With his cabinet Abraham Lincoln is regarded by many historians as the greatest
president ever to stand at America’s helm. This reputation is extremely well
deserved, as Lincoln was able to preserve the Union and gain victory in the
civil war, despite his fighting an uphill battle against his own presidential
cabinet. Had he not been struggling against this divided government, President
Lincoln could have achieved victory with extreme efficiency and a minimum of
wanton bloodshed. After Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, he
was forced to battle a split cabinet because of campaign promises made to
various Republican factions, which made it almost mandatory for certain
individuals to be appointed to cabinet posts. He ruled his cabinet with an iron
hand, and often acted without cabinet consent or advice. Although his opponents
called his method of rule “dictatorial” and “unconstitutional,” it was the only
effective way to get anything done. In the beginning, Lincoln’s secretary of state, William H. Seward, clearly considered himself the President’s superior, and blandly offered to assume the executive responsibility. He entered the cabinet with the thought of becoming the power behind the Presidential chair and openly opposed Lincoln’s control of the Union. This made Lincoln’s position as Chief of State exceedingly difficult and hindered his communication and control of the military. As time passed, however, Seward recognized Lincoln’s capabilities and gave him complete loyalty. This could not be said of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’sfirst secretary of the treasury. Blinded by an inflated ego, Chase pursued his own presidential aspirations. He was in constant conflict with Seward, and in general opposition to Lincoln, particularly over the issue of slavery. Chase has been described as “jealous of the President,” and “overly ambitious.” Lincoln’s personal secretary, John Nicolay, wrote, “There is enough in