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William A. Howard Letter on Edwin M. Stanton

Identifier: MSS-4268

Scope and Contents

This collection contains a seven-page letter by Republican congressman William A. Howard written in 1870 to Ebenezer Hoar, then US attorney general, defending politician Edwin M. Stanton (1814-1869) against suggestions of disloyalty for his conduct while he was serving in the cabinet of President James Buchanan in 1860-1861. The letter refers to correspondence between Hoar and former US secretary of state Jeremiah S. Black, in which Black responded to certain remarks Hoar made to the US Supreme Court shortly after Stanton’s death. In the letter, Howard describes his communications with Stanton and his awareness of Stanton’s whereabouts and actions during January-March 4, 1861. The letter also discusses a controversy regarding the back-dating of a document pertaining to an attack on a Pensacola, Florida, Navy yard on January 12, 1861. Howard concludes that “history will vindicate every word you said of Stanton before the Supreme Court, and will not permit the taint of disloyalty or treason to so much as touch his fame whatever may become of those associated with him in Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet.” The file also includes a typed transcription of the original letter.


  • 1870 February 7

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections.

For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

William Alanson Howard practiced law in Detroit before serving in the US House of Representatives as a congressman for Michigan (1855-1861). He was chairman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1862-1868; land commissioner of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railway (1869-1871) and the North Pacific Railway (1872-1878); and governor of the Dakota Territory from 1878-1880. Howard died in 1880 in Washington DC.

Edwin McMasters Stanton was born in 1814 in Steubenville, Ohio, and later practiced law in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Stanton, then a Democrat, relocated to Washington DC in 1856. From December 1860-March 1861—as Southern states began seceding from the United States—he served as attorney general in the Democratic cabinet of President James Buchanan, succeeding Jeremiah S. Black in that position after Black was appointed Buchanan’s secretary of state (1860-1861). After his tenure in Buchanan’s cabinet, Stanton became a member of the Republican Party. He served as secretary of war in Lincoln's administration from 1862-1865, during most of the US Civil War; and later organized inquiries after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865. Stanton also had a key role in creating the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1865 to provide assistance for people who had been emancipated from slavery. Stanton died on December 24, 1869, of complications from asthma. After his death, Republican Massachusetts senator Henry Wilson, who later served as US vice president, praised Stanton for keeping Republican politicians apprised of the Buchanan administration’s cabinet decisions during the secession crisis of 1860-1861, and thus demonstrating concern for the Union. Jeremiah Black asserted that such a characterization would mean Stanton was disloyal to the Democratic president under whom he then served. A later article by Wilson defended his initial remarks, citing letters from a number of other politicians to support his version of events and Stanton’s motivations. This later article, “Jeremiah S. Black and Edwin M. Stanton” (


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William Alanson Howard (1813-1880) was a member of the US House of Representatives between 1855 and 1861. This collection contains one seven-page letter written by Howard in 1870 to Attorney General Ebenezer Hoar refuting suggestions of disloyalty made against politician Edwin M. Stanton in regard to his conduct near the outbreak of the US Civil War.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The University of Alabama Libraries acquired the William A. Howard Letter on Edwin M. Stanton in 2019.

Related Materials


MSS.0305, The Year of Secession, 1861 Civil War Letter Collection, University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections;

Jeremiah S. Black papers, Library of Congress (;

Edwin McMasters Stanton papers, Library of Congress. The papers of Edward McMasters Stanton are available on the Library of Congress website at;

Wilson, Henry, and Black, Jeremiah S. A Contribution to History: Edwin M. Stanton, His Character and Public Services on the Eve of Rebellion, as Presented in a Series of Papers. Easton, Pa.: Cole, Morwitz & Co., 1871;

Wilson, Henry. “Jeremiah S. Black and Edwin M. Stanton.” Atlantic Monthly, October 1870.

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Processed by Erin Ryan, January 2020.
Guide to the William A. Howard Letter on Edwin M. Stanton
Erin Ryan
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266