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[135] January, 1862, Mr. Simon Cameron resigned his position as Secretary of War, and Mr. Edwin M. Stanton was appointed to fill his place. Mr. Stanton had not been in political life, and was known only as a lawyer in large practice, of strong grasp of mind and great capacity for labor. He had been a member of the Democratic party; and the selection of an able and honorable political opponent for such a place, at such a time, seemed an act alike of wisdom and magnanimity, which gave general pleasure. Thus the appointment was hailed with universal favor, and the highest hopes were entertained of an improved administration of the War Department, under a man fresh from the people, unscarred and unstained by political strife. But, in whatever other respects the country may have been a gainer by the introduction into the Cabinet of a man of Mr. Stanton's energy, it is certain that the hands of General McClellan were not strengthened by the change, and that the confidence reposed in him by the Administration was not thereby increased.1

1 The following is an extract from the journal of the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, under date of January 21, 1862, a few days after Mr. Stanton's appointment:--

Sir:--I am instructed by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the present War to inquire of you whether there is such an office as commander-in-chief of the army of the United States, or any grade above that of major-general. If so, by what authority is it created? Does it exist by virtue of any law of Congress, or any usage of the Government? Please give us the information asked for, at your convenience.

I remain, &c.,

This seems hardly respectful to the President of the United States, after his announcement in his Annual Message that he had appointed General McClellan to the very office which the committee insinuate does not exist; and had Abraham Lincoln been Andrew Jackson, he would have been a bold man who would have addressed such a letter to the Secretary of War. But we may infer that such a communication would not have been sent to Mr. Stanton unless the committee had surmised it would be welcome,--which inference is strengthened by the fact that the committee, on the preceding day, January 20, had had a conference with the Secretary, at his request, of several hours' duration.

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