HON. EDWIN M. STANTON, who first saw the light of day in what was then a two-story brick building on the west side of Third street, a short distance below Washington, December 19, 1814. Mr. Stanton's ancestors, who were Quakers, migrated from Rhode Island to North Carolina, about the middle of the alst century. His grandparents, Benjamin and Abigail Stanton, resided near Beaufort, the maiden name of the latter being Macy. She was a descendant of THomas Macy, who was said to be the earliest white settler of Nantucket, and whose flight as a result of giving shelter to a pursued Quaker was made the subject of a fine poem by John G. Whittier. In 1800 Mrs. Stanton and a large family of children came to Ohio, and David Stanton, the father of Edwin M., became a physician of standing and influence. His mother's maiden name was Lucy Norman, a native of Culpepper county, Va. Edwin, at the age of thirteen, became a clerk in the book store of James Turnbull, and after remaining here about three years went to Kenyon college in 1831. He left college in 1833, and after spending a short time in a Columbus book store returned to Steubenville and began the study of law in the office of his guardian, Daniel L. Collier. At the age of twenty-one or shortly after (1836), he was admitted to the bar, and opened an office in Cadiz, Harrison county, where he was shortly after elected prosecuting attorney. He built up a large practice, and having in the meantime returned to Steubenville, he was elected by the general assembly of the state, reporter of the decisions of the supreme court, which office he held from 1842 to 1845, publishing volumes 11, 12 and 13 of the Ohio State Reports. Mr. Stanton was a democrat in politics, in his early days, and had already at this date become a prominent figure in the councils of his party. His reputation was already extended and in 1845 he successfully defended Caleb J. McNulty, clerk of the house of representatives, tried in the criminal court at Washington for embezzlement. In 1847 he removed to Pittsburgh, forming a partnership with Hon. Charles Shaler, but kept an office in Steubenville for nine years thereafter. His first Steubenville partner was Judge, Tappan, and his second Col. Geo. W. McCook. The case of the State of Pennsylvania against the Wheeling & Belmont bridge company, in which he was counsel for the state of Pennsylvania, before the United States Supreme Court, attracted such general attention as to greatly increase his business before that court, so in 1856 he moved to Washington, D. C., in order to better attend to it. In 1858 he went to California, as counsel for the government in some important land cases, and was also attorney in quite a number of intricate patent cases. In 1859 he was associate counsel in the trial of Daniel E. Sickles for the murder of Philip Barton Key. He met Mr. Lincoln the same year while engaged before the United States circuit court at Cincinnati, in a suit growing out of a conflict between the Manney and McCormick reaping machine interests, and in December, 1860, while engaged in the samecase he was nominated to the office of attorney general by James Buchanan. Signs of troublesome times were already apparent, but Mr. Stanton's position was firmly taken on the side of national honoe, and the preservation of the government of the Union. He retired from the cabinet with the close of Mr. Buchanan's administration and resumed the practice of his profession, but in January, 1862, he was appointed by Mr. Lincoln to the office of secretary of war. Here he was in a position, where his genius and almost boundless energy had full play. His efforts were indefatigable, he used little time for rest, never seemed weary, and many of the most important movements of the great struggle was made under his directions. To his untiring energy, keen intellect and profound sagacity is due in no small degree the result of the conflict. He enjoyed the most cordial personal friendship of President Lincoln to the time of the latter's assassination in 1865, and upon Andrew Johnson's accession to the presidency, was requested to continue in charge of the war department. He differed with the president, however, in regard to the reconstruction acts, the bill admitting Colorado as a state, the bill giving suffrage without regard to color in the District of Columbia, and the Civil Rights and Freedman's Bureau bills, supporting the position of the republican party, it having a majority in congress. Matters at length reached such a pass that on the 5th of August, 1867, Mr. Johnson requested his resignation on the ground of "public considerations of a high character", to which Mr. Stanton replied that "public considerations of a high character which alone had induced him to remain at the head of of this department constrained him not to resign before the next meeting of congress". He could not be removed under the tenure of office act, but on AUgust 12th the president issued an order for his suspension, and he obeyed it under protest, Gen. Grant being appointed secretary of war ad interim. The senate refused to sustain the president in the removal of Mr. Stanton, and on January 13, 1868, reinstated him in his office. Mr. Johnson renewed the conflict by appointing Gen. Lorenzo Thomas, secretary of war ad interim, but Mr. Stanton held the fort and refused to vacate, staying in his office day and night. The proceedings in impeachment followed, and on the failure to impeach the president, on May 26th, Mr. Stanton resigned. The senate in confirming his successor adopted a resolution that Mr. Stanton was not legally removed, but relinquished his office, and subsequently congress passed him a vote of thanks for the great ability, purity and fidelity with which he had discharged his duties. These entire proceesings from their beginning to their close were watched with the most intense interest all over the country, as much so as any of the operations of the war. Although Mr. Stanton's constitution was broken down by the tremendous strain which his efforts during the war had imposed on it, yet his circumstances compelled him to renew the practice of his profession, very good evidence that he had not become rich while holding public office. His last visit to Steubenville was in the fall of 1868, when he addressed a large public meeting on September 25th of that year in favor of Gen. Grant for the presidency. On December 20, 1869, he was nominated by President Grant as associate justice of the supreme court of the United States and was immediately confirmed by the senate, but he was never to take his seat, dying on December 24th, after a brief illness from dropsy, before his commission was made out. Thus passes away one of the greatest men the country has ever possessed. Of his ability, integrity, energy and imflexibility of resolution none doubted, and if at times he seemed stern to those were times and scenes calling for sterness and resolution. His ear was always open to the tale of distress and hardship; his affection for his native place remained until the last, and many a private soldier, as his relatives especially from his own city can testify to his acts of kindness, bespoke a warm and sympathetic heart. Certainly among the people of Steubenville and Jefferson county the name of Edwin McMasters Stanton will always be held in honor.
Copyright © 2006 Danice Ryan. All rights reserved.