The small village of Cadiz in the rural Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio has never been a very exciting place. Founded in 1804, its peak population was in the 1940's, when it had just under 5,000 residents. Thanks to a decline in the coal industry which has lasted for decades, the town has seen its population dwindle to barely 3,300. Today it struggles to survive, depending largely on farming and recreational tourism for its income. Unfortunately, its better days are far behind it.
Yet somehow, by some quirk of fate which makes history so fascinating to so many, this nondescript Ohio village was either the birthplace or home to three men who played major roles in Abraham Lincoln's life. When these men lived in Cadiz, Ohio, the village population was no more than 500. How one small crossroads gave us three important influences on Abraham Lincoln's life is one of history's mysteries. These men continued their national political influences after Lincoln's death as well. These are their stories.
Bishop Matthew Simpson
Matthew Simpson was born in Cadiz, Ohio on June 20, 1811 to parents who dedicated him at birth for the ministry. Simpson received the standard academic education of the day in Cadiz, and at the age of 18, he entered Madison College in Pennsylvania. He entered the Methodist Ministry in the middle 1830's, his first church being in Pittsburgh. From there, he ascended quickly in the church hierarchy and was eventually appointed Elder in 1837.
Simpson also served in academia, first as a Professor of Natural Science and then Vice-President of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. In 1839 he was appointed president of the forerunner to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He served in that capacity until 1848, when he became editor of the Western Christian Advocate, a leading abolition newspaper. Reverend Simpson was then elected to the Episcopacy (i.e. Bishop) of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1852. He oversaw conferences of the M.E. Church throughout the United States and in most of its territories.
John A. Bingham
John A. Bingham was born on January 21, 1815 in Mercer, Pennsylvania but his family eventually relocated to Cadiz, Ohio. After two years as an apprentice printer, Bingham enrolled at Franklin College in New Athens, Ohio where he studied law. Bingham then opened his first law practice in Cadiz in 1840, although some sources claim that his first practice was actually in New Philadelphia, Ohio, a town about 20 miles from Cadiz.
Bingham first came to notoriety as an orator during the Whig campaign of William Henry Harrison in 1840. After continuing to serve as a respected lawyer, Bingham eventually ran for Congress in 1854 and was elected as first an Opposition Party candidate (i.e. anti-Democrat) and then as a Republican in 1856. He served until 1862, when he was defeated for re-election.
President Lincoln appointed Bingham to serve as Judge Advocate to the Union Army with the rank of Major in 1864. Bingham was re-elected to Congress in 1864. Upon Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865, John A. Bingham served as Judge Advocate on the military tribunal which oversaw the trials of the Lincoln co-conspirators. Bingham was one of only two civilians on the tribunal. Here is a great link to the trial, including a photo of the tribunal. Bingham gave the summation of the government's position in the closing arguments. This link contains Bingham's summation.
John Bingham continued to serve as a distinguished member of Congress and became the main Framer of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment contains the "due process" and "equal protection" clauses which have become a critical part of guaranteeing civil rights in the United States.
In 1868, Congressman Bingham became one of the judges involved in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Essentially, President Andrew Johnson was impeached as a result of long-running disputes with the Radical Republicans in Congress. They were upset with Johnson's conciliatory approach to the former Confederate states and his vetoes of civil rights bills. The final straw came when President Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (also a former resident of Cadiz, Ohio) for disregarding orders. This violated the Tenure Of Office Act which had been passed earlier by Congress. Johnson was acquitted by one vote and served the remainder of his term.
Bingham was defeated for re-election to Congress in 1872, but was appointed as Minister to Japan by President Grant. He served in that capacity until 1885.
He returned to his beloved Cadiz, Ohio in 1885. Upon his return, he would tell his visitors:
"The hills and primeval forest which girdle this village make a picture of quiet beauty which, I think, is scarcely surpassed in any part of our country which I have seen, or in Japan, the Land of The Morning."
John A. Bingham died on March 19, 1900 and is buried in the Union Cemetery in Cadiz, Ohio. If I might be permitted a personal aside, this cemetery is also the final resting place of many of my relatives, including my grandparents and great-grandparents. I'm proud that my ancestors share this cemetery with one of the leading political figures of American history. Today, Cadiz proudly claims John A. Bingham as a native son. The village commemorates his service to the country with an imposing statue in front of the county courthouse.
Edwin McMasters Stanton
Of the "sons of Cadiz" who were so interconnected with Abraham Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton had by far the most influence with Lincoln. Stanton was born December 19, 1814 in the town of Steubenville, Ohio, a town located 20 miles southeast of Cadiz, on the Ohio River.
Stanton spent his formative years in Steubenville and later enrolled in Kenyon College in Ohio. After leaving Kenyon in order to support his family, Stanton was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1836. At this time, he relocated to the village of Cadiz, where he built a house and practiced law until 1847. Stanton became the Harrison County prosecutor while in Cadiz and soon developed a reputation for being a brilliant lawyer. Stanton met and became good friends with John A. Bingham during his years in Cadiz and also became acquainted with Bishop Simpson. Like Simpson, Stanton was a Methodist.
In 1847, driven by the desire to earn more money for his immediate and extended family, Stanton moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he soon established a lucrative law practice. After nine years in Pittsburgh, Stanton then relocated to Washington, D.C. in order to work to further establish his reputation and increase his income.
Stanton soon attracted the attention of the Federal Government and in 1860, President James Buchanan appointed him Attorney General. While Stanton was grateful for the appointment, it meant leaving his financially rewarding private practice for the salary of a civil servant. Stanton strongly opposed secession and is often credited with providing the backbone to President Buchanan to finally oppose it as well.
It was in 1857 that Edwin M. Stanton and Abraham Lincoln first became acquainted. Both served on the same legal team in the McCormick-Manny reaper patent case. Stanton was one of the most famous attorneys in the country at this time, with a brilliant reputation. Lincoln was an able attorney in his own right, but did not have the experience or renown of Stanton. Stanton considered Lincoln a country bumpkin and asked "where did that long-armed creature come from?" Lincoln was treated with contempt during the entire case, but with his typical magnanimity, he believed that he learned how to be a much better lawyer merely by observing Stanton at work. Lincoln realized he had much more to learn about what it took to be a good lawyer.
Stanton's contempt for Lincoln continued even after the Civil War began. He frequently criticized Lincoln in letters to his friends and associates, referring often to Lincoln as an imbecile. Stanton firmly believed, as did many others, that the Rebel troops would take Washington, D.C. by as early as July 1861.
The early war effort had gone terribly for the Union. Disaster occurred for the Union troops from one battlefield to the other and the War Department was in a state of chaos. Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania had permitted corruption and graft to permeate the Department and was soon forced to resign in 1862.
Ignoring the past insults and contempt Stanton had shown him, President Lincoln turned to Stanton to take over the running of the War Department. It was a fortuitous decision. Stanton immediately reorganized the Department, weeded out corrupt officials, and cracked down on government contractors which had been providing poor equipment and food to the Union soldiers. He often worked for 14 or more hours a day, often standing the entire time, barking out orders and sending flurries of telegrams to generals and other officials. All of this was done to the ruin of his own health, for he had suffered from asthma his entire life.
Although Stanton held his contempt for Lincoln at the beginning of his service in the War Department, he gradually came to deeply respect and even admire Lincoln. The two worked in efficient harmony with one another throughout the final three years of the war and they in time developed a friendship. Both men shared the loss of children, both suffered from health issues, and both deeply felt the tragedy of the war. But both also held a deep commitment to winning the war no matter the terrible cost.
This relationship between Stanton and Lincoln is fully described in Doris Kearn Goodwin's excellent "Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln." It is an outstanding source for learning much more about Stanton and Lincoln's early animosity and their profound mutual respect developed during the war.
The relationship of course took a tragic turn with the assassination of Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Upon Lincoln's death at 7:22 a.m. on Saturday April 15, 1865, Stanton reportedly said: "Now he belongs to the ages."
While Lincoln lay dying, and in the days and weeks after Lincoln's death, Stanton took over and almost single-handedly ran the Federal Government. He directed the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth, ordered the arrests of numerous suspects, appointed the Military Tribunal (appointing old Cadiz friend John A. Bingham to it) which tried the co-conspirators, and continued to oversee the War Department at the conclusion of the Civil War. It was almost a super-human effort.
Stanton continued on as Secretary of War under Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson, but their relationship was strained at best. Finally in 1868, Johnson tried to fire Stanton, but Stanton refused to leave his post and literally barricaded himself in his office. At this point, the Radical Republicans in Congress impeached Johnson (see description under John A. Bingham), but failed to remove Johnson by a single vote. Stanton then left office and returned to his private practice.
Edwin Stanton's ultimate goal in life was to achieve appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Indeed, his old Cadiz friends Bishop Matthew Simpson and John Bingham lobbied for him in 1864 when a vacancy became available, but Lincoln felt that Stanton was too valuable at the War Department. Stanton finally achieved his goal when President Ulysses Grant nominated him on December 20, 1868. The U.S. Senate confirmed him the same day.
Sadly, Stanton never got to be seated at the Court. He died in Washington, D.C. just four days after his confirmation, on December 24, 1868. He was buried in Washington.
Today the village of Cadiz, Ohio does not have any commemorative statue or even a plaque remembering its most famous citizen. Stanton's hometown of Steubenville, Ohio does remember its native son with an impressive statue.