Edwin McMasters Stanton

Edwin McMasters Stanton

[stan-tn]
Stanton, Edwin McMasters, 1814-69, American statesman, b. Steubenville, Ohio. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1836 and began to practice law in Cadiz. As his reputation grew, he moved first to Steubenville (1839), then to Pittsburgh (1847), and finally to Washington, D.C. (1856), becoming ever more prominent in his profession. In Dec., 1860, Stanton, a Democrat but a strong Unionist, succeeded Jeremiah S. Black as U.S. Attorney General in President Buchanan's cabinet. Later, he became legal adviser to Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War, Simon Cameron. Appointed to take Cameron's place in Jan., 1862, he proved to be an extremely forceful and able Secretary of War. Contracts ceased to be opportunities for graft; the railroads were placed under military control; and Union generals in the field were supplied with necessary men and matériel. One of the leading radicals in the Lincoln administration, Stanton worked closely with the radicals in Congress and used his influence with Lincoln to advance their program. Deeply grieved by Lincoln's death, he arranged for a swift trial of the alleged conspirators by a military court. Stanton remained in President Andrew Johnson's cabinet, but serious differences over Reconstruction policy led Johnson to demand (Aug., 1867) his resignation. When he refused to resign, Johnson suspended him, first appointing Ulysses S. Grant as secretary ad interim and then appointing Lorenzo Thomas as permanent Secretary of War. Stanton, however, barricaded himself in his office, and the radicals in Congress, claiming that Johnson's actions violated the Tenure of Office Act, initiated impeachment proceedings against him. When Johnson was acquitted (May, 1868), Stanton resigned. He died shortly after President Grant appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court.

See biographies by F. Pratt (1953, repr. 1970) and B. P. Thomas and H. M. Hyman (1962); study by R. G. Mangrum (1980).

(born Dec. 19, 1814, Steubenville, Ohio, U.S.—died Dec. 24, 1869, Washington, D.C.) U.S. secretary of war (1862–68). A lawyer and abolitionist, he was appointed U.S. attorney general in 1861 and secretary of war in 1862. He ably administered the Union military effort in the American Civil War, and he later helped lead the investigation of Pres. Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Conflict with Pres. Andrew Johnson over Reconstruction policy and his alliance with the Radical Republicans led to Stanton's dismissal by Johnson, in deliberate violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Stanton refused to leave office, but he resigned after Johnson was acquitted in the impeachment trial.

Learn more about Stanton, Edwin M(cMasters) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Edwin McMasters Stanton (December 19, 1814December 24, 1869), was an American lawyer, politician, United States Attorney General in 1860-61 and Secretary of War through most of the American Civil War and Reconstruction era.

Early life and career

Stanton was born in Steubenville, Ohio, the eldest of the four children of David and Lucy (née Norman) Stanton. His father was a physician of Quaker stock. Stanton began his political life as a lawyer in Ohio and an antislavery Democrat. After leaving from Kenyon College in 1833 to get a job to support his family, he was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1836. Stanton built a house in the small town of Cadiz, Ohio, and practiced law there until 1847, when he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Law and politics

In 1856, Stanton moved to Washington, D.C., where he had a large practice before the Supreme Court. In 1859, Stanton was the defense attorney in the sensational trial of Daniel E. Sickles, a politician and later a Union general, who was tried on a charge of murdering his wife's lover, Philip Barton Key, II (son of Francis Scott Key), but was acquitted after Stanton invoked the first use of the insanity defense in U.S. history.

Attorney General

In 1860 he was appointed Attorney General by President James Buchanan. He strongly opposed secession, and is credited by historians for changing Buchanan's position away from tolerating secession to denouncing it as unconstitutional and illegal.

Time of War

Civil War

Stanton was politically opposed to Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860. After Lincoln was elected president, Stanton agreed to work as a legal adviser to the inefficient Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, whom he replaced on January 15, 1862. He accepted the position only to "help save the country." He was very effective in administering the huge War Department, but devoted considerable amounts of his energy to the persecution of Union officers whom he suspected of having traitorous sympathies for the South, the most famous of these being Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter. Stanton used his power as Secretary to ensure every general who sat on the court-martial would vote for conviction or else be unable to obtain career advancement.

On August 8, 1862 Stanton issued an order to "arrest and imprison any person or persons who may be engaged, by act, speech or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments, or in any way giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or in any other disloyal practice against the United States."

The president recognized Stanton's ability, but whenever necessary Lincoln managed to "plow around him." Stanton once tried to fire the Chief of the War Department Telegraph Office, Thomas Eckert. Lincoln prevented this by praising Eckert to Stanton. Yet, when pressure was exerted to remove the unpopular secretary from office, Lincoln replied, "If you will find another secretary of war like him, I will gladly appoint him."

Lincoln's last act as President was overriding Stanton's decision supporting the execution of George S.E. Vaughn for spying. Lincoln pardoned Vaughn one hour before he was assassinated.

Stanton became a Republican and apparently changed his opinion of Lincoln. At Lincoln's death Stanton remarked, "Now he belongs to the ages," and lamented, "There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen." He vigorously pursued the apprehension and prosecution of the conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination. These proceedings were not handled by the civil courts, but by a military tribunal, and therefore under Stanton's tutelage. Stanton has subsequently been accused of witness tampering, most notably of Louis J. Weichmann, and of other activities that skewed the outcome of the trials.

Andrew Johnson's administration

Stanton continued to hold the position of secretary of war under President Andrew Johnson until 1868. His relations with the president were not good, and Johnson attempted to remove Stanton from the Cabinet and replace him with General Lorenzo Thomas. Stanton, however, barricaded himself in his office, and the radicals in Congress, claiming that Johnson's actions violated the Tenure of Office Act, and he therefore initiated impeachment proceedings against him. Johnson however escaped conviction by a single vote in the Senate.

The moment on the Supreme Court

After this, Stanton resigned and returned to the practice of law. The next year he was appointed by President Grant to the Supreme Court, but he died four days after he was confirmed by the Senate, and taking the oath of office on his deathbed, set the record for shortest tenure on the Court. He died in Washington, DC, and is buried there in Oak Hill Cemetery.

This point is disputed by the Supreme Court web site itself in its official Justices PDFwhich does not list Stanton as a Justice of the Supreme Court, but notes that:

"The acceptance of the appointment and commission by the appointee, as evidenced by the taking of the prescribed oaths, is here implied; otherwise the individual is not carried on this list of the Members of the Court. Examples: ..... Edwin M. Stanton who died before he could take the necessary steps toward becoming a Member of the Court."

Legacy

One Dollar Treasury Notes, also called Coin Notes, of the Series' 1890 and 1891 feature portraits of Stanton on the obverse. Stanton also appears on the fourth issue of Fractional Currency, in the amount of 50 cents. Stanton Park, four blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., is named for him, as is Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville, Florida. A steam engine, built in 1862, was named the "E. M. Stanton" in honor of the new Secretary of War. Stanton County, Nebraska is named for him.

In popular media

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Bissland, James. "Blood, Tears, and Glory". Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press, 2007. Explains Stanton's key role in winning the Civil War.
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005) on Lincoln's cabinet.
  • Harold M. Hyman, "Johnson, Stanton, and Grant: A Reconsideration of the Army's Role in the Events Leading to Impeachment," American Historical Review 66 (Oct. 1960): 85-96, online in JSTOR.
  • Hendrick, Burton J. Lincoln's War Cabinet (1946).
  • Meneely, A. Howard, "Stanton, Edwin McMasters," in Dictionary of American Biography, Volume 9 (1935)
  • Pratt, Fletcher. Stanton: Lincoln's Secretary of War (1953).
  • Simpson, Brooks D. Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868 (1991)
  • Skelton, William B. . "Stanton, Edwin McMasters"; American National Biography Online 2000.
  • Stanton, Edwin (Edited by: Ben Ames Williams Jr.) Mr. Secretary (1940), partial autobiography.
  • Thomas, Benjamin P., and Hyman, Harold M. Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War (1962), the standard scholarly biography.
  • William Hanchett The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies (1983); demolishes the allegation that Stanton was the center of the plot to assassinate Lincoln.

External links

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