Abraham Lincoln1

With His Cabinet Abraham Lincoln is
regarded by many historians as the greatest president ever to
stand at America\'s helm. This reputation is extremely well
deserved, as Lincoln was able to preserve the Union and
gain victory in the civil war, despite his fighting an uphill
battle against his own presidential cabinet. Had he not been
struggling against this divided government, President Lincoln
could have achieved victory with extreme efficiency and a
minimum of wanton bloodshed (Angle 659). After Lincoln
was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, he was forced to battle
a split cabinet because of campaign promises made to
various Republican factions, which made it almost
mandatory for certain individuals to be appointed to cabinet
posts. He ruled his cabinet with an iron hand, and often
acted without cabinet consent or advice. Although his
opponents called his method of rule "dictatorial" and
"unconstitutional," it was the only effective way to get
anything done (Simmons 142). In the beginning, Lincoln\'s
secretary of state, William H. Seward, clearly considered
himself the President\'s superior, and blandly offered to
assume the executive responsibility. He entered the cabinet
with the thought of becoming the power behind the 2
Presidential chair and openly opposed Lincoln\'s control of
the Union. This made Lincoln\'s position as Chief of State
exceedingly difficult and hindered his communication and
control of the military. As time passed, however, Seward
recognized Lincoln\'s capabilities and gave him complete
loyalty (Simmons 174). This could not be said of Salmon P.
Chase, Lincoln\'s first secretary of the treasury. Blinded by an
inflated ego, Chase pursued his own presidential aspirations.
He was in constant conflict with Seward, and in general
opposition to Lincoln, particularly over the issue of slavery.
Chase has been described as "jealous of the President," and
"overly ambitious." Lincoln\'s personal secretary, John
Nicolay, wrote, "There is enough in Chase\'s letters abusing
Lincoln behind his back for quite a scorcher." He grew so
furious with the President\'s capable rule that he finally
resigned his position (Williams 202). Another weak link in
Lincoln\'s cabinet was his first secretary of war, Simon
Cameron. He was considered an honest politician, being that
he "would stay bought when he was bought." His reputation
as a swindler caused dissent among the cabinet, and he
permitted so much inefficiency and corruption in his
department that Lincoln welcomed an excuse to relieve him
of his post (Angle, 660). Cameron\'s successor, Edwin M.
Stanton was a man who shared Seward\'s initial opinion of
the President, but who made an excellent secretary of war.
Prior to his appointment, Stanton had strongly criticized
Lincoln, and mistrusted his motives. In fact, he was later
accused of masterminding the plot to assassinate Lincoln.
Although no 3 proof was found to substantiate the charge,
many historians today lend credence to the accusation.
Stanton\'s rudeness and intolerance made him many enemies
in the cabinet, and one of his most bitter foes was Gideon
Welles, secretary of the navy. This lead to many heated
debates within the cabinet which obstructed the efficiency of
the organization (Simmons 181). Welles\' performance as a
member of the cabinet was unmatched by any of the others,
but he was frequently squabbling fiercely with Stanton.
Welles opposed Stanton\'s every move and therefore,
strategic progress was slow (Williams, 212). And thus, in the
face of staggering odds, and playing with a deck stacked
against him, Lincoln emerges gloriously triumphant. His good
acts have been magnified and his opposition overlooked in
the passage of time. Even so, Lincoln, against all odds,
looms as the greatest of Presidents.


4 Works Cited Angle,
Todd. "Abraham Lincoln." Collier\'s Encyclopedia. 1986.
Simmons, Henry E. A Concise Encyclopedia of the Civil
War. New York: The Fairfax Press, 1986. Williams, T.
Harry. Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Alfred A
Knopf, 1952.