Undoubtedly the most effective Secretary of War, or Secretary of Defense, that the nation has ever had, brilliant. irascible Edwin M. Stanton loved the Union and was determined to do whatever it took to make certain that it prevailed over the Confederacy. A Democrat who supported the pro-slavery Breckinridge in the 1860 election, the War converted Stanton into a radical Republican. At first a harsh critic of Mr. Lincoln, Stanton and Lincoln had worked on the McCormick reaper patent case together in 1857 and Stanton had not been impressed by him, after his appointment he swore that he would make Abe Lincoln President of the United States. In accomplishing that Stanton spared the feelings of no man, especially that of Mr. Lincoln, as recalled by Congressman George W. Julian:
It is related that a committee of Western men, headed by [Congressman Owen] Lovejoy, procured from the President an important order looking to the exchange of Eastern and Western soldiers with a view to more effective work. Repairing to the office of the Secretary, Mr. Lovejoy explained the scheme, as he had done before to the President, but was met by a flat refusal.
‘But we have the President’s order sir,’ said Lovejoy.
‘Did Lincoln give you an order of that kind?’ said Stanton.
‘He did, sir.’
‘Then he is a d—d fool,’ said the irate Secretary.
“Do you mean to say the President is a d—d fool?’ asked Lovejoy, in amazement.
‘Yes, sir, if he gave you such an order as that.’
The bewildered Congressman from Illinois betook himself at once to the President, and related the result of his conference.
‘Did Stanton say I was a d–d fool? Asked Lincoln at the close of the recital.
‘He did, sir; and repeated it.’
After a moment’s pause, and looking up, the President said:
‘If Stanton said I was a d–d fool, then I must be one, for he is nearly always right, and generally says what he means. I will step over and see him. (more…)