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their owners on the advance of our troops into southern territory, as at Beaufort district in South Carolina. The number left within our control at that point is very considerable, and similar cases will probably occur. What shall be done with them? Can we afford to send them forward to their masters, to be by them armed against us or used in producing supplies to sustain the rebellion? Their labor may be useful to us; withheld from the enemy, it lessens his military resources, and withholding them has no tendency to induce the horrors of insurrection, even in the rebel communities. They constitute a military resource, and, being such, that they should not be turned over to the enemy is too plain to discuss. Why deprive him of supplies by a blockade, and voluntarily give him men to produce them?"
It has been said that Lincoln did not remove Cameron immediately for this act merely because he did not wish to antagonize the abolitionists, and knew that the financial pressure would soon force his removal, as the business men of the country were angry over the disgraceful way in which the War Department contracts were handled. In January, Lincoln took final action. Nicolay and Hay quote under date of January 11, the following:
"MY DEAR SIR: As you have more than once expressed a desire for a change of position, I can now
gratify you consistently with my view of the public interest. I therefore propose nominating you to the Senate, next Monday, as minister to Russia.
"Very sincerely your friend,
Colonel McClure says, probably accurately, that that is not the letter which Cameron received. According to the account of Colonel McClure, who on many points has given facts where the official biographers indulge in friendly embellishment, which in this case was certainly needless, Lincoln sent the letter by Chase, who delivered it in entire ignorance of its contents. McClure saw Cameron that night and found him agitated, weeping, and saying that the President's act meant his personal degradation. The letter, which McClure saw, he says he remembers almost literally. It was as follows: "I have this day nominated Hon. Edwin M. Stanton to be Secretary of War, and you to be minister to Russia." On the following day Lincoln was requested to withdraw this dismissal and allow Cameron to antedate a letter of resignation. The President was willing, a new correspondence was prepared, and a month later it was given to the public.
No member of the cabinet, according to the best evidence, knew of Lincoln's intention to appoint Stanton. The President acted alone, and it was one of the most striking things he
ever did. Years before Stanton had bitterly insulted him. Some references to his appearance Lincoln enjoyed. He used to tell himself about the man who offered him a knife on a railway train, saying it had been given him to keep until he met some one uglier than himself. But Stanton's scorching contempt had been a different matter and had stung him sharply. Since the new administration the comments made on the President by Stanton were frequent and violent He had spoken of "venality and corruption," by which he meant a use of the patronage that he never countenanced for a second after he accepted the President's offer. One of his phrases was the "painful imbecility of Lincoln." Above all things he hated wire-pulling and office-seekers, and he speedily modified the state of things in which, according to a newspaper, "a boy threw a stone at a dog on Pennsylvania Avenue and hit three brigadier generals." For Lincoln to select such a man, when he had such cause for personal sensitiveness, but more particularly when his own strength lay in submitting to all sorts of minor abuses, and even committing them, in order to gain in exchange some more fundamental good, while Stanton rode roughshod, harsh, and uncompromising straight for his goal, was certainly a proof of brilliant magnanimity, instinct, and wisdom.
McClellan had been satisfied with Cameron, because the Secretary had never interfered with him, but the general in his book makes the significant exception that he could not always dispose of arms and supplies as he thought the good of the service demanded. Several weeks before the removal McClellan heard that a committee of New York bankers had called on Chase to demand Cameron's retirement. It often happened, McClellan says, that when a shipment of unusually good arms arrived from Europe and he wished them for the Army of the Potomac, he found that Cameron had promised them to some political friend for future use in some remote state. Nevertheless, so fond of his own way was the general, that he did his best to keep this Secretary in office, fearing (what happened) that the next Minister of War might mix in military matters. It was casually that McClellan heard one day of the change, and immediately after Stanton called, to say that his nomination had been sent to the Senate. Lincoln called to mollify the general by telling him he knew Stanton was a friend of his, and he would have consulted him except that he feared it would be said that McClellan dragooned him into it. McClellan thus proceeds with his narrative.
"From the light that has since been thrown on Stanton's character, I am satisfied that from an
early date he was in this treasonable conspiracy, and that his course in ingratiating himself with me, and pretending to be my friend before he was in office, was only a part of his long system of treachery.
"I had never seen Mr. Stanton, and probably had not even heard of him, before reaching Washington in 1861. Not many weeks after arriving I was introduced to him as a safe adviser on legal points. From that moment he did his best to ingratiate himself with me, and professed the warmest friendship and devotion. I had no reason to suspect his sincerity, and therefore believed him to be what he professed. The most disagreeable thing about him was the extreme virulence with which he abused the President, the administration, and the Republican party. He carried this to such an extent that I was often shocked by it.
"He never spoke of the President in any other way than as the original gorilla,' and often said. that Du Chaillu was a fool to wander all the way to Africa in search of what he could so easily have found at Springfield, Illinois. Nothing could be more bitter than his words and manner always were when speaking of the administration. and the Republican party. He never gave them credit for honesty or patriotism, and very seldom for any ability.