Saturday, December 8, 1860
On this rainy Saturday, President James Buchanan was handed a letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, Howell Cobb. It informed the President that he (Cobb) would no longer be the Secretary of the Treasury.
Cobb had delivered a message to his state of Georgia two days ago and had hoped to be able to part ways “pleasantly.”1
To Cobb, it was a “sense of duty to the State of Georgia” that required him “to take a step which makes it proper that I should no longer continue to be a member of your Cabinet.”
He expressed that his views differed so much from the President’s that his remaining on the Cabinet would expose him (Cobb) to “unjust suspicions” and place the President in a “false position.”
Cobb assured the President that it was not personal, that it was simply duty that compelled him to retire.
In response, Buchanan said to Cobb nearly what he had said to the Southern states that wanted to secede: “While I deeply regret that you have determined to separate yourself from us at the present critical moment, yet I admit that the question was one for your own decision, I could have wished you had arrived at a different conclusion, because our relations, both official and personal, have ever been of the most friendly and confidential character.”2
Speaking of Presidential Cabinets, Abraham Lincoln offered the position of Secretary of State in his Cabinet to William H. Seward, current New York senator as well as former New York governor. He reassured Seward that the rumors of the polite offering of the position with the expectation that he (Seward) would decline were to be ignored. Lincoln wished for Seward to accept the offer.
He also made a copy of the letter and sent it to Hannibal Hamlin, Vice-President-Elect, asking him his opinion and mentioning the name of Nathanial Banks, the present Governor of Massachusetts, as another possible position.3