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Abraham Lincoln1

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regarded by many historians as the greatest president ever to

stand at America’s helm. This reputation is extremely well

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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.

Cite this Abraham Lincoln1

Abraham Lincoln1. (2018, Oct 06). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/abraham-lincoln1-essay/

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