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soon began to complain of the irksomeness of his official duties, and to signify his desire to go abroad. Accordingly, in January of the following year, the President wrote him a note, and, after referring to the Secretary's frequently expressed desire for a change of place, accepted the situation for him and offered him the post of Minister to Russia. The offer was accepted by General Cameron, who resigned from the Cabinet and went abroad. He was succeeded by Mr. Stanton, who had been Attorney-General during the closing weeks of the Buchanan Administration. It is worthy of remark here that Lincoln's faculty for holding the friendship of those who were once allied to him did not fail him in this instance. Whatever may have been the cause of Cameron's departure from the Cabinet, Lincoln remained his steadfast friend. Several months after Cameron's withdrawal, some of his enemies in Congress made a fierce attack upon him in a series of resolutions condemning him for certain acts done in the first days of the rebellion. Whereupon the President sent to Congress a special message in which he stated that the transactions complained of were not the exclusive work of the Secretary of War, but were ordered by the President, with the full concurrence of all the members of his Cabinet. Cameron gratefully acknowledged this unsought and manly defence of his official honor, and remained Lincoln's steadfast friend.
Lincoln apparently found Mr. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, more difficult to satisfy than any other of the members of his so-called official family.
As Governor of the great State of Ohio, United States Senator, and a leader of the advanced wing of the Republican party, Mr. Chase very naturally had had political ambitions; and these were not laid aside when he entered the Cabinet. He had a large and admiring following, and many of those who did not like Lincoln's policy of administration turned to Chase as the most promising candidate to succeed Lincoln in office. It is possible that these considerations disturbed the serenity of Mr. Chase's mind, and made him at times querulous and petulant. His diary, published after his death, shows that, while he was a member of Lincoln's Cabinet, he was greatly dissatisfied with the conduct of public affairs, and that he longed to take the reins of power and show how the country should be governed. He was so jealous of his own official rights and privileges that he was frequently at odds with the good President, and he more than once resigned his office, or threatened to resign it, unless he was permitted to have his own way.
He was disturbed by the schemes which well-meaning friends set on foot to make him the Presidential candidate in 1864; and he had for some time advocated the proposition that no man should have a second term of the Presidential office. Finally, in June, 1864, the Secretary once more tendered his resignation, and it was accepted. David Tod, of Ohio, was first nominated by the President to take the place thus made vacant; and on his declining the honor, it was tendered to William Pitt Fessenden, then United States Senator from Maine, and was by him accepted.
If Mr. Chase departed from the Cabinet with any unfriendliness towards the President, we may be sure that Lincoln did not hold any such feeling towards Chase. When Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States, died in 1864, the friends of Mr. Chase clamorously demanded that the ex-Secretary of the Treasury should take the place thus made vacant on the bench of the Supreme Court. Indeed, there was a very general public feeling that this appointment would be a wise one, although Mr. Lincoln's immediate friends, mindful of Chase's conduct in the Cabinet, remonstrated against his elevation to the lofty post of Chief-Justice. While this discussion was going on, the writer of these lines had occasion to visit the President in his private office. The President, who was in a happy frame of mind, jocularly asked, “What are people talking about now?" His caller replied that they were discussing the probability of Chase's being appointed ChiefJustice. The smile on the President's face faded, and he said with gravity and sadness: “My friends all over the country are trying to put up the bars between me and Governor Chase. I have a vast number of messages and letters, from men who think they are my friends, imploring and warning me not to appoint him.” He paused for a moment, and then, pointing to a pile of telegrams and letters on the table, said: “Now, I know meaner things about Governor Chase than any of those men can tell me; but I am going to nominate him.” Three days after that the appointment was made public.
Mr. Montgomery Blair was another member of the
Cabinet who, after much patient forbearance on the part of President Lincoln, was finally dismissed in such a way as to let him out of the council without in the least injuring his feelings. From the first, Mr. Blair had not been very kindly disposed towards Secretary Chase; these two men represented the extreme wings of the party, Chase being the more radical, and Blair the ultra-conservative. Among other offences of the Postmaster-General was the delivery of a caustic speech at Rockville, Md., during the summer of 1864, in which he set forth his grievances against the “radicals,” and assumed, as a member of the Cabinet, to defend the President against the attacks of said “radicals.” This grieved and worried the President, and when these things became no longer endurable, the President, towards the end of September, 1864, wrote Mr. Blair a note in which he reminded the Postmaster-General that he (Mr. Blair) had generously offered on more than one occasion to give the President his resignation. "The time has come,” continued Lincoln, reminding Mr. Blair that this accepting of a resignation never formally made in writing would be a relief to the Chief Executive. Mr. Blair took his dismissal without anger, and he was thereafter a loyal friend of Lincoln to the end.
Previous to this departure of Mr. Blair from the Cabinet, there had been some unpleasantness among his colleagues on account of certain remarks which the Postmaster-General was alleged to have made, greatly to the wrath of General Halleck and Secretary Stanton, which last-named functionary Mr. Blair did
not love. The matter was brought to the attention of the President, who, at the next meeting of the Cabinet, as if he were aware that some of the members of the Cabinet were hoping that the difficulty would end by crowding the Postmaster General out, prepared a paper, which he read to them, as follows:
“I must myself be the judge how long to retain in and when to remove any one of you from his position. It would greatly pain me to discover any of you endeavoring to procure another's removal, or in any way to prejudice him before the public. Such endeavor would be a wrong to me, and, much worse, a wrong to the country. My wish is that on this subject no remark be made nor question asked by any of you, here or elsewhere, now or hereafter.”
This remarkable little address should be read by any one who has been led to believe that President Lincoln was without authority in the administration that bears his name.
During the great popular depression which prevailed just before the Democratic party made its Presidential nomination in 1864, and when the campaign of the Republicans lagged with indescribable languor, and the military situation was dark and cloudy, Lincoln began to share in the prevailing impression that he would not be re-elected. Then his enemies circulated the absurd rumor that the President and his Cabinet, being assured of defeat at the polls, would willingly help on the ruin which they had not been able to avert.
With these things in view, Mr. Lincoln, on the 23d of August, wrote the following memorandum: