Lincoln Discusses Cabinet Appointments

Monday, December 31, 1860

Lincoln again meets with Edward Bates – but alone. Bates writes in his diary: “Had two long conversations with L[incoln] in the forenoon and afternoon, in the course of which he showed me a number of letters from eminent Republicans at the East, and I was surprised to find that some of those [came from men] whom I had thought the most ultra – Among the letters were several from Mr. Seward. He goes as far as any one I have yet seen, in liberality in the filling of the Cabinet. He recommends that two or three Bell men be taken, and gives the names of some that would be acceptable to him viz Scott of Va., [William A.] Graham, [John A.]Gilmer (and another, whose name I have forgotten) and one in Tenn: perhaps [Thomas A.R.] Nelson –

“I knew that Mr. L. felt himself under a sort of necessity to offer Mr. Seward the State Department, and suppose that he did it in the hope that Mr. S[eward] wd. decline. But Mr. S. in a brief note says that after consultation with and advice of friends, he accepts. I [think] this is unfortunate, and [that it] will complicate Mr. L[incoln]’s difficulties. Not that Mr. Seward personally, is not, eminently qualified for the place, in talents, Knowledge, experience and urbanity of manners; but, at the South, whether justly or unjustly, there is a bitter prejudice against him; they consider him the embodiment of all they deem odious in the Republican party. And at the North and in the N.[orth] W.[est] there is a powerful fraction of the Repu[ublica]n. party that fears and almost hates him – especially in N.Y.

Bates wrote: “Seeing Mr. L[incoln]’s difficulties in filling his cabinet, I told him, most candidly, that I was ready to relieve him, as far as possible – that I had not agreed to take office, except as a painful duty, and that if he could fill the places without me, it would be a relief rather than a disappointment. He answered promptly – ‘No I cant [sic] do better than that – that State cant [sic] be pulled up.’:

Lincoln writes a letter to Simon Cameron which he will soon come to regret and attempt to retract: “I think fit to notify you now, that by your permission, I shall, at the proper time, nominate you to the U.S. Senate, for confirmation as Secretary of the Treasury, or as Secretary of War — which of the two, I have not yet definitely decided.”

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Lincoln Meets Bates & Cameron

Sunday, December 30, 1860

President Lincoln had invited both Simon Cameron and Edward Bates to meet with him. After dinner, Bates ran into Lincoln and Cameron at Cameron’s hotel room “ and had a sort of general conversation for some two hours,” wrote Bates in his diary. “I did not find out what brought Senator Cameron to Springfield. It is generally surmised however, that he is a strong candidate of [for] Sec.y. of the Treasury. I found him pleasant enough in conversation, but rather reticent about politics and parties. There was nothing private or confidential between us, and I suppose he did not wish me to know the object of his visit – our meeting there was accidental.”

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Buchanan Rejects Confederate Demands

Saturday, December 29, 1860

James Buchanan

In Washington Confederate commissioners demand that Union forces be withdrawn from Fort Sumter – two days later they are rebuffed when President Buchanan declares: “Fort Sumter will be defended against all hostile attacks from whatever quarter.”

Senator William H. Seward writes Lincoln: “At length I have gotten a position in which I can see what is going on. In the councils of the President. It pains me to learn that things are even worse than is understood. The President is debating day and night on the question [of] whether he shall not recall …”

In Springfield, Lincoln moves out of the offices of the governor in the State Capitol; Governor Richard Yates will soon be inaugurated and a new legislative session will soon begin. A room is secured for his use in the nearby Johnson building.

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Confrontation Over Fort Sumter

Thursday, December 27, 1860

In Charleston, Governor Francis Pickens sends two men to Fort Sumter to demand that Major Robert Anderson return to Fort Moultrie. Anderson responded: “Make my compliments to the governor, and say to him that I decline to accede to his request; I cannot and will not go back.”

At the St. Nicholas Hotel in Springfield, President-elect Lincoln sits for sculpter Thomas Jones – and contemplates the wisdom of appointing Pennsylvanian Simon Cameron to his cabinet.

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Union Troops Move to Fort Sumter

Wednesday, December 26, 1860

In Charleston, Major Robert Anderson moves Union forces from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, which was still under construction but more defensible than Moultrie. The guns at Fort Moultrie were spiked and their carriages set on fired. Secessionists in Charleston were enraged when they discovered what Anderson had done.

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Lincoln Meets Old Colleagues — from Oregon & Pennsylvania

Monday, December 24, 1860

Lincoln meets with his old Illinois friend, Edward D. Baker, the newly elected senator from Oregon. They once had been rivals for Springfield congressional seat – before Baker moved to California.

Edward D. Baker

Lincoln walked to the home where Baker was staying and walked over rather than through the front gate. He told the new senator that there was no one he would rather see in the Senate. “I was coming to call on you, Mr. President” Baker told Lincoln, who replied with his customary disdain for titles: “None of that between us, Baker.”

Lincoln also visited Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot at the St. Nicholas Hotel in Springfield – presumably to discuss Pennsylvania’s inclusion in the cabinet. When Lincoln had served in Congress, he had repeatedly voted for the “Wilmot Proviso” which would have barred slavery from any new territories. Earlier in the month, Lincoln had asked Wilmot to come to Springfield. Lincoln had extended invitations to a number of Pennsylvania leaders and some had come unbidden.

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South Carolina is First State to Secede

Thursday, December 20, 1860

South Carolina secedes. According to Ordinance of Secession passed by the state legislature , the “ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of Slavery, they have permitted the open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace of and purloin the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books, and pictures, to servile insurrection…”

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Crittenden Launches Compromise Efforts

Tuesday, December 18, 1860

Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden, introduces compromise legislation to avert conflict and secession. In 1858, former Whig Crittenden had endorsed the Senate candidacy of Democrat Stephen A. Douglas over former Whig Lincoln. The endorsement helped lift Douglas to reelection over Lincoln.

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Bates Decides to Accept

Sunday, December 16, 1860

“Got home this morning to breakfast…from a hasty visit to Springfield, to see Mr. Lincoln, for the first time since his election,” wrote Edward Bates the day after his meeting with the president-elect. “I found him free in his communications and candid in his manner. He assured me that from the time of his nomination, his determination was, in case of success, to invite me into the Cabinet – and, in fact was so complimentary as to say that my participation in the administration, he considered necessary to its complete success.

“He did not attempt to disguise the difficulties in the way of forming a Cabinet, so as at once to be satisfactory to himself, acceptable to his party, and not specially offensive to the more conservative of his party adversaries. He is troubled about Mr. Seward; feeling that he is under moral, or at least party duress, to tender to Mr. S[eward] the first place in the Cabinet. By position he seems to be entitled to it, and if refused, that would excite bad feeling, and lead to a dangerous if not fatal rupture of the party …

“He said that if this difficulty were out of the way, he would at once offer me the State Department – but failing that, eh woudl offer me the Atty. generalship, and urge my acceptance.

“He did not state, and I did not choose to press him to state, who would probably fill the other Departments, or any of them. Inde[e]d, I suppose he does not yet know – so much depends on Mr. Seward’s position, and upon the daily-changing phases of political affairs.
“He assured me however, that I am the only man that he desired in the Cabinet, to whom he has yet spoke a [or] write a word, about their own appointments[.]

“I told Mr. with all frankness, that if peace and order prevailed in the country, and the Government could be carried on quietly, I would decline a place in the Cabinet, as I did in 1850 – and for the same reasons. But now, I am not at liberty to consult my own interests and wishes…And that, therefore, and as matter of duty, I accepted his invitation, and in that view, would take either office in which he might think I would be most useful.

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Bates Meets Lincoln about Becoming Attorney General

Edward Bates

Saturday, December 15, 1860

Future Attorney General Edward Bates of Missouri visits President-elect Lincoln in Springfield. Lincoln’s secretary noted that Bates ” came to Mr. Lincoln’s room at about 9 A.M. entering with very profuse civilities and apologies for having come before Mr. Lincoln’s hour. (He had not yet come from home.) He said that when Mr. Blair informed him that Mr. Lincoln designed visiting him, he had at once replied that he would not think of permitting that to be done, but that it was his duty to wait upon the President-elect, etc. etc. (His flow of words in conversation is very genial and easy, seeming at first to verge upon extreme politeness, but soon becoming very attractive.” Secretary John G. Nicolay recorded: “Their meeting (they had an acquaintance of eight years’ standing) was very cordial; and the ordinary conversation being over, Mr. Lincoln entered at once upon the important subject matter of the interview.”

“Without further prelude Mr. Lincoln went on to tell him that he had desired this interview to say to him that since the day of the Chicago nomination it had been his purpose, in case of success, unless something should meantime occur which would make it necessary to change his decision, to tender him (Bates) one of the places in the Cabinet. Nothing having occurred to make a change of purpose necessary (he had waited thus long to be enabled to act with caution, and in view of all the circumstances of the case) he now offered him the appointment.

“He said in doing this, he did not desire to burden him with one of the drudgery offices. Some of Mr. Bates

“He had not yet communicated with Mr. Seward, and did not know whether he would accept the appointment, as there had been some doubts expressed about his doing so. He would probably know in a few days. He therefore could not now offer him (Bates) the State Department, but would offer him what he supposed would be most congenial, and for which he was certainly in every way qualified – the Attorney Generalship.

“Mr. Bates replied by saying that until a very few days ago he had received no word or hint even, that any of his friends had made any such application in his behalf. He expressed himself highly gratified at the confidence which Mr. Lincoln manifested in him by the offer just made. He alluded to the fact that ten years ago he had declined a similar offer made by Mr. Fillmore. Were the country in the same condition in which it was then – were things going along in quiet and smoothness – no inducement would tempt him to assume the duties of such a position. But the case was different. The country was in trouble and danger, and he felt it his duty to sacrifice his personal inclinations, and, if he could, to contribute his labor and influence to the restoration of peace in, and the preservation of, his country.

“Mr. Lincoln expressed himself highly gratified at his determination.

“Much further conversation was had both during the morning and in the afternoon when Mr. Lincoln called on him again at the hotel. Their views were very frankly and fully exchanged.

“Mr. Bates’s conversation shows him to be inflexibly opposed to secession and strongly in favor of maintaining the Government by force if necessary. He forcibly illustrated his temper by saying that he is a man of peace and will defer fighting as long as possible; but that if forced to do so against his will, he has made it a rule never to fire blank cartridges.’

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