I am reading this morning an interesting little book, a memoir by William Crook, body guard for Lincoln. Crook, when he arrived at the White House in January 1865, was a young police officer, detailed by the Washington chief to help guard the President. Crook remained on the White House staff after Lincoln’s death; indeed he was still there in January 1915, when he was honored by President Woodrow Wilson for fifty years of service.
Crook’s book, titled Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, was published in 1910. The passage of time means that the words Crook ascribes to Lincoln, Johnson, Grant and others cannot be taken as gospel. Still there is much that it is useful. Crook mentions, for example, that Lincoln would walk from the White House to the War Department through the grounds, rather than out through the main gate, crossing at an ordinary turnstile.
One passage in Crook’s discussion of the Johnson impeachment struck me as having sound common sense.
“One surely did not have to know about constitutional questions to understand that a president should be surrounded by a cabinet whose members are in sympathy with him, and that if one member consistently opposes him and all the other members, and refuses to resign, the President should have the right to dismiss him.”
That is surely right: Stanton should have resigned.