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a very thorough review with some unusual insights, too.

I can enlarge your comment that Lincoln replaced Salmon Chase with "another radical". William Pitt Fessenden is a distant relative. He was essentially a friend of Chase and certainly in agreement with his abolitionist politics. He also shared the 'radicals' opinion of Lincoln in the first years of the war as too compromising.

As you point out, commentators of the period were no less partisan than now, but Fessenden had a solid reputation for integrity and effectiveness. An interesting feature of the Team of Rivals story is that he had no higher ambitions - like Stanton in my opinion. They were both focused on policy and on the war.

Goodwin, I think, approached her book with a desire to show Lincoln's political skill, which, as you write, could be (was?) triangulation. Perhaps it was only the logic of process and situation that eventually brought Stanton, Fessenden, and Grant into their appropriate positions. I like to give Lincoln somewhat more credit for conviction on the one hand and management skills on the other.

At any rate Fessenden was an abolitionist Senator from Maine with two brothers (also Maine, also abolitionists) in the House of Representatives at the start of the war. They were all essentially charter members of the Republican Party in the sense that Maine Whigs held onto their party label longer than some other contingents before creating their state branch. His youngest son was a Lieutenant who died at Bull Run; his two other sons became Generals by the end of the war. One of the latter two, James, organized the first African-American regiment in 1862, but Lincoln's staff ordered it disbanded.

He actually did rescue the Treasury partly by paying more attention to his job than jockeying for political dominance (Chase). First, he 'cleaned up' a lot of the political appointments in his inherited staff. Second, he 'invented' the idea of government bonds at a par value that the general public could afford with an attractive interest rate (7.3%). Then, although he had opposed paper money (definitely a 'gold bug') while in the Senate, he saw the imperative of 'running the printing presses' at that juncture, intending to buy the 'greenbacks' out when war financing ended.

One action of his with which I might disagree is that he probably saved Andrew Johnson's presidency. Fessenden felt that the impeachment proceedings were prejudiced according to his official remarks and voted for acquittal on an essentially technical basis. Some other remarks, however, indicate that he feared a political crisis at that juncture.

One remark on William Seward - to keep his cabinet position under Johnson, he had to have been an adept political operative.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Sun Jan 19th, 2014 at 03:12:28 PM EST

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