Edwin Stanton

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Edwin Stanton
Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of War.jpg
A portrait of Edwin Stanton
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 M. Schofield
25th United States Attorney General
In office
December 20, 1860 – March 4, 1861
President James Buchanan
Preceded by Jeremiah S. 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.
Resting place Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Political party Republican
Other political
Spouse(s) Mary Lamson Stanton
Ellen Hutchison Stanton
Alma mater Kenyon College
Profession Lawyer, Politician
Religion Methodist

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.[1][2][3][4] 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]


Prior to 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 Stanton wanted to free his slaves, as many Quakers in the North did; however, this was not something permitted 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."[5] Benjamin Stanton died in 1800. That year, Stanton's widow, Abigail, moved to Northwest Territory, where slavery was disallowed. Abigail Macy 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.[5] Soon, Ohio was admitted to the Union,[6] 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.[5] 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,[2] and not a Quaker. This forced David Stanton to abandon the Quaker sect.[7] However, Stanton remained an abolitionist vehemently opposed to slavery. As Andrew Carnegie put it, he "labor[ed] even in that early day to impress his fellows with the wrongfulness of slavery."[8]

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.[9] The Stantons later had two daughters, Oella and Pamphilia, and another son, Darwin.[10] In his youth, Edwin was "physically delicate, grave and studious,"[11] as well as frank, eloquent and empathetic. Edwin was also quite mature for his age. 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.[12] And when Edwin's father put a human skeleton in the same stable, hoping that Edwin would study the skeleton and gain an interest in becoming a physician, he lectured his peers on that as well.[13]

Stanton began his formal education at a private school when he was seven years old. The following year, he was trained at a seminary that was behind the Stanton's residence, called "Old Academy". When he was ten, Edwin was transferred to a school taught by a Presbyterian minister, Reverend George Buchanan, studying Latin, Greek, history and other "higher branches". While under Buchanan's tutelage, and with the Reverend's assistance, Stanton created a "natural history museum" of sorts, collecting such things as insects, frogs, birds and snakes.[14][11] He and his brother, Darwin, would even coil the snakes around their bodies to frighten their neighbors.[11] It was also at the age of ten that Stanton experienced his first asthma attack, a malady that would haunt him for the rest of his left, and would even make 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.[11] Edwin was a voracious reader,[15] and had a "fondness for poetry and [a] greed for books," and even formed a "circulating library" where books were borrowed among him and his friends.[16] 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 passed his religious knowledge test, and was allowed to become a full member of the church.[17]

David Stanton's medical practice afforded him and his family a decent, but not quite wealthy existence. When David Stanton died of apoplexy on December 30, 1827 at his residence,[17] his widow and her four children were left destitute.[15] 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.[17] 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.[18] His wage was only four dollars a month ($86 today), but to the impoverished Lucy Stanton, this money was not inconsiderable.[15]

Although he was no longer formally in school, Stanton was tutored by Reverend Buchanan in the evenings. Reverend Buchanan's tutelage prepared Stanton for Kenyon College, a school he was admitted into in 1831 at the age of seventeen. At Kenyon, Stanton worked earnestly at his studies, and occasionally got himself into mischief.[Note 1] Stanton was also prominently involved in Kenyon's Philomathesian Literary Society. He 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.[19] Afterwards, Stanton became the reconstructed Philomathesian Society's secretary.[20] A lack of money meant that Stanton was unable to finish at the Kenyon, and left in September 1832.[20] Stanton had completed his courses on history, mathematics, chemistry, political economy, geology and Latin.[21] In 1833, Stanton was again employed by Mr. Turnbull, but 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. However, with such a small salary, he dismissed the notion of returning to college, and left the employ of Mr. Turnbull permanently.[22] Stanton then took up studies in jurisprudence, and returned to Steubenville to pursue them.[23]

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.[24] He was engaged to her soon after, but refused to marry her until his law studies were finished. His studies did finally finish after three years of "well-directed and vigorous work at his books,"[25] when in August 1835,[Note 2] Stanton went to St. Clairsville, Ohio to take his bar examination and passed, thus allowing for him to practice law.[20] 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.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30]

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.[30] 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.[31]

There was a notable change in Edwin Stanton after his marriage. According to Stanton's sister Pamphilia, Edwin and Mary Stanton were very much in love, and 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." At nights, Stanton often gave an account of the day's happenings to his family, or read books to them. Oella and Pamphilia were often kept busy by their mother's recurring illnesses, and were unable to attend school, so Stanton prodded them 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".[32] In Cadiz, Stanton situated himself 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.[33] In 1837, Stanton was elected the prosecutor of Harrison County on the Democratic ticket.[Note 3] The position paid a relatively small sum of $200 a year ($4,169 today), but allowed Stanton to purchase eighty acres (thirty-two hectares) of land in Washington County, and several lots in Cadiz.[36][33]

Rising attorney (1839—1860)[edit]

Collaboration with Tappan[edit]

Stanton's relationship with Benjamin Tappan experienced several substantial changes 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.[33] This led the twenty-four year old Stanton to return to Steubenville when his term as county prosecutor was finished in the fall of 1839.[37] He purchased a home on Third Street in Steubenville for $800 ($18,899 today). 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.[33] 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. However, when Van Buren lost the election to his Whig rival, William Henry Harrison, Stanton withdrew from politics for a short time.[Note 4] On March 11, 1840, Edwin and Mary Stanton welcomed their first child, a daughter they named Lucy Lamson. Later, Stanton would recollect this time as the happiest time 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."[40]

Stanton's home in Steubenville, Ohio

Edwin Stanton's joy turned to fear and anxiety when baby Lucy, just months after he 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.[41] On September 17, 1841, Stanton received "his first taste of real sorrow," with the death of his young daughter.[42][25] Mary Stanton, who had also lost her sister about this time, became ill soon after, and Edwin's grief left him disoriented and unfocused. 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.[43]

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 ($7331 today). 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.[44] On August 11, 1842, the gap left by the death of Lucy was filled by the birth of a healthy and active son whom they named Edwin Lamson. After the birth of the little boy, "the spirits of the Stanton family notably revived." 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 thought that an abolitionism was best suited to the Democratic Party, rather than a third party. Both men remained intransigent in their beliefs, but became friends.[45]

W.S. Buchanan on Mary's death

I can hardly speak adequately of the death of Mary, which occurred two days before the meeting of the March term of the supreme court. As Stanton was engaged in every case, no court was held in Jefferson County for that term. He could not work and could not be consoled. He walked the floor incessantly, crying and moaning. At night he placed her night cap and gown and cried and cried for his dear Mary. After her burial he himself put white stones around the grave, and visited it every morning early to see if a single one has been removed and also to place flowers on his beloved one's breast. He not only did this, but for some days sent his gardener, Alfred Taylor, to guard like a soldier the resting place of his idolized wife.

–William Stanton (W.S.) Buchanan, a student, then partner in Stanton's law office.[46]

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. The nomination went to, not Van Buren, but a "dark horse" candidate, James K. Polk, but by the time this happened, 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.[47] Stanton's grief "verged on insanity."[48] 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 filled with the tears and search the house frantically with a lamp, all the while asking, "Where is Mary?"[48] 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.[48]

By the middle of summer in 1844 Stanton returned to lawyering. As the head of Jefferson County's Democratic committee, Stanton worked to consolidate the county for Polk, in spite of the fact that Stanton was initially Van Buren's man. Polk won the county, but his rival, Henry Clay, carried Ohio.[49] Polk ended up winning the 1844 presidential election, and afterwards, Stanton abstained from politics. In 1845, he focused only on his cases.[50] 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 this position after a unanimous vote in the House, and charged with embezzlement in the District of Columbia when $45,500 ($1151637 today) of the House's money was found to be 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. The Democratic press, 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 as all charges against McNulty were dropped, to the shock and general applause of the courtroom and other 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.[51][52]

Partnership with McCook and later events[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." Meanwhile, the problem of racism and slavery was becoming an issue the major parties in Ohio could no longer flout. In 1846, David Tod, a Democrat, was the frontrunner for the position of Governor of Ohio when Democratic publications started flaunting such catchlines as, "Vote for Tod and the Black Laws." Black Laws were a set of long-standing, discriminatory laws that, among other things, negated the ability of Negroes in Ohio to give testimony against a white person. The Liberty Party campaigned for the acts to be thrown out, a movement that was gaining momentum in the state. The major parties, Democrats and Whigs, did not tackle the issue at all, and neither did David Tod, until the Whigs uncovered evidence that Tod had come out in favor of the advancement of Negro rights when he ran for an Ohio senate seat in 1838; they called him a "nigger-lover". In response, Tod spoke out against the abrogation of the Black Law. All the while, Stanton grew more disheartened at the entire affair. He told Salmon Chase how troubled he was that it seemed unlikely that "just and true principles" might conquer men hell-bent on pushing their points of view.[53]

The Democrats had another problem brewing that concerned the entire nation. Tensions with Mexico had reached their peak, and war was viewed as an inevitable prospect. Both the United States and Mexico were sure they had casus belli; for Americans, it was Mexican aggression in disputed borderlands, and for Mexicans, it was the United States' attempts to bring Texas, Upper California and other Mexican territories into their control. After a vigorous plea by President Polk, the U.S. Congress authorized a declaration of war against Mexico. The result was the Mexican–American War. Men across the country hastened to enlist in the United States Army, and 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 in Washington and returned to Virginia in August 1846. Late the following September, Darwin Stanton opened up his own throat with a lance and exsanguinated 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.[54]

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.[55][56]

Attorney in Pittsburgh[edit]

A lithograph of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge

Stanton spent about nine years in Pittsburgh. He 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. Stanton's earliest involvement in the case was in July 1849. On August 16, 1849 he urged the Supreme Court to injunct Wheeling and Belmont, as the bridge was obstructing traffic into Pennsylvania, and was 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.[57]

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. 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.[58] Wheeling and Belmont argued that the court lacked jurisdiction over the matters concerning the case; the justices disagreed.[59] 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.[60] 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 with Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and Justice Peter Vivian Daniel dissenting, 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.[59] On July 8 a bill was brought to the House floor, dubbed H.R. 297, A bill declaring the Wheeling bridges lawful structures, and for other purposes.[61] To Stanton's horror, the bill became law on August 31, effectively overriding the Supreme Court's ruling and authority. Stanton was disoriented at the fact the purpose of the court – to peacefully decide and remedy disputes between states – was diminished by the Congress.[62]

In this 1850 political cartoon, the artist attacks abolitionist, Free Soil, and other sectionalist interests of 1850 as dangers to the Union. Featured (from left to right) are abolitionists David Wilmot and William Lloyd Garrison, Southern states' rights advocate John C. Calhoun and journalist Horace Greeley. The head under the pot is Benedict Arnold.

While Stanton focused on his cases and on Pennsylvania v. Wheeling and Belmont, the political situation in the country had changed quickly. Salmon Chase had been elected to the United States Senate as a member of the Free Soil Party, an abolitionist party born from a merger between the Liberty Party, the "Barnburner" faction of the Democratic Party and the "conscience" Whigs. Stanton had thoroughly absented himself from active politics – something that was viewed as cowardice or turncoating by his detractors – but he was joyed to hear of Chase's achievement. Meanwhile, the issue of slavery continued to trouble the United States, and the threat of civil war was growing. Senator Henry Clay sought to bring about a resolution to the issue with a compromise between the North and the South. Clay's proposal had five parts. California would be admitted into the Union as a free state; Utah and New Mexico would become organized territories with the question of slavery there left ambiguous; Texas' debts would be paid by the federal government if the state would forsake its claims to parts of New Mexico; the slave trade in the District of Columbia would be abolished; and a more stringent fugitive slave law would be enacted. Clay's plan sparked a clamorous debate in the Senate, some voicing support and others abhorrence. Stanton and Chase agreed that it would be better that California not join the Union if it would mean the advancement of slavery in the country; the two men thought the measures would fail. However, the death of President Zachary Taylor, an opponent of the compromise, and the ascendency of President Millard Fillmore, a supporter, and the persuasiveness of Senators Clay and Stephen A. Douglas lead to the creation of the Compromise of 1850. Clay and Douglas thought that the compromise might eliminate slavery as a national matter of contention, or at least demote it in prominence.[63]

McCormick v. Manny and second marriage[edit]

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. The background for the case begins in 1831, when 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 rapifly, attracting fierce competition, especially from fellow inventor and businessman John Henry Manny. In 1854 McCormick and his two prominent loawyers, Reverdy Johnson and Edward M. Dickinson, filed suit against Manny claiming he had infringed on McCormick's patents and demanded an injunction on the making and selling of Manny's reaper. John Manny was also defended by two highly esteemed lawyers, George Harding and Peter H. Watson. McCormick v. Manny was initially to be tried in Chicago. Harding and Watson wanted a lawyer local to the city; the recommended choice was Abraham Lincoln. Watson was sent to Springfield, Illinois to speak with Lincoln. His first impression was that he was not a man suited to the prominence of McCormick v. Manny, 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.[64][65] Stanton's apprehension towards Lincoln was immediate and severe – in one instance, while Harding and Stanton were walking to the courthouse, Lincoln appeared, to both men's shock, and said that the three men should go to the court "in a gang." Stanton pulled Harding aside and asked him why he brought "that damned long-armed Ape" with him, and stated that Lincoln was good for nothing. In any event, the case proceeded with Harding, Watson and Stanton and Manny's true defenders; meanwhile, Stanton did well to indicate to Lincoln that he wanted him to absent himself from the case. Lincoln did not actively participate in the planning or arguing of the case, but kept in Cincinnati to hear the arguments.[66]

An engraving of Cyrus H. McCormick
A photograph of John Henry Manny

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 on the trivialities of the scientific aspects of the case, Stanton worked to summarize the general jurisprudence and case law relevant to the proceedings.[67] 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 and his legal team appealed 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.[68][69]

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.[70] 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.[71] Stanton was angered by Hutchinson's mother's apprehensiveness that her daughter of age twenty-six would marry a forty-one-year-old man, but let his future bride handle it, and soon the woman acquiesced. Still, she wanted Stanton and Hutchinson to live with her and her husband. When Stanton threatened to move back to Ohio, Hutchinson's mother dropped that demand as well.[72] The two were married on June 25, 1856 at Hutchinson's father's home, and the couple honeymooned at Niagara Falls, Montreal, the White Mountains and Nahant, Massachusetts.[73][74] In his relationship to Hutchinson, Stanton reclaimed what he thought he had forever lost after the death of Mary, "love of the abiding sort."[73] 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 in the town. They stayed at the National Hotel in Washington until they located a proper home. They found a suitable residence at 365 C Street, N.W. in Washington, and leased it soon after.[75]

Emergence in Washington[edit]

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.[76][77] 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.[78][79]

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.[80] 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.[81]

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.[82] 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.[83] 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.[84] Limantour had built up a seemingly 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 fradulent. 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.[85]

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.[86] 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".[84] January 3, 1859 saw Stanton and company leave San Francisco.[87] 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.[88]

Daniel Sickles trial[edit]

Sickles shoots 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.[87] Afterwards, Sickles went to the home of Attorney General Black and admitted his crime.[88] The subsequent Thursday Sickles 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 layers such as James T. Brady and his partner, John Graham, came to Sickles' defense, and solicited Stanton to join their team.[88]

A portrait of Daniel Sickles in his U.S. Army uniform during his service in the Civil War
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 noting 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 during the trial, "a typical piece of Victorian rhetoric, an ingenious thesaurus of aphorisms on the sanctity of the family."[89] 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.[90]

Stanton's ennui was re-emerging as the Sickles trial drew to a close. After the trial, the Stantons took a trip to Pamphilia's home in Akron, Ohio. Oella came too. This was the first time in a while that the family had been together, save for Pamphilia's husband, Christopher Wolcott, the Attorney General of Ohio.[91] In October 1859, the Stantons bought a 7,350-square-foot (683 m2) piece of land on K Street opposite what is now Franklin Square. In a year's time a great brick and stone house would be erected and occupied on the lot.[92]

Buchanan's Attorney General[edit]

In 1860 the United States was on the brink of civil war. The background for these rising begins Senator Douglas' popular sovereignty principles and the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Douglas had presidential ambitions, and needed a platform that both the North and the South could get behind. This platform was a railroad that ran through Nebraska. For Douglas' plan to succeed, he would need to ensure that Nebraska was populated. So, he introduced a bill that would make the Nebraska Territory an organized territory, while splitting the territory into two parts, Nebraska and Kansas. To gain the support of the South, he added a popular sovereignty provision to the bill, where residents on those two territories could, at their disposal, choose to allow or disallow slavery. The bill would also render the Missouri Compromise from 1820, which did not allow for slavery anywhere north and west of Missouri, null. Douglas' bill was made a law in 1854, to the horror of abolitionists in the North, who deeply disdained the thirty-year-old compromise being abandoned.[93] One major result of the Kansas–Nebraska Act was the uniting of Free Soil Party members and Democratic and Whig abolitionists to form the Republican Party. Pro- and anti-slavery factions in the country grappled for control of Kansas.[94] The result was a Bleeding Kansas and atrocities such as the Pottawatomie massacre, which was orchestrated by abolitionist John Brown. In October 1859 Brown raided Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in an attempt to start a slave revolt. He was tried for treason, and hung.[91]

Abolitionists hailed Brown's actions, even calling him a martyr. Pro-slavery advocates denounced them. As 1860 opened, the country with deeply divided.[95] With the Democratic Party bitterly fractured on the question of slavery, Stanton surmised that a Democratic victory in the 1860 presidential election was unlikely.[96] At the 1860 Democratic National Convention, the party chose two separate candidates, Senator Douglas, and Buchanan's Vice President, John C. Breckinridge.[95] On the other side of the aisle, much to Stanton's surprise, the Republicans chose an unlikely candidate, Abraham Lincoln, insofar unknown in politics, and someone who Stanton did not particularly like.[97] Nonetheless, he wrote to his partner Charles Shaler on July 2, 1860, "Lincoln would be victorious by a narrow margin and become a minority president."[96] Sure enough, Lincoln won against his two Democratic rivals; he carried seventeen states and 180 electoral votes, against Breckinridge's eleven states and 72 electoral votes and Douglas' two states and 39 electoral votes.[96]

In late 1860 President Buchanan was making 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.[98] An earlier version of the Black's report on the constitutionality of secession led Buchanan to believe that the U.S. federal government did not possess the constitutional ability to "coerce a State by force of arms to remain in the Union."[99] It is unlikely that Stanton approved this version of Black's paper. Rather, it is likely Black's second draft, which was worded more strongly and denounced secession from the Union as illegal, that Stanton read and approved. The address was given to Congress on December 3.[99] Meanwhile, Buchanan's cabinet were growing more discontent with his handling of secession, and they deemed him too weak on the issue. On December 5 his Secretary of the Treasury, Howell Cobb resigned. On December 9 the Secretary of State, Lewis Cass, tendered his resignation. Attorney General Black was nominated to replace Cass on December 12.[100] 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.[100][101]

Stanton met a cabinet in disarray over the issue of secession upon his ascendency to his new position. Buchanan did not want to agitate the South any further. He took his party's defeat at the hands of Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans as an indication that the people did not like his policy of non-provocation. Nonetheless he sympathized with the South's cause.[102] So, on December 9 Buchanan 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 move his unit to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, which the Southerners viewed as Buchanan reneging his promise. On December 21 War Secretary John B. Floyd, at Buchanan's behest, sent word to Anderson to "exercise a sound military discretion" and to avoid "useless waste of life" – if attacked, and fighting was useless, he was to surrender.[103]

Exactly a week after Anderson's actions, South Carolina's governor, Francis Wilkinson Pickens, seized control of two weakly defended installations in Charleston Harbor, Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie.[104] A delegation from South Carolina, initially in Washington to discuss a treaty between the administration and the new South Carolinian "republic",[105] tended their state's demands to Buchanan's government; they wanted federal forces out of Charleston Harbor altogether or there would likely be carnage.[104] That night, Buchanan's cabinet met. When the Southerners' demands were announced to them, Jacob Thompson, the Secretary of Interior, wanted Fort Sumter to be abandoned, and even argued that the administration could allow, as Stanton put it, "a small State with a sparse white population" to leave the Union, and that the country would survive without South Carolina.[106] Stanton opposed Thompson, saying that the administrated could not afford to lose South Carolina. That night, Stanton said, the cabinet nearly "almost come to blows."[106] The next day, Secretary Floyd resigned. Stanton biographers Benjamin P. Thomas and Harold M. Hyman, in their book Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War, stated that "[c]loaking his own incompetence in haughty insolence, [Floyd] wrote that he could no longer remain associated with an administration that violated solemn pledges and plighted faith."[106] That same 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.[107]

Stanton was unnerved by Buchanan's perceived ambivalence towards the South Carolina secession crisis, and left unable to sleep.[108] 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 Holt, agreed that would resign, delivering a crippling blow to the administration. Buchanan obliged them.[109][Note 5]

American Civil War[edit]

Cameron's advisor[edit]

Lincoln's Secretary of War[edit]

Antebellum career[edit]

Stanton's home in Washington, D.C.

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.[2] 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.[111] 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.[112]

Relationship with Lincoln prior to the Civil War[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.[113]

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.[114]

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.[115]

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.[3][4] 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,[3] "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. 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.[3]

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.[118]

Stanton was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in the city.[119] 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.[120]

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.[121][122]


"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).

The Edwin M. Stanton School (Jacksonville) in Florida and Edwin M. Stanton School (Philadelphia) are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[123]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


Explanatory notes
  1. ^ For example, Stanton and his friend, S. A. Bronson, a sophomore student at the college, stole the horse of the Kenyon's founder and overseer, Bishop Philander Chase, named Cincinnatus, to go to the home of a young woman Stanton liked. The next day, Bishop Chase met the horse exhausted, with mud all over her, and was furious. Stanton gave a teary confession and apology to Bishop Chase, and soon the bishop was crying as well, his fury dampened. The incident was dismissed.[19]
  2. ^ 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.[25][26] 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.[27]
  3. ^ 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.[34] However, Stanton's views on the Nullification Crisis, which paralleled those of Jackson, encouraged him to become a member of the Democratic Party.[35]
  4. ^ Stanton did return to politics in December 1841 when he was elected a delegate for the Democratic State Convention that would be held in Columbus the following January.[38] He was also offered a position on the Supreme Court of Ohio. Stanton's friend, Senator Tappan, wrote him on March 3, 1840 saying, "I am very clearly of the opinion that you should refuse the office of President Judge, if offered to you. I was elected under similar circumstances with yours as to business, and I lost by it in every point of view. If you are ambitious (and who is not?) look this way."[39]
  5. ^ 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, something Black denied. It should be noted though, that in a letter to a friend, Stanton said that, at the time, Black was going to the White House to "present the written objections, which [he had] just prepared."[110]
  1. ^ "Edwin M. Stanton (1814–1869)". The Lincoln Institute. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Edwin M. Stanton". Ohio History Central. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Robert C. Kennedy, Harper's Weekly. "The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson". Harper's Weekly. Retrieved December 20, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Edwin Stanton2". Spartacus Educational UK. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Gorham 1899a, p. 6.
  6. ^ "The Admission of Ohio as a State". House.gov. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved July 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ Gorham 1899a, pp. 6–7.
  8. ^ Carnegie 1906, p. 3.
  9. ^ Gorham 1899a, pp. 7.
  10. ^ Allison 2009, p. 8.
  11. ^ a b c d Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 6.
  12. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 22–23.
  13. ^ Flower 1905, p. 22.
  14. ^ Flower 1905, p. 22, 25.
  15. ^ a b c Gorham 1899a, p. 8.
  16. ^ Carnegie 1906, p. 4.
  17. ^ a b c Flower 1905, p. 23.
  18. ^ Allison 2009, p. 9.
  19. ^ a b Flower 1905, pp. 27–28; Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 11
  20. ^ a b c Flower 1905, p. 28.
  21. ^ Flower 1905, p. 29.
  22. ^ Gorham 1899a, p. 17.
  23. ^ Gorham 1899a, pp. 17–18.
  24. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 14.
  25. ^ a b c Gorham 1899a, p. 18.
  26. ^ "Edwin McMasters Stanton". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  27. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 17.
  28. ^ Flower 1905, p. 32.
  29. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 18.
  30. ^ a b Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 19.
  31. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 19–20.
  32. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 20.
  33. ^ a b c d Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 21.
  34. ^ Gorham 1899a, p. 11.
  35. ^ Carnegie 1906, p. 5.
  36. ^ Flower 1905, p. 33.
  37. ^ Gorham 1899a, p. 25.
  38. ^ Doyle 1911, pp. 23–25.
  39. ^ Gorham 1899a, p. 26.
  40. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 21–22.
  41. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 27.
  42. ^ Flower 1905, p. 38.
  43. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 26–28.
  44. ^ Flower 1905, p. 37.
  45. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 29–31.
  46. ^ Flower 1905, pp. 38–40.
  47. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 33–35.
  48. ^ a b c Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 35.
  49. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 36.
  50. ^ Flower 1905, p. 42.
  51. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, p. 37.
  52. ^ Flower 1905, p. 44.
  53. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 38–40.
  54. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 40–41.
  55. ^ Flower 1905, p. 46, 53.
  56. ^ Thomas & Hyman 1962, pp. 41, 45.
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  • 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., and Hyman, Harold M. Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War (1962), a standard scholarly biography.
  • William Hanchett The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies (1983); demolishes the allegation that Stanton was the center of the plot to assassinate Lincoln.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Jeremiah S. Black
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: James Buchanan

December 20, 1860 – March 4, 1861
Succeeded by
Edward Bates
Political offices
Preceded by
Simon Cameron
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson

January 20, 1862 – May 28, 1868
Succeeded by
John M. Schofield