Salmon P. Chase & the 1864 Presidential Bid
With the birth of the Republican Party just prior to the American Civil War came many ambitious Old Whigs with their eyes set on running the country from the most powerful executive seat. The President hired the fore runners to fill key roles among his cabinet, feeling the best place to have a rival is right under your nose where you can keep an eye on them. Secretary of State William Seward had once tried to convince his colleagues that the Presidency ought to be managed with a partnership and he was willing to be the real brains behind the administration.
Publishing his counsel in a memorandum to the President the document was a very curious sort with which the chief executive immediately grounded before it ever took flight, directly confronting the chief of the State Department on the question. Mr. Lincoln had been elected by the people and good or bad, he was going to manage it on his own.
Potential embarrassment to the administration came once again in the autumn of 1863, when the Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase began secretly punching his own ticket for the following year's elections. No one could really expect solidarity regarding anything he had to say about the Commander in Chief; from one moment to the next Chase flip flopped from support to utter disgust with his boss.
The following February, Samuel C. Pomeroy had produced a private circular that was widely distributed throughout the country attempting to counteract against the re-election of Mr. Lincoln. As the President's successor, it offered Salmon P. Chase as a candidate who would guarantee economy and purity in government.
The plan went awry when newspapers began to widely publicize the document thwarting every effort of the Treasury Department in keeping secrecy. The notorious document earned the name "The Pomeroy Secret Circular" issued by the prominent Senators and Representatives who endorsed it verbally but would not sign. It publicized the idea of a secret organization that had the influence of seeing Mr. Chase elevated to the Presidency in 1864.
It wasn't long after this that copies wound up in the hands of employees at the Executive Mansion. Stacks of the circular piled up on the desks of Lincoln's secretaries; however, being aware of it, he refused to read. Instead, he waited on the Treasury Secretary's conscience to get to him, and before long a handwritten letter of embarrassment was addressed. The publication of the document had ruined Chase's presidential opportunity and he quickly withdrew his name from any further entertainment on the subject.
The Secretary of the Treasury was disgusted and realized his fantasy as chief executive had been shattered, and considered once again resigning from the cabinet. He was a politician on the downhill slope and fading fast. With disagreeable character and undermining temperament, the Pomeroy Secret Circular caused Salmon P. Chase to lose the boost he sought into the driver's seat, yet finally gaining his ticket out of the Lincoln Administration.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at firstname.lastname@example.org