Ohio History Journal

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Librarian, Kenyon College

Stanton, the secretary of war in Lincoln's cabinet, is still a con-

troversial figure. Stanton, the youthful school boy, is even more

elusive, but recently-located early letters written in college and

in the years directly afterwards have cast more light upon the

picture. The letters give an impression slightly at variance with

the published reminiscences of his contemporaries, but such were

tempered by time and the fact that Stanton was already a public

figure when the anecdotes were printed. The two sources together

give a consistent and reliable picture of an engaging youth working

out his oats preparatory to settling down to a great career.

The letters document Stanton's residence at Kenyon to September

1832 and substantiate his deep regret at not being able to continue

college. Thus these letters have cleared up part of the chronology

of Stanton's early life, which has been so variously reported by his

biographers. Opportunity is taken here to restate from contemporary

sources what is authentically known concerning his college days

in order to correct the misstatements and inaccuracies of existing

Stanton biographies in the hope that this will be of service to future

biographers. There is no good biography of Stanton, and students

of history need a critical appraisal of him not only because of his

position in history but also because of his relationship to Lincoln

during the critical period of the Civil War.

The years at Kenyon College came at an impressionable period

in Stanton's life and exerted a positive influence upon him in respect

to politics, religion, and marriage. His political allegiance changed

at this time, and those views especially important in regard to

secession and nullification which he gained as a northern member

of the local debating society were those to which he cleaved in his

administration of public office. The acquaintance he made in Kenyon,

a sectarian college, with Episcopalian doctrine was later to determine

his choice of a church. His first wife, whom he loved so dearly,