Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version
The President Versus The Vindictives
Now that the Vindictives had made up their minds to fight, an occasion was at their
hands. Virtually, they declared war on the President by refusing to recognize a State
government which he had set up in Arkansas. Congress would not admit Senators or
Representatives from the Reconstructed State. But on this issue, Lincoln was as resolute
to fight to a finish as were any of his detractors. He wrote to General Steele, commanding
"I understand that Congress declines to admit to seats the persons sent as Senators and
Representatives from Arkansas. These persons apprehend that, in consequence, you may
not support the new State government there as you otherwise would. My wish is that you
give that government and the people there the same support and protection that you
would if the members had been admitted, because in no event, nor in any view of the
case, can this do harm, while it will be the best you can do toward suppressing the
The same day Chase resigned. The reason he assigned was, again, the squabble over
patronage. He had insisted on an appointment of which the President disapproved.
Exactly what moved him may be questioned. Chase never gave his complete confidence,
not even to his diary. Whether he thought that the Vindictives would now take him up as
a rival of Lincoln, continues doubtful. Many men were staggered by his action.
Crittenden, the Registrar of the Treasury, was thrown into a panic. "Mr. President," said
he, "this is worse than another Bull Run. Pray let me go to Secretary Chase and see if I
can not induce him to withdraw his resignation. Its acceptance now might cause a
financial panic." But Lincoln was in a fighting mood. "Chase thinks he has become
indispensable to the country," he told Chittenden. "He also thinks he ought to be
President; he has no doubt whatever about that. He is an able financier, a great statesman,
and at the bottom a patriot . . he is never perfectly happy unless he is thoroughly
miserable and able to make everybody else just as uncomfortable as he is himself. . He is
either determined to annoy me or that I shall pat him on the shoulder and coax him to
stay. I don't think I ought to do it. I will take him at his word."
He accepted the resignation in a note that was almost curt: "Of all I have said in
commendation of your ability and fidelity, I have nothing to unsay; and yet you and I
have reached a point of mutual embarrassment in our official relations which it seems can
not be overcome or longer sustained consistently with the public service."
The selection of a successor to Chase was no easy matter. The Vindictives were the
leaders of the moment. What if they persuaded the Senate not to confirm Lincoln's choice
of Secretary. "I never saw the President," says Carpenter, "under so much excitement as
on the day following this event" On the night of July first, Lincoln lay awake debating
with himself the merits of various candidates. At length, he selected his man and
immediately went to sleep.
"The next morning he went to his office and wrote the nomination. John Hay, the
assistant private secretary, had taken it from the President on his way to the Capitol,
when he encountered Senator Fessenden upon the threshold of the room. As chairman of