FRANK J. WILLIAMS
The Spoken Word and Group Activities
The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial hosted the 93rd Lincoln Day on February 12 with remarks by Evelyn Adams, President of the Lincoln Club of Southern Indiana, along with an address by Brian Dirck, author of Lincoln in Indiana.
Wayne C. Temple spoke to the Lincoln-Douglas American Inn of Court on February 15 in Springfield about his new book concerning Lincoln and his connections to the City of Pittsfield, Illinois.
Carol Ayres delivered “The 13th Amendment” at the March 7 meeting of the Lincoln Club of Topeka and Dale Jirik delivered “Newspaper Accounts” at the April 4 meeting.
Robert O’Harrow, Jr. spoke on “Montgomery Meigs and Abraham Lincoln” at the March 21 meeting of The Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia.
The annual meeting of The Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin was held on April 8 with Lincoln interpreter George Buss presenting.
On April 9, The News-Gazette published Jeff D’Alessio’s “The Big 10 with Jeff D’Alessio” asking Abraham Lincoln fans what they found most fascinating about Lincoln. Here are their responses:
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulizer-winning presidential historian, author of Team of Rivals, the basis for Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film, Lincoln: “The single-most admirable trait that I discovered about Abraham Lincoln during my ‘living with’ him for more than a decade was his extraordinary ability to forgive. His old friend Leonard Swett said of Lincoln: ‘If a man had maligned him, or been guilty of personal ill-treatment and abuse, and was the fittest man for the place, he would put him in his Cabinet just as soon as he would his friend.’ The most dramatic illustration of this principle of forgiveness was when Lincoln appointed Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War despite the fact that Stanton had publicly humiliated Lincoln years before.”
Gordon Leidner, Conversations with Lincoln, author: “Lawyer James O. Cunningham recalled a special event held at the Urbana fairgrounds on September 24, 1858. Lincoln had been invited to make a political speech to a crowd, and a dinner had been arranged for everyone. They had set up long tables outdoors, and Lincoln was placed at a seat of honor at the head table. He took the seat prepared for him, while the long tables were assailed by his followers, and began eating his dinner. Looking around, he saw an old woman standing not far away looking intently at him. He at once recognized her as a waiter and dishwasher at the hotel in Urbana, whom everybody knew as ‘Granny.’ He said to her, ‘Why granny, have you no place? You must have some dinner. Here, take my place.’ The old lady answered, ‘No, Mr. Lincoln, I just wanted to see you. I don’t want any dinner.’ In spite of her protestations, Lincoln arose from his seat at the head of the table and compelled her to take his place and have her dinner, while he took his turkey leg and biscuit and, seating himself at the foot of a nearby tree, ate his dinner, apparently with the greatest satisfaction. Meanwhile, Granny Hutchinson filled the place at the head of the table and ate her dinner as he had insisted she should do. This episode was characteristic of Lincoln. It required no unbending of assumed dignity, for, while he was at all times manly, he put on no airs of dignity. It was the same instinct that made him the friend of the black slave, and the emancipator of the race.”
Kathleen Kennedy, LucasFilm president, produced eight Oscar-nominated movies, including Lincoln: “In the course of our research, (screenwriter) Tony Kushner and I discussed a quote that was found in Team of Rivals where (Secretary of State) William Seward talks about Lincoln in a letter to his wife, Frances, in 1861. Seward was slowly but inevitably coming to appreciate Lincoln’s remarkable abilities. ‘It is due to the President to say that his magnanimity is almost superhuman,’ he told her. ‘His confidence and sympathy increase almost every day.’ That was the quote that led Tony to the power/compassion dynamic in Lincoln.”
Harold Holzer, Lincoln Laureate, Lincoln Medal of Honor winner, chair of The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation: “For all his modesty and barely concealed embarrassment about his personal appearance, Lincoln became increasingly complicit in the perpetuation of his own image – in photography, prints, paintings and even statuary. He came to understand that flattering and heroic images could boost his political prospects and later cement his reputation as a national hero. Although some of the resulting transfiguration occurred because Lincoln and the nation’s media came of age together, and the marketplace loved making heroes, it was still a remarkable thing that he was so image-savvy so soon. It may not seem like a major point but I do think the resulting portraiture not only illustrated Lincoln’s rise – and his deification – but ultimately influenced it, and greatly.”
Salvador Litvak, directed/co-wrote 2013’s Saving Lincoln, the story of Lincoln’s Danville law partner: “My wife Nina and I spent many years researching our film. What stood out to us was his emotional toughness. People speak of the intense division in our country now, and the contempt heaped upon its Republican president by half the nation. It doesn’t compare to what the Lincolns faced as they arrived in Washington. Even two years later, after delivering the Gettysburg Address, one paper quipped, ‘Silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of a man who must be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as a president.’ Through it all, he fought back not with anger but with humility, accomplishment and humor. Humor was a hugely important factor in his becoming the first blue-collar president. He synthesized complex ideas in folksy stories and made his supporters feel like someone was in charge who both understood their concerns and would address them, even in situations where others would be overwhelmed.”
Jon Meacham, Pulitzer-winning Random House executive editor wrote best-selling biographies on Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson: “My favorite piece of Lincoln lore is the story about a delegation of ministers who came to see the President during the war and said they were pleased that God was on the side of the Union. ‘Well,’ Lincoln is said to have replied, ‘I don’t know about that; I just hope we are on God’s side.’”
Mark Summers, designed U.S. Postal stamps honoring Lincoln in 2009: “The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that Lincoln was born on the same day as Charles Darwin (Feb. 12, 1809). How many people from the 18th century are still causing ripples in the 21st century? To have two come into the world on the exact same day seems mathematically improbable.”
Genevieve Kaplan, Director of Education, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: “Abraham Lincoln is often known as a man of words, but he was also a man of science. One common did-you-know we share here is that Lincoln was the first president to hold a patent. Inspired by his own experience with boats getting snagged on debris, Lincoln came up with the idea of equipping riverboats with air chambers that could be inflated to lift boats over obstacles. Lincoln also founded the National Academy of Science, frequently used the telegraph, supported the first use of aerial command in battle, and signed the Pacific Railway Act, which paved the way for the Transcontinental Railroad.”
Jim Conway, directed 1977 film The Lincoln Conspiracy: “The thing I find most fascinating was the fact that a man, born in a log cabin and self-educated, could become President of the United States. And the ideals and determination of a man of such humble beginnings were the glue to repair a shattered nation.”
Stacy Pratt McDermott, UI grad (Ph.D ’07) wrote three Lincoln books: “Abraham Lincoln is a mythical giant in our collective, historical memory, so much so that he is often more icon than man. As such, the lines between the fact and the fiction of Lincoln are often quite blurry. When I was a young scholar getting to know Abraham Lincoln through my work editing his papers, an early encounter with one document illuminated for me the somewhat magical space between the humanity of Lincoln and the legend of Lincoln. The document is a letter Lincoln wrote on February 20, 1849, to his friend and fellow lawyer, Charles R. Wells. Apparently, Lincoln had promised Welles he would carry a letter, enclosed with some money, to a St. Louis bank, as he was passing through the city on his way back to Congress. In the letter, Lincoln explained in rather humorous detail why that letter and the money had failed to reach the intended recipient. A good way into the first tortuous paragraph, Lincoln offered his explanation for the whereabouts of Welles’s missing parcel: ‘To make it more secure than it would be in my hat, where I carry most all my packages, I put it in my trunk. I had a great many jobs to do in St. Louis, and by the very extra care I had taken of yours, overlooked it. On the Steam Boat near the mouth of the Ohio, I opened the trunk, and discovered the letter.’ An embarrassed Lincoln had then made arrangements for someone else to deliver the parcel; but, alas, that approach had also failed to satisfy the promise. Lincoln’s letter provides substantive historical evidence for the seemingly ridiculous story that he carried papers in his iconic stovepipe hat. As well, the letter offers heartwarming evidence that Lincoln was a human being, just like the rest of us; sometimes forgetful of an important task or promise and awkward in the face of his own humanity. But for me, the letter is also beautifully illustrative of the tangible way that historical documents can connect us to the past we thought we knew and bring to life the historical characters we so often mythologize.”
Carla Smith, registrar, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: “As a child, I heard of good old Honest Abe and how far he would walk to return change or do the right thing, not to mention how much he loved his children. As an adult, I’ve discovered that he was quite multi-faceted. While he had a sense of humor that wasn’t always considered noble, he knew how to connect with people with his stories and his kindness. He looked for the betterment of the whole nation, not just one segment. One of the most amazing things to me is that he seemed quite sentimental in his feelings for his wife. Poor Mary. She received such chastening from everyone else – and still does today. We’ve all formed opinions based on what others have said about her; yet, in letters to Mary, good old Abe is quite tender toward her. One cannot ignore the beautiful and expensive diamond heart necklace he gave her or the way he indulged her methods of finding solace after the death of her son, Willie. It seems to me that Mr. Lincoln was a man of many letters, thoughts and actions – but mostly, he had a good heart.”
Eric Foner, his The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery won the 2011 Pulitzer, Lincoln and Bancroft prizes: “I am fascinated by the events of late August 1864 where people pressured him to rescind the Emancipation Proclamation and he discussed it with Republican leaders and Frederick Douglas before refusing. You really see Lincoln the politician and moralist at work those two days.”
The 61st Annual Lincoln Tomb Ceremony was held on April 15 at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, at a service organized by the Death Day Association.
On April 19, Frank J. Williams presented “The Lincoln Conspirators’ Trial” at the Temple Chapel, Beth El Synagogue, in Providence.
Hal Smith spoke about “Lincoln’s Life Principles: With Malice Toward None and Charity for All” at the April 22 meeting of The Lincoln Group of Boston.
The Lincoln Memorial University Abraham Lincoln Institute for the Study of Leadership and Public Policy hosted Doris Kearns Goodwin in Knoxville on April 25.
The State of Ohio marked the 152nd anniversary of the repose of President Abraham Lincoln at the Ohio State House on April 29 – the date the slain president rested in state in Columbus and more than 50,000 Ohioans visited.
On May 3, Daniel Weinberg shared stories about the treasures he’s known in remarks at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield.
The U.S. Capitol Historical Society’s 2017 Annual Symposium: Congress Begins to Reconstruct the Nation included Eric Foner presenting the keynote address “The Significance of Reconstruction in American History” and additional speakers Paul Finkelman, Brook Thomas, L. Diane Barnes, Spencer Crew, Lucy Salyer, and Michael Vorenberg. The symposium was held on May 11 and 12 at the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington.
Graham A. Peck, Secretary of the Stephen A. Douglas Association, spoke at the 156th anniversary of U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas’s death on June 3 at the Douglas Monument and Tomb, Chicago.
Harold Holzer and Craig Symonds compared and contrasted the styles of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt at Hildene, the Lincoln family home, on June 22.
Talmage Boston spoke about our national pastime and Lincoln’s love for it for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on June 22. On June 27, Dave Taylor discussed “You Know Best, Captain: The Executed Conspirators in Lincoln’s Assassination.”
“Thomas Lincoln Considered” – Summer Porch Chat at the Iles House – was held on June 23. The roundtable discussion included William E. Bartelt, Brian Dirck, Steve Haaff, Matthew Mittelstaedt, and R. Dale Ogden.
Stephen Engle, author of Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union’s War Governors, spoke at the November meeting of the Rhode Island Civil War Round Table.
Judge Roger Cosbey spoke about “The Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy Trials & Their Aftermath” at the Allen County Public Library on June 25.
Greg Wolk moderated the 2017 Ulysses S. Grant Symposium in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on September 19.
Candace Shy Hooper, author of Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War – for Better and for Worse, spoke about her book at the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia on September 19. Sidney Blumenthal discussed his Wrestling with his Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1849-1856 at this group’s meeting on July 12; and on August 22, Walter Stahr discussed his Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary.
William D. Pederson discussed “Lincoln’s Legacy Around the World” at the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia on May 16.
Volume 28 for the International Lincoln Association Publication, Abraham Lincoln Abroad, contained Jason H. Silverman’s “The President and the Stowaway: Abraham Lincoln meets ‘the’ Japanese,” William D. Pederson’s “First Japanese Lincoln Postage Stamp,” and Patricia Moral’s “Lincoln Street in Lviv, Ukraine.”
Dr. Serenale, the Mayor of Lincoln City, Argentina, unveiled a new bust of Abraham Lincoln during its annual anniversary of the founding of the City – the first City named for America’s 16th president outside the United States.
Jason H. Silverman, Winthrop University, will deliver the Frank & Virginia Williams 34th Annual Abraham Lincoln Lecture at Louisiana State University, Shreveport. His topic is “The ‘Great Replenishing Stream’: Abraham Lincoln’s Life-Long Advocacy of the Immigrant.”
Arts & Entertainment
Steidl has published The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr. and containing 114 portraits of Abraham Lincoln from the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation, now in the possession of the National Portrait Gallery, Washington.
Carol Motsinger (email@example.com) on February 16, discussed the controversial statue of Abraham Lincoln by sculptor George Grey Barnard. Charles P. Taft, the Cincinnati lawyer and brother of President William Howard Taft, bought and paid for the statue as a gift to the City of Cincinnati on March 31, 1917. The statue was divisive when completed. It was called a “hideous caricature,” “a lie in bronze,” and “a sort of scarecrow of the noblest figure in American history.” There it has sat in Lytle Park for over 100 years. Donor Taft, wanted to send a replica of Barnard’s Lincoln to London and offered to pay the cost of about $100,000 (equivalent to $2 million today). Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert T. Lincoln, disagreed and sent a letter to Taft’s brother, the former president, pleading with the former president to convince his brother to abandon what he regarded as awful ambition. Robert Lincoln viewed the work as “a monstrous figure, grotesque as a likeness of President Lincoln and defamatory as an effigy.” The statue wound up elsewhere in England and London installed a replica of the more traditional Lincoln statute by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Young Abe Lincoln returned to the amphitheatre, Indianapolis, to debut the 30th anniversary of the amphitheatre’s debut 1987 season. The limited engagement of six performances (July 6-8 & July 13-15) are based on the original Billy Edd Wheeler script and was produced locally by Actor’s Community Theatre.
Awards and Prizes
On February 12, The Abraham Lincoln Association Lincoln the Lawyer Award was presented posthumously to Thomas S. Johnson, Esquire.
On May 10, The Civil War Round Table of New York’s Fletcher Pratt Award was presented to John Strausbaugh for his City of Sedition: The History of New York City During the Civil War.
The 2017 Empire State Archives & History Award of the Archives Partnership Trust, New York, was presented to Harold Holzer on September 6 at the Great Hall of Cooper Union, New York City.
The 2017 Lincoln Leadership Prize of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Foundation was awarded to Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. The Foundation presented the Lincoln: With Charity for All Award to Josephine and Newton Minow.
Heritage’s Americana and Political Auction, held on May 13, featured an original life-size classical bust of Abraham Lincoln by Leonard Volk, (estimated at $2,500, it sold for $3,125); an extremely rare Currier & Ives cartoon of Abraham Lincoln with a baseball theme, with a starting bid of $4,000 and selling for $9,375; and a signed lithograph of Abraham Lincoln by Norman Rockwell with a starting bid of $2,000, and selling for $3,000.
On February 4, the Lincoln Memorial Shrine, Redlands, CA, partnered with the California Inland Empire Council Boy Scouts of America to host a grand Lincoln palooza. Presentations included the 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, 7th Michigan Cavalry and a rendition of the Gettysburg Address by Lincoln interpreter Robert Broski.
Guy Fraker, Esquire, led a tour of Lincoln’s 8th Judicial Circuit on June 24.
The Illinois State Journal-Register for April 28 reported that the Illinois House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to make the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a separate state agency. The bill must still be approved by the state Senate. The vote came nearly a month after Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner issued an Executive Order creating the ALPLM as a separate agency and abolishing the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency which is now under the Department of Natural Resources.
The Illinois State Journal-Register also reported on the first nine months of Alan Lowe’s tenure as Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in the March 26 issue.
The April 2 Illinois State Journal-Register reported on the opening of a new restaurant in Athens, IL, in the same building that housed a banquet for the “Long Nine,” the legislators (including Lincoln) who voted to move the State Capitol from Vandalia to Springfield in Sangamon County. The eatery, Long Nine Junction, was formerly a museum to the banquet.
After 16 years, the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project may be released to the general public. A review team will offer suggestions regarding the digital platform for publishing Lincoln’s papers and where the project’s current staff should focus their efforts. Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum reported this for a project that began in 1985 as the Lincoln Legal Papers Project. The review team is not based in Springfield but have knowledge of the collection. The review members include: Daniel Feller, director of the Papers of Andrew Jackson; Patrick Lewis, director and editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition; Susan Perdue, director of the Documents Compass Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; Matthew Pinsker, director of Dickinson College’s House Divided Project; and, Jennifer Stertzer, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Digital Editing and senior editor for the Papers of George Washington Digital Edition.
Once the documents are released onto the ALPLM’s website, users will see a full-color scan of the original document and on the other side will be a transcription with, hopefully, annotations. Samuel Wheeler, state historian for ALPLM, is the leader for the project and indicated that the collection will be completely free for users and will be released in increments.
Alex Camp reported on a Springfield, IL, museum curated by direct descendants of Civil War veterans, the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Artifacts in the museum come from private collections donated by DUVCW members. Camp wrote the article for the March 9-15 Illinois Times.
A long-lost plaque marking Abraham Lincoln’s work at a site in a central Illinois church has been found. For years, a rumor circulated that Abraham Lincoln once practiced law at Lincoln Christian Church in Lincoln, IL. The plaque, so indicating, went missing 60 years ago. According to the plaque, Lincoln worked as a lawyer and temporary judge at Lincoln Christian Church after the local courthouse burned down in 1857.
The R. Gerald McMurtry Family donated Thomas Lincoln’s corner cupboard to the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, Lincoln Memorial University. The cabinet, made by the father of Abraham Lincoln, has become a part of LMU’s Lincoln Collection.
Frank J. Williams and Virginia Williams donated The Frank & Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana to Mississippi State University. Considered one of the country’s largest privately owned collections, it includes rare historical artifacts, signed documents, ephemera, and books published over a span of 150 years.
Bruce M. Klein, founder of Photo Antiquities, has issued a small brochure of Abraham Lincoln photographs, Abraham Lincoln: The Myth, The Man, The Legend. The Photo Antiquities Museum of Photographic History is located at 531 East Ohio Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15212.
Books and Pamphlets
The bulletin of the 75th annual meeting of The Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin, held on April 16, 2016, has been published as Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural which was written by Dr. Richard Haven.
William C. Harris is the author of Two Against Lincoln: Reverdy Johnson and Horatio Seymour, Champions of the Loyal Opposition (University Press of Kansas).
Oxford University Press has published Richard White’s The Republic for Which it Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 as a volume in it’s Oxford History of the United States.
The Photographer and the President: Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Gardner, and the Images that made a Presidency, by Richard S. Lowry, has been published by Rizzoli.
Walter Stahr is the author of Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary (Simon & Schuster).
The Southern Illinois University Press published Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln by George R. Dekle, Sr.
Shawn J. Parry-Giles and David S. Kaufer are the authors of Memories of Lincoln and the Splintering of American Political Thought (Pennsylvania State University Press).
- Leigh Henson is the author of Inventing Lincoln: Approaches to his Rhetoric (P.O. Box 3127GSS, Springfield, MO 65808).
The Election of 1860: “A Campaign Fraught With Consequences” by Michael F. Holt has been published by the University Press of Kansas.
The University of Illinois Press has published Graham A. Peck’s Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Battle Over Freedom.
Fred Kaplan is the author of Lincoln and the Abolitionist: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War (HarperCollins).
Lincoln’s Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac by Stephen W. Sears has been published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Graham A. Peck is the author of Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Battle over Freedom (University of Illinois Press).
Southern Illinois University Press has published Jefferson, Lincoln, and the Unfinished Work of the Nation by Ronald L. Hatzenbuehler.
The University Press of Kansas has published Charles Calhoun’s The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.
Brian Steel Wills is the author of Inglorious Passages: Noncombat Deaths in the American Civil War (University Press of Kansas).
The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States by Ira Berlin was published by Harvard University Press.
John A. Luptn wrote “Forsaking the Law to Save the Nation: Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, Attorney” for the spring For the People: A Newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association. “Thomas Lincoln Reconsidered” by Richard E. Hart was in the same issue.
The fall issue of The Lincoln Herald continued its tribute to Dr. Wayne C. Temple who retired from the Illinois State Archives. Essays included Dave Joens’s “Wayne Temple, Dean of Lincoln Scholars, Retires from State Archives,” and two articles from Temple himself – “Lincoln Befriends John Shelby, A Man of ‘Colour,’ and Also Represents his Mother,” and (from the Archives) “Abraham Lincoln’s Fourth of July Addresses and his Encounter with Swendeborgians.”
Frank J. Williams, William D. Bader, and Andrew Blais wrote “‘Apple of Gold and Picture of Silver:’ How Abraham Lincoln Would Analyze the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause” for the winter 2017 Roger Williams University Law Review.
“Southern History in Periodicals, 2016: A Selected Bibliography” was published in the May Journal of Southern History.
Joan Wenner wrote about the “Confederate Secret Service” and the “Civil War Union Secret Service” for the June Civil War News.
James Krohe Jr. reported on “Why tourism promises more than it delivers” in the March 9-15 Illinois Times. In 1964, approximately 75,000 people visited Lincoln’s tomb. Today the tomb draws about half that many visitors.
Reg Ankrom posted “Wood lent governor’s office in Capitol to Lincoln” for the blog www.whig.com/20170508.
Erika Holst wrote about “Lincoln’s scandalous nephew” for the February 5-11, 2015 Illinois Times. Eugene Clover, married to Lizzie Edwards (Thus a Todd, not a Lincoln), killed a Union soldier at the Sangamon County Courthouse, Springfield.
- Leigh Henson wrote “Inventing Lincoln: Approaches to his Rhetoric” for the June 1 blog http://findinglincolnillinois.com/inventinglincoln.html.
Theodore P. Savas wrote “The War’s Biggest Blunder” (about the failure of General William T. Sherman to destroy the Augusta Arsenal) for the August Civil War Times.
Stephen W. Sears’s “Meade, Grant, and the Path to Victory” appeared in the summer Civil War Monitor. The issue also featured an interview with Sidney Blumenthal, who has written two volumes in his multi-volume political biography of Abraham Lincoln – A Self-Made Man in 2016 and Wrestling with his Angel in 2017. In the same issue, A. Wilson Greene’s “The Books that Built Me,” included The Picture History of the Civil War published by American Heritage; Bruce Catton’s multi-volume Centennial History of the Civil War – The Coming Fury (1961), Terrible Swift Sword (1963), Never Call Retreat (1965); W. A. Swanberg’s First Blood: The Story of Ft. Sumter (1957); Earl Schenck Miers’s, The Web of Victory: Grant at Vicksburg (1955); and, Fletcher Pratt’s Civil War on Western Waters (1956). Greene is also enamored with James M. McPherson’s For Cause & Comrades “Why Men Fought in the Civil War” (1997) and his Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) arguing: “Not only the best single volume on the war we are ever likely to see, but it lays out a very convincing case that the Confederacy could have achieved its war aims without winning on the battlefield and that the South’s true military high-water mark came in the autumn of 1862, not in the fields around Gettysburg or Vicksburg.
“Lincoln’s Forgotten Middle Years” by Allen C. Guelzo appeared in the June-July-August Washington Monthly.
Bryan Le Beau wrote “Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment” for the St. John News (www.sjnewsonline.com).
Thomas F. Schwartz wrote “Recollections of Betty J. Hickey” for the spring Newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association, For the People.
David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften, The Ultimate Guide to the Gettysburg Address, rev. by Joe Bordonaro, Civil War News (June 2017).
Candice Shy Hooper, Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War – For Better and for Worse, rev. by John Coleman, The Lincoln Herald (Fall 2016).
Coleman Hutchison, editor, A History of American Civil War Literature, rev. by Tanfer Emin Tunc, The Journal of Southern History (May 2017).
Fred Kaplan, Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War, rev. by Eric Foner, The New York Times Book Review (June 25, 2017).
Lucas E. Morel, editor, Lincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages, rev. by Harold Holzer, Civil War History (March 2017).
Mark E. Neely, Jr., Lincoln and the Democrats: The Politics of Opposition in the Civil War, rev. by Louis P. Masur, Civil War Times (August 2017); rev. by Harold Holzer, The Wall Street Journal (March 20, 2017).
Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Six Encounters with Lincoln: A President Confronts Democracy and its Demons, rev. by Frank J. Williams, Civil War News (July 2017); rev. by Carol Bundy, Wall Street Journal (February 4, 2017).
Christian G. Samito, Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment, rev. by Daniel W. Crofts, Civil War History (March 2017).
George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo, rev. by Sam Shapiro, The News & Observer (Charlotte, NC) (February 19, 2017); rev. by Christine Smallwood, Harpers’ Magazine (February 2017); rev. by Ellen Gamerman, Wall Street Journal (February 7, 2017); rev. by Caleb Crain, The Atlantic (March 2017); rev. by Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal (February 11-12, 2017) .
Stephen W. Sears, Lincoln’s Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac, rev. by Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune (April 30, 2017).
Charles B. Strozier, Your Friend Forever, A. Lincoln: The Enduring Friendship of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed, rev. by David J. Kent, The Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia Lincolnian (Spring 2017).
Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, editors, Herndon on Lincoln: Letters, rev. by Tyler V. Johnson, The Journal of Southern History (May 2017).
Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who played Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, announced his retirement from acting. The actor received an Academy Award in the Best Actor category for Lincoln, My Left Foot, and There Will Be Blood, the only lead actor to win three Oscars.
Lincoln and Political Culture
Aidan Quigley wrote “Trump’s loose grip on history is biting him” for the March Politico. Trump acknowledged not reading any presidential biographies before he received the Republican Party nomination. Unlike former presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton, and George H.W. Bush, who took an interest in history, Trump is not well read. “Trump’s loose command of history may be detrimental to the president in his decision making,” Harold Holzer indicated. “The presidents that I’ve spoken to about history and about the people who occupied the White House in the past had a real curiosity about the presidency and about presidents,” he said. “Anybody who faces a crisis should read about how other presidents face crises, because they do learn from each other.”
On June 2, “Page 6” of the New York Post reported that while Vladimir Putin praised President Donald Trump in St. Petersburg on June 1, Russian censors inexplicably removed a portrait of Abraham Lincoln from a museum show in St. Petersburg where Putin was speaking.
The State Journal-Register of Springfield, IL, reported on April 12 that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has removed a statue of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, from the plaza in front of the building because it sent “the wrong message.” One visitor complained that sanitizing history sent the wrong message. The museum believed that “…visitors’ first impressions should be about the life of Illinois’ favorite son and not a reminder of his death.”
The Journal Star of February 26 included David Blanchette’s piece “Lincoln had his Media Enemies.” Harold Holzer, who wrote Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion was quoted as saying that Lincoln shut down several newspapers during the Civil War, including the Chicago Times, for printing what many at the time argued were treasonous statements. James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Collection at the ALPLM, said Lincoln, just like Trump and every other U.S. president, sometimes felt he didn’t get a fair deal from the media. Cornelius also believed that Lincoln’s relationship with his two hometown newspapers, the Springfield Journal and the Springfield Register, demonstrated that he was equally capable of working with those who supported or opposed him.
Actor Johnny Depp apologized on June 23 for suggesting – however jokingly, ironically, or obliquely – the demise of President Trump: “I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about President Trump.” Depp, speaking on June 22 at the Glastonbury Arts Festival in England, asked the audience, “Can you bring Trump here?” Remarked with booing and jeering he continued, “You misunderstand completely. When was the last time an actor assassinated a president? I want to clarify: I’m not an actor. I lie for a living. However, it’s been a while, and maybe it’s time.” This was clearly an illusion to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by actor John Wilkes Booth in April 1865.
Judge Michael L. Stern wrote “Greatest witch hunt in history? Don’t forget Abraham Lincoln” for the May 21 Los Angeles Daily Journal. He argued that President Trump alleged that he was the victim of “the greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” But, Judge Stern points out that criticism faced by the president does not match that which was leveled against Abraham Lincoln. “In the face of blistering denunciations, Lincoln did not clothe himself in self-pity or waste time daily railing at the press and other detractors. He acknowledged blame when Union forces faltered, sought out counsel from his cabinet and Congress, and paid little heed to those who said that his presidency was doomed to a single term.” Stern believes that despite great presidents since Lincoln, it is Lincoln who is “recognized as the standard for integrity, fortitude and grace among those who have held the office. …”
Charles P. Pierce, on December 28, 2016, wrote for Esquire that “President-elect Lincoln was Mad as Hell, Too. But He knew When to Can it.” Pierce believes that then president-elect Trump wasn’t shutting up as president-elect, unlike Abraham Lincoln during an actual crisis.
On January 15, the Washington Post published Patrick M. Reynolds’s “Flashbacks” comic strip of the Baltimore Plot. His cartoon “Did John Kennedy save Abe Lincoln’s Life?” followed.
One of Charles Schulz’s classic “Peanuts” cartoons appeared in the Washington Post on February 9, with Lucy asking Charlie Brown, “Do you want to hear my report on Abraham Lincoln?” Then she reads, “Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday…who, you may ask, was Abraham Lincoln? Okay, I’ll tell you…Abraham Lincoln was our sixteenth king and he was the father of lot’s wife…” She asked Charlie if she will get an “A” and Charlie Brown responds “Do they give out “Z’s”?
Lewis E. Lehrman’s op-ed piece “‘Stand Firm’: Lincoln’s Advice to a Nurse, the Union and Himself” appeared in the Wall Street Journal on February 10, 2017. Lehrman argues convincingly that, “His faith in the American people did not waiver, even when he won less than 40 percent of the popular vote” and contradicts the Lancaster, South Carolina Ledger, November 14, 1860, after Lincoln’s election, “Large crowds have gathered in the streets. The pervading spirit among the masses is resistance to Lincoln’s administration, and everywhere that determination is manifest.”
David Brooks wrote about “Today’s Age of Reason” for the New York Times on February 28, arguing that Alexis De Tocqueville, who visited the United States in the 1830s, believed that “…if a rules-based democratic government was going to work anywhere, it was going to be the United States.” Thus, America became the test case for the entire Enlightenment. Brooks believes that Abraham Lincoln was the “classic” “Enlightenment” man with his objection to mob rule and “his reverence for the laws.” “His success in the Civil War seemed to vindicate faith and democracy and the entire Enlightenment cause.” Enlightenment thinkers believed that “…people should stop deferring blindly to authority for how to live. Instead, they should think things through from the ground up, respect facts and skeptically re-examine their own assumptions and convictions.”
Works in Progress
Graham A. Peck’s Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Battle over Freedom will be published by the University of Illinois Press this fall.
The December 29, 2016 – January 4, 2017 Illinois Times devoted this issue to “Remembering the lives they lived: The stories of those we loved and lost in 2016.” Featured was Bruce Rushton’s commentary on Earl “Wally” Henderson (April 5, 1931-April 18, 2016) as “A dreamer who got things done.”
Melvin “Pete” Mark, a prominent real estate executive, died on June 1 at the age of 91. He was a collector of presidential artifacts, many pertaining to Abraham Lincoln. His Lincoln treasures were on display at the Oregon Historical Society Museum in 2008 and in 2013-14.
Robert Hale Fraker of Lanesboro, MA, died on May 2, 2017. He, with his wife of over 50 years, Lillian Fraker, founded Savoy Books, selling antiquarian books and manuscripts including many on Lincoln. He was also a distinguished bibliographer, musician, and gardener.
I want to thank Florence J. Baur, Randal Berry, Roger Billings, Kenneth L. Childs, James M. Cornelius, Aaron Crawford, Sybil and Bill Forsythe, Harold Holzer, Richard Sloan, Tom Lapsley, Dave Leroy, William D. Pederson, Robert F. Henderson, Jr., Thomas Horrocks, Wayne C. Temple, Edward Steers, Jr., David J. Stiller, Jo Dzombak, Guy C. Fraker, Malcolm Garber, Mike Marlow, David Warren, Thomas J. Trimborn, Justice William P. Robinson III, Judges W. Dennis Duggan and Dennis Curran, Frank and Virginia Musgrave, Mike Gross, Larry Morris, Dr. Philip Stichter, Judge Michael L. Stern, Robert F. Henderson, Jr. and Virginia Williams for providing information for this column. I welcome news concerning Abraham Lincoln. Please contact me at 300 Switch Road, Hope Valley, RI 02832; fax (401) 364-3642; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org