"Team" of rivals: comments from Edward Bates

"Goodwin has brilliantly described how Lincoln forged a team that preserved a nation..." - James M. McPherson

From Beale's transcription of Edward Bates's diary. Future installments from Welles and Chase. Emphasis in the original:


In fact the whole administration is lamentably deficient in the lack of unity and co-action. There is no quarrel among us but an absolute want of community of intelligence, purpose and action. In truth, it is not an administration but the separate and disjointed action of seven independent officers, each one ignorant of what his colleagues are doing. Today, in council, Mr. Chase stated the condition of things in sorrowful plainness; and then, as usual, we had a “bald, disjointed chat” about it, coming to no conclusion. […] The Prest. Is an excellent man, and in the main wise; but he lacks will and purpose, and I greatly fear he has not the power to command.


Almost every day there are new instances of the hasty and blundering manner in which the Secy of State carries out his supposed powers about prisoners and legal proceedings.


… Mr. [Congressman] Julian told him the night before that C.B. Smith (Secy. Interior) was in danger of being indicted for bribery – i.e. taking money for appointment to offices in his Dept: and that he will be indicted unless he speedily makes arrangements with the parties who think themselves aggrieved.


It pains me to observe of late that Mr. Blair, P.M.G., concurs with me in nothing. With or without a reason, he takes the other side.


I do not doubt the P[resident]’s personal confidence but he is under constant pressure of extreme factions and bold and importunate men, who taking advantage of his amiable weakness, commit him beforehand to their ends, so as to bar all future deliberation.


When I entered, the Prest. rose, and with a bland countenance, advanced and shook hands. The Secy. [Stanton] and the Genl. [Halleck] kept their seats, and I thought looked disturbed and sulky. The Genl. I know “has no love for me,” and the Secy. I fear, would break with me outright, if he thought it was quite safe.


I have observed lately that whatever opinion Mr. B. [Blair] starts with, he yields a ready assent to the final conclusion of the Prest., whether brought about by the influence of Chase, Seward, or Stanton. Mr. B. takes special cae of himself, his family and special friends, determined not to differ much with the appointing power.


He then detailed a long conversation that the P.M. Genl. had sought and had with him. It disclosed no less than a plan to revolutionize and remodel the entire Cabinet… Mr. B spoke in the bitterest of terms of the Secs of State and War – that the former was an unprincipled liar – the truth not in him: and the latter a great scoundrel – making all sorts of fraudulent contracts to put money into his own pocket – that in that way “Cameron was a fool to him.”


Each one, statesman or general, is secretly working, either to advance his ambition, or to secure something to retire upon. […] There is no no mutual confidence among members of the Govt. – and really no such thing as a C.C. [Cabinet Council]. The more ambitious members , who seek to control – Seward – Chase – Stanton – never start their projects in C.C. but try first to commit the Prest., and then, if possible, secure the apparent consent of the members. Often, the doubtful measure is put into operation before the majority of us know that it is proposed.


There is, in fact, no Cabinet, and the show of Cabinet-councils is getting more and more a mere show – Little matters or isolated propositions are sometimes talked over, but the great business of the country – questions of leading policy – are not mentioned in C.C. – unless indeed, after the fact, and when some difficulty has arisen out of a blunder.


I’m afraid Mr. Chase’s head is turned by his eagerness in pursuit of the presidency. For a long time back he has been filling all the offices in his own vast patronage with extreme partisans, and contrives to fill many vacancies properly belonging to other departments.


Today about noon, I was surprised to hear that Mr. Chase, Secy of the Treasury, had resigned…

1.(1) His social and political relations do not seem to be cordial with the other ministers, except perhaps Stanton

2.(2) His scheme of finance is pretty well played out – and seems now to be generally considered a puffing machine that must soon burst by inflation…

I should not be a bit surprised if Stanton soon followed Chase. In that I see no misfortune, for I think it hardly possible that the War Office could be worse administered. […] Mr. Lincoln, I hope, will find out in time the danger of leaning upon that broken reed.


Mr. Seward, Sec of State, (who always shuffles around a knotty point, by some trick)…

I expressed to Mr. Seward my desire to have a conversation with him, about political affairs, saying that neither he nor I had time that day, and requested him to name a day soon, when I could have the conversation. More than three weeks have passed and I have not heard from him. I asked for that meeting chiefly because Mr. S. as it seemed to me carefully concealed his views of the gravest public questions from me. I noticed that even in C.C. when I was present, he never declared his principles and measures in a straightforward manly way, but dealt in hints and suggestions only, as if to keep open all available subterfuges for future use. And now he declines the direct request of a conversation.


The President knows as well as I do that Genl. Butler’s proceedings to overthrow the Civil Law at Norfolk, and establish his own despotism in its stead, is unlawful and wrong, and without even a pretence of military necessity, and yet he will not revoke the usurping orders, for fear Genl Butler will “raise a hubbub about it.” Alas that I should live to see such abject fear –such stolid indifference to duty – such open contempt of constitution and law – and such profound ignorance of policy and prudence!


But perhaps nothing better ought to be hoped from the improvidence (not to say imbecility) of such men as Stanton and Halleck.


In C.C. today Mr. Fessenden produced his plan for getting out cotton, under the late act of Congress. … he embarrassed himself by trying also to regulate the method of getting the cotton in, ready to be bought – That is outside his province and can only be controlled by the President as commander in chief. […] This discussion (if an informal, disjointed conversation can be called discussion) convinced me, more than ever, of the evil tendency of times like these, in removing the landmarks of power, and breaking down barriers which ought to [stand] between the different authorities.


It gives me pain to see so many instances of Mr. Seward’s extreme looseness in practical politics, and his utter disregard of the forms and the plain requirements of law. He is constantly getting the President into trouble, and unsettling the best established policies of the Government.


This proclamation [allowing traffic in certain ports] is another striking instance of Mr. Seward’s vague, indistinct style of composition. He hates a positive committal and is studiously dark. It is hard to tell, by this proclamation, whether the intention is to raise the blockade or open the ports – two very different things.


I have just read a speech of Montgomery Blair – delivered lately at Clarksville Md in which he makes heavy charges against Seward and Stanton and Holt – and in a bold, direct manner, as if conscious of his ability to make his charges good, denounces them as the real authors of the war.