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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Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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