As I believe I have reported before, I have now signed an agreement with Simon & Schuster to write a biography of Edwin McMasters Stanton. More than that: I am working away on the book, almost daily, gathering materials, taking notes, thinking about what I am going to say about particular periods in his life.
For the past few days I have been working my way through the published papers of Andrew Johnson. Stanton and Johnson interacted in two, perhaps three, ways.
First, from 1862 through early 1865, Johnson was the military governor of Tennessee. He was appointed by Stanton and he answered to Stanton, somewhat. Johnson wanted to rule Tennessee without much interference from Washington; and he wanted Washington to provide him the resources to do this. His letters to Stanton are filled with requests for this and that: a promotion for a favored officer, permission to raise regiments or pardon rebels, even to convert several cavalry units into a larger “governor’s guard.”
Second, from 1865 through 1868, Stanton was Johnson’s secretary of war. The tables were turned, now it was Stanton who was asking Johnson for the president’s approval on this or that military issue.
And third, in that same period, Stanton was Johnson’s political enemy. Almost from the day he became president, Johnson was receiving recommendations to remove Stanton almost from the day he became president. One man wrote to Johnson in September 1866 that “in the person of Edwin M. Stanton Sec. of War you have a Marplot who will prove a traitor to yourself and the Country. He is the first man to be removed to being harmony into the councils of the Nation. All the Democrats, and nine out of ten Republicans, look upon him with abhorrence and disgust.” Johnson SUSPENDED Stanton in the summer of 1867, replacing him with Grant, but in January 1868 the Senate refused to concur in the suspension, and under the Tenure of Office Act that meant that Stanton was once again secretary of war. Johnson could not stand it: a few weeks later, in February 1868, he fired Stanton, in apparent violation of the Tenure of Office Act. It was for this “crime” that Johnson was impeached: and during the impeachment Stanton was in the odd (but not for him awkward) position of siding with the impeachers against his president.
I have hundreds of pages of notes already, but there are hundreds of books and thousands of letters that are out there to read, so the book itself, my book, is still at least two years away.