 4:00 a.m. on December 24, 1869, in Washington, D.C.[225]

Stanton was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in the city.[226] Because Stanton died before taking the oath of office, he is not considered to have officially joined the Supreme Court.

Personal life[edit]

Stanton with his son, Edwin Lamson Stanton

On May 31, 1836, Stanton married Mary Lamson, and they had two children: Lucy Lamson Stanton (born March 11, 1837) and Edwin Lamson Stanton (born August 1842). They built a house in the small town of Cadiz, Ohio, where Stanton practiced law. Their daughter Lucy died in 1841 and their son Edwin died in 1877.

Mary Stanton died on March 13, 1844. The loss of his beloved wife sent Stanton spiraling into a deep depression. Then, in 1846, Stanton's brother Darwin cut his own throat—"The blood spouted up to the ceiling", a doctor recalled.[citation needed]

So many losses in so short a time changed Stanton, replacing a hearty good humor with a brusque, even rude, intensity. He moved to Pittsburgh, lost himself in legal work, and turned into a ferocious litigator. He also met and wooed Ellen Hutchison, who became his second wife and later survived him. While in Washington, Stanton worshipped at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, where he rented the pew vacated by Senator Jefferson Davis upon his resignation and secession.[227]

Stanton had taken a large pay cut to serve as Secretary of War, and his finances were not in good shape when he died. Congress voted Mrs. Stanton a sum the equivalent of one year's pension for a U.S. Supreme Court justice, since her late husband had been confirmed to the Court but not sworn in. Friends also collected a generous fund to care for her and her family.

Stanton on U.S. postage[edit]

The 1st Stanton postage stamp, issue of 1871

Edwin Stanton was the second American other than a U.S. President to appear on a U.S. postage issue, the first being Benjamin Franklin, who appeared on a stamp in 1847. The only Stanton stamp was issued March 6, 1871. This was also the only stamp issued by the post office that year. The Stanton 7-cent stamp paid the single rate postage for letters sent from the U.S. to various countries in Europe.[228][229]


"The Situation", a Harper's Weekly cartoon gives a humorous breakdown of "the situation". Stanton aims a cannon labeled "Congress" on the side at President Andrew Johnson and Lorenzo Thomas to show how he was using Congress to defeat the president and his unsuccessful replacement. He also holds a ramrod marked "Tenure of Office Bill" and cannonballs on the floor are marked "Justice". Ulysses S. Grant and an unidentified man stand to Stanton's left.
Stanton depicted on a $1 1891 Treasury Note.

A distinctive engraved portrait of Stanton appeared on U.S. paper money in 1890 and 1891. The bills are called "treasury notes" or "coin notes" and are widely collected today. These rare notes are considered by many to be among the finest examples of detailed engraving ever to appear on banknotes. The $1 Stanton "fancyback" note of 1890, with an estimated 900–1,300 in existence relative to the millions printed, ranks as number 83 in the "100 Greatest American Currency Notes" compiled by Bowers and Sundman (2006). Stanton also appears on the fourth issue of Fractional currency, in the amount of 50 cents. Stanton Park, four blocks from the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., is named for him, as is Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville, Florida. A steam engine, built in 1862, was named the "E. M. Stanton" in honor of the new Secretary of War. Stanton County, Nebraska, is named for him. Stanton Middle School in Hammondsville, Ohio, is named after him. A neighborhood in Pittsburgh is named for him (Stanton Heights) as well as its main thoroughfare (Stanton Avenue).

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


Explanatory notes
  1. ^ There seems to be some confusion among sources as to when Stanton actually took his bar examination, with several sources saying he took the exam in 1836.[22][23] However, as Stanton explicitly stated in December 1835 that he was "twenty-one, a free man, and admitted to practice law", the August 1835 date is what is used here.[24]
  2. ^ Stanton "went over to [President Andrew] Jackson", as one of his early schoolmates acerbically stated, when he was in Kenyon College. His sympathies for the Democrats, and for Andrew Jackson is perhaps complicated by the fact that Stanton's father was an ardent supporter of Jackson's rivals, Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams.[31] However, Stanton's views on the Nullification Crisis, which paralleled those of Jackson, encouraged him to become a member of the Democratic Party.[32]
  3. ^ In his preparations for the case, Stanton was questioning sailors at Pittsburgh's docks when he fell into the hold of the cargo vessel Isaac Newton. The result was a limp in his gait that would keep with him for the rest of his life.[52]
  4. ^ In years subsequent, and after a falling out between him and Stanton, Black said that it was he, and he alone, that authored the document and was responsible for Buchanan's decision. Stanton did not deny this, merely saying that he was part of the process. It should be noted though, that in a letter to a friend, Stanton said that, at that moment, Black was going to the White House to "present the written objections, which [Stanton had] just prepared."[93]
  5. ^ Stanton even tore up two written requests from First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln to promote an individual favorable to the Lincoln administration, and later lambasted her for making such a request.[116] He also refused to appoint Benjamin Tappan, Jr., his sister Oella's son, until Lincoln intervened.[117]
  6. ^ In his 1863 State of the Union Address, Lincoln declared that his Reconstruction plan had two major facets. Firstly, Lincoln would issue an impartial pardon to individuals in offense against the United States, excepting certain persons of high rank, if they agreed to swear acceptance of the government, Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and all of the country's slave laws. Secondly, acceptance of any state back into the Union would hinge on whether ten percent of those who voted in that state in the 1860 elections swore allegiance to the United States. If this condition was met, the state could establish a government, and select delegates to send to a state constitutional convention, and he would recognize and protect the governments.[193]
  1. ^ a b c Gorham 1899a, p. 6.
  2. ^ "The Admission of Ohio as a State". House.gov. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved July 15, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Edwin M. Stanton". Ohio History Central. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  4. ^ Gorham 1899a, pp. 6–7.
  5. ^ Carnegie 1906, p. 3.
  6. ^ Gorham 1899a, pp. 7.
  7. ^ Allison 2009, p. 8.
  8. ^ a b c d Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 6.
  9. ^ a b c d Flower 1905, p. 23.
  10. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 22–23.
  11. ^ Flower 1905, p. 22.
  12. ^ Flower 1905, p. 22, 25.
  13. ^ Carnegie 1906, p. 4.
  14. ^ a b Gorham 1899a, p. 8.
  15. ^ Allison 2009, p. 9.
  16. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 27–28; Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 11
  17. ^ a b c Flower 1905, p. 28.
  18. ^ Flower 1905, p. 29.
  19. ^ Gorham 1899a, p. 17.
  20. ^ Gorham 1899a, pp. 17–18.
  21. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 14.
  22. ^ a b Gorham 1899a, p. 18.
  23. ^ "Edwin McMasters Stanton". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  24. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 17.
  25. ^ Flower 1905, p. 32.
  26. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 18.
  27. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 19.
  28. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 19–20.
  29. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 20.
  30. ^ a b c d Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 21.
  31. ^ Gorham 1899a, p. 11.
  32. ^ Carnegie 1906, p. 5.
  33. ^ Flower 1905, p. 33.
  34. ^ Gorham 1899a, p. 25.
  35. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 21–22.
  36. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 27.
  37. ^ Flower 1905, p. 38.
  38. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 26–28.
  39. ^ Flower 1905, p. 37.
  40. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 29–31.
  41. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 33–35.
  42. ^ a b c Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 35.
  43. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 36.
  44. ^ Flower 1905, p. 42.
  45. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 37.
  46. ^ Flower 1905, p. 44.
  47. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 38–40.
  48. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 40–41.
  49. ^ Flower 1905, p. 46, 53.
  50. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 41, 45.
  51. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 60–61.
  52. ^ a b Flower 1905, pp. 56–57.
  53. ^ a b Flower 1905, p. 57.
  54. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 62.
  55. ^ "H.R. 297 (32nd): Declaring the Wheeling bridges lawful structures, and for other purposes.". GovTrack. Retrieved July 22, 2015. 
  56. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 58–59.
  57. ^ Goodwin 2006, pp. 173–174; Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 63
  58. ^ Goodwin 2006, p. 174.
  59. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 65.
  60. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 63–65.
  61. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 62–65.
  62. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 69.
  63. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 68.
  64. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 69–70.
  65. ^ Flower 1905, p. 66.
  66. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 70.
  67. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 70-71.
  68. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 70–71.
  69. ^ Flower 1905, p. 67.
  70. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 74.
  71. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 67–68.
  72. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 75.
  73. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 76.
  74. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 77.
  75. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 77–78.
  76. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 78.
  77. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 79–80.
  78. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 81.
  79. ^ a b Flower 1905, p. 73.
  80. ^ a b c Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 83.
  81. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 84.
  82. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 84–85.
  83. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 88–89.
  84. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 89.
  85. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 90–91.
  86. ^ Flower 1905, p. 83.
  87. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 93.
  88. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 94.
  89. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 96.
  90. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 97–98.
  91. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 98.
  92. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 100–101.
  93. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 102.
  94. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 104.
  95. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 110.
  96. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 113.
  97. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 117–118.
  98. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 119.
  99. ^ Flower 1905, p. 103.
  100. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 125–126.
  101. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 126.
  102. ^ Flower 1905, p. 115.
  103. ^ a b Flower 1905, pp. 115–116.
  104. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 134.
  105. ^ Flower 1905, p. 116.
  106. ^ Flower 1905, p. 116; Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 116, 134–135
  107. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 131.
  108. ^ Flower 1905, p. 117.
  109. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 152.
  110. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 143.
  111. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 147; Flower 1905, p. 119
  112. ^ Flower 1905, p. 119.
  113. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 148.
  114. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 119, 127.
  115. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 164–165.
  116. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 165.
  117. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 166.
  118. ^ Flower 1905, p. 127.
  119. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 118, 128.
  120. ^ Flower 1905, p. 128.
  121. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 153.
  122. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 154–155.
  123. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 157.
  124. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 158.
  125. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 182–183.
  126. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 140–141.
  127. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 185.
  128. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 187.
  129. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 188.
  130. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 189.
  131. ^ Salmon 2001, pp. 60–67.
  132. ^ Sears 1992, p. 355.
  133. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 201–202.
  134. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 202.
  135. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 204–205.
  136. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 214.
  137. ^ "Art & History: First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln". U.S. Senate. Retrieved August 2, 2013.  Lincoln met with his cabinet on July 22, 1862, for the first reading of a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. Sight measurement. Height: 108 inches (274.32 cm) Width: 180 inches (457.2 cm)
  138. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 184–185.
  139. ^ Flower 1905, p. 186.
  140. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 187–188.
  141. ^ Flower 1905, p. 189.
  142. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 222–223.
  143. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 223–224.
  144. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 225.
  145. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 251.
  146. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 253.
  147. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 258.
  148. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 270.
  149. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 271.
  150. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 272.
  151. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 273.
  152. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 274.
  153. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 274–275.
  154. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 275.
  155. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 267.
  156. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 285–286.
  157. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 291.
  158. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 292.
  159. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 300.
  160. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 301.
  161. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 302–303.
  162. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 303.
  163. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 330–331.
  164. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 333–334.
  165. ^ Flower 1905, p. 259.
  166. ^ Thomas Hyman, p. 350.
  167. ^ a b Thomas Hyman, p. 351.
  168. ^ a b Flower 1905, p. 262.
  169. ^ a b c Thomas Hyman, p. 352.
  170. ^ Thomas Hyman, p. 353.
  171. ^ Thomas Hyman, p. 356.
  172. ^ a b c Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 396.
  173. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 396–397.
  174. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 397.
  175. ^ a b Marvel 2015, p. 370.
  176. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 401.
  177. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 400; Marvel 2015, p. 370
  178. ^ Thomas & Hyan 1962, pp. 400–401.
  179. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 397–398.
  180. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 398.
  181. ^ Marvel 2015, p. 369.
  182. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 400.
  183. ^ Steers 2001, p. 209.
  184. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 419.
  185. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 420.
  186. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 420–421.
  187. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 425–434.
  188. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 436.
  189. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 436–437.
  190. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 438.
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  198. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 466.
  199. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 467–468.
  200. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 465–466; Marvel 2015, pp. 416–417
  201. ^ Marvel 2015, pp. 396–401.
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  203. ^ Marvel 2015, p. 403; Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 475
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  212. ^ Marvel 2015, pp. 418–426.
  213. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 548.
  214. ^ Marvel 2015, p. 403; Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 548
  215. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 549–551.
  216. ^ Flower, Frank Abail (1905). Edwin McMasters Stanton, The Autocrat of Rebellion, Emancipation and Reconstruction. Boston, MA: George M. Smith & Co. p. 252 (footnote). 
  217. ^ http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/edwin-m-stanton.  Missing or empty |title= (help);
  218. ^ Goodwin, Dorris. Teams of rivals: The political genius of Abraham Licoln. Simon & Schuster. pp. 257–259. 
  219. ^ http://law.jrank.org/pages/2555/Daniel-Sickles-Trial-1859.html. Retrieved 18 May 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  220. ^ Women of the Civil War, Wife of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton
  221. ^ a b c d Robert C. Kennedy, Harper's Weekly. "The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson". Harper's Weekly. Retrieved December 20, 2010. 
  222. ^ a b "Edwin Stanton2". Spartacus Educational UK. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  223. ^ Swanson, James L. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. 6th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 2006. pp. 426–427. ISBN 978-0-06-051849-3
  224. ^ "Edwin M. Stanton (1814–1869)". The Lincoln Institute. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  225. ^ Schroeder-Lein & Zuczek 2001, p. 276.
  226. ^ Day & Hall 2005, p. 12.
  227. ^ http://www.edow.org/about/the-diocese/about-the-diocese/history
  228. ^ "Edwin M. Stanton issue of 1871". Smithsonian National Postal Nuseum. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  229. ^ Scott United States Stamp Catalogue
  230. ^ Davis, Carlyle Channing (1916). Olden Times in Colorado. Los Angeles: Phillips Publishing Company. pp. 31–32. 
  231. ^ Jeanne Jakle (July 30, 2011). "Jeanne Jakle: McGill's profile going higher and higher". mysanantonio.com. Retrieved July 30, 2011. 


  • Bowers, Q.D., and Sundman, D.M. 2006, 100 Greatest American Currency Notes, Whitman Pub., Atlanta, GA, 134 p.
  • Bissland, James. Blood, Tears, and Glory (Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press, 2007). Explains Stanton's key role in winning the Civil War.
  • Day, Sandra Hudnall; Hall, Alan (2005). Steubenville. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0738533998. 
  • Flower, Frank Abial (1905). Edwin McMasters Stanton: the autocrat of rebellion, emancipation, and reconstruction. New York: Western W. Wilson. 
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005) on Lincoln's cabinet.
  • Harold M. Hyman, "Johnson, Stanton, and Grant: A Reconsideration of the Army's Role in the Events Leading to Impeachment", American Historical Review 66 (October 1960): 85–96, online in JSTOR.
  • Hendrick, Burton J. Lincoln's War Cabinet (1946).
  • Kunhardt, Dorothy Meserve, and Kunhardt Jr., Phillip B. Twenty Days. Castle Books, 1965. ISBN 1-55521-975-6
  • Marvel, William. Lincoln's Autocrat: The Life of Edwin Stanton (University of North Carolina Press, 2015). xx, 611 pp., a standard scholarly biography.
  • Meneely, A. Howard, "Stanton, Edwin McMasters", in Dictionary of American Biography, Volume 9 (1935)
  • Pratt, Fletcher. Stanton: Lincoln's Secretary of War (1953).
  • Schroeder-Lein, Glenna R.; Zuczek, Richard (2001). Andrew Johnson: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576070301. 
  • Simpson, Brooks D. Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861–1868 (1991)
  • Skelton, William B. . "Stanton, Edwin McMasters"; American National Biography Online 2000.
  • Stanton, Edwin (Edited by: Ben Ames Williams Jr.) Mr. Secretary (1940), partial autobiography.
  • Thomas, Benjamin P.; Hyman, Harold M. (1962). Stanton: Life And Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-3078-2890-3. 
  • William Hanchett The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies (1983); demolishes the allegation that Stanton was the center of the plot to assassinate Lincoln.

External links[edit]

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United States Secretary of War
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