But the year 1861 was to close with a further vexation that must be related. Secretary Cameron proved incapable on the business side of war administration. Waste and alleged corruption called down upon him a searching investigation by a committee of the House of Representatives. He had not added to his own considerable riches, but his political henchmen had grown fat. The displeasure with the whole Administration was the greater because the war was not progressing favourably, or at all. There were complaints of the Naval Department also, but politicians testified their belief in the honesty of Welles without saying a word for Cameron. There is every reason to think he was not personally dishonourable. Lincoln believed in his complete integrity, and so also did sterner critics, Chase, an apostle of economy and uprightness, and Senator Sumner. But he had to go. He opened the door for his removal by a circular to generals on the subject of slaves, which was comparable to Fremont’s Proclamation and of which Lincoln had to forbid the issue. He accepted the appointment of Minister to Russia, and when, before long, he returned, he justified himself and Lincoln’s judgment by his disinterested friendship and support. He was removed from the War Office at the end of December and a remarkable incident followed. While Lincoln’s heart was still set on his law practice, the prospect of appearing as something more than a backwoods attorney smiled for a single moment on him. He was briefed to appear in an important case outside Illinois with an eminent lawyer from the East, Edwin M. Stanton; but he was not allowed to open his mouth, for Stanton snuffed him out with supreme contempt, and he returned home crestfallen. Stanton before the war was a strong Democrat, but hated slavery. In the last days of Buchanan’s Presidency he was made Attorney-General and helped much to restore the lost credit of that Administration. He was now in Washington, criticising the slow conduct of the war with that explosive fury and scorn which led him to commit frequent injustice (at the very end of the war he publicly and monstrously accused Sherman of being bribed into terms of peace by Southern gold), which concealed from most eyes his real kindness and a lurking tenderness of heart, but which made him a vigorous administrator intolerant of dishonesty and inefficiency. He was more contemptuous of Lincoln than ever, he would constantly be denouncing his imbecility, and it is incredible that kind friends were wanting to convey his opinion to Lincoln. Lincoln made him Secretary of War.
Since the summer, to the impatient bewilderment of the Northern people, of Congress, now again in session, and of the President himself, their armies in the field were accomplishing just nothing at all, and, as this agitating year, 1861, closed, a deep gloom settled on the North, to be broken after a while by the glare of recurrent disaster.