3. Grant Takes Command
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59 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 3 GRANT TAKES COMMAND Two days after the election, President-elect Ulysses S. Grant left the quiet of Galena and headed to Washington. He had four months to choose cabinet advisers, and speculation abounded. Would he gather a “team of rivals,” as Abraham Lincoln had done? Would the cabinet be dominated by Radicals, men at the ideological forefront of the Republican Party, or would it be leavened by a moderate contingent representing those who had always viewed Grant as the party’s best hope for victory ? Would it be political at all, or would it be a more “personal” group of individuals with whom Grant felt comfortable? 6XJJHVWLRQVDERXWWKHFDELQHWDQGRWKHUR΀FHVJUHZWRDWRUUHQW and Grant worked to educate himself about men and measures. He took several trips, attending dinners and receptions in Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. On these trips and at army headquarters he held countless private conversations. As aide Adam Badeau wrote, “He receives all, he is willing to be informed of the various views, and he weighs the opinions advanced. He gives all respect to those especially whose positions in the party which elected him entitle them to be considered.” On occasion he journeyed to the Capitol for tête-àt ête sessions with Republican leaders. He listened more than he spoke, and whatever the source of advice, he did not tip his hand. His choices for cabinet seats remained a secret—even to most of the nominees— XQWLODIWHUKHKDGWDNHQWKHRDWKRIR΀FH$OWKRXJKKLVVLOHQFHIUXVWUDWHG CHAPTER 3 60 politicians and the press, most observers hoped that Grant’s reputation for tapping able subordinates during the war presaged his selection of an exemplary cast of civilian advisers. As one political reporter put it, “I question whether an incoming President ever before knew as much of the individuals from among whom his Cabinet must be selected as *UDQWRIWKHLULQGLYLGXDODQWHFHGHQWVWKHLUFOLTXHD΀OLDWLRQVDQGWKHLU respective capabilities.”1 Among the men mentioned, none drew more attention than Charles Sumner as a prospective secretary of state. Never a shrinking violet, Sumner believed his preeminence in the Republican Party, his broad foreign acquaintance, and his eight years as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee not only equipped him for but also entitled him to the top cabinet post. Nor did he wait for lightning to strike. In the midst of the impeachment crisis, Sumner had consulted with Senate president pro tempore Benjamin Wade about becoming secretary of state in an abbreviated Wade administration, which would have positioned him to UHWDLQWKHR΀FHXQGHU*UDQW7KHSOR\GLGQRWSDQRXWEXW6XPQHU·V ambition persisted. The day after the election he wrote to a friend that LIDFDELQHWSODFH´ZHUHRͿHUHGWRPHP\FRXQWU\KDVDULJKWWRGHtermine where I can work best.” In the succeeding days he distributed pamphlet copies of his lone campaign speech as evidence of his service to the Grant cause. His good friend Congressman Samuel Hooper noted that if Grant should make Sumner secretary of state, “it would be received as an indication of his policy to look to the republican party for the support of his administration.”2 2WKHUVKRZHYHUVFRͿHGDWWKHQRWLRQRI6XPQHUDVWKHDYDWDURI Republicanism and considered him singularly ill-suited to become the nation’s chief diplomat. &KLFDJR 7ULEXQH proprietor Joseph Medill reminded Washburne that “Sumner has never been a friend of the General ’s.” With the critical question of the $ODEDPD claims still pending, Sumner would be “so intent on peace with England that he would sacUL ÀFHDOOULJKWVGLJQLW\DQGVHOIUHVSHFWWRPDLQWDLQLW+HZRXOGOHW(QJODQG S>LV@VDOORYHUKLPUDWKHUWKDQUHVHQWLWµ-DPHV*%ODLQH³VODWHG to be Speaker in the new House of Representatives—warned, “ThouVDQGV RIPHQLQRXUSDUW\ZRXOGEHRͿHQGHGµE\6XPQHU·VDSSRLQWment . “We want a strong healthy $PHULFDQ feeling in Grant’s Cabinet— QRWEUDJJDGRFLR EOXVWHUEXWGLJQLW\ ÀUPQHVV \RXZLOOQRWKDYH it if Sumner is put in the State Dept.”3 Such objections amounted to so much preaching to the choir. Despite their shared commitment to Republican principles, the modest, GRANT TAKES COMMAND 61 plainspoken general had little in common with the pretentiously erudite and egotistical Bostonian who insisted on pronouncing the president’s name “Grawnt.” As one observer put it, “Mr. Sumner was...


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