The son of a man who had befriended Lincoln in the days of his poverty, desired a certain army appointment. Congressmen Julian of Indiana and Lovejoy of Illinois went to Lincoln, who indorsed the application and sent them with it to Stanton.
“No,” said the Secretary.
“Let us give his qualifications,” suggested the Congressmen.
“I do not wish to hear them,” was the reply. “The position is of high importance. I have in mind a man of suitable experience and capacity to fill it.”
“But the President wishes this man to be appointed,” persisted the callers.
“I do not care what the President wants; the country wants the very best it can get. I am serving the country,” was the retort, “regardless of individuals.”
The disconcerted Congressmen returned to Lincoln and recited their experience. The President, without the slightest perturbation, said:
“Gentlemen, it is my duty to submit. I cannot add to Mr. Stanton’s troubles. His position is one of the most difficult in the world. Thousands in the army blame him because they are not promoted and other thousands out of the army blame him because they are not appointed. The pressure upon him is immeasurable and unending. He is the rock on the beach of our national ocean against which the breakers dash and roar, dash and roar without ceasing. He fights back the angry waters and prevents them from undermining and overwhelming the land. Gentlemen, I do not see how he survives, why he is not crushed and torn to pieces. Without him I should be destroyed. He performs his task superhumanly. Now do not mind this matter, for Mr. Stanton is right and I cannot wrongly interfere with him.”
Quoted in “Edwin McMasters Stanton: The Autocrat of Rebellion, Emancipation, and Reconstruction”,By Frank Abial Flower, p. 369-370.