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Lincoln's Cabinet -- Attorney General

Edward Bates

President Lincoln’s wartime Cabinet included many of his opponents from the Republican National Convention where each had the goal of becoming President of the United States. He appointed Edward Bates as his Attorney General.

Bates was born in Belmont, VA to a Quaker family in 1793. He attended the Charlotte Hall Military Academy in Maryland. He served as a Sergeant in the War of 1812. He moved to St. Louis where he studied law and passed the bar exam.

He was elected to the state’s constitutional convention where he wrote the preamble. He served in the Missouri Senate and the Missouri House of Representatives. He also became Missouri’s Attorney General as well as a U.S. District Attorney.

Although a slave owner himself, he changed his position and became very opposed to slavery. He was a Whig politician and the chairman of the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1860 where Abraham Lincoln was nominated as President of the United States.

Bates was the oldest member of the Lincoln Cabinet and the first Cabinet member ever from west of the Mississippi River. As a Cabinet member, Bates strongly opposed Lincoln’s arrest of southern sympathizers and the emancipation and recruitment of blacks into the United States Colored Troops.

When Salmon Chase was appointed as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, a position Bates himself wanted, he resigned his Cabinet post. Lincoln’s friend, James Speed, succeeded Bates as Attorney General. Bates returned to Missouri where worked to oppose the 1865 Missouri constitution, objecting to rebel sympathizers having their rights taken away. In spite of his opposition, the constitution was approved.

Bates died in 1869 in St. Louis.

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