& The Rearrangement of Lincoln's Cabinet
It was October 12, 1864 and the Chief Justice, honorable Roger B. Taney, who had criticized the President's iron grip on government in dealing with what he had methodically called "The Rebellion" had passed away.
With whom Mr. Lincoln intended to replace him with had become the talk of Washington City. United States Senators to State's Attorney Generals topped the list of recommendations; others even spoke highly of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as a fitting protégé. Modestly even Attorney General Edward Bates confided to his journal that this appointment would be a fitting end to his long public service career.
The president continued listening to a multitude of White House callers with their suggestions of a new Chief Justice; however, he remained ambivalent towards any one of them in particular. An unusual smile broke over his face the day his secretary John G. Nicolay had informed him of a letter hand written by his former Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase. The Chief Executive had mentioned to his secretary when all of this began that he would keep a tight lip regarding his decision, yet when he asked him to file it with all of the others, for the first time it had appeared that Mr. Lincoln had already been persuaded.
The Secretary of the Treasury had enemies all over government including the treasury department where Mr. Chase was considered too partisan, too ignorant and as the last resort the President was reminded of Chase's attempt to steal his seat in the 1864 elections. This is where he drew the line as if the Ohioan had been his choice all along. Congress convened once again on December 6, 1864 and with it, came Lincoln's recommendation that the Honorable Salmon P. Chase be named Chief Justice. There had been no committees or discussions, yet the United States Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment.
The Secretary of the Treasury had been attempting to resign his post from the President's Cabinet as early as 1861, yet the President always found reason to sit on the decision and later, refuse it until late June 1864, when Chase and Lincoln had reached the height of embarrassment with one another. To sit in the vacant seat at the cabinet table he chose Senator William Pitt Fessenden who would maintain the current policies of the department. Lincoln held faithful to his belief that the best place for one's enemies was right out in front of him where he could keep an eye on them all. Once again a former cabinet member was rewarded with an appointment by the Chief Executive of whom they could not see eye to eye on policy.
The 16th President of the United States continued to juggle the ambitions of national politics quite masterfully. He appointed those who emphatically stood opposed to him perhaps making his seat at the top all the stronger. Through it all, from an outspoken Supreme Court to appeasing those who would undermine him, Mr. Lincoln continually proved to Washington and the nation, it was he who governed the war and it was he who governed the nation.
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