Stanton's First Meeting with Cabinet Traitors2

    When General Cass—grieved and indignant—left Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet, Mr. Attorney-General Black was transferred to the portfolio of State, and Mr. Stanton, then absent from Washington, was fixed upon as Attorney-General.  The same night he arrived at a late hour, and learned from his family of his appointment. Knowing the character of the bold, bad men, then in the ascendency in the Cabinet, he determined at once to decline; but when, the next day, he announced his resolution at the White House, the entreaties of the distressed and helpless President, and the arguments of Mr. Black, moved him to accept.
    At the first meeting of the Cabinet which he attended, the condition of the seceded States and the course to be pursued with the garrison at Fort Sumter, were discussed, Floyd and Thompson dwelling upon "the irritation of the Southern heart," and the folly of "continuing a useless garrison to increase the irritation." No one formally proposed any course of action, but the designs of the conspirators were plain to the new Attorney-General. He went home troubled. He had intended, coming in at so late a day, to remain a quiet member of this discordant council. But it was not in his nature to sit quiet longer under such utterances.
    The next meeting was a long and stormy one, Mr. Holt, feebly seconded by the President, "urging the immediate reinforcement of Sumter, while Thompson, Floyd and Thomas contended that a quasi-treaty had been made by the officers of the Government with the leaders of the rebellion, to offer no resistance to their violations of law and seizures of Government property. Floyd, especially, blazed with indignation at what he termed the "violation of honor." At last, Mr. Thompson formally moved that an imperative order be issued to Major Anderson to retire from Sumter to Fort Moultrie—abandoning Sumter to the enemy, and proceeding to a post where he must at once surrender. Stanton could sit still no longer, and rising, he said with all the earnestness that could be expressed in his bold and resolute features:
    "Mr. President, it is my duty as your legal adviser to say that you have no right to give up the property of the Government, or abandon the soldiers of the United States to its enemies; and the course proposed by the Secretary of the Interior, if followed, is treason, and will involve you and all concerned in treason !"
    Such language had never before been heard in Buchanan's Cabinet, and the men who had so long ruled and bullied the President were surprised and enraged to be thus rebuked. Floyd and Thompson sprang to their feet with fierce, menacing gestures, seeming about to assault Stanton. Mr. Holt took a step forward to the side of the Attorney-General. The President implored them piteously to take their seats. After a few more bitter words the meeting broke up. That was the last Cabinet meeting on that exciting question in which Floyd participated.  Before another was called all Washington was startled with the rumor of those gigantic frauds which soon made his name so infamous. At first he tried to brazen it out with his customary blustering manner, but the next day the Cabinet waited long for his appearance. At last he came; the door opened—his resignation was thrust into the room, and Floyd disappeared from Washington, with a brand of infamy upon him, which only ceased to increase in blackness till the time when be was called to his final account.
    Such was the end of Floyd and the beginning of Stanton. Stanton and Holt were "noble co-laborers in that dark period of the country's political travail, and nobly did they sustain themselves through the four years' conflict.

Hit Counter visits since 12/13/03
page revised 05/24/2006