Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Stanton, Edwin McMasters from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1814–69, American statesman, b. Steubenville, Ohio. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1836 and began to practice law in Cadiz. As his reputation grew, he moved first to Steubenville (1839), then to Pittsburgh (1847), and finally to Washington, D.C. (1856), becoming ever more prominent in his profession. In Dec., 1860, Stanton, a Democrat but a strong Unionist, succeeded Jeremiah S. Black as U.S. Attorney General in President Buchanan's cabinet. Later, he became legal adviser to Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War, Simon Cameron. Appointed to take Cameron's place in Jan., 1862, he proved to be an extremely forceful and able Secretary of War. Contracts ceased to be opportunities for graft; the railroads were placed under military control; and Union generals in the field were supplied with necessary men and matériel. One of the leading radicals in the Lincoln administration, Stanton worked closely with the radicals in Congress and used his influence with Lincoln to advance their program. Deeply grieved by Lincoln's death, he arranged for a swift trial of the alleged conspirators by a military court. Stanton remained in President Andrew Johnson's cabinet, but serious differences over Reconstruction policy led Johnson to demand (Aug., 1867) his resignation. When he refused to resign, Johnson suspended him, first appointing Ulysses S. Grant as secretary ad interim and then appointing Lorenzo Thomas as permanent Secretary of War. Stanton, however, barricaded himself in his office, and the radicals in Congress, claiming that Johnson's actions violated the Tenure of Office Act, initiated impeachment proceedings against him. When Johnson was acquitted (May, 1868), Stanton resigned. He died shortly after President Grant appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • See biographies by F. Pratt (1953, repr. 1970) and B. P. Thomas and H. M. Hyman (1962);.
  • study by R. G. Mangrum (1980).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Stanton, Edwin McMasters (1814–1869)
American Civil War: A State-by-State Encyclopedia

U.S. attorney general and secretary of war. Edwin McMasters Stanton was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on December 19, 1814. He attended Kenyon College

Full text Article Stanton, Edwin M. (1814–1869)
Reconstruction: A Historical Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic

Aside from perhaps only Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, Edwin McMasters Stanton was the indispensable man during the Civil War. Vain and dedic

Full text Article Stanton, Edwin McMasters
American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document collection

Birth Date: December 19, 1819 Death Date: December 24, 1869 U.S. attorney general and secretary of war. Edwin McMasters Stanton was born in Steubenv

See more from Credo