Lincoln’s Cabinet Program—Members from the South—Questions and Answers—Correspondence with Stephens—Action of Congress—Peace Convention—Preparation of the Inaugural—Lincoln’s Farewell Address—The Journey to Washington—Lincoln’s Midnight Journey
During the long presidential campaign of 1860, between the Chicago convention in the middle of May and the election at the beginning of November, Mr. Lincoln, relieved from all other duties, had watched political developments with very close attention not merely to discern the progress of his own chances, but, doubtless, also, much more seriously to deliberate upon the future in case he should be elected. But it was only when, on the night of November 6, he sat in the telegraph office at Springfield, from which all but himself and the operators were excluded, and read the telegrams as they fell from the wires, that little by little the accumulating Republican majorities reported from all directions convinced him of the certainty of his success; and with that conviction there fell upon him the overwhelming, almost crushing weight of his coming duties and responsibilities. He afterward related that in that supreme hour, grappling resolutely with the mighty problem before him, he practically completed the first essential act of his administration, the selection of his future cabinet—the choice of the men who were to aid him.
From what afterward occurred, we may easily infer the general principle which guided his choice. One of his strongest characteristics, as his speeches abundantly show, was his belief in the power of public opinion, and his respect for the popular will. That was to be found and to be wielded by the leaders of public sentiment In the present instance there were no truer representatives of that will than the men who had been prominently supported by the delegates to the Chicago convention for the presidential nominations. Of these he would take at least three, perhaps four, to compose one half of his cabinet. In selecting Seward, Chase, Bates, and Cameron, he could also satisfy two other points of the representative principle, the claims of locality and the elements of former party divisions now joined in the newly organized Republican party. With Seward from New York, Cameron from Pennsylvania, Chase from Ohio, and himself from Illinois, the four leading free States had each a representative. With Bates from Missouri, the South could not complain of being wholly excluded from the cabinet. New England was properly represented by Vice-President Hamlin. When, after the inauguration, Smith from Indiana Welles from Connecticut, and Blair from Maryland were added to make up the seven cabinet members, the local distribution between East and West, North and South, was in no wise disturbed. It was, indeed, complained that in this arrangement there were four former Democrats, and only three former Whigs; to which Lincoln laughingly replied that he had been a Whig, and would be there to make the number even.