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Lincoln’s cabinet was an amalgam of past political rivals and allies because he appointed leaders of competing factions of the Republican Party to key cabinet posts. Attorney General Edward Bates, Secretary of War Simon Cameron, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, and Secretary of State William H. Seward all had run against Lincoln for the 1860 Republican nomination. Even though the cabinet was composed of strong personalities who often were barely on speaking terms with each other, Lincoln skillfully used their strengths to benefit the Union cause.

Cabinet Member Edwin Stanton

Ohio lawyer and politician Edwin M. Stanton was appointed attorney general by President James Buchanan in 1860. He was politically opposed to Lincoln during the 1860 campaign, but after Lincoln became president, Stanton agreed to serve as legal advisor to Secretary of War Simon Cameron. In January 1862, he replaced the ineffectual Cameron and remained Secretary of War through the Civil War and most of the Reconstruction era. This daguerreotype of Stanton with his eldest son, Eddie, was made in the early 1850s.

Edwin McMasters Stanton with his son Edwin Lamson Stanton. Half-plate daguerreotype, between 1852 and 1855. Purchase and gift from the James Madison Council and George S. Whiteley, IV. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (110) Digital ID # ppmsca-19600

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The Lincoln Cabinet, 1861

This wood engraved portrait from Harpers Weekly depicts Lincoln's cabinet: (left to right) Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, Interior Secretary Caleb B. Smith, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, President Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Secretary of War Simon Cameron, Attorney General Edward Bates, and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

The Cabinet at Washington, from Harpers Weekly, July 13, 1861. Wood engraving. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (111) Digital ID # cph-3c32557

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Memorandum on Cabinet Appointments

Lincoln selected William H. Seward to serve in his cabinet as secretary of state, a position that satisfied the former governor and presidential hopeful. Once Lincoln had secured Seward, he approached Salmon P. Chase, primarily about serving as secretary of the Treasury Department. Lincoln also approached Simon Cameron about heading the Treasury Department or War Department, though Chase was his first choice for Treasury. Camerons appointment was problematic, largely because of his stained reputation. To settle the matter, he turned to the Republican members of the Senate. Their responses, shown here, helped Lincoln to decide in favor of Chase. Cameron grudgingly accepted the War Department position.

Memorandum on cabinet appointments, March 1, 1861. Holograph manuscript. Abraham Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (113) Digital ID # al0113

Read the transcript

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A Job for the New Cabinet Maker

In this wood engraving from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, February 2, 1861, President-elect Lincoln is shown using Union glue to repair a split cabinet, which represents the divide between North and South.

A Job for the New Cabinet Maker from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, February 2, 1861. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (112) Digital ID # cph 3a48358

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The Northern and Southern States in 1861

This comparative map shows that the Southern states had more territory, which suggests they might have held a distinct advantage during the Civil War. However, the states of Maryland and Delaware remained loyal to the Union, as did the majority of citizens living in western Virginia and eastern Tennessee. Additionally, the North had an economic advantage because manufacturing and banking were centered largely in the more heavily populated region. Knowledgeable Southern leaders recognized that their main hope lay in early and decisive action.

Map Showing the Comparative Area of the Northern and Southern States, East of the Rocky Mountains, from Harpers Weekly, February 23, 1861. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (115) Digital ID # ppmsca-19483

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