had hoped to be Secretary of State
His anticipations, indeed, began earlier still.
It was positively arranged at the time of the impeachment of Andrew Johnson
that he was to have the State Department if Wade
had gone into the Presidency; and even under Lincoln
there was an occasion when he expected to supplant Seward
He thought himself especially fit for the post, and if acquirement and ornate eloquence were the prime requisites for a Secretary of State
he might have filled the position with a certain degree of brilliancy.
But though, with Sumner
's consent, his friends pressed his name for the first position in the Cabinet
never for a moment entertained the idea of appointing him. There was, indeed, little congruity between the plain and almost rugged soldier, used to war and actual strife, to directing armies and planning campaigns, and the polished rhetorician, the elaborate student of phrases, the man of the closet, the Senate, and of society.
always felt—perhaps with many others—that the career of the soldier should have closed with the war. Arma cedant togoe
was always in their hearts, if not upon their lips.
, and Seward
, and Stanton
, and some of their successors, felt themselves better equipped in the arts of statesmanship than they believed any mere warrior could be, and they were undoubtedly jealous of the civic honors given to those who, they thought, should have been content with military rewards.
But the people
did not agree with them.
It was a foregone conclusion from the close of the war that Grant
should be the next President
In all ages the successful commander is the most generally popular of the aspirants for public favor, and in Grant
's case the highest honors of the State
were absolutely pressed upon him, not only unsought, but at first undesired.
was slow in accepting the situation, but he finally fell into line and made a speech or two in favor of Grant
during the Presidential canvass of 1868.
After this he expected the appointment to the State Department.
The world knows that he was disappointed in his expectations.
Still, at first Grant
had a high appreciation of Sumner
's character and ability.
They had not been thrown together intimately, but Grant
admired the steadfast position of the anti-slavery champion, as he always admired steadiness whether in friend or foe. He believed in Sumner
's scholarship, which he had heard of, but could not verify; he fancied that Sumner
was a statesman; and he felt the remains of the indignation which burst out all over the North
after the dastardly attack of Brooks
had elevated the victim into a martyr.
had been for years on intimate terms with Fish
; had dined at Fish's house weekly while they were together in the Senate; and had been a constant visitor at Fish
's homes in town and country in New York.
had seen Sumner
often in Paris
while the orator lay suffering from the blows received in the Senate chamber
Thus when Fish
entered the Cabinet
he naturally turned to his old associate and friend, who had been more lately familiar with high politics than himself; for Fish
had been out of the public service for twelve years, while Sumner
was at this time chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The official relations of the two brought them at once into close companionship.
's Administration was three months old Motley
sent to England
to please Sumner
, without whose interposition he would at most have been returned to Vienna
But almost immediately Sumner
's dictatorial disposition and imperious behavior began to make trouble.
The Clarendon-Johnson Treaty was still before the Senate when Grant
, and in April, 1869, without consulting the Administration, Sumner
made his famous speech, in which he claimed that the war had been ‘doubled in duration’ by the English
‘intervention,’ and that ‘England
was responsible for the additional expenditure’ which America
's position in the Senate, and his well-known personal relations with Fish
, the country would have a right to presume that these views were shared by the Administration, and this speech at once compelled the President
and the Secretary of State
to consider and define their own position.
It was very different from Sumner
's. They held that though England
had been most unfriendly in her prompt recognition of Southern belligerency, she was yet within her rights as an independent nation in making the recognition; and they were far from maintaining that she was responsible for all the subsequent or consequential damages.
When therefore, Sumner
's view was presented to the Administration by Motley
as the basis for his own instructions, it was necessarily rejected.
At this Sumner
became very indignant, and at times was almost offensive in behavior.
He considered the rejection a personal slight to himself, and threatened, as I have already stated, to induce Motley
Nevertheless for a while he retained a show of amicable relations with the Government
I remember that I dined with him a night or two before I left Washington
to accompany Motley
, and he was in high spirits, though I fancy he had not then seen Motley
's final instructions, which were only concluded at the last moment, and reached the Minister
just as he was about to sail.
wrote me once while I was in England
a diffuse letter defending himself against the criticisms
of his former English friends, who were all very indignant at the position he had assumed.
He gave me leave to use the letter, and I sometimes tried to explain to one or two what seemed to them most offensive in his views; but with little success.
I returned to Washington
four months later, and during the winter the question of St. Domingo
came up. I was never taken into the confidence of those who originated that scheme, and I know no more of it than the public knows.
The President once or twice spoke of it to me, and expressed a desire for the ratification of the treaty, and I wrote one or two articles in favor of it for the newspapers, because it was an Administration measure.
I learned the general arguments that were offered from a public point of view, and I thought there were reasons why the acquisition of territory in St. Domingo
was desirable; but at this time the President
did not seem to me to have set his heart so much upon the measure as afterward.
I believe it was the heat of the contest that made him so eager for success at last; for he had the soldier's instinct even in civil affairs; when he was once engaged in battle he was always anxious to win.
, General Grant
told me, at first acquiesced in the scheme; but he afterward opposed it bitterly.
Those who surrounded Grant
thought that the opposition was more on personal than public grounds.
was displeased because he could dictate neither the policy nor the appointments of the Administration.
were both men unused to dictation; they both resented it; and the antagonism between the characters of Grant
soon became apparent.
's enormous conceit was evident in words and tones and acts to every one with whom he came in contact.
He thought his judgment and knowledge so far superior to those of a plain soldier like Grant
that he could not conceal the idea; and he was besides utterly unpractical as a statesman, so that not only the simplicity and modesty
were shocked by the pompous self-assertion and conspicuous vanity of the orator, but the executive ability and plain common sense of the President
were as different as could be from the high-sounding theories and impossible suggestions of the inflated doctrinaire.
was practical enough in the pursuit of power, and in providing for his friends.
He was always a place-hunter for others, and knew as well as any man how to build up and maintain a personal party by finding positions and employments for his adherents.
I cannot say that he could have been induced to support the St. Domingo
scheme by offers of patronage; but I do know that men in Grant
's Cabinet thought and said so at the time.
was especially anxious that a certain friend of his named Ashley
should have a high appointment; he was always adverting to this when important measures were discussed.
‘Why don't you do something for Ashley
was his constant cry. Grant
had some reason, I never knew what, for refusing this request; perhaps it was in part an obstinate unwillingness to be forced or persuaded into anything; he had held out so long, he would hold out to the end. For he was often, I thought, maladroit in the distribution and withholding of patronage.
Regarding it as he did, and as everybody did at that time, as a legitimate means of party support, and believing that it was clearly within his province to distribute office as he chose—he might have won many important people whom he drove away; he was not pliable enough for a politician.
He thought he would not truckle to the press, and therefore he defied and fought the great journals and journalists of the country.
But by a judicious use of legitimate political advantages, and by personal advances that coming from him would have conferred distinction, he might have retained as friends many who became his bitterest enemies.
I thought at first that even Sumner
's friendship need not have been lost.
In the winter
of 1870, one of Grant
's Cabinet said to him: ‘General, you can get St. Domingo
's support if you will give him something for Ashley
’; but Grant
refused bluntly and almost sternly.
The Cabinet officer may have been right or wrong; but I believe now that no concessions could long have retained Sumner
as a friend.
He wanted too much; to control absolutely; and the more that was yielded the more he claimed.
had the same trouble with him as Grant
, but was more adroit.
He avoided open ruptures by seeming to concede, by playing upon Sumner
's vanity, by making him believe that he suggested measures which the Administration had already determined on.
finally became assured that the St. Domingo
treaty could not pass the Senate; a private count was taken, and it was ascertained that the requisite two-thirds could not be obtained in its favor, though more than a majority would vote for it. When this was certain Fish
became anxious to settle the question definitely, and begged Sumner
, who as Chairman
of the Committee
on Foreign Affairs could control the situation, to bring up the treaty and reject it, so as to have done with the matter; but Sumner
was determined to make the Government
withdraw the treaty, a peculiar humiliation to which Grant
refused to submit.
Late in the spring of 1870, Fish
went to Sumner's house.
It was night, and the Secretary
was returning from a dinner; he was ushered into Sumner
's library and found him in tears.
The domestic relations of the Senator
, the world knows, were very unhappy, and he was depressed and probably contemplating them.
He was not rich, and confessed that the state of his affairs also troubled him. Fish
remembered their old time friendship and sought to console him. He said: ‘Reject this treaty, Sumner
, and let the Senate adjourn; then go abroad for the summer; get away from your cares and think of something else.’
was at this time
preparing an edition of his speeches or some similar work, and Fish
urged him to apply himself to this as a distraction.
said he could not afford to go abroad, and Fish
in the effusion of the moment, and knowing that Motley
was to be recalled, exclaimed: ‘How would you like to be Minister to England
The moment he heard his own words, he recognized his mistake.
He perceived that the offer might be misconstrued, and regretted what he had said.
simply replied: ‘No, I cannot disturb Motley
,’ and Fish
eagerly acquiesced; ‘No, I see,’ he said, ‘you are right, you could not supplant Motley
Not another word passed between them on the subject, yet this has been called an attempt to bribe Mr. Sumner
into the support of the St. Domingo
treaty by the offer of the English
In this very interview Fish
had already urged Sumner
to bring up the treaty and reject it; for the Administration had fully made up its mind that the measure was lost.
Twice before this Grant
had told Fish
that he meant to remove Motley
; once when Motley
's report of his first interview with Lord Clarendon arrived; next when it was discovered that Motley
had submitted his account of the interview to the Foreign Office in London
, and thus made it a part of the British
archives; but on each occasion Fish
had interposed to save the envoy.
I have already stated in a previous chapter that in May when I was leaving Washington
, the President
told me he had certainly determined to remove Mr. Motley
On the 30th of June, the St. Domingo
treaty was rejected, and on the 1st of July Motley
was requested to resign.
The determination was executed then which had long before been arrived at; but I have no doubt whatever that the decision of the Senate accelerated the action of the President
The axe had been hanging, but now Grant
let it fall.
It was on the night of July 1st that General Grant
desired Mr. Fish
to request the resignation of Motley
; but the President
that the Secretary
would telegraph, and a week or two later when he discovered that Fish
had merely written, he requested him to telegraph; and the Secretary of State
of course complied.
For some months all personal relations between Sumner
had used language highly disrespectful and injurious to the President
; not only attacking his acts but impeaching his motives, and making himself personally as well as politically offensive, and Grant
was not the man to endure this without resenting it. He did not measure his own language in commenting on that of the Senator
Nevertheless, Mr. Fish
had continued his intercourse with Sumner
, though it was of course constrained; for Sumner
criticised the Secretary
with a contemptuous sort of condescension, saying that Fish
meant well, but was used by others.
was aware of the language, but it was so important to preserve a sort of concord in their official relations that he overlooked what otherwise he might have considered unpardonable.
He was in the Senate Chamber
shortly after the nomination of Motley
's successor was sent in, and went up as usual to Sumner
's desk; Sumner
almost provoked a rupture then, but finally thought better of it; and things went on for awhile as before in spite of the Motley imbroglio.
When the Senate re-assembled in December the new committees were formed; but though the treaty of St. Domingo
had been rejected in July, principally through Sumner
's efforts, no attempt was made by the Administration to procure the deposition of Sumner
from his place as Chairman
of the Committee
on Foreign Affairs.
If the Government
had wished to avenge itself in that way for Sumner
's opposition to the treaty, now was the time, for his imperious behavior had made him many enemies as well as rivals in the Senate, but not a step was taken, not a word uttered by the President
or one of his Cabinet in that direction.
and peremptorily removed in December, and in January the Senate called for the entire correspondence on the subject.
In this correspondence Motley
had, with very bad taste, referred to the rumor that he had been removed because of Sumner
's opposition to the St. Domingo
scheme, and Fish
replied with some severe strictures, which, however, in no way reflected on Sumner
, nevertheless, at once resented them for his friend; he refused at a dinner at General Schenck
's house to speak to Mr. Fish
, and afterward announced in the Senate that he had ‘cut the Secretary of State
At that very time negotiations for the Treaty
Sir John Rose
had been sent out from England
to prepare the way for the Joint High Commission that followed.
, a night or two before, in spite of all that had occurred, had visited Sumner
and consulted him in regard to the Treaty
, which of course must go to the Senate for confirmation.
had, however, stipulated for some provisions that would have put a stop to all negotiations whatever with England
He sent Fish
a written memorandum in which he declared that ‘the withdrawal of the British
flag from this hemisphere—including the provinces and islands’—--must be a ‘condition preliminary’ to any settlement.
This preposterous proposition was of course never entertained for a moment by the Administration, for no statesman on either side of the Atlantic
could conceive of its acceptance by England
could reply to the note, however, the dinner occurred at which Sumner
declined the acquaintance of the Secretary
Sir John Rose
was present at the dinner, which, as I have said, was given by General Schenck
, then recently appointed Minister to England
; so that in the midst of the negotiation on so grave a question, on which he was himself officially to act, Sumner
refused to associate with the principal representative and spokesman of his own Government.
The conferences with Rose, however, continued, and he at last returned to England
, the bearer of information which resulted in the dispatch of three Commissioners from the British Government
who negotiated with our own representatives the Treaty
The British Commissioners arrived in this country in the last days of February; the new Senate assembled on the 4th of March, and then the Administration, with whom it was evident that Mr. Sumner
could not or would not work, exerted itself to procure the selection of another Chairman
of the Committee
on Foreign Affairs.
would speak neither to the President
nor to the Secretary of State
, and it was impossible to carry on public business without such communication between these high officials.
Neither the President
nor the Secretary
would resign, and Sumner
was less powerful than they.
He was deposed.
Not only his manner but his doctrines contributed to his downfall.
It was impossible to negotiate or even prepare a Treaty with the stipulations which he had declared indispensable.
It was absurd to suggest or suppose that England
would think of withdrawing her flag from this continent; the bare mention of such a proposition would have been an insult; and the idea was as Quixotic and unstatesmanlike as ever entered the brain of a sane politician; it alone demonstrated the unfitness of its author for the conduct of foreign affairs.
felt the blow that was dealt him almost as keenly as the strokes of Brooks
; both were delivered in the Senate Chamber
Following on the heels of his domestic troubles this later misfortune affected, not only his feeling, but his judgment and his political consistency.
When the next elections came on he joined hands with those who had been, not only his enemies, but those of his country, in order if possible to overthrow Grant
This completed his political destruction.
He was censured by a vote of the Massachusetts
Legislature, and though the censure was revoked he never regained his influence.
His health and spirits soon gave way. He was deposed in the Senate in 1872.
The same year Grant
was re-elected by a triumphant majority.
lingered a year or two in physical and mental suffering and in 1874 he died.
The physicians called the disease angina pectoris;
it was rightly named, the anguish of a disappointed heart.