Lincoln’s Election, Southern Secession: 1860 to April 1861


Whom did Lincoln choose as members of his Cabinet?

The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has aptly described Lincoln’s Cabinet as a “team of rivals.” As a minority president, Lincoln wanted to embrace as much of the country as possible in his Cabinet: he was even ready to have Southerners. The single most important choice was that which came first: secretary of state.

William H. Seward had been one of the standouts of the Republican Party for half a dozen years, and a national figure for five years before that. A fine speaker possessed of strong convictions, Seward had positioned himself too far to the left (in our modern parlance) to win the Republican nomination in 1860. Lincoln needed Seward, however; in fact, they both needed each other. Lincoln offered the post of secretary of state and Seward accepted, believing he would be well positioned to guide the inexperienced president-elect. For secretary of war, Lincoln chose Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, another of his former political rivals, and for secretary of the treasury he chose Salmon P. Chase. All the Cabinet members did not meet until Lincoln reached Washington, D.C.


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