Monday, January 28, 2013

the last book I ever read (Rise to Greatness by David Von Drehle, excerpt five)

from Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year by David Von Drehle:

Lincoln often welded political leaders to the Union cause by making them generals—some of them because they had relevant military experience, but many more simply because of their influence with one political group or another. “In regard to the patronage sought with so much eagerness and jealousy, I have prescribed for myself the maxim, ‘Fairness to all,’” Lincoln declared. Though Republicans seethed, Lincoln was careful to give stars to a number of prominent Democrats, never forgetting that the opposition carried nearly 45 percent of the Northern vote in 1860. He made generals of John A. Dix, a former Democratic senator from New York; John McClernand, the leading Democrat in southern Illinois; Benjamin Butler, the most prominent Massachusetts Democrat; and, most notably, George McClellan.

Lincoln also catered to ethnic groups. He made the Irish nationalist hero Thomas Meagher a brigadier general, one of a dozen Irish-born Union generals who served in the war. An order to the War Department gives a window into Lincoln’s thinking about military patronage. “There has got to be something done unquestionably in the interest of the Dutch, and to that end I want Schimmelfennig appointed.” Lincoln knew that the name alone would delight German-Americans. He even learned to be attentive to the religious denominations of his appointees, after being scolded for putting too many Episcopalians in his cabinet. “I must do something for this great Methodist church,” he told a visiting congressman. “Seward is an Episcopalian, Chase is an Episcopalian, Bates is an Episcopalian, and Stanton swears enough to be one.”

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