Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version
The key-notes of Lincoln's course with the Executive Committee, his refusal to do
anything that appeared to him to be futile, his firmness not to cast about and experiment
after a policy, his basing of all his plans on the vision in his own mind of their sure
fruitage--these continued to be his key-notes throughout the campaign. They ruled his
action in a difficult matter with which he was quickly forced to deal.
Montgomery Blair, the Postmaster General, was widely and bitterly disliked. Originally a
radical Republican, he had quarreled with that wing of the party. In 1863 the Union
League of Philadelphia, which elected all the rest of the Cabinet honorary members of its
organization, omitted Blair. A reference to the Cabinet in the Union platform of 1864 was
supposed to be a hint that the Postmaster General would serve his country, if he resigned.
During the dark days of the summer of 1864, the President's mail was filled with
supplications for the dismissal of Blair. He was described as an incubus that might
cause the defeat of the Administration.
If the President's secretaries were not prejudiced witnesses, Blair had worn out his
welcome in the Cabinet. He had grown suspicious. He tried to make Lincoln believe that
Seward was plotting with the Copperheads. Nevertheless, Lincoln turned a deaf ear to the
clamor against him. Merely personal considerations were not compelling. If it was true,
as for a while he believed it was, that his election was already lost, he did not propose to
throw Blair over as a mere experiment. True to his principles he would not become a
juggler with futility.
The turn of the tide in his favor put the matter in a new light. All the enemies of Blair
renewed their attack on a slightly different line. One of those powerful New Englanders
who had come to Lincoln's aid at such an opportune moment led off. On the second day
following the news of Atlanta, Henry Wilson wrote to him, "Blair, every one hates. Tens
of thousands of men will be lost to you, or will give you a reluctant vote because of the
If this was really true, the selfless man would not hesitate to' require of Blair the same
sort of sacrifice he would, in other conditions, require of himself. Lincoln debated this in
his own mind nearly three weeks.
Meanwhile, various other politicians joined the hue and cry. An old friend of Lincoln's,
Ebenezer Peck, came east from Illinois to work upon him against Blair. Chandler, who
like Wade was eager to get out of the wrong ship, appeared at Washington as a friend of
the Administration and an enemy of Blair. But still Lincoln did not respond. After all,
was it certain that one of these votes would change if Blair did not resign? Would
anything be accomplished, should Lincoln require his resignation, except the humiliation
of a friend, the gratification of a pack of malcontents? And then some one thought of a
mode for giving definite political value to Blair's removal. Who did it? The anonymous
author of the only biography of Chandler claims this doubtful honor for the great Jacobin.
Lincoln's secretaries, including Colonel Stoddard who had charge of his correspondence,
are ignorant on the subject. It may well have been Chandler who negotiated a bargain
with Fremont, if the story is to be trusted, which concerned Blair. A long-standing,