Monday, December 30, 2013

Duck Dynasty Controversy, December 2013


What the Duck?
GQ Magazine Interview with  Drew Magary

Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
According to Phil’s autobiography—a ghostwritten book he says he has never read—he spent his days after Tech doing odd jobs and his evenings getting drunk, chasing tail, and swallowing diet pills and black mollies, a form of medicinal speed. In his midtwenties, already married with three sons, a piss-drunk Robertson kicked his family out of the house.

But Robertson soon realized the error of his ways, begged Kay to come back, and turned over his life to Jesus Christ. . .  

"We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,” he tells me. “You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”
What does repentance entail? Well, in Robertson’s worldview, America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles. (He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all that we have lost.
During Phil’s darkest days, in the early 1970s, he had to flee the state of Arkansas after he badly beat up a bar owner and the guy’s wife. Kay Robertson persuaded the bar owner not to press charges in exchange for most of the Robertsons’ life savings. (“A hefty price,” he notes in his memoir.) I ask Phil if he ever repented for that, as he wants America to repent—if he ever tracked down the bar owner and his wife to apologize for the assault. He shakes his head.
“I didn’t dredge anything back up. I just put it behind me.”
As far as Phil is concerned, he was literally born again. Old Phil—the guy with the booze and the pills—died a long time ago, and New Phil sees no need to apologize for him: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
. . . When Uncle Si went to Conway, Arkansas, recently for a paid appearance, 20,000 people showed up. It led the local news that night in Little Rock. The show is merely the platform. The end goal is to save souls. And the Robertson family is more than happy to sacrifice a little privacy out here in the woods—visitors regularly congregate outside Phil’s security gate hoping for a glance at the family— to spread the good word.
“For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it,” Phil tells me. “All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”
For what it’s worth—and since I actually looked it up—the violent-crime rate here in America has plummeted since 1990, even as church attendance has stayed the same. And, of course, Phil is conveniently ignoring centuries upon centuries of war, bloodshed, and human enslavement committed in the name of Christ. But I doubt any of that would sway Phil.

. . . It’s the direction he would like to point everyone: back to the woods. Back to the pioneer spirit. Back to God. “Why don’t we go back to the old days?” he asked me at one point. 

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A scene from "the old days" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 17, 1838:
As a Southerner I feel that it is my duty to stand up here to-night and bear testimony against slavery. I have seen it -- I have seen it. I know it has horrors that can never be described. I was brought up under its wing: I witnessed for many years its demoralizing influences, and its destructiveness to human happiness. It is admitted by some that the slave is not happy under the worst forms of slavery. 
But I have never seen a happy slave. I have seen him dance in his chains, it is true; but he was not happy. There is a wide difference between happiness and mirth. Man cannot enjoy the former while his manhood is destroyed, and that part of the being which is necessary to the making, and to the enjoyment of happiness, is completely blotted out. The slaves, however, may be, and sometimes are, mirthful. When hope is extinguished, they say, "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 
[Just then stones were thrown at the windows, -- a great noise without, and commotion within.] 
What is a mob? What would the breaking of every window be? What would the levelling of this Hall be? Any evidence that we are wrong, or that slavery is a good and wholesome institution? What if the mob should now burst in upon us, break up our meeting and commit violence upon our persons -- would this be any thing compared with what the slaves endure?  No, no. . . [Great noise.]   I thank the Lord that there is yet life left enough to feel the truth, even though it rages at it -- that conscience is not so completely seared as to be unmoved by the truth of the living God.
Many persons go to the South for a season, and are hospitably entertained in the parlor and at the table of the slave-holder. They never enter the huts of the slaves; they know nothing of the dark side of the picture, and they return home with praises on their lips of the generous character of those with whom they had tarried. 
Or if they have witnessed the cruelties of slavery, by remaining silent spectators they have naturally become callous -- an insensibility has ensued which prepares them to apologize even for barbarity. . . .  
[Another outbreak of mobocratic spirit, and some confusion in the house.]. . .  I feel that all this disturbance is but an evidence that our efforts are the best that could have been adopted, or else the friends of slavery would not care for what we say and do.  . . . We may talk of occupying neutral ground, but on this subject, in its present attitude, there is no such thing as neutral ground. . . [Shoutings, stones thrown against the windows, &c.]
There is nothing to be feared from those who would stop our mouths, but they themselves should fear and tremble. The current is even now setting fast against them. . . . A few years ago, and the South felt secure, and with a contemptuous sneer asked, "Who are the abolitionists? The abolitionists are nothing?" -- Aye, in one sense they were nothing, and they are nothing still. But in this we rejoice, that "God has chosen things that are not to bring to nought things that are." [Mob again disturbed the meeting.]
We often hear the question asked, "What shall we do?" Here is an opportunity for doing something now. Every man and every woman present may do something by showing that we fear not a mob, and, in the midst of threatenings and revilings, by opening our mouths for the dumb and pleading the cause of those who are ready to perish. . . 
~  Angelina Grimk√© Weld, Speech at Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Convention 

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Sarah Palin: I didn’t read ‘Duck Dynasty’ interview

Politico, 12/24/13

Turns out Sarah Palin, who has been one of Duck Dynasty’s biggest defenders, hasn’t actually read the GQ interview that includes cast member Phil Robertson’s controversial comments on homosexuality and other subjects.

When pressed by Fox News host Greta Van Susteren whether the language Robertson used when talking about his opposition to homosexuality was graphic and offensive, Palin admitted she didn’t know what Robertson had said.

“I haven’t read the article. I don’t know exactly how he said it,” Palin said Monday on Fox News’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”

After the GQ interview was published, Palin immediately came to Robertson’s defense by posting a statement on Facebook saying it was an issue of free speech and defended his comments in a TV appearance with Sean Hannity.


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Evangelical Church's Ugly Truth: Duck Dynasty and Christian Racists/

Brittney Cooper, Salon.com

Apparently, according to Robertson, 1950s and 60s Louisiana — the Louisiana of his childhood — was a happy heavenly place where Black people hoed cotton and eschewed the blues:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word! … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
I have several aunts and uncles and a grandparent who would beg to differ with Robertson’s account of events. In 1956, several hundred African Americans were purged from the voter registration rolls in Monroe, and spent years struggling to be re-enfranchised.

I’m reminded of these words from James Baldwin’s essay “A Fly in Buttermilk”:

“Segregation has worked brilliantly in the South, and in fact, in the nation to this extent: It has allowed white people with scarcely any pangs of conscience whatever, to create, in every generation only the Negro they wished to see.”
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Phil Robertson grew up in segregated Louisiana. Segregation is by definition "mistreatment" of blacks.

Germans after World War II often claimed that they didn't see "mistreatment" of the Jews (or homosexuals, or anyone else who was sent to the work and death camps), and didn't know what was happening to them; but as Albert Speer said, 
 "If I didn't see it, then it was because I didn't want to see it."
It's not surprising that Phil Robertson says he never heard black people complain: they weren't likely to say anything in front of a drinking, drugging redneck who carried guns.

The South claimed a Biblical basis for slavery, and the Constitution of the Confederate States of America specifically invoked “Almighty God”—unlike the Constitution of the Union. "Christianity" was not absent during the period leading up to the slaughter of the Civil War, or during it.  There were many symbols and invocations of Christ on both sides, but it didn't lessen the bloodshed.

Reading over the interview, his opinions aren't valid when his facts are just plain wrong.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Edwin Stanton, born December 19, 1814

"His position is one of the most difficult in the world. . . . The pressure upon him is immeasurable and unending. He is the rock on the beach of our national ocean against which the breakers dash and roar, dash and roar without ceasing. He fights back the angry waters and prevents them from undermining and overwhelming the land. Gentlemen, I do not see how he survives, why he is not crushed and torn to pieces. Without him I should be destroyed. He performs his task superhumanly."
~ Abraham Lincoln
Edwin McMasters Stanton was born in Steubenville, Ohio, the first child of David and Lucy Norman Stanton. His father was from a Quaker family, but was obliged to leave the Society of Friends when he married Lucy, who was a Methodist.  Lucy Norman was the daughter of a wealthy Virginia planter and miller.  Edwin's middle name was in honor of a Methodist minister, Reverend David McMasters, who was Lucy's godfather.



When Edwin was an infant, his father began studying to be a doctor.  He set up a practice in the family home in 1818.  He hoped his oldest son would also be a doctor.  


Stanton birthplace, Steubenville, Ohio
The Stantons were opposed to slavery and assisted enslaved people escaping across the Ohio River from Virginia.  They also supported Benjamin Lundy, founder of an anti-slavery paper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation.  Dr. Stanton grew his own medicinal herbs or bought materials locally in order to avoid buying anything made through slave labor.


Benjamin Lundy
Edwin attended local private schools; one of his classmates was the father of William Dean Howells.  At the age of 10, Edwin began suffering  from asthma attacks, which continued through the rest of his life.

After Edwin, three more children were born: another son, Erasmus Darwin who was born in 1816, and two daughters, Oella, born in 1822, and Pamphila, born in 1827.

Edwin's father died suddenly and unexpectedly on December 30, 1827 when Edwin was thirteen years old. Lucy Stanton opened a general store in their home the following spring, but it didn't produce enough income to support the family of five. Edwin left school to help support his mother, and worked for a bookseller, James Turnbull.

Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio
In 1831, Daniel Collier, Lucy's attorney and Edwin's guardian, loaned him the money to go to college.  At the age of 16, he enrolled in Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.  Kenyon was a private college that had been founded in 1825 by Bishop Philander Chase of the Episcopal Church; at the time, it was one of four colleges in Ohio.  Edwin was a member of the Methodist church, but later joined the Episcopal church.  


Philander Chase
He did well at the college for one year, but he and the family couldn't afford for him to continue.  He moved to Columbus, Ohio, working at another of Turnbull's bookstores.  He helped to support his family in Steubenville and hoped to save money to return to college.

In the summer of 1833, cholera swept through eastern Ohio. Edwin was boarding at the home of Dr. H. Howard, who had four daughters.  Ann Howard, one of the daughters, served him lunch on August 9. He returned to the bookstore. One hour later, Ann collapsed; by 4 p.m. she was dead. Her family, fearing contamination from the plague, buried her immediately. When Edwin heard this, he was concerned that she might have been buried alive. Along with a young medical student, another boarder of the rooming house, he exhumed the coffin and at the risk of contamination, examined the girl to be certain she was not still alive.

While living in Columbus, he met Mary Lamson at Trinity Episcopal  Church; they fell in love, and planned to marry.  

Dissatisfied with the pay at Turnbull's store, and hoping to be able to support a wife, Edwin gave up his plans to return to college, and decided to become an attorney.
He began studying law with Daniel Collier in Steubenville.  


Steubenville, Ohio
He was 46 years old when the Civil War began.



Stanton was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1836.  He formed a partnership with Chauncey Dewey and set up a law practice in Cadiz, the seat of Harrison County, Ohio.  His practice was prosperous enough that he was able to pay for his brother's tuition at Harvard Medical School.

On December 31, 1836, he married Mary Lamson in Columbus, and they lived in a rented house in Cadiz. 


Judge Benjamin Tappan
In 1838, Stanton returned to Steubenville, where he opened a law practice with Judge Benjamin Tappan, who had been born in Massachusetts; he was the oldest son of Benjamin Tappan and Sarah (Homes) Tappan, who was a grandniece of Benjamin Franklin. Two of his younger brothers were abolitionists, Arthur and Lewis Tappan. In 1800 he moved to Ohio, married, and had one son, Benjamin, born in 1812, who had been a schoolmate of Stanton. In May 1838, Stanton's sister, Oella, married Judge Tappan's son; they would have five children, but the marriage was unhappy.

Oella Stanton


Darwin graduated from medical school and set up a practice across the river from Steubenville in Holliday's Cove, Virgina. His mother and sister, Pamphila, went to live with him there. He married in July 1839, and Lucy and Pamphila Stanton moved back to Ohio to live with Edwin and Mary in Steubenville.

The Reverend Samuel Longden of Greencastle, Indiana, related the following:

A young man named Burney, who was a member of my church, employed Mr. Stanton to bring suit against Dr. Barnes, for malpractise. The case primarily was that of luxation of the knee-joint backwards. The surgeon treated the young man for fracture of the tibia, and continued the mistreatment until the patient was crippled for life. When the trial came on Mr. Stanton had in court the bones of the human leg in normal and  many abnormal conditions. He had spent several days in the office of Dr. Thomas Cummings studying fractures, dislocations, and general surgery, and was able to put the expert witnesses all to rout. He was clear, masterful, and convincing. The jury believed him implicitly, for he was an honest man. In my long career I have never heard from the rostrum, the pulpit, or the bar such absolutely convincing argument and forcible oratory as I heard from Edwin M. Stanton before he was thirty years of age. They tell me that in court, warring for his clients, he was sometimes like an iron avalanche; but I must aver that in society he was as sweet and gracious and altogether as attractive as any man I ever met, and a good man, too. 
On March  11, 1841, the Stanton's first child, a daughter, Lucy, was born.  Years afterward, Stanton said that the happiest hours of his life were passed in the little brick house on Third Street, holding Lucy on his knee while Mary prepared the meals.

Their infant daughter died in August of that year after a long illness.  Mary had recently lost her sister, and became ill herself.  The following year, their son, Edwin Lamson, was born on August 11, 1842.  On their sixth wedding anniversary in December, Stanton wrote to Mary:
We six years ago were but lovers . . . We are now parents; a new relation has taken place.  The love of our offspring has opened up fresh fountains of love for each other.  We look forward now to life, not for ourselves only, but for our children.  I loved you first for your beauty, the grace and loveliness of your person.  I love you now for the richness and surpassing excellence of your mind.  One love has not taken the place of the other, but both stand side by side.  I love you now with a fervor and truth of affection which speech cannot express.
Don Piatt
Don Piatt, who knew him during this time, described him as "young, ardent, and of a most joyous nature."  Stanton had an increasing business, an expanding reputation, and great prosperity, and was full of life and hope. "Stanton was king of Steubenville," said the Reverend Joseph Buchanan, "acknowledged to have the best and most lucrative practice ... "

But the most devastating change in his life came with the death from "fever of his wife on March 13, 1844.  He wrote to a friend:
This calamity has overwhelmed me.  I know not where to look or whither to turn.  We were both young and happy in each other, looking forward to a long life of joy and happiness.  . . . A few days ago I laid her in her grave . . . 
Ann Elliot, a seamstress, made Mrs. Stanton's grave clothes, and was compelled to alter the garments several times to suit Stanton.  She later said
He wanted his wife to look, when dressed for the grave, just as she did seven years before at the marriage altar. "She is my bride and shall be dressed and buried like a bride,"said he, as he sat by her side moaning and weeping.
Mary's death wrought a complete change in his manner. "Where formerly he met everybody with hearty and cheerful greeting," says Mrs. Davison Filson of Steubenville, "he now moved about in silence and gloom, with head bowed and hands clasped behind." He kept aloof from public and social gatherings, but gave more attention to religious matters.

His sister, Pamphila, met her future husband Christopher Parsons Wolcott when he was studying law with Edwin Stanton. In 1844, Pamphila and Wolcott married on April 18 and moved to Akron, Ohio.


 Christopher Parsons Wolcott 
Stanton and George Wythe McCook, of the renown McCook family, became law partners soon after George was admitted to the Ohio bar.  


George Wythe McCook
















George's younger brother, born in 1837, had been named Edwin Stanton McCook in honor of Stanton.  


Edwin Stanton McCook


Stanton and McCook were both friends of Clement Vallandigham, with whom McCook had attended Latin school.  Their law practice was active and full of incident; Joseph M. Rickey of Cleveland, Ohio, wrote: 
Mr. Stanton and Roderick S. Moodey, an attorney of distinguished ability, conducted a trial in the old courthouse when I was deputy clerk. Moodey, after examining a witness, turned him over to Stanton, who opened on him a raking fire of questions. Moodey, in sympathy for the wounded feelings of his witness, turned to Stanton and remonstrated. Stanton, in a gutteral tone, ordered Moodey to make his appeal to the Court and "quit whining." Moodey retorted: "I don't think a whine is any worse than a bark" — giving peculiar emphasis to the word "bark" in imitation of the bull-dog voice of Stanton.  Quickly and imperiously Stanton replied: "Oh, yes, Mr. Moodey, there is a difference — dogs bark and puppies whine." Moodey was bursting with rage. The court, seeing the rising storm, adjourned. Moodey returned during the recess and paced the corridors. As soon as Stanton and his partner McCook appeared, arm-in-arm, Moodey flung his coat, and pounced onto Stanton with the fury of a panther. Spectacles, papers, and hat flew in all directions. In a moment the stalwart McCook snatched Moodey away and bystanders gathered up Stanton's scattered things. When court was called the case proceeded as if nothing had occurred. Stanton and Moodey soon became friends and their intimacy grew warmer as they advanced in life.
1846 was another eventful year. At a mass meeting held on June 9, Stanton presented resolutions endorsing the Mexican war.  The community was not a unit on the subject, but the "Steubenville Greys," a military organization of young men from Steubenville commanded by his partner, George McCook, formed to fight in the war.  Before the young soldiers left for the front, Stanton drew wills for them, or gave advice as to arranging their personal affairs for the contingency of death. He wanted to accompany them, or raise another body of volunteers, but was advised by Dr. Benjamin Tappan, his brother-in-law, that he would not be accepted by the army surgeon because of the severity and frequency of his asthmatic attacks. 

In August, 1846, Edwin Stanton's brother, Dr. Darwin E. Stanton, who had been assistant clerk of the House of Representatives, returned from Washington, D.C. to his home in Virginia, ill of fever. He became increasingly unstable and delirious, and, taking one of his own surgical lances, cut his own throat.  According to Alfred Taylor:
He bled to death in a few moments, in the presence of his mother.  Neighbors came in and I sent William Inglebright over the river to Steubenville to carry the news. Edwin M. Stanton came over at once, but on seeing how terrible the happening was, lost self-control and wandered off into the woods without his hat or coat. John Knox, assisted by William Brown, brought him back, and Dr. Sinclair, fearing a second suicide, ordered Knox and Samuel Filson to watch him every moment. 
Stanton took Darwin's widow and her three children into his house in Steubenville, where they lived with him, his son, and his mother. 


Stanton home in Steubenville
In December 1846 Stanton wrote to his friend, Salmon Chase:
Events of the past summer have broken my spirits, crushed my hopes, and without energy or purpose in life, I feel indifferent to the present, careless of the future - in a state of bewilderment of end of which is hidden.
 Salmon Chase
Chase had been widowed twice, and had also lost children; he had married for a third time in November 1846.  Stanton was best man at George McCook's wedding in 1847.

At the first meeting of the Steubenville city council, in January, 1847, an ordinance was adopted creating the office of city solicitor, and Stanton was unanimously elected to the position. The city was troubled with a rough and dangerous element coming from trade on the Ohio River, and petty crimes were numerous. At the first trial after his appointment, there was a great gathering of offenders in court. Stanton called them the "rats of Steubenville," and declared that he intended to "trap and exterminate them all." Stanton brought the city back to comparative security. 







John Mullen of Columbus, Ohio, became first an errand and houseboy and then hostler for Stanton. He remembered Stanton's life in Steubenville: 
I came to Mr. Stanton early in 1847. I had lost my mother and in the fall father followed her. My heart was broken entirely. I had a sister, but she was young like myself, and what could we do alone in a strange country? I was moaning and crying when Mr. Stanton came to me and wiping away the tears with his soft silk handkerchief, said, oh, so kindly: "Never mind, Johnnie; I will be your father. You can live with me. I will care for and clothe you; send you to college and build a house for your sister." So I was comforted, for no one could have been more kind and loving than he was to me.
After the middle of 1847 Mr. Stanton spent only a portion of his time in Steubenville, but he kept his house and yard up beautifully, and as long as he lived called it home. In the yard were roses and many kinds of flowers which he loved, and the finest lawn ever seen in town. He said, "Always keep mother in money; give her what she wants." 
When we fell short of money during Mr. Stanton's absence I went to Colonel McCook and got more. No one about the house wanted for anything. In fact, the neighbors thought that the young children of Stanton's sister and sister-in- law, who lived with him, were too luxuriously provided for. 
With himself Mr. Stanton was not so liberal. He smoked cigars and wore very good clothes, but had no other personal extravagances. . . . He had no wine on the table; did not keep it in the house. He belonged to no gay clubs and gave no time to pleasure. His clothing was always of very fine material but modestly made up, and in winter and on chilly evenings he wore a heavy military cloak. He was a princely-looking man, with dark, silken, flowing beard; very polite though reserved.  
. . . On returning home after considerable absences, Mr. Stanton invariably brought presents for all, including the servants. He never came to Steubenville without visiting the grave of his wife. When at home for any length of time he went twice weekly to her resting-place. . . . He wept and was very sad at these times, and his mind seemed to slip way back into the past. His grief made such an impression on me that I thought he would never marry again . . . 
Mr. Stanton was liberal not only to the great number in his house, but to the churches. He gave freely to all. I was a Catholic and he gave money to me to spend as my own for church purposes. I recollect that he entertained Archbishop Purcell of Cincinnati in his own home and always listened to the Archbishop's sermons in Steubenville. He liked Purcell because he had brains. 
John Purcell
He sought and cultivated smart men, and he loved little children. I do not think he cared for women generally. He did not seem to know many of them and spent no time with those he did know. But he loved his son Eddie passionately. . . . He mourned deeply over the loss of an eye by his son Eddie, and was ever warning the lad to be careful of his health. 
In the summer of 1848 I took the horses and carriage over to Pittsburgh — a very long, rough drive. On arriving I went for my meal to the St. Charles Hotel, where Mr. Stanton boarded. I was very hungry, but as I did not know how-to order from a fancy French bill-of-fare, and was too much scared by the splendor of the surroundings to ask questions, I had nothing to eat except a glass of water and a couple of crackers that happened to be left near my plate. As I came out of the grand dining hall Mr. Stanton noticed that I looked crestfallen and asked me if I had a good meal. I told him the truth. He enjoyed the joke but promptly took me to a fine restaurant and, ordering a heavy meal for me, told the waiter to see that I made no mistake this time. When I saw him pay a dollar for it I was astonished, truly. I wrote back to my friends in Ireland that in America a snug little hostler like myself, when away on a journey, could have grand dinners in gilded dining halls at the master's expense of a dollar each, and everybody should make haste to come over. 
As to work, Samson could not outdo him. Frequently, at 10 or 11 at night I have taken the cart and gone with him to the office to fetch a load of law books to the house, and whenever I did that, I do not believe he slept a wink but plowed and studied and thought and walked up and down the room all night.
. . . He was the best and kindest friend I ever had and the best man who ever lived in Steubenville. If  every person, living and dead, who was ever aided and befriended, or defended without fee by Mr. Stanton, were to rise up and make a procession in his honor, it would be long indeed, and the character of those in it would astonish the world. God bless him, God bless him forever!
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Having arranged a partnership with Charles Shaler in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Stanton began, about the middle of 1847 to devote much of his time to his eastern business. He was admitted to the bar of Allegheny County on October 30, 1847, and the firm opened offices on the ground floor of their own building on Fourth Avenue.   He moved to Pittsburgh and Andrew Carnegie, a messenger boy at the time, remembered Stanton as a "vigorous, energetic and concentrated man."  Around this time he became became acquainted with Daniel Sickles, a young lawyer from New York who was Stanton's occasional house guest. 

In 1849, Stanton participated in Pennsylvania v. the Wheeling and Belmont Bridge CompanyThe corporation named began the erection of a suspension bridge over the Ohio River at Wheeling, Virginia, in 1847. The structure obstructed the navigation of the river. The chimneys of the larger packets were unable to pass under it. Stanton represented Pennsylvania in the case and claimed that the bridge company had constructed a bridge that impeded steamboat traffic. 

The questions involved were new and important, affecting the commerce of the river and the prosperity and development of numerous cities. In order to strengthen the basis for what he proposed to do, he boarded the steamer Hibernia No. 2, with witnesses and ordered the commander to proceed down the river. He knew that the steamer could not pass under the bridge. The tall chimneys, extending nearly eighty feet above the water, were carried away. He began a suit against the stockholders of the bridge company for damages and secured the consent of Pennsylvania to employ state sovereignty in a suit to abate the bridge as a public nuisance. 

While interviewing pilots at the Pittsburgh wharves, he fell into the hold of the Isaac Newton and suffered a compound fracture of the knee, an injury which compelled him to walk with a limp for the remainder of his life. He was taken to Steubenville on the next steamer and transferred to his house on a stretcher, where, under the care of Dr. Tappan, he lay practically helpless for weeks. He continued to study and prepare his cases, attend to correspondence, and send out papers for service. The Reverend George Buchanan, calling upon him at this time, found him propped up in bed, surrounded by law books and legal documents. "This is a lucky accident," observed Stanton to his pastor, "for I shall be a good lawyer by the time I get well." 

On February 25, 1850, Stanton was admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court on motion of Reverdy Johnson, and made his first argument in the bridge case before the full bench. The owners of the bridge contended that the Court had no jurisdiction. Labored and exhaustive arguments followed, involving constitutional points and questions of practice in equity. Chief Justice Taney and Justices Wayne and Curtis personally thanked Stanton for the learning and array of new facts brought before them; and held that they had jurisdiction. 


Reverdy Johnson
In May, 1852,  the Supreme Court rendered final judgment on the merits of the case in favor of Stanton with costs, requiring the bridge to be elevated to the height of one hundred and eleven feet level headway over the channel of the river, and "that the same shall be removed by the respondents, or so altered on or before the first day of February, 1853." While the  suit was pending, a hurricane destroyed the Wheeling bridge. Calling the attention of the Court to this fact and asking for an injunction to prevent its reconstruction, Stanton observed cynically: "Your Honors can now see what Providence thinks of this bridge by what He has done to it!" 

Oella, Stanton's oldest sister, filed for divorce in 1854 from Dr. Benjamin Tappan.  Stanton employed Roderick S. Moodey to try the suit, while Stanton himself assisted as counsel advisory. The suit ended in a decree of divorce and a judgment of fifty thousand dollars. 

Late in 1854, Stanton was engaged to defend a suit between Cyrus H. McCormick and John Manny. McCormick invented, patented, and built a machine for reaping grain which had become a great success. About twenty years later, John H. Manny of Wisconsin produced a successful apparatus for harvesting grain, and turned out four hundred machines. McCormick, in November, 1854, brought suit to prevent the manufacture, sale, and use of the Manny reaper and mower as an infringement upon patents taken out by him in 1847. 
There were something over a dozen lawyers connected with the case. Peter H. Watson of Washington, George Harding of Philadelphia, and Stanton of Pittsburgh were the leading counsel for Manny, and Reverdy Johnson and E. N. Dickerson for McCormick.  At some point, Abraham Lincoln was retained because he was licensed to practice in Illinois, and a Chicago court hearing was anticipated. Lincoln gave the case careful preparation.

However, two weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin the first hearing was transferred to Cincinnati, Ohio. An agreement between opposing counsel limited participation to two attorneys for each side. Lincoln was denied any role in the trial. In addition, Stanton and Harding ignored Lincoln, never including him in consultations, meals or social gatherings. Judge John McLean entertained all the lawyers at a dinner at his home, but Lincoln was not invited. Lincoln also learned that the brief he had prepared had not been opened, and that he would have no role in the trial. Lincoln was described by Harding as “a tall rawly boned, ungainly back woodsman, with coarse, ill-fitting clothing.” Stanton later reportedly said to a friend that Lincoln was a “long, lank creature from Illinois, wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat, on the back of which the perspiration had splotched two wide stains that, emanating from each armpit, met at the center, and resembled a dirty map of a continent.”
Lincoln watched the proceedings as a spectator, and was impressed with Stanton's speech in court. After the court ruled in favor of Manny, Lincoln returned to his office and home in Springfield, Illinois and told his law partner that he had been “roughly handled by that man Stanton.”  Following the trial, the Manny legal team’s Watson sent Lincoln a check for his participation. Lincoln returned it, saying he had contributed nothing to the trial, but Watson sent it back to him. Ultimately, Lincoln cashed the check – and also recognized that Stanton's knowledge and skills, if not his conceit and arrogance, would be of great value to the country.

Stanton had been courting Ellen Hutchinson, the daughter of wealthy Pittsburgh merchant, who had been disappointed in a previous romance.  In addition to being wary of another suitor, she was concerned by his obsession with work, his impatience, and his indifference to the feelings of others.  Stanton wrote to her:
There is so much of the hard and repulsive in my - (I will not say nature, for that I think is soft and tender) but in the temper and habit of life generated by adverse circumstances, that great love only can bear with and overlook.
Ellen Hutchinson Stanton
In March, 1856, Stanton became engaged to Ellen; at the age of 41, he married Ellen, 25 years old, on June 25. The marriage ceremony was performed by Dr. Theodore Lyman, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church. After a few weeks of honeymoon travel, the Stantons moved to Washington, D.C., where Stanton had a growing practice before the Supreme Court. Their first child, a daughter, Eleanor Adams Stanton, was born May 9, 1857.


Washington, D.C.
Congress had enacted a law providing for a commission to hear and determine the claims of those holding real or pretended grants from Mexico. Under this law, claimants began forgery and perjury for the robbery of the government.  After a favorable decision on the enormous claims of  Jose Limantour, Stanton was retained to proceed to California as special counsel of the United States, with five thousand dollars as a retainer. Early in 1858, Stanton sailed from New York on the Star of the West, accompanied by Lieutenant H. N. Harrison of the navy, James Buchanan, Jr. (President Buchanan's nephew), and his son Eddie.  


Stanton and his son, Eddie
Stanton suffered severely with asthma during storms on the voyage. In his letter dated March 2, 1858 on the Caribbean Sea, Stanton wrote to Peter Watson: 
I have not suffered a minute from seasickness, nor has Eddie. Almost every one else was sick — some very severely. The first few days out, the weather was very cold, rough, and disagreeable, which brought on a sharp attack of asthma — the hardest I have had. It lasted several days, but is gradually disappearing under the genial influence of the tropics. If I could have been seasick I think it would have relieved me, and in this respect I shall not experience one of the benefits anticipated from the voyage. Sunday we spent at Kingston, Jamaica, where the ship takes on her coal. The scenes at the wharf and at the church — which were the two points of observation that I selected — afforded a strange and very interesting exhibition. Here the extremes of the Jamaican social system were encountered. The products of the island have greatly diminished and the estates grown ruined and neglected since the Emancipation. The whites say this is owing to the oppressive exactions and burdens of the Government, which destroy all hope of improvement and repress all exertion. I saw no indication of unwillingness in the blacks to labor; but the complaints of want of work are very great. I had several applications by smart, active fellows to go with me, because, they said, they could get no employment; all our passengers had similar applications.
Stanton studied Spanish on the trip, as many of the documents were in that language; after nearly a year of work, he succeeded in breaking up a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.  Limantour was indicted and fled the country. Before returning in January, 1859, Stanton gathered the Spanish and Mexican land laws and decisions and the documents relating to grants and reversions.  His fee was twenty-five thousand dollars, and the Government paid his expenses to, from, and in California.


Jose Limantour
Stanton left San Francisco on the morning of January 3, 1859, and was with his family in Washington in early February, having been gone nearly a year. He had not become fully rested when, on Sunday, February 27, 1859, Daniel E. Sickles, member of Congress from the city of New York, shot and killed Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key.  Stanton would be a defense attorney in the sensational trial of Sickles, who was tried on a charge of murdering his wife's lover.  In 1852, Sickles, at the age of 33, had married the 15-year-old Teresa Bagioli.  Teresa's parents had refused to consent to the marriage, and the couple wed on September 17, 1852, in a civil ceremony. Some seven months later, in 1853, their only child, Laura Buchanan Sickles, was born.  It became apparent that Sickles had seduced the young girl, and married her when they discovered that she had become pregnant.

Sickles had been less than a model husband. He drew censure from the New York State Assembly for bringing with him to the chambers a known prostitute and madam, Fanny White. George Templeton Strong, another New York lawyer, had written in his diary:
Sickles belonging to the filthy sediment of the profession [lawyer], and lying somewhere in its lower strata. Perhaps better to say that he’s one of the bigger bubbles of the scum of the profession, swollen and windy, and puffed out with fetid gas.
Fanny White
Sickles and White had been acquainted since at least 1847; Fanny's staff at her brothel considered Sickles to be Fanny's "man".  Sickles gave White generous gifts of jewelry and money.  In August 1853, less than a year after his wedding and only a short time after his wife had given birth to their daughter, he took Fanny White with him on a trip to England.  He was traveling as the secretary to James Buchanan, who was the United States minister to the court of St. James.  In England, Fanny White accompanied Sickles openly to theaters, operas, and diplomatic events.  White made her curtsy to Queen Victoria at a reception at Buckingham Palace, where Sickles introduced her as "Miss Bennett of New York."

Sickles continued to maintain love affairs and neglected his young wife.  Teresa Sickles began a romance with Phillip Barton Key, a U.S. District Attorney who was a nephew of Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States and brother-in-law of George Pendleton, an Ohio congressman.  On Friday, February 25, 1859, Sickles received an anonymous letter informing him of his wife's infidelity: 
Dear sir with a deep regret I enclose to you address the few lines but an indispensible duty compels me so to do seeing that you are greatly imposed upon.
There is a fellow I may say for he is not a gentleman by any means by the of Phillip Barton Key and I believe the district attorney who rents a house of a negro man by the name of Jno. A Gray situated on 15th street btwn K & L streets for no other purpose than to meet your wife Mrs Sickles. He hangs a string out of the window as a signal to her that he is in and leaves the door unfastened and she walks in and sir I do assure you with these few hints. I leave the rest for you to imagine. Most Respfly Your friend R. P. G.

Sickles confronted Teresa with the letter.  Although she initially denied everything, on Saturday, February 26, Teresa wrote out a confession describing her meetings with Key at a vacant house on 15th Street that Key had rented for their assignations.   It began:
I have been in a house in Fifteenth Street, with Mr. Key. How many times I don’t know. I believe the house belongs to a colored man. The house is unoccupied. Commenced going there the latter part of January. Have been in alone and with Mr. Key. Usually stayed an hour or more. There was a bed in the second story. I did what is usual for a wicked woman to do.
The next day, Sunday, February 27, 1859, Sickles saw Key outside his house, signaling Teresa with a handkerchief. Sickles sent his friend, Samuel Butterworth, outside to delay Key. Sickles then armed himself with several pistols, burst from his house on Lafayette Square and intercepted Key at the corner of Madison Place N.W. and Pennsylvania Avenue, across the street from the White House. Sickles shouted "Key, you scoundrel, you have dishonored my home, you must die!"  He shot the unarmed Key twice, one shot directed at Key's groin.  The fatal wound was to Key’s chest: he died about an hour later.



Daniel Sickles proceeded directly to the residence of the U. S. Attorney General and turned himself in.  On  the following Thursday, a grand jury brought an indictment against Sickles for murder.  On March 5, 1859, a front-page illustration on the cover of Harper's Weekly showed Sickles shooting an unarmed and prostrate Key, while Sickles' friend Butterworth looked on. The other major national weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated, published a similar drawing on the same date.  


Daniel Sickles, Teresa Sickles, and Phillip Barton Key
The story flew across the telegraph lines almost as soon as it happened.  The social, official, and political prominence of the parties involved gave the tragedy great significance.  Publicity about the trial was sensational; public opinion was almost totally on the side of Sickles, portraying him as an outraged husband defending his wife from a villain who had seduced her.  The Harper’s Weekly editorial view on March 12 was that no jury would convict Sickles.  This was a threefold crime: against the woman the adulterer misled, against the husband he dishonored, and against the society he threatened to disorganize.  The New York Times editorialized that the homicide in no way unfitted the congressman for office. 

Sickles engaged a defense team which included Stanton, Sickles' friend and  top criminal defense lawyer James T. Brady, plus six other members.  The defense team had a problem: no matter what the public thought as to his motivation, Sickles was manifestly guilty. Stanton hit upon the idea of raising the defense of temporary insanity, which had never before been successful in the United States. It allowed the defense to put on endless lurid testimony as to the affair and, in effect, have the dead man tried rather than Sickles. 


The Sickles Trial
On April 4, 1859, the trial began with Stanton as senior attorney for the defense. The confession that Sickles had obtained from Teresa proved pivotal. It was ruled inadmissible in court, but, leaked by Sickles to the press, was printed in the newspapers in full. The defense strategy ensured that the trial was the main topic of conversations in Washington for weeks, and the extensive coverage of national papers was sympathetic to Sickles.  Newspapers around the country printed extended excerpts of the testimony. The New York and Washington papers printed the entire transcript verbatim. 

Central to the defense’s case was the testimony of Robert J. Walker, a former secretary of the treasury during the Polk Administration and briefly governor of the Kansas Territory in 1857 during the height of bloody strife there. Walker had not seen Sickles for a number of months when he called upon him at his home on Sunday, February 27, the day of the murder. It was around 3 p.m., Walker testified, saying,
As he came in his manner appeared excited. There was something strange and unusual about it. His voice was somewhat different from the manner in which I had usually heard him speak. He advanced and took me by the hand. I think he then said, “A thousand thanks for coming to see me under these circumstances.” He had scarcely repeated these words, when I saw a great change in his appearance. He became very much convulsed indeed. He threw himself on the sofa, covering his face with his hands. He then broke into an agony of unnatural and unearthly sounds, the most remarkable I have ever heard —something like a scream, interrupted by violent sobbing. From his convulsed appearance he was in the act of writhing. His condition appeared to me very frightful, appalling me so much that I thought if it lasted much longer he must become insane. He was indulging in exclamations about dishonor having been brought on his house, his wife and child. He seemed particularly to dwell on the disgrace brought upon his child. Should think this continued ten minutes. Endeavored to pacify him. I turned from him to go for a physician myself, but he seemed to stop a little these violent exclamations, and finally they broke down. The spasms became more violent till they ceased. I think I must have been there something over half an hour. I accompanied him from there to the jail.
Robert J. Walker
Sickles, during the statement of the witness, broke into sobs and cried.  Three men, including his father, George Sickles, accompanied him from the court room. The witness and many of the spectators, were moved to tears.  There were numerous other witnesses; some testified to Teresa Sickles’s frequent meetings with Key, necessary after Judge Thomas H. Crawford ruled that her confession was inadmissible because it would require her to testify against herself and could be used against her in a divorce proceeding. Other witnesses described the congressman’s highly emotional state on the Friday and Saturday before the murder. But it was Walker, a distinguished public figure, an acquaintance but not an intimate personal friend of Sickles, who described his state of mind immediately after the shooting. 

The prosecution did not introduce evidence about Sickles’s infidelity to his wife, as the judge deemed it inadmissible. On the eighteenth day of the trial, Stanton began to sum up for the defense.  In his closing argument, Stanton portrayed the adulterous Sickles as a defender of marriage:
There are two classes of cases in which a man may be exempted from judicial punishment for killing, namely, self-protection, which is a natural right, and, secondly, the defense of one’s household from a thief or robber. 
But there is a third class, arising from the social compact, for the law holds family chastity and the sanctity of the marriage bed, the Matron’s Honor and the Virgin’s Purity, to be more valuable and estimable in law than the property – or life — of any man.
The present case belongs to that class. 
. . . One, that the act of the prisoner at bar is justified by the law of the land under these circumstances; the other, that whether justified or not, he is free from legal responsibility by reason of the state of the prisoner’s mind. 
“The family,” says a distinguished moralist, “is the cradle of sensibility, where the first lessons are taught of that tenderness and humanity which cement mankind together; and were they extinguished, the whole fabric of society would be dissolved.” 
If the adulterer be found in the husband’s bed, he is taken in the act, within the meaning of the law. If he provides a place for the express purpose of committing adultery with another man’s wife, and be found leading her, accompanying her, or following her to that place for that purpose, he is taken in the act. If he not only provides but habitually keeps such a place and is accustomed, by preconcerted signals, to entice the wife from the husband’s house, to accompany him to that vile den, and if he be found watching her, spyglass in hand, and lying in wait around the husband’s house, he is taken in the act. If, moreover, he has grown so bold as to take a child of the injured husband, his little daughter, by the hand, to separate her from her mother, to take the child to the house of a mutual friend in order to enjoy the mother, it presents a case surpassing all that has ever been written of cold, villainous, remorseless lust. 
Who, seeing this thing, would not exclaim to the unhappy husband, “hasten, hasten hasten to save the mother of your child. Although she be lost as a wife, rescue her from the horrid adulterer; and may the Lord, who watches over the home and the family, guide the bullet and direct your stroke.” [Applause here]. 
The death of Key was a cheap sacrifice to save a young mother from the horrible fate which, on that Sabbath day, hung over this prisoner’s life and the mother of his child. The husband here beheld the adulterer in the very act of withdrawing his wife from his room, from his presence, from his arm, from his wing, from his nest; meets him in that act and slays him; and we say that the right to slay him stands on the firmest principles of self-defense. [Thunderous applause and cheers.]
Prolonged and enthusiastic applause greeted Stanton at the close of his address, which the court was unable to suppress. 

On the twentieth day of the trial the case was submitted to the jury, who within an hour returned with a verdict of not guilty. At the words “not guilty,” pandemonium broke out in the court. The audience cheered, defense attorneys embraced, and bystanders dashed off to spread the word. Ten of the jurors joined in the celebration. The verdict had taken them so long to reach, one explained, because one member of the panel requested time to pray
before voting not guilty. Daniel Sickles had been acquitted of the murder in the first successful use of the insanity defense in the United States.

Dan Sickles was not just a free man; he was the man of the hour. But those who stood by him
during his trial turned against him. On July 23, 1859, Harper's Weekly reprinted a story from the New York Herald, stating that Sickles intended to reconcile with his wife. He had abandoned the idea of suing for divorce. Instead he and his wife had agreed to bury
“the past in the grave of oblivion.” More startling still, “it is said their love is greater than ever.” Mr. Sickles’s political and personal friends "are much disappointed at this event.” Sickles wrote to the Herald an explanation of his decision: 
If I ever failed to comprehend the utterly desolate position of an offending though penitent woman—the hopeless future, with its dark possibilities of danger, to which she is doomed when proscribed as an outcast—I can now see plainly enough in the almost universal howl of denunciations with which she is followed to my threshold, the misery and perils from which I have rescued the mother of my child.
Southern diarist Mary Chesnut observed Sickles “sitting alone on the benches of the Congress . . . He was as left to himself as if he had smallpox.” A friend of hers said that killing Key “was all right . . . It was because he condoned his wife’s [adultery], and took her back . . . Unsavory subject.” Sickles decided not to run for another term.

Sickles continued to have high regard for Stanton.  Sickles was widowed in 1867 when Teresa died of tuberculosis at the age of 31.  He  married a second time in Spain; in 1872, when his only son was born in Madrid to his second wife, Sickles named him George Stanton Sickles. 


Edwin and Ellen Stanton
Stanton's second child and first son with Ellen, Lewis Hutchinson Stanton, was born in January 1860.  Stanton was listed with his family in the 1860 Census: his real estate value was noted as $40,000, and his personal assets valued at $267,000. The family had four servants living with them.


The Stantons' home in Washington, D.C.





In December 1860 Stanton gave up his successful and lucrative law practice for the appointment of United States Attorney General in the presidential administration of James Buchanan.  
James Buchanan




















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.  On December 20, South Carolina passed its ordinance of secession and left the Union. On December 26, 1860, Stanton wrote to a friend, W. B. Copeland, Pittsburgh, in response to a letter of congratulation about his new position: 
I am deeply penetrated by the kindness manifested by your note, received this morning. After much hesitation and serious reflection, I resolved to accept the post to which in my absence I was called, in the hope of doing something to save this Government. I AM WILLING TO PERISH IF THEREBY THIS UNION MAY BE SAVED. We are in God's hands and His almighty arm alone can save us from greater misery than has ever fallen upon a nation. I devoutly pray for His help; all men should pray for succor in this hour.  No effort of mine shall be spared.
Early in the morning of December 27, the president's cabinet learned that Major Robert Anderson had, on the evening of the 26th, abandoned Fort Moultrie, spiking the guns behind him, and occupied Fort Sumter. The President exclaimed, on hearing the news: "My God, are calamities never to come singly? I call God to witness that you gentlemen, better than anybody, know that this is not only without but against my orders. It is against my policy."   

Stanton disagreed strenuously: "Mr. President, it is my duty as your legal adviser to say that you have no right to give up the property of the Government, or abandon its soldiers to its enemies, and the course proposed [to give up Sumter and abandon Major Anderson] is treason and, if followed, will involve you and all concerned in it in treason."  Stanton met with Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts, who had been called to Washington to confer with leading Democrats.  Butler later wrote: 
I knew Mr. Stanton. He related fully to me the proceedings of the preliminary meeting between the President and the South Carolina commissioners and of the scene in the cabinet consultation, which he had just left. He was full of wrath. He said that I must go to both Black and Buchanan and protest against the fatal course the administration was pursuing. He told me that the so-called ambassadors had actually rented a house in Washington — which I subsequently learned was a fact — expecting to remain permanently as representatives of the South as a foreign nation. 
He said that he had informed the President that the South Carolina agents were traitors; that the President had no power to negotiate with them, and that I must tell the President that if he should continue negotiating with traitors he would place himself on the same plane with traitors and be liable to impeachment if not something worse. 
He advised me also that he would seek Black that evening and prepare, as attorney general, an objection to the President's communication to the so-called ambassadors. I was deeply impressed by his aggressive manner and the grave facts he disclosed. It was audacious to obey his request to personally advise the President what he should do, but the more I thought of it, the more important it seemed, and I went. On returning, I found Judge Black at Willard's Hotel and suggested to him that any officer negotiating with these gentlemen from South Carolina might be getting his neck into a halter. He was frightened by that color of affairs. I do not think he had appreciated the full significance of the situation, as I know I had not before listening to Stanton, whose head was clear and who turned the whole course of events at that time and prevented a disgraceful chapter in our history. Black, too, changed, and when we were through our conversation, took his carriage and drove away to see Stanton. 
Benjamin Butler
President Buchanan acknowledged his agreement of December 9 with the South Carolina congressmen and claimed that he was now "affected by it personally." He pleaded : "You do not seem to appreciate that my personal honor as a gentleman is involved."  Stanton explained that such an agreement was no agreement because the President was "absolutely incapable of making or having an understanding, in writing or otherwise, that would so tie his hands as to prevent the execution of the laws." Quoting what the Duke of Wellington said to George IV, he declared that Buchanan was "not a gentleman but President of the United States, solemnly sworn to execute every law made for the protection of its property, people, and territory." 


Montgomery Meigs
According to Montgomery Meigs: 
In January, 1861, when Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson Davis left Washington for the South, they rode together to give notice that they wished to retain their pew in Epiphany Episcopal Church.  As they turned to go Mrs. Davis said with a confident smile: 'You keep the cushion, too, for we shall need it soon — when we come back.' Mr. Davis added: 'Yes, keep the cushion for us till we return.' And so they left us fully expecting to be back here within a brief period at the head of a nation which, in the meantime, they had broken in twain and reunited on a new basis. 
On February 8, 1861, the Provisional Confederate States Congress meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, adopted a constitution; on  February 9 it elected and swore in Jefferson Davis as president. Stanton received a program of the proposed inauguration ceremony from his friend Judge Archibald Roane of Alabama. Reading it in cabinet consultation, he said:
Such a proceeding cannot be permitted to take place within the confines of this nation. It is not a mock affair, but an earnest and desperate effort to break up this Union. It is just as much our duty to save the country from destruction by slave-holding John Browns as by abolition John Browns. 
Buchanan replied, "It is now too late, we are helpless," to which Stanton retorted :
It is never too late to save the country. We are not helpless. If we supinely permit some upstart to be elected and inaugurated as president at Montgomery, we shall have to permit the same performance here in Washington, if undertaken. If we permit the secessionists to seize the Federal property and archives in South Carolina and Alabama, shall we not be obliged to permit them to seize and use the Federal buildings and records here in Washington? Would you, Mr. President, abdicate if Davis should come, which he may do, and demand possession of the White House? Shall we offer no resistance if the secessionists come here and attempt to seize the public records? If we do not resist them there, we cannot resist them here. If you would not abdicate in Washington, you cannot abdicate in Charleston or Montgomery. Mr. President, there must be no so-called inauguration of another president while you occupy that high office, never, never! 
The reply was that the army and navy were in such a crippled condition that nothing could be done. Stanton urged Buchanan to ask Congress to strengthen the army and make it adequate to threatened emergencies, but without results. He then went to his cousin, Benjamin Stanton, who was an Ohio congressman and chairman of the House Committee on Military Affairs, and begged him to put forward a bill for an immediate increase in the number and equipment of the military forces. His cousin complied, but the Democrats largely opposed the measure, saying that if there were any real necessity for increasing the military strength of the country, the President himself would urge Congress to do it.


Benjamin Stanton
After Lincoln took office as president, Stanton agreed to work as a legal adviser to the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron.  After the Battle of Bull Run in July, Stanton wrote to former President Buchanan:
The dreadful disaster of Sunday [Battle of Bull Run] can scarcely be mentioned. The imbecility of this administration has culminated in that catastrophe, and irretrievable misfortune and national disgrace are to be added to the ruin of all peaceful pursuits and national bankruptcy as the result of Lincoln's 'running the machine' for five months. . .  The capture of Washington now seems to be inevitable . . . 
Stanton's oldest son, Eddie, was attending Kenyon College; his father advised him not to volunteer for active service.  In October, Ellen Stanton gave birth to James Hutchinson Stanton, who they called "Jamie." Around that time, Stanton and George McClellan had become colleagues: Ellen wrote to Eddie about newspaper accounts which described Stanton as "General McClellan's confidential adviser."  On November 1, Lincoln placed McClellan in charge of all Union armies.  


George McClellan
There were charges of corruption in the War Department's awarding of contracts; Cameron himself was accused of profiting from the war by diverting traffic to his Harrisburg to Baltimore Railroad. Because of the allegations, he was forced to resign early in 1862. Pennsylvania congressman Thaddeus Stevens, when discussing Cameron's honesty with Lincoln, told Lincoln that "I don't think that he would steal a red hot stove."  When Cameron demanded Stevens retract this statement, Stevens told Lincoln "I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I will now take that back."


Simon Cameron






It was harder for Cameron to defend himself against charges of incompetence. “We were entirely unprepared for such a conflict, and for the moment, at least, absolutely without even the simplest instruments with which to engage in war,” Cameron later remembered.

Cameron was replaced as Secretary of War by Stanton in January 1862.  Ellen was against him accepting the post: with his acceptance to join Lincoln's cabinet, he sacrificed a yearly income of $40,000 to $50,000 as a successful lawyer for a cabinet salary of just $8,000. In addition to the money, he was taking on a challenging post; Colonel A. P. Heichold of Pennsylvania said
On the day Stanton was sworn in, his Department resembled a great lunatic asylum more than anything else.
On January 24, Stanton wrote a public to an editor of the New York Herald Tribune,  Charles Anderson Dana:
As soon as I can get the machinery of the office working, the rats cleared out, and the rat holes stopped we shall move.  This army has got to fight or run away; and while men are striving nobly in the West, the champagne and oysters on the Potomac must be stopped.  But patience for a short while only is all I ask, if you and others like you will rally around me.
Charles Anderson Dana
Stanton also enclosed a private letter to Dana:
Washington Jan 24, 1861 [i.e. 1862]
Dear Sir
The most welcome congratulations that I have received were from you. You are right in supposing my acceptance of the War office means “thoroughness, earnestness, & no compromise.” Believe me, I shall not do the Lords work deceitfully—and I am Secretary only because I had despaired of seeing it done at all. But I shall need the support of every true man—the sappers and miners about Washington are more dangerous than the Manassas rebels. I rejoiced exceedingly at the Tribunes treatment of my nomination, it gave my heart confidence & strength. Are we never to meet until I send a Provost Marshal after you? I beg you to give my compliments to Mr Greely & believe me to be Truly Yours
Edwin M Stanton
PS
I shall rely upon the earnest men of the day to tell me whatever I ought to know. Many things will escape my observation, many may be far beyond my power but if you see them tell me of them and I will thank you

Stanton enlarged and rehabilitated the War Department building when he became Secretary, raising its height from two to four stories. But one building could not contain all the functions of the wartime department: by the end of the war, the department was spread over 11 buildings.  The War Department, located where the Old Executive Office Building now stands to the west of the White House, was a frequent destination for President Lincoln, who gave Stanton the nickname of "Mars," God of War.


James W. Ripley
At the beginning of 1862, Stanton held daily meetings with his bureau chiefs, learning the actual conditions of the divisions and getting up pressure and action; afterward, he consulted with chiefs separately, and trusted them to carry out the details. Among those on his staff were Peter Hill Watson, assistant secretary; Charles A. Dana, at first confidential agent at the front and then assistant secretary; Edward D. Townsend, acting adjutant-general; General Lorenzo Thomas, adjutant-general; General James W. Ripley, Chief of Ordnance; General Joseph G. Totten, Chief Engineer; Colonel Joseph P. Taylor, Commissary General; and Thomas T. Eckert and Anson Stager, in charge of the Military Telegraph. 


Joseph G. Totten






General Montgomery C. Meigs, quartermaster-general, was crucial to the war effort. Before Stanton had been in office two weeks, he persuaded Congress to authorize the appointment of two more assistant secretaries, bringing the total to three, forty-nine clerks, four messengers, and two laborers, and the further addition of ten non-commissioned officers to the adjutant-general's staff. New jobs brought a rush of eager applicants, but Stanton gave preference to soldiers unfit for field service because of wounds or minor physical defects.

In May, 1862, Stanton asked his brother-in-law, Christopher Wolcott, to be First Assistant Secretary: 
I know I ought not to ask it of you, and fear the work will kill you, but I do not know where to look for aid, and if I do not have it now, I must give up myself.
Under the strain of the job, Wolcott's health did give out, leading to his resignation in February 1863. He returned to Akron and died the following April.

According to General John Pope, Stanton
stood behind a high, slightly inclined table . . . with a piece of paper before him and a pencil in his hand.  Around the room stood his visitors, who stepped up one by one to this high table, stated his business as briefly as possible and in the hearing of everybody, and received a prompt and final answer as rapidly as words would convey it. 
Lincoln biographer Benjamin Thomas wrote:
Business in the War Department began officially at nine o’clock. As Stanton’s carriage turned off Pennsylvania Avenue around that time, the doorkeeper would stick his head inside and announce: "The Secretary."  The word spread; stragglers and loungers scurried to their desks and the place quivered with activity. Alighting from his carriage, Stanton was usually beset by favor-seekers, waiting on the sidewalk. He might stop for a word with a soldier or a needy-looking woman, but he would curtly tell the others to go to his reception room upstairs.
General Thomas M. Vincent, assistant adjutant-general under Stanton, said:
Mr. Stanton never neglected anything. Every day's work was complete before he left the office at night, and frequently he did not leave at all at night but the next morning. His wife, who could see that he was destroying himself, frequently came at midnight or a little later, for the purpose of inducing him to go home. I have known him many times to keep on nevertheless with work that he regarded as important until nearly or quite daylight, Mrs. Stanton patiently but anxiously waiting for him.
Stanton's biographer Frank A. Flower said that 
The furniture of Stanton's office was of the simplest kind.  The only luxury was an old haircloth lounge, from which the covering was half-worn.  On this, during great battles or important military manoeuvres, when he dared not be away from the telegraph instrument day or night, he secured little rest. Here, too, during many an anxious night, Lincoln stretched himself while reading despatches and consulting with the Secretary.
Stanton appointed special commissioners to oversee the standards of manufacturers of military supplies, and often organized special investigating commissions to inquire into accusations of fraud.  

Stanton’s private secretary, E.A. Johnson wrote of the relationship between Lincoln and Stanton:
No two men were ever more utterly and irreconcilably unlike.  The charity which Stanton could not feel, coursed from every pore in Lincoln.  Stanton was all dignity and sternness, Lincoln all simplicity and good nature . . . yet no two men ever did or could work better in harness. They supplemented each other’s nature and they fully recognized the fact that they were a necessity to each other.
Presidential bodyguard William Crook recalled:
The President's relationship to Secretary Stanton was another instance of Mr. Lincoln's marvelous self-control. Where the good of the nation was involved he didn't even see things that related to himself alone. Secretary Stanton was a strong man and devoted to his country. I believe, too, that he loved the President. But while he recognized Mr. Lincoln's greatness and was loyal, those traits of Mr. Lincoln's which was antipathetic to his character irritated him sometimes almost beyond endurance. Mr. Stanton was not a man of much self-control. The President's tenderness of heart seemed to him weakness. The fondness for reading and for jesting, which every day restored the balance in the President's overweighted mind, seemed to Mr. Stanton something approaching imbecility. He was furious once when Mr. Lincoln delayed a cabinet meeting to read the witticisms of Petroleum V. Nasby. When the President, during hours of anxious waiting for news from a great battle, was apparently absorbed in Hamlet, Mr. Stanton, whose invectives were varied, called him, I have heard, 'a baboon.'
Stanton was infuriated, telling Charles Dana:
Was there ever such inability to appreciate what is going on in an awful crisis? Here is the fate of this whole republic at stake, and here is the man around whom it all centers, on whom it all depends, turning aside from this momentous, this incomparable issue, to read the...trash of a silly mountebank!
Charles Benjamin, a War Department clerk, recalled:
It was an interesting and pleasant sight, that of Mr. Lincoln seated with one long leg crossed upon the other, his head a little peaked and his face lit up by the animation of talking or listening, while Mr. Stanton would stand sidewise to him, with one hand resting lightly on the high back of the chair in the brief intervals of that everlasting occupation of wiping his spectacles.  
Dana wrote that Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was
impulsive, warm-blooded, very quick in execution, perhaps not always infallible in judgment. I never knew a man who could do so much work in a given time. He was a nervous man, a man of imagination, a man utterly absorbed in the idea of the republic one and indivisible; and he lived for it, wore himself out in the service, and shortly after he ceased to serve in that office he passed into another world, entirely exhausted, consumed by his devotion to public duties.
When Dana left the Tribune, Stanton immediately made him a special investigating agent of the War Department. In this capacity, Dana discovered frauds of quartermasters and contractors. As the eyes and ears of the administration, he spent much time at the front, and sent Stanton frequent reports concerning the capacity and methods of various generals in the field. His first job was to "examine and report upon all unsettled claims against the War Department at Cairo, Illinois." He left for the western front and arrived in Memphis in early July, 1862 and served for several months.

Historian Matthew Pinsker believed that the relationship of Lincoln and Stanton was solidified in the summer of 1862, when they began occupying adjoining cottages at the Soldiers' Home on the outskirts of Washington:
During the many weeks when his family was away, Lincoln seemed to crave such company, in particular reaching out not only to the soldiers but also to a shifting handful of aides and colleagues who became close friends and helped alleviate some of his loneliness. Many of these friendships were temporary or superficial, but one in particular had lasting consequences for the Union cause. Lincoln's second secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, also maintained a cottage at the Soldiers' Home. Here, he and his children interacted with the president and helped cement a partnership that contributed mightily to the Union victory.
Working with Lincoln, Stanton changed his opinion, telling Peter Watson, his former associate on the McCormick-Manny case: "No men were ever so deceived as we at Cincinnati."

Stanton's friendship with Lincoln was also deepened in 1862 when both families suffered the loss of a son.  Lincoln's son Willie died in February and Stanton's infant son James died in July. Stanton was summoned from the Soldiers Home early one morning, called back to the Stanton home in Washington. He left a note for President Lincoln to "get your breakfast at my house" at 9 A.M. He added: "If my child is not dying I will be in town as early as possible."  But James, who was less than a year old, died on  July 8, 1862.

Just a month later, Stanton's sister, Oella, died on August 2.  On the eve of the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862, John Hay and President Lincoln went to visit General Henry Halleck at his office. Hay wrote in his diary that Halleck
was at dinner & Stanton came in while we were waiting for him and carried us off to dinner. A pleasant little dinner and pretty wife as white and cold and motionless as marble, whose rare smiles seemed to pain her. Stanton was loud about the [George McClellan] business. He was unqualifiedly severe upon McClellan. He said that after these battles, there should be one Court Martial, if never any more. He said that nothing but foul play could lose us this battle & that it rested with [McClellan] and his friends. Stanton seemed to believe very strongly in Pope. So did the President for that matter.
Mrs. Stanton's cold expression may have been grief; it had been less than two months since her baby son had been buried.  Ellen would give birth to their fourth child, Bessie, in 1863.  She may also have resented the work that kept her husband away from his family; Stanton was so busy that in one letter he wrote his sister Pamphila: "Ellen and I have not seen each other for days at a time."

By early 1863, the Union had the majority of prisoners, thousands of whom did not wish to be exchanged and returned to the South.  Agreeing to Lincoln that it was inhumane to force these captives to return, Stanton set a new policy: prisoners would be screened, and the most promising could be enlisted to serve the Union cause.  Confederate authorities, taking offense at the success of Stanton's policy, used it was an excuse to delay regular exchanges of the Northern soldiers they held.  

In addition, Jefferson Davis declared Benjamin Butler and his officers to be felons "deserving of capital punishment," and announced that no more Union officers would be released on parole until Butler had been punished.  Davis also warned that any Negroes taken in arms, together with their white officers, would be dealt with according to the Confederate state's statues for the suppression of slave insurrections.  This made Union officers liable for the death penalty for inciting blacks to revolt, and essentially condemned Negro troops to death or slavery.  Prisoner exchanges virtually stopped.


Lincoln's Cabinet in 1862
In a cabinet meeting in late July, Lincoln brought up the subject of an emancipation proclamation to free enslaved people in the states which were in rebellion.  Stanton wanted to issue the proclamation immediately.  Seward favored enlisting Negro troops, but argued against emancipation, believing that foreign nations would intervene because their cotton supply would be endangered.  He insisted that the proclamation should be made only when the war took a turn for the better.

In September, after the battle of Antietam, Lincoln said that he was ready to issue a proclamation which said that on January 1, 1863, all people held in slavery in states still in rebellion were to be declared free.  Stanton continued to advocate for the enlistment of Negroes  into the Union armies as a military necessity.  By the end of November, Lincoln agreed with him.  Stanton organized a Bureau of Colored Troops in the War Department under the charge of Major Charles W. Foster.


Charles W. Foster
Stanton was concerned about rumors of Ulysses Grant's drinking, and Dana spent considerable time with him, becoming a close friend and assuaging administration concerns.  Dana returned to the western front in the early spring of 1863 with the job of investigating pay service for the War Department. Grant had already complained that his men were not being paid on time, so the administration thought the general might not suspect the true import of Dana's mission. 


Ulyssess Grant
Dana was quickly recognized for what he was — a spy. But Grant insisted that Dana be treated hospitably and he eventually became one of Grant's biggest boosters.  Dana reported to Stanton that he found Grant
"modest, honest, and judicial. . . . not an original or brilliant man, but sincere, thoughtful, deep, and gifted with a courage that never faltered.   Although quiet and hard to know, he loved a humorous story and the company of his friends."
Charles Anderson Dana
at Grant's Headquarters 
Dana went through the Vicksburg Campaign; he was at the Battle of Chickamauga and the Third Battle of Chattanooga.  He urged the placing of General Grant in supreme command of all the armies in the field, which happened in March 1864. 


BREAKING THAT BACKBONE
Currier & Ives print

A commentary on Northern efforts to end the rebellion during the early years of the Civil War. Confederate President Jefferson Davis (far left) displays "the Great Southern Gyascutis," a dog-like monster with an enlarged spine, the "stiffest Back-Bone ever grown." The beast is labeled "Rebellion." Davis holds the animal on a chain as several figures prepare to attack it with large sledgehammers. From left to right, they are: Union generals Henry W. Halleck and George B. McClellan, who swing in unison hammers marked "Skill" and "Strategy," respectively; and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who waits his turn holding a hammer labeled "Draft." On the far right waits President Lincoln, with the ax "Emancipation Proclamation."

Stanton: "Halleck may use his skill and Mac his strategy, but this draft will do the business." Lincoln: "You can try him with that, but I'm afraid this axe of mine is the only thing that will fetch him." At left, behind the group, sits a dejected, bespectacled man holding a tiny hammer labeled "Compromise." Further left, on a wall behind Jefferson Davis, hangs a poster saying "Only 10,000 men and $1000,000 in Treasure per Crack. Step up and Try your Muscle."
Attacks on Stanton at the time were so persistent and vicious that his old friend and former tutor at Kenyon College, the Reverend Herman Dyer of New York, wrote a letter in reference to them,  to which Stanton responded: 
Washington, D. C, May 18, 1863. 
My Dear Friend: 
Yours of the 10th is welcome as an evidence of the continued regard of one whose esteem I have always been anxious to possess. I have been very well aware of the calumnies busily circulated against me in New York and elsewhere respecting my relations to General McClellan, but am compelled from public considerations to withhold the proofs that would stamp the falsity of the accusations and the base motives of the accusers, who belong to two classes: 
First — Plunderers who have been driven from the Department when they were gorging millions; 
Second — Scheming politicians, whose designs are endangered by an earnest, resolute, and uncompromising prosecution of this war as a war against rebels and traitors. A brief statement of facts of official record, which I can make to you confidentially, will suffice to satisfy yourself that your confidence in me has not been misplaced. 
When I entered the cabinet I was and had been for months the sincere and devoted friend of General McClellan, and to support him and, so far as I might, aid and assist him in bringing the war to a close, was a chief inducement for me to sacrifice my personal happiness to a sense of public duty. I had studied him earnestly with an anxious desire to discover the military and patriotic virtue that might save the country, and if in any degree disappointed, I had hoped on, and waited for time to develop. I went into the cabinet about the 20th of January. 
On the 27th the President made his Order No. 1, requiring the Army of the Potomac to move. It is not necessary, nor perhaps proper, to state all the causes which led to that order, but it is enough to know that the Government was on the verge of bankruptcy, and at the rate of expenditure the armies must move or the Government perish. 
The 22d of February was the day fixed for movement, and when it arrived there was no more sign of movement on the Potomac than there had been for three months before. Many, very many earnest conversations I had held with General McClellan, to impress him with the absolute necessity of active operations or that the Government would fail because of foreign intervention and enormous debt. Between the 22d of February and the 8th of March the President had again interfered, and the movement on Winchester and to clear the blockade of the Potomac was promised, commenced, and abandoned. The circumstances cannot yet be revealed. 
. . .  To enable McClellan to transport his force, every means and power of the Government were placed at his disposal and unsparingly used. . . . 
What motive can I have to thwart General McClellan? I am not now, never have been, and never will be a candidate for any office. I hold my present post at the request of the President, who knew me personally, but to whom I had not spoken from the 4th of March, 1861, until the day he handed me my commission. I knew that everything I cherish and hold dear would be sacrificed by accepting office. But I thought I might help to save the country, and for that I was willing to perish. 
If I wanted to be a politician or a candidate for any office, would I stand between the Treasury and the robbers who are howling around me? Would I provoke and stand up against the whole newspaper gang in the country, of every part, who, to sell news, would imperil a battle? 
I was never taken for a fool, but there could be no greater madness than for a man to encounter what I do for anything less than motives that overleap time and look forward to eternity. 
I believe that God Almighty founded this Government, and for my act in the effort to maintain it I expect to stand before Him in judgment. 
You will pardon this long explanation which has been made to no one else. It is due to you, who was my friend when I was a poor boy at school, and had no claim upon your confidence and kindness. It cannot be made public for obvious reasons. General McClellan is at the head of our chief army. He must have every confidence and support, and I am willing that the whole world should revile me rather than to diminish one grain of the strength needed to conquer the rebels. In a struggle like this, justice or credit to individuals is but dust in the balance. . . . 
You will, of course, regard this explanation as being in the strictest confidence, designed only for your information upon matters where you have expressed concern for me. The confidence of yourself and men like you is full equivalent for all the railing that has been or can be expended against me; and in the magnitude of the cause all merely individual questions are swallowed up. I shall always rejoice to hear from you, and am as ever, 
Truly yours, Edwin M. Stanton. 
Edwin Stanton in 1863
Clement L. Vallandigham was convicted of sedition at Cincinnati, Ohio on May 19, 1863, by a military commission, and sentenced to Fort Warren during the remainder of the war. Ten days later on Stan ton's recommendation, Lincoln commuted the sentence by directing the prisoner to be sent beyond the Federal military lines to Confederate territory. Many of Stanton's early friends, like Vallandigham, did not support the Government. Stanton and Vallandigham were born in adjoining counties in Ohio and when young had been personal friends. 
Clement L. Vallandigham
At the end of June, General Joseph Hooker requested relief from command; he was replaced with General George Gordon Meade. On July 1st, Meade reported that his army had made contact with Lee's nearly Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  For the next three days, Lincoln and Stanton spent most of their time in the telegraph office.  Stanton expedited a group of civilian surgeons to the front, and arranged for Adams Express Company employees to help transport the wounded to hospitals.  On the afternoon of July 4, Stanton announced that Meade had won.  Soon after, news came that Ulysses Grant's army had taken Vicksburg, Mississippi after a long siege.  The two victories were celebrated in the North.


George Gordon Meade
Eddie Stanton had just graduated from Kenyon College with high honors; Kenyon had offered him a post as a tutor, but he wanted to be his father's private secretary.  Stanton refused because he did not want to be accused of nepotism.  


Thomas Eckert
Thomas Eckert later secretly gave Eddie a War Department clerkship; eventually Stanton gave Eddie the appointment as his confidential clerk.    


Eddie Stanton
In September, Lincoln and Stanton stayed near the telegraph for word from Chickamauga, Tennessee.  Although General George Thomas averted a disaster, Chattanooga was in danger of being abandoned.  Stanton consulted with his staff about transportation, troops and materials: he proposed to send 30,000 men from the Army of the Potomac to Tennessee.  Although the Lincoln and the cabinet were dubious, Stanton started them moving.  Seven days later, the first troops arrived.  Less than three days later, more than 20,000 men, 10 batteries of artillery with their horses and ammunition, and 100 cars of baggage had come in.  Stanton had performed one of the great feats of the war.

General Grant, in Cairo, Illinois, received an order to travel immediately to Louisville, Kentucky, where an officer from the War Department would meet him with instructions.  Stanton met him for the first time, and gave him Lincoln's orders putting him in command of a new Military Division of the Mississippi.

Stanton wrote to General Thomas from Louisville, Kentucky:
Galt House, Louisville, Ky., October 18, 1863. 
 General George H. Thomas
General: General Grant, who bears this brief note, will thank you in behalf of the people, the War Department, and myself, for the magnificent behavior of yourself and your gallant men at Chickamauga. You stood like a rock and that stand gives you fame which will grow brighter and brighter as the ages go by. God be praised for such men at such a time. You will be rewarded by the country and by the Department.
Edwin M. Stanton,  Secretary of War.
Montgomery Meigs wrote:
After returning from Louisville, in October, 1863, where he met Grant personally for the first time, Secretary Stanton frequently reverted to the General, saying he liked him because he "never complained, never disobeyed orders, never talked politics, never wanted what the Government could not furnish" — qualities which he characterized as the very opposite in others whom he named. He was thoroughly rejoiced to meet a commander who cared nothing for neck-ties, drawing-room frippery, and military tail-feathers, exclaiming: "Grant is splendid. He takes secession by the throat, not, like some of our Potomac milliners, by the tail."
Stanton spent Thanksgiving Day in Steubenville with his mother, now nearly 70, and his widowed sister Pamphila, who was concerned at his appearance, remembering how her husband had worked himself to death in the War Department.


Stanton in 1864
In February 1864, Stanton instructed Grant to report to Washington in order to take command of all the Union armies. Lincoln and Grant worked out a strategic plan in which Grant would pursue General Lee. Manpower was a matter of concern because the terms of the men who had enlisted for three years at the outset of the war would expire in 1864.  These veterans were the core of the Union army, and Stanton believed it was necessary to retain them.  He offered bounties and furloughs for re-enlistments.

Dana was Assistant Secretary of War from 1864 to 1865.  General James Wilson wrote that President Lincoln "appears to have taken Dana into his inmost confidence...and to have consulted him fully about the amendment to the Constitution to legalize the abolition of slavery, about the admission of Nevada as a State, and generally about where to get necessary votes in Congress to carry through the various policies of his administration."

The massacre at Fort Pillow in April 1864, in which the Confederate victors slaughtered captives as they surrendered, so greatly enraged the North that Lincoln sought Stanton's opinion as to what course should be taken after the event. On May 5, 1864, Stanton responded with his plan: 
First — That of the rebel officers now held as prisoners by the United States there should be selected by lot a number equal to the number of persons ascertained to have been massacred at Fort Pillow, who shall immediately be placed in close confinement as hostages to await such further action as may be determined. 
Second — That Generals Forrest and Chalmers and all officers and men known, or who may hereafter be ascertained, to have been concerned in the massacre at Fort Pillow be excluded, by the President's special order, from the benefit of his amnesty, and also that they, by his order, be exempted from all privilege of exchange or other rights as prisoners of war, and shall, if they fall into our hands, be subjected to trial and such punishment as may be awarded for their barbarous and inhuman violation of the laws of war toward the officers and soldiers of the United States at Fort Pillow. 
Third — That the rebel authorities at Richmond be notified that the prisoners so selected are held as hostages for the delivery up of Generals Forrest and Chalmers and those concerned in the massacre at Fort Pillow, or to answer in their stead, and in case of their non-delivery within a reasonable time, to be specified in the notice, such measures will be taken in reference to the hostages, by way of retributory justice for the massacre of Fort Pillow, as are justified by the laws of civilized warfare. 
Fourth — That after the lapse of a reasonable time for the delivery up of Chalmers, Forrest, and those concerned in the massacre, the President proceed to take against the hostages above selected such measures as may, under the state of things then existing, be essential for the protection of Union soldiers from such savage barbarities as were practised at Fort Pillow and to compel the rebels to observe the laws of civilized warfare. 
Fifth — That the practise of releasing, without exchange of equivalent, rebel prisoners taken in battle be discontinued, and no such immunity be extended to rebels while our prisoners are undergoing ferocious barbarity or the more horrible death of starvation. 
Sixth — That precisely the same rations and treatment be henceforth practised in reference to the whole number of rebel officers remaining in our hands as are practised against either soldiers or officers in our service held by the rebels.
My reasons for selecting the officers instead of the privates for retaliatory punishment are: 
First, because the rebels have selected white officers of colored regiments and excluded them from the benefit of the laws of war for no other reason than that they command special troops, and that, having thus discriminated against the officers of the United States service, their officers should be held responsible for the discrimination; and, 
Second, because it is known that a large portion of the privates in the rebel army are forced there by conscription, and are held in arms by terror and rigorous punishment from their own officers. The whole weight of retaliatory measures, therefore, should, in my opinion, be made to fall upon the officers of the rebel army, more especially as they alone are the class whose feelings are at all regarded in the rebel States or who can have any interest or influence in bringing about more humane conduct on the part of the rebel authorities. 
A serious objection against the release of prisoners of war who apply to be enlarged is that they belong to influential families, who, through representatives in Congress and other influential persons, are enabled to make interest with the Government. They are the class who, instead of receiving indulgences, ought, in my opinion, to be made to bear the heaviest burden of the war brought upon them by their own crimes.
With paroles as well as exchanges halted, both sides were guarding and feeding an increasing number of captives.  In the North, the prison compounds became overcrowded and filthy; in the South, conditions became intolerable, as would be seen at Andersonville.  General Ulysses Grant said that 
It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles.  Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly.  If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated."
Lincoln's Cottage at the Soldiers' Home
Homer Bates worked in the War Department's telegraph office:
One evening, in the summer of 1864, I rode out to the Soldiers Home with important dispatches for the President and Secretary of War, who were temporarily domiciled with their families on the grounds of the Home.  I found Stanton reclining on the grass, playing with Lewis, one of his children . . . He invited me to a seat on the greensward while he read the telegrams; and then, business being finished, we began talking of early times in Steubenville, Ohio, his native town and mine. One of us mentioned the game of 'mumble-the-peg,' and he asked me if I could play it. Of course I said yes, and he proposed that we should have a game then and there. Stanton entered into the spirit of the boyish sport with great zest , and for the moment all the perplexing questions of the terrible war were forgotten. I do not remember who won.
Homer Bates 
In August 1864, the Democrats nominated George McClellan as their presidential candidate, with George Pendleton as his running mate.  (Pendleton's wife was the sister of Phillip Key, shot by Daniel Sickles in 1859.)  The Democratic platform called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and a negotiated peace.

When Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney died in October 1864, Stanton wanted to be named as his replacement. In addition, two other members of the cabinet, Edward Bates and Montgomery Blair, also wanted the post.  However, Lincoln, along with General Grant believed that Stanton was more important to the Union cause as Secretary of War, and Salmon Chase was appointed instead.


Joseph Barnes
Lincoln won the November elections, but Stanton was seriously ill , confined to bed for nearly three weeks.  Joseph Barnes, the Surgeon General, begged him to take a leave of absence from his post.  Stanton replied:
Barnes, keep me alive till this rebellion is over, and then I will take a rest . . . a long one, perhaps.
RUNNING THE "MACHINE" - 1864
An attack on the ineptness of the Lincoln administration, the cartoon derives its title from an indiscreet letter written by secretary of war Edwin McMasters Stanton to past President James Buchanan immediately following the Union army's defeat at the Battle of Bull Run in 1861: Stanton wrote, "The imbecility of this Administration, culminated in that catastrophe (Bull Run), and irretrievable misfortune and national disgrace never to be forgotten are to be added to the ruin of all peaceful pursuits and national bankruptcy, as the result of Mr. Lincoln's `running the machine' for five months."

William Pitt Fessenden 
(far left), the Treasury Secretary who succeeded Salmon Chase,  cranks out greenbacks from "Chase's Patent Greenback Mill." He says, glaring at the figures seated around the table, "These are the greediest fellows I ever saw. With all my exertions I cant satisfy their pocket, though I keep the Mill going day and night."

Seated at the table (clockwise from top left) are Stanton, Lincoln, secretary of state William H. Seward, Navy secretary Gideon Welles, and two unidentified contractors. At left a messenger hands an envelope to Stanton, announcing, "Mr. Secretary! here is a dispatch. We have captured one prisoner and one gun; a great Victory." Elated over this minuscule achievement, Stanton exclaims "Ah well! Telegraph to General Dix [Union general John A. Dix] immediately."

Meanwhile, Lincoln is guffawing because he is reminded of "a capital joke." Seward, with a bell in one hand, hands an envelope "Fort Lafayette" to a young officer or cadet, saying, "Officer! I am told that Snooks has called me " Humbug'--Take this warrant and put him in Fort Lafayette--I'll teach him to speak against the Government." Seward was criticized for arbitrarily arresting civilians and incarcerating them in federal prison at Fort Lafayette. Beside Seward Gideon Welles ineptly works out a problem. "They say the Tallahassee sails 24 miles an hour!--Well then, we'll send 4 Gunboats after her that can sail 6 miles an hour, and that will just make enough to catch her." At center bottom, the two contractors ask for more greenbacks.
By late November, Stanton was back in the War Department office, working 15-hour days.  It was at this time that Lincoln, speaking of Stanton to two congressmen, said:
His position is one of the most difficult in the world. Thousands in the army blame him because they are not promoted and other thousands out of the army blame him because they are not appointed.  The pressure upon him is immeasurable and unending. He is the rock on the beach of our national ocean against which the breakers dash and roar, dash and roar without ceasing. He fights back the angry waters and prevents them from undermining and overwhelming the land. Gentlemen, I do not see how he survives, why he is not crushed and torn to pieces. Without him I should be destroyed. He performs his task superhumanly.
According to Doris Kearns Goodwin in Team of Rivals:
Lincoln's liberal use of his pardoning power created the greatest tension between the two men.  Stanton felt compelled to protect military discipline by exacting proper punishment for desertions or derelictions of duty, while Lincoln looked for any "good excuse for saving a man's life."  When he found one, he said, "I got to bed happy as I think how joyous the signing of my name will make him and his family and his friends."
In January, 1865, Stanton visited Savannah, Georgia to investigate the negro and cotton problems. Besides making a personal survey of the new situation in which the war had placed the colored people, he wished to learn their hopes and wants from their own lips. Having given a public audience to them, he selected twenty representatives and wrote down the testimony given by each, putting numerous questions to them. General Townsend offered to get a clerk, or to do the writing himself, but Stanton replied that if he made the record with his own hand he "would be sure that nothing had been lost."

That same month, Francis Preston Blair went to Richmond to discuss the possibility of peace negotiations with Jefferson Davis.  Davis agreed to send Peace Commissioners to Washington "with a view to secure peace tot he two Countries."  Lincoln consulted Stanton, who said:
There are not two countries. . . . Tell Davis that if you treat for peace, it will be for this one country . . . 
Lincoln met with the Peace Commissioners at Hampton Roads, Virginia, but they reached no agreements.  Stanton was surprised when Lincoln proposed in a cabinet meeting to recommend to Congress the remuneration of dispossessed slave owners, provided the Confederates laid down their arms by April 1.  Stanton and other cabinet members saw no need for it, and Lincoln abandoned the idea.

Jefferson Davis predicted that before another year had passed, the South would be able to secure peace on its own terms, holding onto secession and slavery.  He announced
I can have no "common country" with the Yankees.  My life is bound up in the Confederacy; and, if any man supposes that, under any circumstances, I can be an agent of reconstruction of the Union, he had mistaken every element of my nature!
The Union army took control of the Confederate capitol, Richmond, Virginia, on April 3, 1865.  A crowd gathered at the War Department in Washington, D.C. and called for Stanton:  His aide, A.E. Johnson, recalled:
As he stood upon the steps to speak, he trembled like a leaf, and his voice showed his emotion.  
The crowd cheered, and a smiling Stanton led them in singing The Star-Spangled Banner That night, Seward joined other guests for dinner at Stanton's home.

On April 4, Lincoln visited Richmond.  When the presidential party reached the landing, Lincoln was surrounded by black laborers who were cheering and shouting.  A crowd was around Lincoln as he walked up the street to the mansion that Jefferson Davis had abandoned two days earlier.  

Lincoln and son Tad in Richmond, Virginia, April 4, 1865
On April 5, 1865, while Lincoln was in City Point, Virginia, Stanton set him the following telegram about William Seward's carriage accident:
From Washington 6 P.M. 5th 1865 
About two hours ago Mr Seward was thrown from his carriage his shoulder bone at the head of the joint broken off, his head and face much bruised and he is in my opinion dangerously injured. I think your presence here is needed. Mrs Lincoln with a party of friends left here this morning in the Monohanset for City Point. Please let me know when you may be expected 
E.M. Stanton
Secy of War

Telegraph from Stanton to Lincoln
April 5, 1865
When Stanton had heard of Seward's accident, he hurried to Seward's home, where Fanny Seward commented on the concern and quality of care Stanton gave his friend.  He remained with him for hours.

When Lincoln returned to Washington, he immediately went to see Seward at his home.  When he got back to the White House, Stanton rushed in with a telegram from General Grant:
General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia this afternoon upon terms proposed by myself.
Lincoln hugged Stanton and then went to tell his wife the news.  Although it was late in the evening, Stanton went to Seward's home the share the telegram with him.  At dawn the next day, Stanton ordered a five-hundred gun salute.  The morning newspapers announced the surrender.
  
The next day, because of his own health problems, Stanton gave Lincoln his letter of resignation, but Lincoln rejected it.  Stanton's biographer, Fletcher Pratt, reported that the president said:
Stanton, you cannot go. Reconstruction is more difficult and dangerous than construction or destruction. You have been our main reliance; you must help us through the final act. The bag is filled. It must be tied and tied securely. Some knots slip; yours do not. You understand the situation better than anybody else, and it is my wish and the country's that you remain.
The fortune that Stanton's law practice had brought him was gone by 1865.  Believing, initially, that the war would not last a long time, and anticipating that he would resume his lucrative law practice when he left government service, Stanton had not protested when his wife, Ellen, spent lavishly on home furnishings, clothes and entertaining.  In addition, he was paying tuition for his children's educations, supporting his mother and Pamphila, and contributing to the support of more than a dozen nieces, nephews, and other relations.

Stanton and his wife entertained the Grants at a reception and dinner at their home on the night of April 13; a band serenaded the house, and the Stantons, Grants and other guests came out on the steps to listen.  A crowd had gathered outside to cheer Stanton and Grant.  After the guests left, Stanton worked into the early morning completing a provisional plan for the military government of the South which Lincoln had asked him to prepare; Stanton had asked Grant's thoughts on the matter.  Lincoln had invited Grant to attend a cabinet meeting the next day.

On the evening of Friday, April 14, 1865 Stanton visited the home of Secretary of State William Seward before returning home. He and his wife had been invited to join the Lincolns at the theater, but Stanton declined, as he rarely enjoyed theatrical performances.  He was just undressing for bed when two clerks from the War Department came banging at the door, shouting that the president had been shot and Seward had been attacked. Stanton had left Seward only a short time before, and said, "Oh, that can't be, that can't be so!"  When another clerk arrived to inform his of what had happened at the Seward home, Stanton took a carriage back to their house on Lafayette Square. He found Seward, his son and nurse all severely injured and under the care of doctors.  According to Gideon  Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, who arrived at about the same time, blood was everywhere.  Stanton, Welles and Montgomery Meigs then rushed to the Petersen House, where Lincoln had been taken after he had been shot at Ford's Theater. 

Booth biographer Michael W. Kauffman wrote that after Stanton's arrival at Petersen House on the night of President Lincoln's assassination:
After consoling Mrs. Lincoln, Secretary Stanton was briefed on the overall situation. Then, bracing himself, he went to the back bedroom. As he looked down at the president, Surgeon General Barnes whispered the obvious: Mr. Lincoln cannot recover. Acknowledging with a faint nod, Stanton lowered himself into a chair next to the bed. All eyes turned to him in anticipation of some pronouncement, but instead he burst into loud, convulsive sobs.
Stanton  called for Charles Dana, assistant secretary of war, who, being a good stenographic writer, wrote from dictation telegrams to all parts of the country: 
That night I was awakened from a sound sleep with the news that Mr. Lincoln had been shot and that the Secretary wanted me. I found the President lying unconscious, though breathing heavily, on a bed in a small side room, while all the members of the cabinet and the Chief Justice with them, were gathered in the adjoining parlor. They seemed to be almost as much paralyzed as the unconscious sufferer within the little chamber. Mr. Stanton alone was in full activity.
James Tanner, a clerk in the War Department who had learned shorthand after he lost his legs at the Second Battle of Bull Run, was attending the theater at Grover's that night. Tanner was also recruited to transcribe Stanton's orders, as well as the testimonies of witnesses to the shooting.  By midnight, Stanton had alerted all military forces in the Washington area of the shooting and of what was known about the assassins; railroad passenger trains heading south were stopped, and bridges were closed.  Stanton, realizing that the nation had to be informed of what of what had occurred, dictated a description of the events for release to the press.


Illustration of Death-bed of Lincoln
According to Tanner's recollections, Stanton then
passed back into the room where the president lay. There were gathered . .  . about twenty-or twenty-five in all, I should judge. The bed had been pulled out from the corner and owing to the stature of Mr. Lincoln, he lay diagonally on his back. He had been utterly unconscious from the instant the bullet plowed into his brain. His stertorous breathing subsided a couple of minutes after seven o'clock. From then to the end only the gentle rise and fall of his bosom gave indication that life remained.
The surgeon general was near the head of the bed, sometimes sitting on the edge thereof, his finger on the pulse of the dying man. Occasionally he put his ear down to catch the lessening beats of heart. Mr. Lincoln's pastor. The Reverend Doctor Gurley, stood a little to the left of the bed. Mr. Stanton sat in a chair near the foot on the left, where the pictures place Andrew Johnson. I stood quite near the head of the bed and from that position had full view of Mr. Stanton across the president.
Phineas Gurley
At about 1 :30 in the morning, believing that Lincoln could not last much longer, Stanton wrote a formal notification to Vice-President Johnson. Going into the adjoining room, he handed the paper to General Vincent with orders to make a copy of it.  Mrs. Lincoln screamed "Is he dead? Oh, is he dead?" General Thomas Vincent wrote:
I cannot recall a more pitiful picture than that of poor Mrs. Lincoln, almost insane with sudden agony, moaning and sobbing out that terrible night. Mr. Stanton attempted to soothe her, but he was full of business, and knew, moreover, that in a few hours at most she must be a widow. She entered the room where her husband lay motionless, but the surgeon announced that death was fast descending; she then fainted and was practically helpless.
During the night, a War Department detective searched Booth's trunk in his room at the National Hotel, and discovered a letter about the murder plot.  By 3 a.m., Stanton had become convinced that Booth was the president's assassin, and word went out to arrest him.

According to Colonel A. F. Rockwell, who was present in the room:
During twenty minutes preceding the death of the President, Mr. Stanton stood quite motionless, leaning his chin upon his left hand, his right hand holding his hat and supporting his left elbow, the tears falling continually.
At 7 :22 in the morning of April 15, 1865, Lincoln ceased to breathe. Stanton touched the Reverend Phineas D. Gurley, pastor of the Presbyterian church which the Lincolns had attended, on the arm and said : "Doctor, please lead in prayer."

Tanner later wrote:
The Reverend Dr. Gurley stepped forward and lifting his hands began “Our Father and our God” and I snatched pencil and notebook from my pocket, but my haste defeated my purpose. My pencil point (I had but one) caught in my coat and broke, and the world lost the prayer, a prayer that was only interrupted by the sobs of Stanton as he buried his face in the bedclothes.  As “Thy will be done, Amen” in subdued and tremulous tones floated through the little chamber, Mr. Stanton raised his head, the tears streaming down his face. A more agonized expression I never saw on a human countenance as he sobbed out the words: “He belongs to the angels now.”
Illustration: "Death of President Lincoln, the Nation's Martyr"
The traditional version of Edwin M. Stanton’s quote — “Now he belongs to the ages.” — were the words remembered by Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, who was near Lincoln’s deathbed on April 15, 1865.  That quote was included in a book Hay wrote about Lincoln with John G. Nicolay in 1890, and was popularized by Ida M. Tarbell’s widely-read biography of Lincoln, published in 1900. 


Reward poster for Booth, Surratt, and Herold
On April 20, Stanton issued a proclamation offering a $50,000 reward for the apprehension of John Wilkes Booth, with $25,000 each for the capture of David Herold and John Surratt.  On April 26, Booth was found and killed.  He and Herold had been hiding in a tobacco barn in Virginia.  
David Herold
Herold was captured alive, but one of the soldiers, contrary to orders, had shot Booth, who died soon after.  Stanton knew that Booth's body and grave would be worshipped by Confederate partisans; one woman had managed to access the body and cut of locks of his hair.  Not wanting Booth's grave to be a shrine to a "martyr," he had Booth's body buried in secret in the Washington arsenal. 


Lock of Booth's hair
Stanton pursued the prosecution of the conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination, arranging that the proceedings were not handled by the civil courts, but by a military tribunal, and therefore under Stanton's direction. Though John Wilkes Booth was known to be the murderer of Lincoln, scores of suspected accomplices were also arrested and thrown into prison. As evidence indicated that Confederate officials had been involved in the plot, President John proclaimed that "rebels and traitors" in Canada had conspired with Jefferson Davis to assassinate Lincoln and his cabinet members. He offered a reward of $100,000 for Davis' capture and $25,000 for each of the others.

Samuel Arnold
The suspects were finally winnowed to eight: Samuel Arnold, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Lewis Powell (aka Lewis Payne or Paine), Edmund Spangler, and Mary Surratt.  


Lewis Powell / Payne










Stanton ordered Payne, O'Laughlin, Spangler and Atzerodt confined below deck on the monitor Montauk, which was anchored near the Nay Yard.

Michael O'Laughlin






The other male prisoners were placed in the hold of the monitor Saugus.  Each prisoner had an iron ball weighing seventy-five pounds attached to his leg by a heavy chain and wore handcuffs joined by an iron bar.  Later, for more security, Stanton ordered eight heavy canvas hoods made, padded one-inch thick with cotton, with one small hole for eating, no opening for eyes or ears. Stanton ordered that the hoods be worn by the seven men day and night to prevent conversation. 


Canvas Hoods for Prisoners
No baths or washing of any kind were allowed, and during the hot breathless weeks of the trial the prisoners' faces became swollen. The prison doctor began to fear for the conspirators' sanity, but Stanton would not allow the hoods, nor the wrist irons and anklets, to be removed.  


Mary Surratt
Hood number eight was never used on Mary Surratt, the owner of the boarding house where the conspirators had laid their plans.  She was held in the Old Capitol Prison.
Joseph Holt

General Joseph Holt, Judge Advocate General of the Army, was responsible for conducting the trial of the conspirators.  The military commission began on May 9, and reached a verdict on the last day of June. 

George Atzerodt


It found all the prisoners guilty of conspiring to murder Lincoln, Johnson, Seward and Grant. O'Laughlin, Mudd and Spangler were sentenced to hard labor; Payne Herold, Atzerodt and Surratt were sentenced to death by hanging.
   
July 7, 1865
The Hanging
Photograph by Alexander Gardner
Stanton continued to hold the position of Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson. While the Union army as a fighting force needed to be dismantled, there was still a need for its forces in the South, where Confederate governments were inadequate or non-existent.  In the first weeks and months of peacetime, Union provosts disarmed Confederate soldiers, established food distribution, organized military policing, set up provost courts to try ordinary criminal cases, enforced liquor prohibition decrees, supervised the repair of municipal facilities, put Negroes to work on roads and bridges, and more.

Johnson was committed to the doctrine of states' rights.  He believed that reconstruction amounted to no more than a resumption by the rebelling states of their rights and duties under the Constitution, and he stressed rights more than duties.  Stanton strongly disagreed with Johnson's plan to readmit the seceded states to the Union without guarantees of civil rights for freed slaves. Stanton initially thought that the Freedmen's Bureau, established as an autonomous unit of the War Department by Congress, would give the Southern Unionists and Negroes adequate protection.  The Bureau became a kind of welfare agency for blacks, and it also took over the administration of justice in cases where the rights of Negroes were involved. By the summer of 1865, however, Stanton was coming to believe that Johnson's pardon policy was return to power in the south the same men who were responsible for the war, and for shedding the blood of the Union army.  Southerners chose their wartime leaders to represent them in Congress, and some called for Congress to grant compensation for emancipated slaves, appealed for a general amnesty, and restitution of confiscated property.  Equally disturbing were the "Black Codes" being enacted: now that blacks were no longer property, new laws were put in place to keep the "freedmen" in their place.  Stanton was increasingly disgusted that the South intended to continue with the same beliefs, leaders, and powers that had led to the war.  

On April 2, 1866, Johnson proclaimed that the rebellion was ended and that the Southern states were now back in the Union.  At the end of April, the Congressional Joint Committee on Reconstruction introduced a proposed Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  One section was designed to prevent racial discrimination by states.  In another section, the committee had acceded to Johnson's contention that suffrage was a matter for the states to decide, and did not impose Negro voting on the South.  However, the war increased the South's representation in the House of Representatives by making the three-fifths clause in the Constitution obsolete.  The slaves who were formerly counted as 3/5 of a person for representation now would be counted as one person - and yet, not being permitted to vote, the South would be rewarded with increased representation and power for its white representatives in Congress.

Johnson and Stanton clashed over implementation of Reconstruction policy.  In May 1866, Johnson leaked information to the Associated Press about a contentious cabinet meeting, and it appeared in newspapers the next morning.

In 1866, both Stanton and his wife were ill, and she made him promise to resign.  In October he wrote Ellen, who was staying with family in Pittsburgh, 
As yet I have said nothing about leaving the Cabinet to the President, but am only waiting to finish some business.
Johnson's political purges of officeholders had prompted the Senate to retaliate with a tenure-of-office bill in early 1867, providing that persons holding appointments from the President and Senate should continue in their posts until the Senate sanctioned their removal by the President.  Johnson vetoed both this and the reconstruction bill passed by Congress; both vetoes were overridden by Congress.


Cartoon of Andrew Johnson
On August 5, 1867, Johnson asked for Stanton's resignation, intending to replace him with Ulysses Grant.  Stanton refused to resign.  On August 12, the president suspended him from office.  Grant took over the post temporarily, pending the reconvening of the Senate in December.    


Cartoon featuring Grant, Stanton, Thomas and Johnson
At the time of his suspension from office, Stanton was penniless as far as cash was concerned, and in poor physical condition. He borrowed money in order to travel with his family to New England to recuperate.  They went to St. Albans, Vermont, to visit ex-Governor and Mrs. Gregory Smith. Ann Eliza Smith said:
Mr. Stanton's enjoyment of the surroundings astonished me. The evening of his arrival he immediately went out of the house and ran across the garden like a boy, exclaiming: "How delightful the air is. I can breathe! See, I can breathe!" His terrible enemy, asthma, retired for a moment and the weary war-worn veteran threw aside his armor and, forgetting the nightmare horrors from which he had so recently emerged, drank in the repose and recreation he so greatly needed. All the sternness and severity of his countenance passed away. He joked and laughed with the children; rode often with my young daughter in a single carriage; walked alone in the grove and garden and when, late in the evening, we gathered in the library, discussed various subjects or told us stories of the war. 
Gregory Smith
His health was so poor that he was unable to resume his law practice, and his financial problems were dire.  He traveled to Ohio to see if he could sell some real estate there.  While in Ohio, his nephew, the son of his brother Darwin, died, and he had to arrange the funeral and burial.  He wrote Ellen,
Your love is the only solace that supports me in despondency, and ill health, and many cares.
After the funeral, Stanton went to Gambier to spend his 52nd birthday with his mother and Pamphila, before returning to Washington. 



In January, the Senate ordered that Stanton return to the War Department and cabinet.  On January 14, Grant left the War Department and Stanton returned.  He drew the $3,000 due as his salary for the period of suspension, and got back to work.  He intended to resign soon after resuming office, but was convinced by Republicans to stay and resist Johnson.  He wrote his sister, Pamphila,
I do not want to remain . . . but do not feel at liberty to give up immediately.
Lorenzo Thomas
He received no direct communications from the White House, and attended no cabinet meetings.  In February, Johnson called General Lorenzo Thomas to the White House and gave him two orders: one demanding that Stanton vacate the war office, and the other naming Thomas to succeed him as Secretary of War ad interim.  Thomas went to the War Department to deliver the instructions to Stanton.  Stanton sent messengers to Capitol Hill with his account of Johnson's actions, and a resolution was made in the House to impeach the President.  The Senate resolved that Johnson could not legally oust Stanton or replace him with Thomas.  Stanton announced his intention to stay in the war office night and day until a decision was reached about the situation.  On March 1, the House presented articles of impeachment to the Senate.  The 11-point indictment stated that Johnson had illegally ousted Stanton, broken the tenure law, and sought to sue the Army for his own purpose.

The trial went on for weeks; finally, senators voted on May 16, 1868: 35 voted to convict.  Thirty-six votes were needed to carry the verdict.  Stanton relinquished the office and sent his letter of resignation to the president.

Stanton was almost without funds at this time.  They sold what assets they could, and cut back on expenses.  In spite of his poor health and finances, Stanton spoke in support for Grant in the presidential race that fall.

Late in July 1869, Stanton, who had continued to suffer from severe asthma, had a relapse; his doctor suggested that Stanton draw up his will.  He and Ellen went to New Hampshire, then to Boston, where they were guests of wealthy friends during August.  In September they stayed at the Hoopers' home in Cape Cod.  He wrote to his mother on September 18, 
I have this summer been diligently seeking health on mountains and the seashore, hoping to find some place where we could be free from asthma.  But my search has been in vain and tomorrow I start home scarcely as well as when I set out.  
Samuel Hooper
The next day, however, Stanton seemed close to death, and remained at the Hoopers.  On September 28, they finally began their trip back to Washington.

Stanton's health continued to fail.  One of his last letters was to his longtime colleague, Peter Watson:  
Washington, November 25, 1869. 
P. H. Watson, Esq.
My dear Friend:
Contrary to my hope when I last saw you, my health was not restored so that I could engage in business for a livelihood. My strength rapidly declined in the summer, and with reluctance I was compelled to leave home.    
Some months on the mountains and seashore of New England, with absolute rest, effected some improvement, and I am now better than for the last twelve months, and am steadily but slowly improving. My medical advisers, everywhere, enjoin abstinence from any employment taxing my physical strength, so that I have been forced to decline numerous professional engagements that, had I been strong enough, would have provided for my necessities.
I am entirely out of money. Traveling, educating, and providing for my children, and other necessary expenditures, have quite exhausted my last winter's supply furnished by Mr. Witt's kindness, so that I am compelled to apply to you for aid. I know you will be glad to aid me if in your power. I have valuable property here and in Ohio, and on the Monongahela, not encumbered, but unproductive. I have not been able to give my attention towards disposing of it, and my protracted and serious illness has cut off my professional supplies. 
Please let me know whether you can help me or not. Five thousand dollars would carry me through another year; even less would drive the wolf from the door. 
With kindest regards to you and Mrs. Watson and the children, I remain, 
Ever yours,  Edwin M. Stanton.
Ebenezer Hoar
On December 14, 1869 President Ulysses Grant nominated Attorney General Ebenezer Hoar to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, but he was not confirmed by the Senate. Conservative Republican Senators were indignant about Hoar's previous opposition to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Senator Benjamin Butler had also long been at odds with Hoar in both social and political life. Butler led the effort to vote down Hoar's nomination. Grant did not want or intend to nominate Stanton to the Supreme Court, but he sent Stanton’s name to the Senate; his friends rallied to the cause, and the Senate confirmed Stanton by a 46-11 vote that same day.


Ulysses Grant, 1869





On December 19, Stanton's 54th birthday, President Grant called at their home to inform them of the nomination.  On the 21st, after his doctor had refused to permit him to go personally to the White House to thank Grant, Stanton wrote a note of acceptance to the president:
It is the only public office I ever desired and I accept it with great pleasure.
On the evening of December 23, 1869, the Stanton family went to bed, leaving Stanton in care of his nurse, David Jones. An hour later Jones was startled by extreme paroxysmal respiration in his patient and aroused the household. Dr. Barnes was called to the house, and, after examining his patient, sent for the Reverend Thomas A. Starkey, rector of Epiphany Church. Between convulsions, Stanton expressed the belief that he would recover. Dr. Barnes, however, was convinced to the contrary, and the rector chanted the solemn service for the dying at 2 o'clock in the morning. In the middle of the night, he was surrounded by his entire household, including his mother and sister who were in town for the Christmas holiday, his wife, his children (Edwin, Eleanor, nine-year-old Lewis and six-year-old Bessie), as well as the servants, David Jones, Dr. Barnes, and the Reverend Mr. Starkey.  Stanton, who had been semi-comatose for a time, died on the morning of Christmas Eve, 1869. 

His funeral was held on December 27th.  From his home, the funeral cortege went to Oak Hill Cemetery. The hearse was drawn by four gray horses draped in black and the coffin and the grave were heaped with floral tributes.  More than 100 carriages of mourners followed.  Onlookers lined the streets; President Grant ordered the public offices closed and flags flown at half-staff.


Stanton Grave, Oak Hill Cemetery
Robert Todd Lincoln wrote Stanton's oldest son, Edwin L. Stanton, that
when I recall the kindness of your father to me, when my father was lying dead and I felt utterly desperate, hardly able to realize the truth, I am as little able to keep my eyes from filling with tears as he was then.
Rumors circulated that Stanton had committed suicide out of remorse for hanging Mrs. Surratt, cutting his own throat as his brother Darwin had, and that his wife had sealed the coffin to prevent anyone seeing the wound.

Stanton had taken a large pay cut to serve as Secretary of War, and his finances were in bad shape when he died. The court appointed as appraisers General J. K. Barnes and General Thomas M. Vincent, who listed the property of the estate so as to enable the executors to turn over one-third to Stanton's mother and two-thirds to his widow. The Steubenville house sold for $7,500 ; the K Street house in Washington for $41,000 ; other property for approximately $5,000.  Congress voted to Mrs. Stanton a sum equal to the annual salary of an associate justice — $5,000 — and there was $10,000 life insurance, which was promptly paid. A testimonial fund of nearly $100,000 was raised, mostly in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.

In the 1930s, a book written by Otto Eisenschiml accused Stanton of arranging the assassination of Lincoln; his signature work, Why was Lincoln Murdered?, was published to mixed reviews and a national furor. In it, he postulated that Stanton had plotted to kill Lincoln due to marked political and personal differences. He used circumstantial evidence to build his case, including Stanton's hiring of a bodyguard named John Parker to protect the president.  Parker was absent from his post when assassin Booth entered the presidential box at Ford's Theater.

Eisenschiml also speculated that Stanton had deliberately left one key bridge across the Potomac River open, the same bridge Booth actually used to escape, and that he ordered Booth to be shot and killed by the Union Army. Another controversial suggestion was that Stanton tore several incriminating pages from Booth's diary. His theories have become popularly known as the "Eisenschiml Thesis," but have generally been discredited by leading historians.


"In my official station I have tried to do my duty as I shall answer to God at the great day, but it is the misfortune of that station - a misfortune that no one else can comprehend the magnitude of - that most of my duties are harsh and painful to someone, so that I rejoice at an opportunity, however rare, of combining duty with kindly office."
~ Edwin Stanton, in a letter to Isabella Beecher Hooker



“Stanton had the loveliest smile I ever saw on a human face.”

~ Charles A. Dana