How Lincoln's Assassination Affected His Cabinet Members


After Lincoln's death on April 15, 1865, at 7:22am on the morning of Good Friday, the people in the United States and the world over began to see Lincoln in another perspective after he became the first American president to be assassinated. This event ultimately changed the course of the lives for many people, especially those who were the closest to him. Lincoln's cabinet members obviously were affected the most by this turn of events and in the years following his death, some of his cabinet members went on to pursue ever greater achievements in their political careers and others hit dead ends.


Lincoln's Cabinet
Lincoln's Cabinet
William Seward
William Seward

William H. Seward, Secretary of State

Lincoln's Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, was convinced that he would become the next president but after Lincoln appointed him as his Secretary of State he never accomplished that goal. During the night of Lincoln's assassination, Seward and his son were attacked by one of Wilke Booth's men with a knife and survived the attack. Six weeks after the attack, Seward's wife Frances collapsed and died because you she never got over the horrible attack that took place against her husband and son on that night. A few months later Seward's daughter died from her illness with tuberculosis, two months short of her twenty-second birthday.

After Lincoln's death, Seward remained Secretary of State with the new president, Andrew Johnson, for the entire term. He later secured the purchase of Alaska. After retiring, Seward spent a lot of time traveling to Japan, China, India, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, and France. He died in 1872 at the age of seventy-one.

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War

Secretary of War, Edwin McMaster Stanton's poltical career came to a sudden halt after Lincoln's assassination. He continued to serve as Secretary of War under Andrew Johnson but he was never on the same page with the new president. He was often in open conflict with him. The president eventually ask for his resignation and Stanton refused to resign by barricading himself in his office for weeks. As a result of his action, an impeachment process was started by the senate to remove him from office, but the impeachment failed by one vote and Stanton finally submitted his resignation.

Stanton was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ulysses Grant. This was something Stanton wanted from the beginning of his career. Unfortunately his joy was short lived, Stanton suffered a severe asthma attack three days later and lapsed into unconsciousness. He died at the age of fifty-five.

Edward Bates, Attorney General

Attorney General Edward Bates basically removed himself from the political scene entirely due to health problems before Lincoln was re-elected. Bates spent the remaining years with his close knit family. He died in 1869 at the age of seventy-six.

Edward Bates
Edward Bates

Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of Treasury

Salmon Portland Chase, Lincoln's Secretary of Treasury, was another one of Lincoln's cabinet member who eyes were on the presidency. He tried twice to be the nominee for president after Lincoln's death. Both times he lost the bid for president.

After a heart attack and stroke, Chase fell into a depression and felt that there wasn't too much he could do with his life outside of politics. He died on May 7, 1873 with Kate and Nettie, his daughters, by his side. He was sixty-five.

Salmon P. Chase
Salmon P. Chase
Montgomery Blair
Montgomery Blair

Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General

Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General, did not accomplish too much in the ten year period after the assassination. He did serve as counsel to Democrat Samuel Tilden in the disputed election of 1876, which Republican Rutherford B. Hayes eventually won. Blair started writing a biography of Andrew Jackson when he died in 1883 at the age of seventy.

Gideon Welles, Secretary of The Navy

Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, who literally start the Navy remained in the cabinet until 1868. He wrote a series of historical essays and was the first to write about Lincoln as a towering figure.

Welles kept a very descriptive diary of his day to day activities while in office under Lincoln. He continued to edit it in his last years. This book eventually became the main source of information about the inner workings of Lincoln administration. Welles was seventy-five when he died from a strep infection in 1878.

Caleb B. Smith
Caleb B. Smith

Caleb B. Smith, Secretary of Interior

And finally, Caleb Blood Smith, Secretary of Interior from Indiana. No president before Lincoln had ever selected a man from that state in his cabinet. Smith's career came to an end less than two years after being appointed to the cabinet. He resigned and became a district judge in Indiana.

He died on January 9, 1864 sixteen months before Lincoln's assassination. After his resignation, Smith was succeeded by another politician from Indian named John Palmer Usher, and later by James Harlan of Iowa, who would become Robert Lincoln's father-in-law.

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© 2009 Melvin Porter

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Comments 3 comments

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ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

Adam Goodheart?

melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

ThoughtSandwiches, thanks for your comment. I have not read this book yet but I will after I finish reading "1861".

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

I have always viewed Stanton as the most talented of the bunch; however, I am willing to admit that the assessment is probably based on the fact that he was the Secretary of War during a very big war. Naturally, the eye will tend to settle on that office and the guy sitting in the chair.

That being said…In my opinion, Lincoln did all the heavy lifting in the management and prosecution of the Civil War…at least in the first three years of it. Have you read Lincoln and His Generals by T. Harry Williams?

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