Amiable Scoundrel


Amiable Scoundrel

Simon Cameron, Lincoln's Scandalous Secretary of War

Paul Kahan

384 pages
1 photograph, 4 illustrations, index


July 2016


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2016


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2016


$36.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

From abject poverty to undisputed political boss of Pennsylvania, Lincoln’s secretary of war, senator, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a founder of the Republican Party, Simon Cameron (1799–1889) was one of the nineteenth century’s most prominent political figures. In his wake, however, he left a series of questionable political and business dealings and, at the age of eighty, even a sex scandal.

Far more than a biography of Cameron, Amiable Scoundrel is also a portrait of an era that allowed—indeed, encouraged—a man such as Cameron to seize political control. The political changes of the early nineteenth century enabled him not only to improve his status but also to exert real political authority. The changes caused by the Civil War, in turn, allowed Cameron to consolidate his political authority into a successful, well-oiled political machine. A key figure in designing and implementing the Union’s military strategy during the Civil War’s crucial first year, Cameron played an essential role in pushing Abraham Lincoln to permit the enlistment of African Americans into the U.S. Army, a stance that eventually led to his forced resignation. Yet his legacy has languished, nearly forgotten save for the fact that his name has become shorthand for corruption, even though no evidence has ever been presented to prove that Cameron was corrupt.

Amiable Scoundrel puts Cameron’s actions into a larger historical context by demonstrating that many politicians of the time, including Abraham Lincoln, used similar tactics to win elections and advance their careers. This study is the fascinating story of Cameron’s life and an illuminating portrait of his times.

Author Bio

Paul Kahan is a lecturer at Ohlone College in Fremont, California. He is the author of The Bank War: Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle, and the Fight for American Finance and The Homestead Strike: Labor, Violence, and American Industry


"A thought-provoking biography."—Richard A. Sauers, BlueGray Magazine

"A fine political biography."—Kirkus

"This first biography of Cameron in 50 years successfully infuses humanity into its portrait of the statesman."—Charles Piehl, Library Journal

"This book is essential for any civil war historian's library."—Philip Zozzaro, San Francisco Book Review (Five Stars)

"Amiable Scoundrel is a political biography that every Civil War student should read."—Andrew Wagenhoffer, Civil War Books and Authors

"Amiable Scoundrel will prove rewarding reading for those interested in the Civil War, American military mobilization, or the politics of the mid-nineteenth century."—A. A. Nofi, Strategy Page

"[Kahan] has done an admirable job of resuscitating, clothing and restoring to Cameron his true and accurate historical legacy. Amiable Scoundrel is perfect reading for those interested in the Civil War and those interested in United States politics of the latter half of the 19th century."—Jim Miller, Civil War Notebook

"Amiable Scoundrel lifts Cameron out of the historical footnotes and gives him the worthy biography we might never have known he deserved."—Chris Mackowski, Journal of Southern History

"Readers will certainly enjoy reading this biography of one of the most fascinating politicians of the 19th century."—Robinson, M. D., Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association

“This book goes behind Cameron’s reputation for shady dealing and demonstrates that as a senator, ambassador, secretary of war, and political boss he advanced important policy achievements, including the abolition of slavery and equal constitutional rights for freed slaves.”—James M. McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Battle Cry of Freedom and The War That Forged a Nation 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: "Warm Friends and Bitter Enemies"

1. "A Determined Will and a Right Purpose"

2. "The Great Winnebago Chief," 1838–45

3. "True-Hearted Pennsylvanian, Able, Fearless, and Unflinching," 1845–49

4. "Exclude Him from the Ranks of the Democratic Party," 1849–60

5. "What They Worship Is the God of Success," 1860–61

6. "Then Profit Shall Accrue," 1861–62

7. "Gentlemen, the Paragraph Stands," 1861–62

8. "A Man Out of Office in Washington," 1862–67

9. "Nothing Can Beat You," 1867–77

10. "I’ll Behave Myself as Long as I’m Here," 1877–89

Conclusion: "I Did the Best I Could and Was Never Untrue to a Friend"




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