Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lincoln and Politics 20

The historian David Donald made the following interesting observation: “Lincoln enjoyed a pragmatic relationship with his often unpleasant and irritable Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. There was a sort of tacit division of labor between these two dissimilar men. Lincoln himself explained the system: “…I want to oblige everybody when I can, and Stanton and I have an understanding that if I send an order to him which cannot be consistently granted, he is to refuse it. This he sometimes does.” The President then had the pleasant and politically rewarding opportunity of recommending promotions, endorsing pension applications, pardoning deserters and saving sleeping sentinels, and Stanton, who was something of a sadist, took equal pleasure in refusing the promotions, ignoring the petitions, and executing the delinquent soldiers. While the Secretary received the blame for all the harsh and unpopular acts that war makes necessary, the President acquired a useful reputation for sympathy and generosity.”
- David Donald

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