Edwin Stanton

Edwin Stanton

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Edwin Stanton was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on 19th December, 1814. After attending Kenyon College he was admitted to the bar in 1836. He worked in Pittsburgh for nine years before moving to Washington he built a large practice in the federal courts.

A member of the Democratic Party, he was appointed attorney general by President James Buchanan in December 1860. He lost office when President Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1861. Stanton returned to power when he agreed to work as a legal adviser to Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War. This job became more important on the outbreak of the American Civil War.

In January, 1862, Stanton helped Simon Cameron write his yearly report. He personally wrote the section that called for freed slaves to be armed and used against the Confederate Army. President Abraham Lincoln was opposed to this policy and ordered Cameron to remove the offending passage. When he refused he was dismissed. Lincoln, who was unaware of Stanton's role in the report, appointed him as his new Secretary of War.

After taking office Stanton took over the management of all the telegraph lines in the United States. Stanton also censored the press and in this way kept full control over the news reaching the public. To maintain this system Stanton doubled the size of the War Department.

Convinced that the war would soon be over Stanton closed down the government recruiting offices in the spring of 1862. When he realised his mistake he advocated the recruitment of black soldiers.

Stanton was privately highly critical of the government and once told a friend that he could find "no token of any intelligent understanding of Lincoln, or the crew that govern him". However, Stanton and Abraham Lincoln worked well together during the war.

During the summer of 1863 an agreement under which Union and Confederate captives were exchanged, came to an end. Stanton and Ulysses S. Grant decided that the Confederate Army had more difficulty in replacing men than the Union Army. This included the decision not to take 30,000 soldiers from Andersonville. When Stanton heard about the high death-rate in Andersonville he decided to reduce the rations of captured soldiers by 20 per cent.

In 1863 Stanton recruited Lafayette Baker as his replacement for Allan Pinkerton, head of the Union Intelligence Service. Baker was given the job as head of the National Detective Police (NDP), an undercover, anti-subversive, spy organization. One of his successes was the capture of the Confederate spy, Belle Boyd. Later Baker was accused of conducting a brutal interrogation and despite the inhuman treatment Boyd refused to confess and she was released in 1863.

Baker was also suspected of being guilty of corruption. He went after people making profits from illegal business activities. It was claimed he arrested and jailed those who refused to share their illegal gains with him. Baker was eventually caught tapping telegraph lines between Nashville and Stanton's office. Baker was demoted and sent to New York and placed under the control of Charles Dan, the Assistant Secretary of War.

As the organizer of internal security, Edwin M. Stanton was blamed for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on 14th April 1865. Stanton immediately summoned Lafayette Baker, head of the National Detective Police (NDP) to Washington with the telegraphic appeal: "Come here immediately and see if you can find the murderer of the President." Baker arrived on 16th April and his first act was to send his agents into Maryland to pick up what information they could about the people involved in the assassination.

Within two days Baker had arrested Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, George Atzerodt and Edman Spangler. He also had the names of the fellow conspirators, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold. When Baker's agents discovered had crossed the Potomac near Mathias Point on 22nd April, he sent Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty and twenty-five men from the Sixteenth New York Cavalry to capture them.

On 26th April, Doherty and his men caught up with John Wilkes Booth and David Herold on a farm owned by Richard Garrett. Doherty ordered the men to surrender. Herold came out of the barn but Booth refused and so the barn was set on fire. While this was happening one of the soldiers, Sergeant Boston Corbett, found a large crack in the barn and was able to shoot Booth in the back. His body was dragged from the barn and after being searched the soldiers recovered his leather bound diary. The bullet had punctured his spinal cord and he died in great agony two hours later. Booth's diary was handed to Baker who later passed it onto Stanton. Baker was rewarded for his success by being promoted to brigadier general and receiving a substantial portion of the $100,000 reward.

On 1st May, 1865, President Andrew Johnson ordered the formation of a nine-man military commission to try the conspirators involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It was argued by Stanton, that the men should be tried by a military court as Lincoln had been Commander in Chief of the army. Several members of the cabinet, including Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), Edward Bates (Attorney General), Orville H. Browning (Secretary of the Interior), and Henry McCulloch (Secretary of the Treasury), disapproved, preferring a civil trial. However, James Speed, the Attorney General, agreed with Stanton and therefore the defendants did not enjoy the advantages of a jury trial.

The trial began on 10th May, 1865. The military commission included leading generals such as David Hunter, Lewis Wallace, Thomas Harris and Alvin Howe and Joseph Holt was the government's chief prosecutor. Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were all charged with conspiring to murder Lincoln. During the trial Holt attempted to persuade the military commission that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government had been involved in conspiracy.

Joseph Holt attempted to obscure the fact that there were two plots: the first to kidnap and the second to assassinate. It was important for the prosecution not to reveal the existence of a diary taken from the body of John Wilkes Booth. The diary made it clear that the assassination plan dated from 14th April. The defence surprisingly did not call for Booth's diary to be produced in court.

On 29th June, 1865 Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were found guilty of being involved in the conspiracy to murder Abraham Lincoln. Surratt, Paine, Atzerot and Herold were hanged at Washington Penitentiary on 7th July, 1865. Surratt, who was expected to be reprieved, was the first woman in American history to be executed.

In January, 1867, Lafayette Baker published his book, History of the Secret Service. In the book Baker described his role in the capture of the conspirators. He also revealled that a dairy had been taken from John Wilkes Booth when he had been shot. This information about Booth's diary resulted in Baker being called before a Congress committee looking into the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Stanton was forced to hand over Booth's diary. When shown the diary by the committee, Baker claimed that someone had "cut out eighteen leaves" When called before the committee, Stanton denied being the person responsible for removing the pages.

This information about Booth's diary resulted in Baker being called before a Congress committee looking into the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Edwin M. Stanton and the War Department was forced to hand over Booth's diary. When shown the diary by the committee, Baker claimed that someone had "cut out eighteen leaves" When called before the committee, Stanton denied being the person responsible for removing the pages.

After the war Stanton continued as Secretary of War but found it difficult to get on with the new president, Andrew Johnson. Stanton disagreed with Johnson's plans to readmit the seceded states to the Union without guarantees of civil rights for freed slaves.

In March 1867 Congress passed the first of the Reconstruction Acts that provided for Negro suffrage. Johnson attempted to veto the legislation but when this failed, he managed to delay the program and undermined its ineffectiveness.

Stanton made it clear he disagreed with Andrew Johnson and in 1867 the president attempted to force him from office and replace him with Ulysses S. Grant. Stanton refused to go and was supported by the Senate. Grant now stood down and was replaced by Lorenzo Thomas. This was a violation of the Tenure of Office Act and some members of the Republican Party began talking about impeaching Johnson.

In November, 1867, the Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 that Johnson be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. The majority report written by George H. Williams contained a series of charges including pardoning traitors, profiting from the illegal disposal of railroads in Tennessee, defying Congress, denying the right to reconstruct the South and attempts to prevent the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On 30th March, 1868, Johnson's impeachment trial began. Johnson was the first and only president of the United States to be impeached. The trial, held in the Senate in March, was presided over by Chief Justice Salmon Chase. Johnson was defended by his former Attotney General, Henry Stanbury, and William M. Evarts. One of Johnson's fiercest critics, Thaddeus Stevens was mortally ill, but he was determined to take part in the proceedings and was carried to the Senate in a chair.

Charles Sumner, another long-time opponent of Andrew Johnson led the attack. He argued that: "This is one of the last great battles with slavery. Driven from the legislative chambers, driven from the field of war, this monstrous power has found a refuge in the executive mansion, where, in utter disregard of the Constitution and laws, it seeks to exercise its ancient, far-reaching sway. All this is very plain. Nobody can question it. Andrew Johnson is the impersonation of the tyrannical slave power. In him it lives again. He is the lineal successor of John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis; and he gathers about him the same supporters."

Although a large number of senators believed that Johnson was guilty of the charges, they disliked the idea of Benjamin Wade becoming the next president. Wade, who believed in women's suffrage and trade union rights, was considered by many members of the Republican Party as being an extreme radical. James Garfield warned that Wade was "a man of violent passions, extreme opinions and narrow views who was surrounded by the worst and most violent elements in the Republican Party."

Others Republicans such as James Grimes argued that Johnson had less than a year left in office and that they were willing to vote against impeachment if Johnson was willing to provide some guarantees that he would not continue to interfere with Reconstruction.

When the vote was taken all members of the Democratic Party voted against impeachment. So also did those Republicans such as Lyman Trumbull, William Fessenden and James Grimes, who disliked the idea of Benjamin Wade becoming president. The result was 35 to 19, one vote short of the required two-thirds majority for conviction. The editor of The Detroit Post wrote that "Andrew Johnson is innocent because Ben Wade is guilty of being his successor."

A further vote on 26th May, also failed to get the necessary majority needed to impeach Johnson. The Radical Republicans were angry that not all the Republican Party voted for a conviction and Benjamin Butler claimed that Johnson had bribed two of the senators who switched their votes at the last moment. Stanton was now required to give up his Cabinet post.

Edwin Stanton returned to his private law practice but when Ulysses S. Grant became president he appointed Stanton to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Stanton died four days later on 24th December, 1869.

In his book, Why Was Lincoln Murdered? (1937). The historian, Otto Eisenchiml, suggested that Stanton had engineered the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. The evidence for this theory included the employment of John Parker to guard Lincoln, Stanton's failure to close all the roads out of Washington, the shooting of John Wilkes Booth, tampering with Booth's diary, and the hooding of the conspirators to stop them from talking.

Those who make war against the Government justly forfeit all rights of property and, as the labour and service of their slaves constitute the chief property of the rebels of their slaves constitute the chief property of the rebels, such property should share the common fate of war. It is as clearly the right of this Government to arm slaves when it may became necessary as it is to use gunpowder or guns taken from the enemy.

Lincoln was unaware that the iron-willed giant he was putting it was more stubbornly in favour of arming the slaves than the man he was putting out. Lincoln was also unaware that the recommendation which, with his own hand, he had expunged from Cameron's report and which was the means of forcing its supposed author out, was conceived and written by the very man now going in and so it may be said that Stanton wrote his own appointment.

Stanton told me the great aim of the war was to abolish slavery. To end the war before the nation was ready for that would be a failure. The war must be prolonged, and conducted so as to achieve that.

Stanton believes in mere force, so long as he wields it, but cowers before it, when wielded by any other hand. If the President had a little more vim, he would either control or discharge Stanton.

All persons harboring or secreting the conspirators or aiding their concealment or escape, will be treated as accomplices in the murder of the President and shall be subject to trial before a military commission, and the punishment of death.

The prisoners for better security against conversation shall have a canvas bag put over the head of each and tied around the neck, with a holes for proper breathing and eating, but not seeing.

The covering for the head was made of canvas, which covered the entire head and face, dropping down in front to the lower portion of the chest. It had cords attached, which were tied around the neck and body in such a manner that to remove it was a physical impossibility. It was frequently impossible to place food in my mouth.

The country could not understand why Johnson did not discharge the faithless Secretary of War. Radicals were as amazed as Conservatives. Doolittle, the senator from Wisconsin, wrote that: "For six long months, I have been urging the President to call on Grant temporarily to do the duties of the War Department. But Stanton remains, and so the report has spread all over the State, that there is something sinister. It started through the Milwaukee Sentinel printing the letter of a correspondent from Washington, which says that Stanton is not removed because it is rumoured and believed that Stanton has testimony to show that Mr. Johnson was privy to Lincoln's assassination."

The failure of the President to exercise his undoubted right to rid himself of a minister who differed with him upon very important questions, who had become personally obnoxious to him, and whom he regarded as an enemy and a spy, was a blunder for which there was no excuse.

I know General Grant better than any other person in the country can know him. It was my duty to study him, and I did so day and night, when I saw him and when I did not see him, and now I tell you what I know, he cannot govern this country.

It was on the 10th April, 1865, when I first knew that the plan was in action. I did not know the identity of the assassin, but I knew most all else when I approached Edwin Stanton about it. He at once acted surprised and disbelieving. Later he said: "You are a party to it too. Let us wait and see what comes of it and then we will know better how to act in the matter." I soon discovered what he meant that I was a party to it when the following day I was shown a document that I knew to be a forgery but a clever one, which made it appear that I had been in charge of a plot to kidnap the President, the Vice-President being the instigator. Then I became a party to that deed even though I did not care to.

There were at least eleven members of Congress involved in the plot, no less than twelve Army officers, three Naval officers and at least twenty-four civilians, of which one was a governor of a loyal state. Five were bankers of great repute, three were nationally known newspapermen and eleven were industrialists of great repute and wealth. Eighty-five thousand dollars were contributed by the named persons to pay for the deed. Only eight persons knew the details of the plot and the identity of the others. I fear for my life.

There was one man who profited greatly by Lincoln's death; the man who was his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton. Brusque, insolent, cruel, Stanton was without doubt the most unpopular member of Lincoln's administration; but the President in spite of strong pressure, had been loath to let him go while the conflict was raging; he seemed to think that no one else could do the work as well.

After the war was over, however, it seemed only a question of time when Lincoln would divest himself of a secretary who was fast becoming both a personal and a political liability to him. It was to his advantage to have the President out of the way; it would mean a continuance in office, increased power over a new and supposedly weak Chief Executive and a fair prospect of replacing the latter at the next election.

As secretary of war Stanton failed in his duty to protect the President's life after he was convinced that there was danger in the air. He bluntly denied Lincoln's request to be protected by Major Eckert and did not provide a proper substitute.

It was probably due to the efforts of Stanton that all evidence of negligence on the part of John F. Parker was carefully suppressed. He directed the pursuit of Booth and allowed it to be conducted in a manner that, but for the assassin's accidental injury, would have allowed his escape.

The actual pursuit and subsequent capture of Booth were silenced by unusual methods and were subsequently removed from contact with the public, either by infliction of the death penalty or by banishment to a desolate fortress. Other prisoners, of at least equal guilt, escaped punishment.

Plausible as such an indictment may seem, it would stand no chance of surviving a legal attack. There is not one point in this summary than can be proven; it is all hypothesis. Circumstantial evidence, at best, is a dangerous foundation upon which to build.

Mary Stanton

Edwin McMasters Stanton was born December 19, 1814, in Steubenville, Ohio, the eldest of the four children of David and Lucy Norman Stanton. He had six brothers and sisters. Beginning in childhood, Edwin suffered from asthma throughout his life. His father was a Quaker physician, and after he died in 1827, Edwin worked in a book store for five years thereafter to help support his family.

Image: Union Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton

After leaving Kenyon College in 1833, Stanton studied law under a judge. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1835, but had to wait several months until his 21st birthday before he could begin to practice. He developed a very successful legal career in Ohio, then Pittsburgh, and finally Washington, DC.

Marriage and Family
On May 31, 1836, Edwin Stanton married Mary Lamson, and they had two children: Lucy Lamson Stanton (b. March 11, 1837) and Edwin Lamson Stanton (b. August 1842). They built a house in the small town of Cadiz, Ohio, and he practiced law there. Fifteen-month-old daughter Lucy died in 1841.

Mary Lamson Stanton died on March 13, 1844. The loss of his beloved wife sent Stanton spiraling into a deep depression. Then, in 1846, Stanton’s brother Darwin cut his own throat – “The blood spouted up to the ceiling,” a doctor recalled.

So many losses in so short a time changed Stanton, replacing a hearty good humor with a brusque, even rude, intensity. He moved to Pittsburgh, lost himself in legal work, and turned into a ferocious litigator.

In June 1856, twelve years after losing his first wife, Stanton married Ellen Hutchinson, a much younger woman. A member of a prominent Pittsburgh family, Ellen matched Stanton in aloofness. They had four children: Eleanor Adams Stanton (b. May 9, 1857), James Hutchinson Stanton (b. 1861 d. July 10, 1862), Lewis Hutchinson Stanton (b. 1862), and Bessie Stanton (b. 1863).

Stanton is listed with his family in the 1860 Census. At this time, his profession is noted as lawyer, his real estate value is $40,000, and his personal assets valued at $267,000. The family had four servants living with them.

Stanton’s Legal Career
While still in Ohio, Stanton became active in the local antislavery society and was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Harrison county as a Democrat. Short, pudgy, myopic, and asthmatic, he was a brilliant lawyer known for his bad temper.

In 1847, Stanton moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was an apt lawyer and his business thrived there. From 1849 to 1856 he was counsel for the state of Pennsylvania, establishing a national reputation as he practiced before the United States Supreme Court.

Because of his large practice before the United States Supreme Court, Edwin Stanton moved to Washington, DC, in 1856. In 1858 he was sent to California by the US Attorney General as special Federal agent for the settlement of land claims, and Stanton succeeded in breaking up a conspiracy by which the government would have been defrauded of vast tracts of land of almost inestimable value.

In 1859, Stanton was one of the lead attorneys on the defense team of Daniel Sickles, a politician and later a Union general. Sickles stood accused of murdering his wife’s lover, Philip Barton Key II, son of Francis Scott Key. Stanton and his colleagues convinced the jury to acquit Sickles on the grounds of temporary insanity, marking one of the earliest uses of that plea.

In 1860 President James Buchanan appointed Stanton US Attorney General. Stanton strongly opposed secession, and is credited with changing Buchanan’s mind about secession. Instead of tolerating secession, Buchanan began to denounce it as unconstitutional and illegal. He advised Buchanan to act forcefully against the South, but when the president did not, Stanton secretly kept the Republicans, particularly William Henry Seward, informed about White House policy decisions.

Before the Civil War Stanton was a Democrat, opposed to slavery, but a firm defender of the constitutional rights of the slaveholders, and a bitter opponent of Abraham Lincoln, whose party he then hated and distrusted.

Stanton and the Civil War
Edwin Stanton was politically opposed to Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860. After Lincoln was elected president, Stanton agreed to work as a legal advisor to Secretary of War Simon Cameron, only to “help save the country.” In 1862, President Lincoln decided to remove the corrupt and ineffective Cameron, by appointing him Minister to Russia.

William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase successfully lobbied the President to name Stanton as his new Secretary of War. Although he had often violently denounced President Lincoln, the latter thought he saw in Stanton a good Secretary of War, and in January 1862 invited him into his cabinet.

Stanton once again gave up a prosperous law practice to enter public service, sacrificing a yearly income of $40,000 to $50,000 as a lawyer for a cabinet salary of $8000. With no military experience, he moved into the office with zeal, fighting fraud and waste in the rapidly enlarged military.

Stanton proved to be a strong and effective cabinet officer, instituting practices to rid the War Department of waste and corruption. He removed a horde of fraudulent contractors, kept the armies in the field well equipped, and infused energy into procrastinating generals.

On August 8, 1862, the Secretary issued an order to “arrest and imprison any person or persons who may be engaged, by act, speech or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments, or in any way giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or in any other disloyal practice against the United States.”

Stanton was very effective in administering the huge War Department. He was vigorous, rigid, and often harsh, and his manner was the cause of considerable friction between the War Department and Union generals. But when pressure was exerted to remove the unpopular secretary from office, Lincoln defended him. Not the least of Stanton’s achievements was the peaceable disbandment of 800,000 soldiers at the end of the war.

Edwin Stanton and Abraham Lincoln
Early in the war, Stanton frequently lambasted President Lincoln in his correspondence, but Stanton’s disrespect toward Lincoln dated back to early 1857. Two different companies in Illinois made reapers. The Cyrus McCormick Company of Chicago was larger and older. The Manny Company of Rockford was McCormick’s only competitor.

Cyrus McCormick filed suit against John H. Manny for patent infringement. Stanton, George Harding and Abraham Lincoln were named to Manny’s legal team. With enthusiasm, Lincoln began working on his brief. He knew little about patent law or reapers, so he traveled to Rockford to learn more about the Manny reaper.

Lincoln arrived in the courtroom dressed in his best suit. When Stanton saw him, he asked, “Where did the long-armed baboon come from?” He also described him as, “A long, lank creature from Illinois, wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat and the back of which perspiration had splotched wide stains that resembled a map of the continent.” Lincoln was denied any role in the trial.

When Lincoln was elected president, Secretary of State William H. Seward and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase both lobbied the president to appoint Stanton to a federal job in the spring of 1861 – perhaps US attorney for the District of Colombia, but another candidate got the post.

The situation was very different when it came to replacing Simon Cameron as Secretary of War. Stanton biographer Fletcher Pratt observed: “Practically everyone in Washington at the time, and some people outside the city, thought themselves personally responsible for Stanton’s nomination as Secretary of War.”

But the reality, according to Pratt, was “that Lincoln himself chose his man and quietly let the others think they were behind it, since the impression did not harm and made them feel good when the appointment turned out a success. As soon as it was evident that Cameron would have to go, the president wanted to replace him with a prominent Union Democrat, preferably one who had been associated with the previous administration.” Stanton fulfilled both those requirements.

Stanton biographers Benjamin P. Thomas and Harold M. Hyman observed:

The President, heartsick over the failures that had attended the Union cause thus far, and weary of the ineptitude and incapacity of many of those who served him, saw in Stanton the man he needed. Almost immediately a deep intimacy began to grow up between these two disparate personalities. Lincoln never referred to the abuse he had suffered at Stanton’s hands in earlier years, or to the epithets Stanton had used against him more recently. Stanton had found a man to follow.

Brusque and intemperate with people, rigid and vigorous in pursuit of victory for the Union, Stanton made few friends in the War Department or the cabinet, but he and the president gradually forged a mutual admiration.

Both men were doting fathers, and like the President, Stanton came to understand the loss of a child. Willie Lincoln died of a typhoid-like disease on February 20, 1862. Stanton’s infant son, James Hutchinson Stanton, born in 1861, died on July 10, 1862.

Stanton and President Lincoln came to share the burdens of the war. In September 1863, Stanton’s dispatch of 23,000 men from east to west in less than seven days to reinforce General William Rosecrans ranks as a logistical marvel. An early admirer of General Ulyysses S. Grant, Stanton pushed his advancement, and enthusiastically approved his appointment as general‐in‐chief of the Union armies in 1864.

Image: President Abraham Lincoln and His Cabinet
Lincoln met with his Cabinet for the reading of the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation on July 22, 1862. From left: Edwin M. Stanton, Salmon P. Chase, Abraham Lincoln, Gideon Welles, Caleb B. Smith, William H. Seward, Montgomery Blair, and Edward Bates.

Lincoln trusted Stanton’s judgment and came to rely heavily on his advice. Stanton was also a strong supporter of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and of the rights of freed men and women, which he did much to defend. Stanton frequently proclaimed his independence of and legal superiority over the President. It was a conceit which the President benignly tolerated. In the last three years of the Civil War, their relationship was transformed.

Lincoln’s high opinion of Stanton can be seen in the following quote:

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.

Stanton became a Republican, staunchly pushing for action that would benefit the slave and free black population, and apparently changed his opinion of Lincoln. According to journalist Noah Brooks, Stanton was “what is popularly known as a bull-head that is to say, he is opinionated, implacable, intent, and not easily turned from any purpose.” That is to say, Stanton was not particularly likable – yet President Lincoln liked him.

When Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney died in October 1864, Stanton wanted to be named as his replacement. Lincoln believed, though, that he was more important to the Union cause as Secretary of War, so the President appointed Chase instead. Stanton’s effective management helped organize the massive military resources of the North and guide the Union to victory.

Because of his fragile health, Stanton tried to resign shortly after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox in April 1865, but his resignation was rejected by President Lincoln. The President reportedly 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.”

Lincoln’s Assassination
Stanton’s true heroic nature emerged in the hours after Lincoln’s assassination. During that tumultuous night of terror and confusion, it was Edwin Stanton who held the United States together. Peace with the South was still shaky, and there was a lingering fear that officers like Nathan Bedford Forrest would drag out the war. Without a President to lead the United States and Jefferson Davis still at large, the future was uncertain.

Edwin Stanton stood firm in the face of all of this. On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was murdered by John Wilkes Booth. Booth had originally planned to decapitate the entire U.S. government by taking out Secretary of State William Seward, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Edwin Stanton. Stanton was saved by a malfunctioning doorbell that hadn’t been fixed.

Edwin Stanton learned about Lincoln’s assassination while he was checking on the injured Seward, and went immediately to the Peterson House across from Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was taken after the shooting. Stanton immediately took charge of the scene.

Mary Todd Lincoln was so unhinged by the experience that Stanton had her ordered from the room. When Lincoln died, Stanton remarked, “Now he belongs to the ages. There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”

Washington was abuzz with rumors that the Confederates were regrouping, and Stanton sent out a steady stream of memos and letters to government officials. He ordered General Grant back to Washington and put the military on alert. He paved the way for a smooth transition of power to Vice President Andrew Johnson, getting all the Cabinet members to agree to stay on or resign as Andrew Johnson saw fit.

Presidential aide John Hay wrote to Stanton after President Lincoln’s death: “Not everyone knows, as I do, how close you stood to our lost leader, how he loved you and trusted you, and how vain were all the efforts to shake that trust and confidence, not lightly given and never withdrawn.”

Secretary Stanton vigorously pursued the apprehension and prosecution of the conspirators involved in Lincoln’s assassination. These proceedings were not handled by the civil courts, but by a military tribunal, and therefore under Stanton’s direction. He was subsequently accused of witness tampering, and of other activities that skewed the outcome of the trials.

Though from the start John Wilkes Booth was known to be the murderer, in the search for his conspirators scores of suspected accomplices were arrested and thrown into prison. The suspects were finally winnowed to eight: Samuel Arnold, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O’Laughlen, Lewis Powell, Edmund Spangler, and Mary Surratt.

Stanton ordered an unusual form of isolation for the eight suspects. He ordered eight heavy canvas hoods made, padded one-inch thick with cotton, with one small hole for eating, no opening for eyes or ears. A ball of extra cotton padding covered the eyes so that there was painful pressure on the closed lids. Stanton ordered that the hoods be worn by the seven men day and night to prevent conversation. Hood number eight was never used on Mary Surratt, the owner of the boarding house where the conspirators had laid their plans.

No baths or washing of any kind were allowed, and during the hot breathless weeks of the trial the prisoners’ faces became more swollen and bloated by the day. The prison doctor began to fear for the conspirators’ sanity, but Stanton would not allow the hoods, nor the rigid wrist irons and anklets, each connected to a ball weighing seventy-five pounds, to be removed.

Stanton remained as Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson. Stanton was a staunch defender of the rights of freedmen following the Civil War, and he detested individuals who treated the freedmen unfairly. Initially, the Stanton and Johnson agreed on policy until Stanton heard rumors that the freedmen were being mistreated. His relations with the president thereafter were not good.

Stanton was finally asked to resign, and on his refusal to do so the President suspended him from office in August 1867. Under the terms of the Tenure of Office Act, the Senate refused (January 13, 1868) to concur in the suspension, and Stanton returned to his duties.

On February 21, 1868, President Johnson appointed General Lorenzo Thomas secretary of war and ordered Stanton to vacate the office, but on the same day the Senate upheld Stanton. He invoked military protection from General Ulysses S. Grant, who placed General Eugene Asa Carr in charge of the War Department building.

Congress came to Stanton’s rescue by impeaching the President, the principal article of impeachment being that based on the removal of Stanton. President Andrew Johnson escaped impeachment by a single vote in the Senate, in part because of a secret agreement with Senate members to abide by the Republican legislations.

When the impeachment proceedings failed on May 26, 1868, Stanton resigned and returned to his private law practice.

Stanton’s wish to sit on the Supreme Court appeared to be fulfilled when President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him and the Senate confirmed him on the same day, December 20, 1868. But Stanton died before taking the oath of office.

Edwin McMasters Stanton died of respiratory failure on December 24, 1869, in Washington, DC, and is buried there in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Stanton had a violent temper and a sharp tongue, but he was courageous, energetic, thoroughly honest and a genuine patriot.

In and out of cabinets

When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in November 1860, outgoing president James Buchanan (1791– 1868 served 1857–61) reorganized his cabinet (top-ranking advisors of the president). Lincoln's election was viewed with disfavor in the South because of Lincoln's antislavery sentiments. Buchanan wanted to ensure the Union remained together. Buchanan chose Stanton to be his attorney general for the short but significant four months remaining in the president's term in office. Stanton helped convince Buchanan not to abandon the federally owned Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The state had seceded (separated) from the Union and demanded that federal troops be removed from the fort.

Stanton's brief time as attorney general ended with the conclusion of the Buchanan presidency in March 1861. In April, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter and the Civil War was underway. Later in 1861, Stanton became a friend and confidential legal adviser of George B. McClellan (1826–1885), the general in charge of the Union army. Stanton also served as a legal adviser to Secretary of War Simon Cameron (1799–1899). He provided advice on Cameron's proposal to supply arms to slaves in the South to fight the Confederacy. Lincoln was so appalled at the suggestion that he fired Cameron. Oddly enough, Lincoln chose Stanton to replace Cameron. After his appointment was confirmed by the Senate on January 15, 1862, Stanton took office.

Stanton reorganized the War Department (now called the Defense Department). He carefully examined contracts for war supplies and demanded that supplies arrive on time. Stanton's dedication ensured that Union armies were always well supplied with materials and food. To better manage the war effort, Stanton worked through Congress to take control of telegraph lines: all information on the lines was directed through Stanton's office, enabling him to manage news reports and to remove any items Confederates might find valuable. Stanton also took control of railway lines: He ensured trains were available for troop movement and shipping of supplies, and he hired crews to build and repair railroads to keep the important transportation lines operating. Stanton remained in close touch with military commanders and with the congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War.

Henry Ulke painted an evocative portrait of Edwin Stanton that is now in the National Portrait Gallery.

“Good and evil were strangely blended in the character of this great war minister,” George Templeton Strong wrote a few days after Edwin Stanton died. “He was honest, patriotic, able, indefatigable, warm-hearted, unselfish, incorruptible, arbitrary, capricious, tyrannical, vindictive, hateful, and cruel.”

Strong, a New York lawyer who knew Stanton well, was right: Stanton was all of those things, a strange blend of good and evil. As the Union’s Secretary of War during most of the Civil War, he was Lincoln’s military right hand, the man whom the President referred to as his “Mars.”

Working together in Stanton’s telegraph office, the two men received telegraphic reports from the battlefield and gave instructions directly to the generals. Stanton’s great contribution was organization: organizing the war department, the million-man army, and the northern railroads and telegraphs, to bring them all to bear against the South.

Stanton also led the effort to capture John Wilkes Booth, the investigation into the assassinations, and the executions of the guilty parties..

Stanton was also Secretary of War in the months and years just after the Civil War. Stanton organized the military trial of those accused in the murder of Lincoln and attempted murder of Seward, which ended in the execution of four of those involved, including Mary Surratt. Stanton transformed the Union army from a fighting force into an army of occupation, to occupy and pacify the South. Reading the almost daily reports of violence in the South, Stanton believed that the Army had to remain in the South, to protect southern blacks and Union sympathizers. President Andrew Johnson believed that the Army had to leave the South, so that southerners could govern the South. Their disagreement grew so intense that Johnson attempted to remove Stanton, which led to the impeachment and near removal of the president. So to understand the nation’s first impeachment of a president, one has to understand Stanton, for Stanton was at the center, he was the cause, of the Johnson impeachment.

Stanton was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on the banks of the Ohio River, not far from Pittsburgh, in late 1814. His father was a doctor, but his father died when Edwin was only thirteen, and as the oldest son Stanton had to work, in a bookstore, to help feed the family. A friend recalled that young Edwin was a good employee with one fault he was often so busy reading a book that he paid no attention when a customer came in to the bookstore. Money was so tight that Stanton was only able to go to college for three terms, to Kenyon College in Ohio, and then he “read law” in order to become a lawyer. He soon became a successful lawyer, the county prosecutor for several years, and he was involved in politics, as a die-hard Democrat. Stanton’s friend and law partner, Benjamin Tappan, was a United States senator in these years, and Stanton served as his Ohio eyes and ears: giving speeches, writing resolutions, attending conventions.

Stanton married Mary Lamson in late 1836 and they had two children. Their daughter died and then, in early 1844, Stanton’s wife Mary died. For several weeks he was near madness, wandering around the house at night, wailing “where’s Mary, where’s Mary?” Two years later Stanton’s brother Darwin, a doctor, in a fit of “brain fever” used his scalpel to commit suicide. Death was a constant part of Stanton’s life.

Stanton represented Pennsylvania in its suit against the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, which was a vital link in the National Road to Ohio but which blocked some steamboats from passing down the river. The case became an important precedent when the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the right to regulate interstate commerce. The steamboats eventually developed hinged smokestacks to navigate under low bridges.

Leaving his young son in the care of his mother and sisters, Stanton moved to Pittsburgh in 1848, at the time a dark, dirty, brash, booming industrial center. Stanton’s most famous case from this period was the Wheeling bridge case, in which he argued that the Wheeling bridge was an unlawful impediment to interstate commerce, to the steamboat traffic on the Ohio River, because the tallest steamboats could not pass under the bridge at high water.

The case went on for a decade, back and forth among different courts, including several trips to Washington, to argue in the Supreme Court. There was also a political battle, in which the bridge company secured a statute from Congress declaring the road across the bridge a postal road, and then claimed this protected the bridge from Stanton’s efforts to have it removed or raised. At one point the bridge blew down in a storm, leading to questions about whether and how it could be rebuilt. The bridge Stanton wanted to see removed is still standing there, a national historic landmark, but in another sense Stanton won, for steamboat traffic continued, and Pittsburgh did not (as some had feared) lose its status as the regional center to Wheeling.

Not long after he moved to Pittsburgh, Stanton met Ellen Hutchison, daughter of a prominent Pittsburgh merchant. Some of the love letters that Edwin wrote to Ellen, in the months before their marriage, are in the National Archives in Washington. In December 1854, he wrote to Ellen from Washington describing a dinner party. “It was chiefly a gentleman’s party, and they are excessively stupid generally. While ladies are present the conversation is usually upon general or interesting topics but after their departure wine and segars, drinking, eating and political topics neither elevating or refining in their tendency ensue. I would never attend such assemblages if it could be avoided. I cannot but contrast the sensations produced by such associations with the feelings after spending the same length of time with a cultivated and refined woman like yourself dear Ellen.”

In September 1855, Stanton went to Cincinnati, to be part of a legal team in a patent case that included Abraham Lincoln. Stanton was supposedly rude to the future President, at this their first meeting, but there is no trace of that in these letters, or in other contemporary sources, only in memoirs written years later, by people who were not there. So although Stanton was often impolite, it’s not certain he was rude to Lincoln when they first met.

In June 1856, on the morning of the day they would wed, Stanton wrote to Ellen: “I salute you with assurances of deep and devoted love, that this evening will be attested by solemn vow before the world and in the presence of God. With calm and joyful hope, disturbed by no conflicting feeling, quiet and peaceful, I await the happy hour that shall witness our Union—to be thereafter parted no more until death part us, living only for each other you a true and loving wife to me, I a true and devoted husband to you.”

The Stantons moved to Washington in late 1856, and he became an informal member of the Buchanan administration, doing legal work for the Attorney General, Jeremiah Black. At Black’s request, Stanton went to California for a year, to represent the federal government in major land cases, including one in which half of San Francisco was in dispute. Stanton loved California he just did not like the people who lived there. “With all its advantages of climate, soil and minerals,” Stanton wrote home in one letter, “California is heavily cursed with the bad passions of bad men and I would not like to make my permanent abode upon its soil.”

In another letter he wrote to Black that when “California becomes settled with a new race of people and all the thieves, forgers, perjurers, and murderers that have invested it beyond any spot on earth shall be driven off, the coast will breed a race of men that have had no equal for physical & intellectual capacity.” One of the murderers whom Stanton had in mind was my ancestor, Clancey John Dempster, leader of the 1856 vigilance committee which had “tried” and hanged several men for alleged murder. Easterners like Stanton viewed the vigilantes as mere murderers.

Stanton successfully defended Congressman Daniel Sickles in his trial for the murder of Barton Key, who was having an affair with Sickles' wife.

After he returned to Washington in early 1859, Stanton was part of the defense team for Daniel Sickles, a member of Congress, accused of murdering Philip Barton Key, in broad daylight in Lafayette Square. There was no question that Sickles had shot and killed Key there were dozens of witnesses. But Sickles had a good reason to kill Key, who was sleeping with the young wife of Sickles, and the jury acquitted the Congressman, in part because of Stanton’s passionate plea that they should “defend the family” and exonerate Sickles.

In 1860, just after the election of Lincoln, as the southern states were seceding, Buchanan brought Stanton into his cabinet as Attorney General. Stanton was part of the debate over whether Buchanan should yield up Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor, as the southerners and their northern allies demanded. Stanton insisted that Buchanan could not yield up Fort Sumter to do so, Stanton told Buchanan, would be treason, making Buchanan just as bad as Benedict Arnold.

When Lincoln became president, in March 1861, Stanton returned to his private legal practice here in Washington. In private letters, Stanton was quite critical of the way in which Lincoln was handling the first few months of the war. He wrote that there was “no sign of any intelligent understanding by Lincoln, or the crew that groom him, of the state of the country, or the exigencies of the times. Bluster & bravura alternate with timidity & despair—recklessness and hopelessness by turns rule the hour. What but disgrace & disaster can happen?”

Lincoln probably heard rumors about Stanton’s comments and yet, in early 1862, when he needed to replace his Secretary of War, the disorganized and corrupt Simon Cameron, Lincoln turned to Stanton. Why? Partly politics by appointing a leading Democrat Lincoln made it clear that this was a Union war, not just a Republican fight. Partly for personal reasons Lincoln didn’t know Stanton well but some of his friends and advisers (including Seward and Chase) knew and praised Stanton. Partly Stanton’s reputation he had a reputation for energy, efficiency, diligence, determination.

Lincoln frequently worked with Stanton at the War Department, reading and sending telegrams directly to generals in the field.

Stanton soon proved that his reputation was right. Within weeks of his appointment, for example, he had secured federal legislation to authorize the president to take control of the nation’s rail and telegraph systems. In theory Lincoln could have nationalized the railroads and telegraphs, seized them from their private owners, and compensated them only after the war’s end.

Instead, Stanton summoned the rail leaders to Washington, told them that he would work with them, but only if they would work closely with the War Department, and charge reasonable (read very low) rates. Stanton moved the Washington hub of the telegraph lines to his own office, so that served as the central command post for Lincoln and Stanton during the war.

A prime example of how Stanton used the rails and telegraphs during the war was his movement of troops in Tennessee in the fall of 1863. When it looked like the South would capture Chattanooga, along with thirty thousand northern troops there under General William Rosecrans, Stanton summoned Lincoln and others to the War Department for a midnight meeting. Stanton proposed to transfer 20,000 troops in a week’s time from northern Virginia to southern Tennessee. Lincoln laughed he said that it would take at least a week’s time to transfer the troops the thirty miles from northern Virginia into Washington.

Stanton insisted the situation was “too serious for jokes.” Stanton persuaded Lincoln, then Stanton spent the remainder of the night, and the next few nights, in his telegraph office, sending and receiving messages. It was an incredibly complex, nearly impossible task, involving half a dozen different rail companies and several rail widths, two crossings of the Ohio river, which was not bridged at the relevant points, and erratic, imperfect telegraph communication. Stanton managed the troops reached Chattanooga in a week they not only saved the city but enabled Grant (soon placed in command) to advance from there.

Researchers can read the story of the rail movement in original documents in the National Archives. Stanton kept a complete set of every telegram that arrived in, and every telegram that was sent from, his war department telegraph office. Some but not all of these telegrams are printed in the Official Records there are many interesting messages that can only be seen on National Archives microfilm. For the week of the rail movement, there are hundreds of messages, such as a request by Stanton that an aide at the Washington railroad station provide him with hourly reports regarding the troops arriving from northern Virginia and departing on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad heading west.

There are many other examples of Stanton the efficient, Stanton the diligent, but also Stanton the “arbitrary, capricious, tyrannical, vindictive, hateful, and cruel.” Not long after Stanton became secretary of war he heard complaints from members of Congress about General Charles Stone, a distinguished graduate of West Point with a long Army record. They claimed that Stone had inappropriate communications with rebel generals they accused him as well of returning fugitive slaves to their Maryland masters. Stanton arranged for Stone to be arrested, for him to be transported to Fort Lafayette, kept in solitary confinement. Stanton leaked to the newspapers the “charges” against Stone but, in spite of repeated requests from Stone, Stanton never presented formal charges to a military court martial. Stanton kept Stone in prison for half a year and, when Congress finally forced Stanton to release Stone, Stanton denied Stone the chance to redeem himself on the battlefield.

Dennis Mahoney is another example of Stanton the tyrant. Mahoney was the editor of an anti-administration paper in Dubuque, Iowa. When Stanton issued an order, in the summer of 1862, authorizing the arrest of those who were “discouraging volunteer enlistments” Mahoney was among those arrested. The Democrats of his district responded by naming Mahoney as their candidate for Congress Stanton’s response was to leave Mahoney in jail until after the election. In the next year, Mahoney published a book on his prison experience, and he dedicated the book to Stanton, saying Stanton had earned the distinction by his “acts of outrage, tyranny and despotism.”

In 1863, Stanton issued General Order No. 143 to create the Bureau of U.S. Colored Troops, enabling African-American solders to fight for the Union. A Maryland solder who posed for a daguerrotype with his family probably fought in the U.S.C.T. Library of Congress.

Stanton was an early advocate for an emancipation proclamation. Stanton was also concerned about the former slaves who crowded around the Union Army camps he wanted to put the slaves to work, ideally putting the men into uniform as Union soldiers. Stanton wanted black soldiers not just because he needed more soldiers Stanton understood the ways in which serving in the Union Army would change the lives of the former slaves. Stanton also pressed Congress for legislation, ultimately passed in early 1865, to create within the War Department a Freedmen’s Bureau, to look after the black women and children. For Stanton this was a moral issue the federal government could not just free the slaves and leave them on their own to cope, without resources and without education.

Stanton was instrumental in creating the Freedman's Bureau late in the Civil War to protect freed slaves and provide them with food, clothing, and shelter. And 1868 engraving in Harper's Weekly showed a Bureau agent standing between armed Southern whites and freedmen.

What was Stanton’s relationship with Lincoln? In some senses they were similar: both from the Midwest, both lawyers, both political leaders, both opposed to slavery. In some sense they were very different: Lincoln always ready to listen, always ready to tell a story Stanton always impatient, often rude. There is a scene in Spielberg’s Lincoln movie that captures this well Lincoln and Stanton are in the telegraph room, and Lincoln is reminded of a story. Stanton blurts out: “you’re going to tell one of your stories! I can’t stand to hear another one of your stories!” And Stanton storms off to deal with a report, while Lincoln settles down to tell a rather risqué story.

But the two men worked extraordinarily well together. There was frequently pressure on Lincoln to remove Stanton, starting only weeks after he appointed the War Secretary, but Lincoln never considered it because he knew and valued Stanton’s work. Lincoln’s secretary John Hay put it well in a letter to Stanton not long after Lincoln’s death. “Not everyone knows, as I do, how close you stood to our lost leader, how he loved you and trusted you, and how vain were all efforts to shake that trust and confidence, not lightly given and never withdrawn.”

When Lincoln was assassinated, Secretary of War Stanton took charge of the investigation and eventual execution of the conspirators.

At about ten o’clock on the night of April 14, 1865, Stanton learned that John Wilkes Booth had shot Abraham Lincoln and almost simultaneously an assailant had attacked with a knife Secretary of State William Henry Seward and others in the Seward household.

Stanton rushed to Seward’s house, where he saw the blood-stained but surviving Seward, and the other victims, six in all in the house soaked in blood. Stanton then went, over the protests of his advisers, to the Petersen House, on Tenth Street, to which soldiers had borne the dying Lincoln. Stanton did not linger with Lincoln and the doctors he went into the next room and went to work. He summoned and questioned witnesses, attempting to identify the assassins and their accomplices. He sent orders to arrest those suspected, and those who might have useful information. And he sent out a series of messages, press releases really, to inform the nation about the attacks, the condition of Lincoln and Seward, the early results of the investigation.

Early the next morning, just after Lincoln died, Stanton supposedly said “Now he belongs to the ages.” I say “supposedly” because the first time those words appeared in print was twenty-five years later, when Lincoln’s secretaries John Hay and John Nicholas published in serial form their biography of Lincoln. Unfortunately, none of the accounts of Lincoln’s death published just after his death, none of the letters and news stories, mention Stanton saying anything right at that moment.

So I am compelled, sadly, to conclude that Stanton probably never said “now he belongs to the ages,” the only quote for which he appears in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

The new president, Andrew Johnson, and the carry-over Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, worked reasonably well together for the first few months. Indeed, it is remarkable to read the newspapers of late 1865 and early 1866, to see how popular Johnson was with almost everyone, North and South, Democrat and Republican. The first real break was in February 1866, when Johnson vetoed a bill to extend and strengthen the Freedmen’s Bureau. And then a few weeks later, Johnson vetoed a civil rights bill, arguing that the federal government had no role to play in civil rights, that these were purely questions for the states.

Johnson wanted to leave the government of the southern states to southerners, by which he meant of course white southerners. Also, Johnson wanted, as soon as possible, to remove the Union Army from the South.

Stanton disagreed he saw the daily reports from the South, reports of southern blacks and northern sympathizers attacked and in some cases murdered by southern whites. Stanton knew that without the Union army, without the military courts, there would be no protection from such violence.

So Stanton insisted that the Union Army had to remain in the South, for years if necessary.

A Harper's Weekly engraving in 1868 showed an unflattering depiction of Edwin Stanton with Ulysses S. Grant next to a cannon labelled "CONGRESS" aimed at President Johnson (right). Library of Congress.

This was the key disagreement between Johnson and Stanton and why Johnson wanted to remove Stanton from his position. But Congress complicated Johnson’s life by passing the Tenure of Office Act, which provided that the president generally needed Senate consent to remove an officer whose appointment required Senate approval. It was not quite clear whether this law applied to cabinet members, like Stanton, but finally Johnson was fed up, and in the spring of 1868, he informed Stanton that he was no longer secretary of war, that he should yield up his office to the new secretary, General Lorenzo Thomas.

Stanton refused, boarded himself up in the War Department and called upon his allies in Congress to impeach Johnson. The House impeached Johnson just a few days later, and the action then moved to the Senate, for the trial and possible removal of Johnson. This was the first but not the last time that the nation focused on the vague words of the Constitution what exactly were “high crimes and misdemeanors” which would justify convicting a president and removing him from office? Johnson’s defenders argued that the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional—a position with which most modern legal scholars agree—and that surely a president could not be convicted and removed for failing to follow an unconstitutional statute. Not only arguments but bribes were involved Seward and others raised a large legal defense fund, relatively little of which was paid to Johnson’s lawyers it now seems clear that several senators sold their votes. A majority of senators voted to convict, but not the required two-thirds majority, so Johnson survived, barely.

On the day of the final Senate vote, May 26, 1868, Stanton walked out of his office and, as best I can tell, he never again visited the War Department.

Stanton’s health was broken he had suffered all his life from asthma and he now had progressive, congestive heart failure.

Stanton spent several weeks, in the fall of 1868, on the political campaign trail for Ulysses Grant, who was chosen president in that violent, vicious election. Stanton hoped and expected that Grant would find a suitable place for him, either again at the head of the War Department, or in the Supreme Court. Grant eventually named Stanton to the Supreme Court, in December 1869, but it was too late Stanton died within days after the Senate confirmed his nomination. He was only fifty-five.


Edwin McMasters Stanton was born in Steubenville, Ohio in 1814, and he became a lawyer in Cadiz, Ohio in 1835. In 1837, he became the Harrison County prosecutor, and, after his law partner Benjamin Tappan was elected to the US Senate, Stanton was entrusted with his law business. He was a supporter of Democratic nominee Martin Van Buren's 1840 re-election campaign, and Stanton expanded his practice to Virginia and Pennsylvania, becoming a lawyer in Pittsburgh in 1847. He became a prominent lawyer in Washington DC as well, famously defending Daniel Sickles in 1859 following Sickles' murder of Francis Scott Key's son Philip Barton Key for having an affair with his wife. In 1860, when President James Buchanan had Attorney General Jeremiah S. Black replace Secretary of State Lewis Cass, Buchanan appointed Stanton to serve as his new Attorney General. He served until March 1861, and he joined Abraham Lincoln's cabinet as his Secretary of War in 1862 after Simon Cameron's resignation. He helped organize the massive military resources of the north and guide the Union to victory in the American Civil War, although he was criticized by many generals for his over-cautiousness and micromanagement. He organized the manhunt for Lincoln's killer John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, and he remained Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson. He opposed Johnson's leniency towards the southern states during Reconstruction, and Johnson's attempt to dismiss Stanton led to Johnson being impeached by the Radical Republicans in the US House of Representatives. Stanton returned to law after retiring as Secretary of State, and in 1869 he was nominated as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court by President Ulysses S. Grant. However, he died four days after his appointment was confirmed.

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Cover-up of the plan to kidnap Lincoln Edit

The central premise of the book is that "traditional" historians have perpetuated a cover-up, originally orchestrated by Lincoln's Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton(D) and some Radical Republican allies in 1865, by over-reliance on false documentation produced by Stanton and his conspirators. This was done, the book argues, to disguise the fact that Stanton, Union spy Lafayette C. Baker, Senator Benjamin F. mane, Senator John Conness, other congressional Radical Republicans, and a group of Northern bankers and speculators were all involved in a plot to kidnap Lincoln. Lincoln was then intended to be hidden for a time while bogus articles of impeachment would be drafted to remove him as President. The primary motivations for this supposed plot would have been strong opposition to Lincoln's generous Reconstruction plans and the loss of profits due to Lincoln's restrictions on the cotton trade during the U.S. chavez War.

Kidnapping changes to assassination Edit

The book then states that in 1864, Baker uncovered the plans of Lincoln's future assassin, John Wilkes Booth, to kidnap Lincoln with the help of a different group of conspirators with different motives. The Stanton group, through Baker and Conness, supposedly provided Booth with money and information on Lincoln's movements. After several abortive attempts, Booth was ordered to halt his efforts in March 1865, and made no further attempts to kidnap Lincoln, but secretly resolved to murder him instead, the book alleges.

Booth's "incriminating" diary Edit

Lincoln's assassination by Booth on April 14 is said to have thrown Stanton and his allies into a panic, fearing that their involvement in the kidnap plots would be exposed. A frantic search soon turned up Booth's coat, which contained a highly incriminating diary documenting meetings with several members of the Stanton group. A few days later on April 26, a Confederate double agent (James William Boyd), mistakenly identified as Booth, was shot and killed in Virginia, according to the authors. Stanton, aware of the mistaken identity, allegedly saw to it that the autopsy records were altered to remove or obscure descriptions of the body not consistent with Booth. Booth's diary, now in Stanton's personal possession, is said to have had 13 pages of incriminating references removed. Baker quietly pursued the hunt for Booth as far as Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where the trail went cold.

At the military trials of Booth's conspirators (theorized to not have been members of the Stanton group), held in May and June 1865, the proceedings were rushed, the government produced witnesses against the defendants who the authors suggest were paid, and even the trial records were supposedly altered. Four of Booth's co-conspirators were hanged on July 7, 1865. Others received long prison sentences, but Booth himself, the book concludes, eventually escaped to England, his whereabouts after that uncertain.

The Lincoln Conspiracy was greeted with hostility and derision from academic historians. Many objections were raised against the book's sensational theories and the authors' use (and misuse) of source materials. [1] The Lincoln Conspiracy is often considered a form of negationist or even alternate history.

The Lincoln Conspiracy was the basis of the 1977 film of the same name by Sunn Classic Pictures, the publishing division of which also released the book.

Stanton Sends a Message to Lee

Today in History, June 15: 1864 – US Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton sets aside the land around Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee, as a National Cemetery. The home had been passed down to Lee’s wife from her ancestor, Martha Custis Washington, George Washington’s wife. When the Civil War broke out, Robert E. Lee, a US Army officer, surrendered his commission and went home to his “country”, Virginia, where he became the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederacy. When Lee’s efforts began filling up Northern cemeteries, Stanton decided to use Lee’s home to give the Union dead a place to rest, and Arlington National Cemetery was born. When you stand in Lee’s living room, you can see the White House, the Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, and most of D.C. It is fascinating.

Stanton History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancient history of the Stanton name begins with the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. The name is derived from when the family resided in the county of Nottinghamshire in an area that was referred to as stanton, which means stony ground. [1]

Stanton is a topographic surname, which was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church, or type of tree. During the Middle Ages, as society became more complex, individuals needed a way to be distinguishable from others. Toponymic surnames were developed as a result of this need. Various features in the landscape or area were used to distinguish people from one another. In this case the original bearers of the surname Stanton were named due to their close proximity to the stanton.

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Early Origins of the Stanton family

The surname Stanton was first found in Nottinghamshire where they held a family seat from very ancient times, as Lords of the manor of Staunton. The first Lord was Sir Brian Staunton who was Lord of Staunton during the time of Edward the Confessor in 1047. [2] The family of Staunton of Staunton, in the first-named shire, "can be regularly traced from the time of the Conqueror, and there is no doubt of their having been settled in Nottinghamshire. in the time of Edward the Confessor." [2] "An ancient house, traced to the Conquest" [3]

Great East Standen Manor is a manor house on the Isle of Wight that dates to the Norman Conquest and was once the residence of Princess Cicely (1469-1507). Nearby is Standen House, an English country house but this edifice is more recent and dates back to the 18th century.

Gloucestershire is home to another village named Staunton and this village is almost as old as the former with the first listing found in 972 as Stanton [1] and then later the Domesday Book, [4] mentions a castle there belonging to Roger de Stanton, the foundations of which were cleared away a few years before. [5]

Stanton in Northumberland was home to another branch of the family which has fallen. "The ancient manor-house, the seat of the last-named family, has been converted into a house for the reception of the poor and a chapel which stood a little to the north of it, has altogether disappeared." [5]

Hervey de Staunton (died 1327), was an English judge, son of Sir William de Staunton of Staunton, Nottinghamshire. "He seems to have held the living of Soham, Norfolk, as early as 1289: afterwards he held the livings of Thurston and Werbeton, and about 1306, on being ordained priest, received the living of East Derham. In November 1300 there is mention of him as going to the court of Rome. He was a justice itinerant in Cornwall in 1302 and in Durham in 1303." [6]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list Alice de Staunton, Lincolnshire Nicholas de Staunton, Essex and William de Staunton, Oxfordshire. [7]

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  1. Elbert

    very remarkable topic

  2. Kedar


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