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tv   The Civil War Abraham Lincoln Congress the Cabinet of 1862  CSPAN  April 9, 2021 5:35pm-6:25pm EDT

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tonight, we look at the cherokee nation. in the 1830s under president andrew jackson, the cherokees were forcibly removed from their lands in the southeastern u.s. in what became known as the trail of tears. professor lindsay robertson discusses the decisions issued by the supreme court in cases involving the cherokee nation, especially the role of chief justice john marshall. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. american history tv on c-span3. every weekend documenting america's story. funding for american history tv comes from these companies who support c-span3 as a public service.
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c-span's new online store. go there and order a book on the congressional directory. also contact information for governors and the biden administration. every c-span shop purchase helps expand the nonprofit operation. now, william harris, author of lincoln and congress, talks about the congress of 1862 and its promise to have secretary of state william seward replaced. from the american institute and ford theater society, this is about 45 minutes. >> i'm privileged to introduce our next speaker, dr. william harris. he is a native of alabama and
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earned his b.a. degree at alabama in 1954. he remembers seeing legendary alabama football coach bear bryant at the restaurant on campus before practice, but bill said he was always a little timid to approach the university coach. after serving in the air force, bill returned to tuscaloosa for graduate school. he earned his doctorate in 1965. his teaching took him to millsaps college and then north carolina state where he served as chair of the department of history. seven of his books relate to lincoln. notable among them, with charity for all: lincoln and the restoration of the union. winner of the 1998 lincoln
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prize. lincoln's last months, which came out in 2004 and received our own institute's book award. lincoln's rise to the presidency, which was awarded the henry adams prize by the society for history and the federal government. lincoln and the border states, 2011, which was co-winner of the lincoln prize, and his latest book, lincoln and congress, which treats the sometimes contentious, sometimes cooperative relationship between lincoln and capitol hill, although perhaps more cooperative than we sometimes think. lincoln, according to bill's work, really only had one important veto to deliver during his time as president. i could tell you that bill writes with intelligence, great insight, solid judgment, good humor, and popular appeal. bill has an active web presence, and if you enter his name, he comes up in a number of predictable categories for, you
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know, for his affiliations, for himself, as well as these things, which i found interesting. historians of the civil war will turn him up, and a category called living people will turn him up. i'm so glad bill is alive to share today's program with us and that we are alive to hear him. my lords, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming bill harris. [ applause ] >> good morning. it's an honor to be invited to deliver a talk about abraham lincoln on the stage of this historic theater.
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the biography of john wilkes booth is a must read, not only for the life and motivations of this assassin, but also for the history of american theater during the 19th century. abraham lincoln, en route to washington in february 1861 to become president, drafted the following words regarding his prospective relationship with congress. by the constitution, the executive may recommend measures which he may think proper, and he may veto those measures he thinks improper. and it is supposed he may add to these certain indirect influences to affect the action of congress. however, my political education he meant as a whig, strongly
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inclines me against a free use of any of these means by the executive to control the legislation of the country. as a rule, i think it's better that congress should originate as well as perfect its measures without external bias. former whigs, who were a majority in lincoln's republican party and would be in congress after the southern states left the union, had a similar political education. lincoln's rule of following his political education in his relations with congress would be tested during the civil war. as commander in chief, he believed that it was his primary constitutional duty to use armed forces to suppress the southern insurrection. still, what emerged was a partnership between lincoln and congress, including congress' role in financing the war, economic policies, and the right to investigate wrongdoing in the military.
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many members of congress wanted a larger hand in developing war policies. but lincoln successfully insisted that the executive branch and the military commanders must manage the war. relevant congressional committees, for example, thaddeus stevens' house ways and means committee correlated the nuts and bolts to run the government and provide for the financial and other means as well of the war machine. lincoln dutifully signed these measures. he also approved economic measures in which congress had taken initiative. they included the important pacific railway act, the homestead act, national banking acts, and the issuance of treasury notes and greenbacks.
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it is a mistake to believe that radicals like stevens in the house and charles sumner in the senate controlled the republican congress. the radicals, a vocal and shifting minority, increasingly pushed for emancipation and black rights, a hard war against the rebels, and a reconstruction policy controlled by congress. influential republican members, like senators lyman trumble of illinois and william pitt fessenden of maine could be found supporting some radical measures, for example, early emancipation, they later supported it. but not the other radical measures such as harsh reconstruction policy. a small block of conservative republicans, notably senator james doolittle of wisconsin, and lincoln browning, lincoln's
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illinois friend, opposed the policy and laws. in july 1861, andrew johnson in the senate and crittendon in the house introduced resolutions to define the purpose of the war, which also expressed lincoln's war aims. the johnson/crittendon resolutions showed that the present deplorable civil war had been pushed upon them by the southern states, now a result in the constitutional government that the war is for any part of spirit of oppression, not for subrogation, nor the purpose of interfering with the rights of
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established institutions of those states, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the constitution and preserve the union with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several states unimpaired, and that as soon as these objects are accomplished, the war ought to cease. the johnson/crittendon resolutions passed by a large margin of 117-2 in the house and 30-5 in the senate. even radicals like thaddeus stevens voted for the resolutions despite their desire for a statement calling for subrogation of the south. emancipation was later added to the republican war aims. lincoln, however, continued to insist, even after he issued his emancipation proclamation that his primary purpose was to save the union and restore the southern states with their rights unimpaired except for slavery. his anti-slavery policy became part of his overarching strategy
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to save the union. the war first had to be won. by the fall of 1862, the military situation largely under general george b. mcclellan's comma command, had become increasingly bleak with no apparent end in sight. inevitably the dismal political situation for the republicans reflected the war weariness of the people. also, republicans were not aided politically by lincoln's preliminary emancipation proclamation and by his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in september. the fall elections went against the republicans. though they retained control of congress by a smaller margin than before. opposition to the war and volunteering for the army even after mcclellan was replaced by
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admiral burnside grew. democratic leader horatio seymour's election as governor in new york, increased the republican disarray. by december 1862, many republicans in congress had unhappily concluded that lincoln was weak as a war leader and executive. though they acknowledged his good intentions. republicans, however, did not publicly criticize him. they feared the damaging effects that public attacks would have on the president for the war and their party. privately republicans felt little about questioning his leadership. senator trumble, who owed his election to lincoln, wrote a friend, you would be surprised in talking with public men in
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congress to find how few when you get at their real sentiments are for mr. lincoln. there is a distrust and fear that he is too undecided and inefficient to put down the rebellion. during the dark days of early 1862, republican leaders in congress came to the conclusion that the reorganization of the cabinet was necessary if the war was to be won. overwhelmingly, they wanted secretary of state seward replaced in the cabinet. and to a lesser extent, the anti-republican thunderbolt, postmaster general montgomery blair, an old fossil, edward bates, the attorney general. congressional republicans unfairly thought these cabinet members, especially seward, controlled the president and his administration's failure to pursue an aggressive policy to win the war.
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they also wanted lincoln to consult his cabinet on a regular basis. and not so much seward, who always seemed to have the president's ear. their opposition to seward dated back to the succession crisis in 1860 and 1861 when as a senator he offered an unrealistic compromise proposal to save the union, which many republicans believed was a sellout to the secessionists. seward, though, failed to pass the senate. hostility to him increased when he unsuccessfully sought to dominate the administration. seward presumed an interference in relations, apparently without the approval of the president, did not sit well with republicans in congress, and
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especially in the senate. william pitt feston today, an unsung leader in the history of the senate, expressed the opinion of many of his colleagues on both sides of the
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although the senate sherman announced his support of the resolution, he proceeded to attack it. the difficulty was with the president himself, sherman declared. he claimed that lincoln had neither dignity or firmness to be president. although sherman wanted to go directly to the president himself and tell him his defense, he doubted that even that would do any good. harris resolution committed to meet with the president past the republican congress by a unanimous vote. nine senators were chosen for the committee to be shared in vermont. president lincoln agreed to meet with the committee the
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next meeting. meanwhile the senator wrote a brief paper -- the use of the republican members of the senate as he understood them. the committee approved the paper, which significantly express the most unqualified confidence in patriotism and integrity of the president. identified as they are with the success of this administration, hence where the partnership comes in as well. the republican senators were deeply convinced of the public confidence requires a practical regard to oppositions and principles for executive consideration and action. senator king immediately informed him about the caucus forthcoming meeting with the president and its purpose. shaken by the news stewart
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submitted his resignation to the president and although lincoln had agreed to the meeting, he was not happy about it. he was suspicious of the motives of senators. lincoln called his friend senator lyndon into his office and anxiously asked him why did these men mean? he had attended the caucus and replied i hardly know, mister president but there are violent towards the administration and what we did yesterday was the gentleness thing that could be done in. whereupon lincoln declared they wish to get rid of me. i am sometimes disposed to gratify them. brown immediately realized that he had overstated the senators opposition to him. some of them do wish to get rid of you, they said, but almost all of them realized the fortunes of the country are bound up with your fortunes. you must stand firmly at your post and hold the realm with a steady hand, to relinquish it
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now would bring upon us certain demise. without it moved his reassurance lincoln -- we are now on the brink of destruction. it appears to me the almighty is against us, and i hardly can see a way of hope. as far as i'm aware, this is the only time that lincoln expressed fear for the success of the union at war. our friend here will probably be able to enlighten you more later. he might have expressed it on other occasions as well. as far as i have seen it's the only time he expressed fear that the union might not succeed. he assured him that the real object of the ultra practical men as brown characterize them,
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referring to the charges against stewart, the president commented. how will men begin -- and absurd lie. that they could not impose upon a child and repeat it in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. browning did not respond. i won't respond to that as well. lincoln then said, since i heard last night of the proceedings of this caucus, i have been more distressed about any event of my life. when the committee of the caucus met with lincoln on december 18th, senator began by reading his brief paper outline in the views could. lincoln must have been somewhat relieved to hear that the paper approved by the committee of the caucus was not an indictment of the administration. the paper as the caucus resolution stated,
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affirmed the senators competence and recommended only changes for his consideration and hopefully his actions. these changes were not specified in the paper but all knew that the replacement of the democratic generals -- the senate was concerned. when he had finished reading his paper he turn to other committee members for their opinions and then opened the discussion by criticizing the president by his leaving the conduct of the war in the hands of diplomatic military commanders who had little or no sympathy for the cause. other republican senators in a meeting with lincoln agreed. feston unfairly claimed that it was signaling unfortunate that almost every officer known as an anti-slavery man had been disgraced and that post slavery men that -- he as well as other senators expressed concern that lincoln had neglected to consult on important matters
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regarding the war. he also maintained that seward was not in accordance with the majority of the cabinet and exerted and interests influence upon the conduct of the war. festin however told lincoln that it was not the purpose of the republican senators to dictate to his cabinet which was somewhat contradictory. nonetheless, he said emergency of the national affairs rendered it necessary for the president to consult frequently with all the constitutional advisers for the friendly council. senator charles who chaired the senate foreign relations committee claimed that the secretary of state had statements were offensive in the presence of foreign ministers. among other wrongful
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actions, sumner charged that seward had written offensive dispatches which the president could not have seen or ascended to. after three hours, the meeting ended without any resolution. the next day, lincoln asked for another session that night, which was agreed to by the committee, the caucus, that meeting, lincoln had every cabinet member but seward to join him in the meeting. the president opened the discussion according to an account with a speech admitting that the cabinet had not been irregular in its consultations but excusing it for -- however, he said most questions of
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importance had received reasonable consideration, and he was not aware of any decisions of unity in the cabinet. lincoln acknowledged actions were taken without consulting the cabinet. he cited his reinstatement as commander of the army in virginia and henry w. -- as general and chief. lincoln insisted that stewart had not improperly interfered with the management of the earlier departments. despite claims to the contrary lincoln said that seward generally read him his official correspondents before sending them. after he had concluded his remarks lincoln asked members of his cabinet to say where they had been. had there been any lack of unity or
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insufficient consultation. secretary of treasury of state was in a bad position. he did not want to admit openly he had done underhanded and disloyal to the president, given congress is critical comments about scam -- according to secretary wells, he shamelessly endorsed lincoln. fully and entirely. other members of the cabinet also endorsed the presidents position with a notable exception of the secretary of war who remained silent. the senators in the meeting later repeated their criticism and the need for more cabinet meetings and consultations and the president on important issues. after five hours of discussion in which lincoln handled the committee members with considerable tact, enlivened with the usual anecdotes which feston did not appreciate the meeting ended. many of the members left the white house disappointed that the president did not at least indicate that he would accept
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seward's resignation. senator brown later asked how chase could stay to the committee that the cabinet had been harmonious when he had earlier schemed against it and the president. he answered, he lied. embarrassed by the incident, chase immediately submitted his resignation to the president. lincoln astutely refused and both seward and chase's resignation and he triumphantly remarked, the waves clear, the trouble has ended. he explained. now he was master of the administration. privately, some republicans and congress expressed outrage in the president's refusal to accept changes. the representative of massachusetts
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disgustingly wrote his wife; the president is an imbecile, and should be sent to the school for feebleminded youth. meanwhile, the poor country is going down, as fast as possible, despite the belief, conservatives and the cabinet, and even lincoln at first, the caucus and republican senators did not seek to dominate the administration. although they sought the removal -- the senators also wanted to make the president aware of the need for him to consult the cabinet on a regular basis. with the aim of pursuing a more vigorous
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and unified prosecution of the war. the cabinet crisis that largely cleared the air between the president and the party legals in congress, both realized the cooperation between the two branches of government to say the union and preserve constitutional government was to important for a rupture to occur in that relationship. although lincoln recognized the flaws in his method of management he never really corrected them. an exception was his consideration of the west virginia statehood bill. past a few days after his meeting with the caucus committee. the president asked and security approval and writing of his cabinet members to the bill, which he then signed. he continued, however and irregular practice of depending on individual members of the cabinet and old party hacks as they were characterized. later in the war only three of us -- the others were absent as usual without cost, and the course pursued sustains in this neglect.
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seward said every day when there is a cabinet meeting on cabinet days, statin does not go to the president, the president goes to him. the president who is now treasury secretary -- because there are no cabinet consultations and stays away according to wells. seward never forgot the president's support of him in the cabinet crisis of 1862 -- the secretary of state's faithful service to him or -- returning from the grants army on april 9th 1865, lincoln
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rushes to the bedside of seward who had been injured. for about half an hour the president sat and described the situation to his friend. he left while talking to seward when he fell asleep. they never saw each other again. thank you. [applause] oh i will take a few questions hopefully only able to enter. them >> in the beginning you referenced the radicals, if you could give us a fuller description of who they were and how they operated and whether they themselves considered themselves radicals? >> well yes they did consider themselves radicals those who are really radical. they were a minority, and the republican party. as i said.
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but in the beginning of the war, they went along with the johnson resolution, and it depended upon the war situation. later in the war. that resolution you know the only purpose of the war was to say the union restore the constitution. later in the war, they became more rattling radical and things went bad. they want to the south to pay and they certainly wanted a reconstruction part policy. one that reflected to preserve the fruits of the union victory in the south. modified freedom for blacks. and protection for the union officials. also the --
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a former confederate leaders. lincoln of course didn't go along with that. so lincoln viewed himself as a conservative. more of a moderate. and i have seen it used in a political sense, maybe on one occasion. but it is usually used in the sense of, of someone who is moderate, but not political issues. but radicals, it varied to. people like trumbull, would be considered a radical, but he supported lincoln's reconstruction policies. at least to some extent. and some heretical and some were not so radical. some after the war for example and the political winds, will
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be moved in the favor of those were there. but there were minorities but could get people to go long and also collaborated with other members of the party and they were not always fiery. >> thank you for this talk i was great it was great. >> my views probably like yours. the 21st century is not my bag. [laughs] [applause] >> thank you for the
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top. seward had been senator, the leader of the republicans in the senate. seward had been a senator for a long, time and a leader of the pro public and senate. he had been the trump runner for -- was really behind the mistrust? personalities, scheming, imperious nature? which they really have against him? >> well, in the beginning he was not liked as much in new england. among the republicans. he was the political manipulator. he was viewed by the south as a radical. too radical to win the presidency with the republicans in 1860. that's the reason lincoln was the choice of the republicans. he could win the lower north as
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you probably know. but then when the secession crisis hit after that, seward backtracked. he became nervous about what was happening. he could see there was going to be a war here. and he had enemies all along in the republican party. there were others as well. so then when he hesitated to become secretary of state that did not -- either. finally after he became secretary of state to the war began. he set himself up that did not -- let's say something else about seward here. by june, i believe, he was
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writing his wife -- one other thing he was willing to compromise a bit was -- that would violate the republican platform in 1860. he was writing his wife by june of 1861, that indeed lincoln is the best of us. they call that a collaborated during the war. a little bit too much collaboration as far as most republicans are concerned. whether they were radical or not. do little was a conservative republican. >> professor harris, was a lot of the antagonism like jacob khalid, unlike those who had a sense of humor. was it salmon peaches who are whispering and manipulations
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who stirred up the crisis? where chase, lincoln called or confronted chase and called his bluff on his intrigues? was it really salmon chase tearing up the senator? >> that might have been, but i think that it went back further than that and others regarding would even chase, certainly seward. during the crisis of course chase bailed out. he was confronted with that in the cabinet with lincoln. and the republican caucus. they are at the rest of the war they were antagonistic towards seward. but lincoln stood by and seward
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never forgot that. there were other issues that developed over foreign affairs. with the french, for example, late in the war. seward apologized to the french minister that the house of representatives -- trying to take over. foreign relations from the president. that was beaten down, ultimately, but stewart had just said don't worry about it. he told the french this. this is regarding mexico where most people the u.s. forces after the war could move into mexico and get rid of the french. but the republicans, not just
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the radicals, did not appreciate seward for saying that. it is documented, i think, as well. let's see, do we have one more question? >> mr. harris, thanks. you mentioned the joint committee on the conduct of the war. do you think that was a good thing? a bad thing? a mixture? on the joint committee? >> lincoln did not think it was a good thing, but he deferred to congress in terms of what committees they wanted and they came over and they would talk to lincoln and his response would be okay. but he didn't really -- he kept him at arms length.
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especially in points of commands. he was after lincoln from the beginning. he chaired that committee. most of them were republicans. it was sort of the middle of the roads for republicans. but then they began to see -- other generals as well, especially political situations. in 62 or 63. so they began to compound pretty hard here on lincoln and the conduct of the war. they want to changes, but again
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they did this not perfectly. that committee did investigate a lot. there were some injustices with the court must marshal. for this engagement near washington. it spent about six months in prison. it was an injustice. >> it was an injustice. >> they just threw him in, right. right. but that was an example. he went along to mature.
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lincoln and it. but in the end it controlled the big picture and that we will see that important thing. one more question, she said. >> thanks for your beautiful lecture. i have a question. how did president lincoln convince congress to add -- in two years? >> did you wet? >> to add two more states to the union? >> there were going to be republican states. two and and it was congress behind this primarily (laughter). west virginia as well. the unionist state, they were conservatives bulk senators. a became pretty much radical by
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the end of the war in the middle of the road. he, earlier in the war, it was kansas early before the war in 1860. bulk and nevada late in the war. this was really trying to get more electoral votes, and some republicans might have had that in mind. and then efforts in the south -- as well. not for lincoln i don't think. i think we can safely say that -- he never left the union. he wanted it back in the hands of the union people


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