Political aura, geographic location, political ideology and state representation were just a few factors that Abraham Lincoln considered as he was framing his cabinet on the evening of the presidential election, November 6th, 1860. When Lincoln recalled later that evening in the telegram room in Springfield, he stated: "When I finally bade my friends goodnight and left that room, I had substantially completed the framework of my Cabinet as it now exists."
When Lincoln was framing his cabinet, secession wasn't officially declared yet but the strings that strapped the Union together had snapped, one after another. A decade earlier, in a speech to the senate, John C. Calhoun explained the disunion in the following statement: "It is a great mistake to suppose that disunion can be effected by a single blow. The cords which bound these States together in one common Union are far too numerous and powerful for that. Disunion must be the work of time."
The cords referenced by Calhoun were numerous and various. They ranged from social to religious to cultural, but the strongest cord of all was political. The major strings were the political parties.
From the mid 1820s to the mid 1850s, the WHIG and Democratic Party dominated the American political spectrum. However, between 1855 and 1860, the ongoing conundrum over slavery, along with the civil and political unrest, led to a variety of structural changes among the parties:
1. A split of the Democratic Party into two sections: The Northern Democratic Party and Southern Democratic Party
2. The forming of the Republican Party, composed of the Northern Democratic Party, the Northern WHIG Party, Free Soil Party, and the anti-slavery Know Nothing Party
3. Constitutional Union Party composed of southern Whigs.
The sectional crisis and the "House Divided", theorized by Abraham Lincoln, sparked two distinct political spectrums – one in the South and one in the North. The former was composed of the Southern Democrat Party, while the latter was composed of the Republican Party and the Northern Democrat Party.
When the die was cast, Lincoln’s cabinet included all factions of the northern political spectrum. They were appointed as follows:
For Secretary of State, William H. Seward, of New York, WHIG - Republican.
For Secretary of The Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, Free Soil - Republican
For Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, Know Nothing - Republican
For Secretary of Navy, Gideon Welles, of Connecticut, Northern Democrat - Republican
For Secretary of Interior, Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana, WHIG - Republican.
For Attorney-General, Edward Bates, of Missouri, Know Nothing - Republican
For Postmaster-General, Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, Northern Democrat - Republican
In Abraham Lincoln: A History, John G. Nicolay and John Hay reported that Lincoln considered including political opponents from Southern States but the idea was quickly rebuked.
As political figures and newspaper editors analyzed Lincoln's choices of appointees, questions and remarks about the complexity of Lincoln's cabinet quickly arose.
Hay and Nicolay divided the cabinet into two camps: Three WHIG-Republicans and four Democrats-Republicans. The former group consisted of Seward, Smith and Bates, while the latter included Blair, Welles, Chase and Cameron. On average, each of the seven cabinet members joined three political parties throughout their political careers.