Edwin M. Stanton
Edwin McMasters Stanton (December 19, 1814 – December 24, 1869) was an American lawyer and politician who served as Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

 under the Lincoln Administration during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 from 1862–1865. Stanton's effective management helped organize the massive military resources of the North and guide the Union to victory.

After Lincoln's assassination, Stanton remained as the Secretary of War under the new President Andrew Johnson during the first years of Reconstruction. He opposed the lenient policies of Johnson towards the former Confederate States. Johnson's attempt to dismiss Stanton led the House of Representatives to impeach him.

Early life and career

Stanton was born in Steubenville, Ohio
Steubenville, Ohio
Steubenville is a city located along the Ohio River in Jefferson County, Ohio on the Ohio-West Virginia border in the United States. It is the political county seat of Jefferson County. It is also a principal city of the Weirton–Steubenville, WV-OH Metropolitan Statistical Area...

, the eldest of four children to David and Lucy Norman Stanton. Throughout his childhood and adult life Stanton suffered from asthma. His mother ran a general store in Steubenville. His father was a physician of Quaker stock. Stanton's father died in 1827 when Edwin was only thirteen. Stanton was forced to leave school to help support his mother. Stanton began his political life as a lawyer in Ohio and an antislavery
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 Democrat. After leaving Kenyon College
Kenyon College
Kenyon College is a private liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio, founded in 1824 by Bishop Philander Chase of The Episcopal Church, in parallel with the Bexley Hall seminary. It is the oldest private college in Ohio...

 he returned to Steubenville in 1833 to get a job to support his family. He began studying law and was admitted to the Ohio bar
Bar (law)
Bar in a legal context has three possible meanings: the division of a courtroom between its working and public areas; the process of qualifying to practice law; and the legal profession.-Courtroom division:...

 in 1836. At the age of twenty one Stanton argued his first case before the court. Stanton built a house in the small town of Cadiz, Ohio
Cadiz, Ohio
Cadiz is a village in Harrison County, Ohio, United States. The population was 3,308 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Harrison County.-Geography:Cadiz is located at ....

, and practiced law there until 1847, when he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

. He resided at one point in Richmond, Ohio, in what is now Everhart Bove Funeral Home.

Law and politics

Stanton's legal career would bring him to practice in Ohio, then Pittsburgh, and finally in Washington, D.C. In 1856, Stanton moved to Washington, D.C., where he had a large practice before the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

. In 1859, Stanton was the defense attorney in the sensational trial of Daniel E. Sickles, a politician and later a Union
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 general, who was tried on a charge of murdering his wife's lover, Philip Barton Key II (son of Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet, from Georgetown, who wrote the lyrics to the United States' national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner".-Life:...

), but was acquitted after Stanton invoked one of the first uses of the insanity defense in U.S. history. In 1860 Stanton gave up a successful law practice and was appointed Attorney General in the lame-duck presidential administration of James Buchanan

Stanton was sent to California in 1858 by the US Attorney General as special Federal agent for the settlement of land claims, where he succeeded in breaking up a conspiracy to defraud the US government of vast tracts of land of considerable value.

Attorney general

In 1860, Stanton was appointed Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

 by President James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

. He strongly opposed secession, and is credited by historians for changing Buchanan's governmental position away from tolerating secession to denouncing it as unconstitutional and illegal. He also was thought to have said, "I love this country more than myself."

Civil War

Stanton was Lincoln's closest adviser during the American Civil War but was divided over the issue he supported arming freed slaves to fight in the Union Army. After Lincoln was elected president, Stanton agreed to work as a legal adviser to the inefficient Secretary of War, Simon Cameron
Simon Cameron
Simon Cameron was an American politician who served as United States Secretary of War for Abraham Lincoln at the start of the American Civil War. After making his fortune in railways and banking, he turned to a life of politics. He became a U.S. senator in 1845 for the state of Pennsylvania,...

 who was dismissed by Lincoln for including in his yearly report the call of freed slaves to be armed and used against the Confederate Army. Cameron was replaced by Stanton on January 15, 1862. Lincoln, who was unaware of Stanton's role in the report, appointed him as his new Secretary of War. He accepted the position only to "help save the country." He was very effective in administering the huge War Department, but devoted considerable amounts of his energy to the persecution of Union officers whom he suspected of having traitorous sympathies for the South, the most famous of these being Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter
Fitz John Porter
Fitz John Porter was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War...

. Stanton used his power as Secretary to ensure every general who sat on the court-martial
Court-martial of Fitz John Porter
The court-martial of Fitz John Porter was a major event of the American Civil War. Major General Fitz John Porter was found guilty of disobeying a lawful order, and misconduct in front of the enemy and removed from command based on internal political machinations of the Union...

 would vote for conviction or else be unable to obtain career advancement.

On August 8, 1862 Stanton issued an order to "arrest and imprison any person or persons who may be engaged, by act, speech or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments, or in any way giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or in any other disloyal practice against the United States."
The president recognized Stanton's ability, but whenever necessary Lincoln managed to "plow around him." Stanton once tried to fire the Chief of the War Department Telegraph Office, Thomas Eckert
Thomas Eckert
Thomas T. Eckert was an officer in the U.S. Army, Chief of the War Department Telegraph Staff from 1862–1867, United States Assistant Secretary of War from 1865–1867 and an executive at Western Union.-Eckert's Early Life:...

. Lincoln prevented this by praising Eckert to Stanton. Yet, when pressure was exerted to remove the unpopular secretary from office, Lincoln refused. His high opinion of Stanton can be seen from the following quote:
Stanton became a Republican and apparently changed his opinion of Lincoln.

After Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton strongly disagreed with Andrew Johnson's plan to readmit the seceded states to the Union without guarantees of civil rights for freed slaves. In 1867 President Johnson attempted to force Stanton from office and replace him with Ulysses S. Grant. Stanton refused to go and was supported by the Senate. After the Civil War Stanton remained as Secretary of War but found it difficult to perform his duties under the new president, Andrew Johnson.

Lincoln's assassination

When Stanton came to the Peterson House, he took charge of the scene. Mary Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Ann Lincoln was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and was First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865.-Life before the White House:...

 was so unhinged by the experience of the assassination that Stanton had her ordered from the room by shouting, "Take that woman out and do not let her in again!" At Lincoln's death Stanton uttered what became a memorable quote, "Now he belongs to the ages," and lamented, "There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen." He vigorously pursued the apprehension and prosecution of the conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination. These proceedings were not handled by the civil courts, but by a military tribunal
Military tribunal
A military tribunal is a kind of military court designed to try members of enemy forces during wartime, operating outside the scope of conventional criminal and civil proceedings. The judges are military officers and fulfill the role of jurors...

, and therefore under Stanton's tutelage. Stanton has subsequently been accused of witness tampering
Witness tampering
Witness tampering is harming or otherwise threatening a witness, hoping to influence his or her testimony.-Witness tampering in the USA:In the United States, the crime of witness tampering in federal cases is defined by statute at , "Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant"...

, most notably of Louis J. Weichmann
Louis J. Weichmann
Louis J. Weichmann was one of the chief witnesses for the prosecution in the conspiracy trial of the Abraham Lincoln assassination. Previously, he had been also a suspect because of his association with Mary Surratt's family.-Background and early life:Weichmann was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the...

, and of other activities that skewed the outcome of the trials.

Though, from the start, Booth was known to be the murderer, in the search for his conspirators, scores of suspected accomplices, probably some innocent ones, were arrested and thrown into prison. The suspects were finally winnowed to the eight prisoners, seven men and a woman, on whom there was enough evidence to try in court: Samuel Arnold
Samuel Arnold (Lincoln conspirator)
Samuel Bland Arnold was involved in the plot to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.He and the other conspirators, John Wilkes Booth, David Herold, Lewis Powell, Michael O'Laughlen and John Surratt, were to kidnap Lincoln and hold him to exchange for the Confederate prisoners in Washington D.C....

, George Atzerodt
George Atzerodt
George Andreas Atzerodt was a conspirator, with John Wilkes Booth, in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Assigned to assassinate Vice-President Andrew Johnson, he lost his nerve and did not make an attempt. He was executed along with three other conspirators by hanging.-Early life:Atzerodt...

, David Herold
David Herold
David Edgar Herold was an accomplice of John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. After guiding fellow conspirator Lewis Powell to the home of Secretary of State William H. Seward, whom Powell intended to kill, Herold fled and rendezvoused outside of Washington, D.C., with Booth...

, Samuel Mudd
Samuel Mudd
Samuel Alexander Mudd I, M.D. was an American physician who was convicted and imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released from prison in 1869...

, Michael O'Laughlen
Michael O'Laughlen
Michael O'Laughlen, Jr. was a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln...

, Lewis Powell
Lewis Powell (assassin)
Lewis Thornton Powell , also known as Lewis Paine or Payne, attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate United States Secretary of State William H...

, Edmund Spangler
Edmund Spangler
Edmund Spangler , also known as Edman, Edward, and Ned Spangler, was originally from York, Pennsylvania, but he spent the majority of his life in the Baltimore, Maryland area...

, and Mary Surratt
Mary Surratt
Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt was an American boarding house owner who was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was hanged, becoming the first woman executed by the United States federal government. She was the mother of John H...


Stanton ordered an unusual form of isolation for the eight suspects. He ordered eight heavy canvas hoods made, padded one-inch thick with cotton, with one small hole for eating, no opening for eyes or ears. Stanton ordered that the bags be worn by the seven men day and night to prevent conversation. Hood number eight was never used on Mrs. Surratt, the owner of the boarding house where the conspirators had laid their plans. A ball of extra cotton padding covered the eyes so that there was painful pressure on the closed lids. No baths or washing of any kind were allowed, and during the hot breathless weeks of the trial the prisoners' faces became more swollen and bloated by the day. The prison doctor began to fear for the conspirators' sanity, but Stanton would not allow them, nor the rigid wrist irons and anklets, each connected to a ball weighing seventy-five pounds, to be removed.

Andrew Johnson's administration

Stanton continued to hold the position of secretary of war under President Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

 until 1868. The two clashed over implementation of Reconstruction policy, so Johnson removed Stanton from the Cabinet and replaced him with Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

. However, this was overruled by the Senate, and Stanton barricaded himself in his office when Johnson tried again to replace Stanton with General Thomas, while radical Republicans initiated impeachment proceedings against Johnson on the grounds that Johnson's removal of Stanton without Senate approval violated the Tenure of Office Act. Stanton played a central role in the attempt to impeach President Andrew Johnson. Johnson escaped conviction by a single vote in the Senate.

U.S. Supreme Court moment

After this, Stanton resigned and returned to the practice of law. The next year he was appointed by President Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 to the Supreme Court, but he died four days after he was confirmed by the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

. He died in Washington, DC, and is buried there in Oak Hill Cemetery. Stanton did not take the necessary oath of office, according to the Supreme Court's official [ list of justices], which notes that:
"The acceptance of the appointment and commission by the appointee, as evidenced by the taking of the prescribed oaths, is here implied; otherwise the individual is not carried on this list of the Members of the Court. Examples: ..... Edwin M. Stanton who died before he could take the necessary steps toward becoming a Member of the Court."

Marriage and Family

On May 31, 1836, Edwin Stanton married Mary Lamson, and they had two children: Lucy Lamson Stanton (b. March 11, 1837) and Edwin Lamson Stanton (b. August 1842). They built a house in the small town of Cadiz, Ohio, and he practiced law there. Fifteen-month-old daughter Lucy died in 1841.

Mary Lamson Stanton died on March 13, 1844. The loss of his beloved wife sent Stanton spiraling into a deep depression. Then, in 1846, Stanton's brother Darwin cut his own throat - "The blood spouted up to the ceiling," a doctor recalled.

So many losses in so short a time changed Stanton, replacing a hearty good humor with a brusque, even rude, intensity. He moved to Pittsburgh, lost himself in legal work, and turned into a ferocious litigator.

Stanton on US Postage

Edwin Stanton was the second American other than a US President to appear on a US Postage issue, the first being Benjamin Franklin, who appeared on a stamp in 1847. The first and only Stanton stamp was issued March 6, 1871. This was also the only stamp issued by the post office that year. The Stanton 7-cent stamp paid the single rate postage for letters sent from the U.S. to various countries in Europe.


A distinctive engraved portrait of Stanton appeared on U.S. paper money in 1890 and 1891. The bills are called "treasury notes" or "coin notes" and are widely collected today. These rare notes are considered by many to be among the finest examples of detailed engraving ever to appear on banknotes. The $1 Stanton "fancyback" note of 1890, with an estimated 900–1,300 in existence relative to the millions printed, ranks as number 83 in the "100 Greatest American Currency Notes" compiled by Bowers and Sundman (2006). Stanton also appears on the fourth issue of Fractional Currency, in the amount of 50 cents. Stanton Park, four blocks from the United States Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

 in Washington, D.C., is named for him, as is Stanton College Preparatory School
Stanton College Preparatory School
Stanton College Preparatory School is an academically renowned American high school located in Jacksonville, Florida, whose history dates to the 1860s, when it was begun as an elementary school serving the African-American population under the then-segregated education system. It now serves...

 in Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

. A steam engine, built in 1862, was named the "E. M. Stanton" in honor of the new Secretary of War. Stanton County, Nebraska
Stanton County, Nebraska
-History:Stanton County was formed in 1865. It was named after the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton during the administration of President Abraham Lincoln.-Demographics:...

 is named for him. Stanton Middle School in Hammondsville, Ohio
Hammondsville, Ohio
Hammondsville is an unincorporated community in central Saline Township, Jefferson County, Ohio, United States. Although it is unincorporated, it has a post office, with the ZIP code of 43930. It lies along State Route 213...

 is named after him.

In popular media

  • In the 1930s, a book written by Otto Eisenschiml
    Otto Eisenschiml
    Otto Eisenschiml was an Austrian-born chemist and industrial executive in the American oil industry, and a controversial author...

     accused Stanton of arranging the assassination of Lincoln. Although these charges remain largely unsubstantiated, Eisenschim's book inspired considerable debate and the 1977 book
    The Lincoln Conspiracy (book)
    The Lincoln Conspiracy is a book by David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. promoting certain conspiracy theories concerning the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.-Cover-up of the plan to kidnap Lincoln:...

     and movie
    The Lincoln Conspiracy (film)
    The Lincoln Conspiracy is a 1977 film directed by James L. Conway that dramatizes certain conspiracy theories concerning the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The film, which is based on the 1977 book of the same name by David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier Jr., stars Robert...

    , The Lincoln Conspiracy.
  • In 1930, Stanton was portrayed by Oscar Apfel
    Oscar Apfel
    Oscar C. Apfel was an American film actor, director, screenwriter and producer. He appeared in 167 films between 1913 and 1939, and also directed 94 films between 1911 and 1927.-Biography:...

     in the movie Abraham Lincoln.
  • In 1972, Stanton appears in Philip K. Dick
    Philip K. Dick
    Philip Kindred Dick was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist whose published work is almost entirely in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments and altered...

    's We Can Build You
    We Can Build You
    We Can Build You is a 1972 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. Written in 1962 as The First in Our Family, it remained unpublished until appearing in serial form as A. Lincoln, Simulacrum in the November 1969 and January 1970 issues of Amazing Stories magazine, retitled by editor Ted White...

    in the form of a self-aware, cybernetic
    Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...

    An automaton is a self-operating machine. The word is sometimes used to describe a robot, more specifically an autonomous robot. An alternative spelling, now obsolete, is automation.-Etymology:...

  • In 1980, Stanton was portrayed by Richard A. Dysart in the TV movie The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd
    Samuel Mudd
    Samuel Alexander Mudd I, M.D. was an American physician who was convicted and imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released from prison in 1869...

  • Stanton appears prominently in the alternate history
    Alternate history (fiction)
    Alternate history or alternative history is a genre of fiction consisting of stories that are set in worlds in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world. It can be variously seen as a sub-genre of literary fiction, science fiction, and historical fiction; different alternate...

     Civil War trilogy by Newt Gingrich
    Newt Gingrich
    Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich is a U.S. Republican Party politician who served as the House Minority Whip from 1989 to 1995 and as the 58th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999....

     and William R. Forstchen
    William R. Forstchen
    William R. Forstchen is an American author who began publishing in 1983 with the novel Ice Prophet. He is a Professor of History and Faculty Fellow at Montreat College, in Montreat, North Carolina...

  • Stanton Davis Kirkham
    Stanton Davis Kirkham
    Stanton Davis Kirkham was a naturalist, philosopher, ornithologist and author. Although widely travelled, he resided primarily in Canandaigua, Ontario County, New York. He was born in Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France, the only child of Major Murray S...

     was named after Stanton by his father, Murray S. Davis, one-time confidential military aide to Stanton during his period as Secretary of War. (Source: "Olden Times in Colorado" by Carlyle Channing Davis.)
  • In the Clive Cussler
    Clive Cussler
    Clive Eric Cussler is an American adventure novelist and marine archaeologist. His thriller novels, many featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than seventeen times...

     thriller novel, Sahara, Stanton is described as being behind a cover-up of Lincoln's kidnapping and later death, in Confederate custody, aboard the ironclad CSS Texas
    CSS Texas
    The CSS Texas , was a twin propeller casement ironclad ram of the Confederate Navy, named for the state of Texas. She was sister ship to CSS Columbia...

    . Lincoln's body is later recovered by Dirk Pitt and given a state funeral in the Lincoln memorial.

  • In 2011, Stanton was portrayed by Kevin Kline
    Kevin Kline
    Kevin Delaney Kline is an American theatre, voice, film actor and comedian. He has won an Academy Award and two Tony Awards, and has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, two BAFTA Awards and an Emmy Award.- Early life :...

     in the Robert Redford
    Robert Redford
    Charles Robert Redford, Jr. , better known as Robert Redford, is an American actor, film director, producer, businessman, environmentalist, philanthropist, and founder of the Sundance Film Festival. He has received two Oscars: one in 1981 for directing Ordinary People, and one for Lifetime...

     film The Conspirator.
  • Stanton will be played by Bruce McGill
    Bruce McGill
    Bruce Travis McGill is an American actor who has an extensive list of credits in film and television. He is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Dalton on the television series MacGyver and as Daniel Simpson "D-Day" Day in National Lampoon's Animal House.-Early life:McGill was born in San...

     in Steven Spielberg
    Steven Spielberg
    Steven Allan Spielberg KBE is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, video game designer, and studio entrepreneur. In a career of more than four decades, Spielberg's films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as an...

    's upcoming film Lincoln
    Lincoln (2012 film)
    Lincoln is an upcoming 2012 biographical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln....


See also

  • American Civil War
    American Civil War
    The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

  • List of United States political appointments that crossed party lines
  • The Lincoln Cabinet
  • The court-martial of Fitz John Porter
    Court-martial of Fitz John Porter
    The court-martial of Fitz John Porter was a major event of the American Civil War. Major General Fitz John Porter was found guilty of disobeying a lawful order, and misconduct in front of the enemy and removed from command based on internal political machinations of the Union...

External links

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