With the beginning of the work of the administration, came trouble with the members of the Cabinet. The several secretaries were, in form at least, the choice of the President, but as must always be the case in the shaping of a Cabinet, and as was particularly necessary at a time when it was of first importance to bring into harmonious relations all of the political groups of the North which were prepared to be loyal to the government, the men who took office in the first Cabinet of Lincoln represented not any personal preference of the President, but political or national requirements. The Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, had, as we know, been Lincoln's leading opponent for the Presidential nomination and had expressed with some freedom of criticism his disappointment that he, the natural leader of the party, should be put to one side for an uncultivated, inexperienced Westerner. Mr. Seward possessed both experience and culture; more than this, he was a scholar, and came of a long line of gentlefolk. He had public spirit, courage, legitimate political ambition, and some of the qualities of leadership. His nature was, however, not quite large enough to stand the pressure of political disappointment nor quite elastic enough to develop rapidly under the tremendous urgency of absolutely new requirements. It is in evidence that more than once in the management of the complex and serious difficulties of the State Department during the years of war, Seward lost his head. It is also on record that the wise-minded and fair-minded President was able to supply certain serious gaps and deficiencies in the direction of the work of the Department, and further that his service was so rendered as to save the dignity and the repute of the Secretary. Seward's subjectivity, not to say vanity, was great, and it took some little time before he was able to realise that his was not the first mind or the strongest will-power in the new administration. On the first of April, 1861, less than thirty days after the organisation of the Cabinet, Seward writes to Lincoln complaining that the "government had as yet no policy; that its action seemed to be simply drifting"; that there was a lack of any clear-minded control in the direction of affairs within the Cabinet, in the presentation to the people of the purposes of the government, and in the shaping of the all-important relations with foreign states. "Who," said Seward, "is to control the national policy?" The letter goes on to suggest that Mr. Seward is willing to take the responsibility, leaving, if needs be, the credit to the nominal chief. The letter was a curious example of the weakness and of the bumptiousness of the man, while it gave evidence also, it is fair to say, of a real public-spirited desire that things should go right and that the nation should be saved. It was evident that he had as yet no adequate faith in the capacity of the President.
Between Grant and Lincoln there came to be perfect sympathy of thought and action. The men had in their nature (though not in their mental equipment) much in common. Grant carries his army through the spring of 1864, across the much fought over territory, marching and fighting from day to day towards the south-west. The effort is always to outflank Lee's right, getting in between him and his base at Richmond, but after each fight, Lee's army always bars the way. Marching out of the Wilderness after seven days' fierce struggle, Grant still finds the line of grey blocking his path to Richmond. The army of the Potomac had been marching and fighting without break for weeks. There had been but little sleep, and the food in the trains was often far out of the reach of the men in the fighting line. Men and officers were alike exhausted. While advantages had been gained at one point or another along the line, and while it was certain that the opposing army had also suffered severely, there had been no conclusive successes to inspirit the troops with the feeling that they were to seize victory out of the campaign.