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Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
02-02-2018, 05:05 PM (This post was last modified: 02-02-2018 09:13 PM by kerry.)
Post: #286
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(02-02-2018 10:18 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  
(02-01-2018 06:48 PM)L Verge Wrote:  I don't know what else to say other than to get back to the original posting regarding Mary Lincoln's virtue.

Here is a paragraph from Michael Burlingame's The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln:

"Other sources suggest that Mary Lincoln may have been unfaithful. The White House gardener, John Watt, told a journalist in 1867 that "Mrs. Lincoln's relations with certain men were indecently improper." 166 Edward McManus, doorkeeper at the White House, evidently made a similar allegation. 167 Oswald Garrison Villard claimed that Robert Todd Lincoln 'systematically bought up any books that reflected [poorly] on Mrs. Lincoln,' including one by 'the Hungarian adventurer who nearly succeeded in eloping with Mrs. Lincoln from the White House.' 168 In a letter to her confidant Abram Wakeman, Mary Lincoln purportedly wrote, 'I have taken your excellent advice and decided not to leave my husband while he is in the White House.' 169 Sam ward, a knowledgeable Washington insider known as 'King of the Lobby,' suggested there was something unsavory in the relationship between Mary Lincoln and 'Dennison,' presumably either William Dennison, Lincoln's postmaster general in New York in 1864 and 1865, or George Dennison, naval officer in the New York Custom House." 170

Burlingame also suggests Mary Lincoln may have had an affair with William S. Wood (Commissioner of Public Buildings). Janis Cooke Newman, also suggests this (affair with Wood) in her book (which is historical fiction).

166 - George W. Adams to [David Goodman]Croly, Washington, 7 Oct. 1867, Manton Marble, MSS, DLC.

167 - McManus, fired by Mary Lincoln for obscure reasons in January 1865, apparently told Thurlow Weed that she was romantically linked with a man other than her husband. Mary Todd Lincoln to Abram Wakeman, Washington, 20 Feb. [1865], in Turner and Turner, MTL, 202.

168 - Villard to Isaac Markens, New York, 26 March 1927, Lincoln Collection, RPB. The identity of this Hungarian adventurer is unknown. Villard may have been thinking of Wikoff, who was definitely an adventurer but not of Hungarian origin.

169 - Letter to Wakeman seen by Wakeman's daughter, who described it to her daughter, Elizabeth M. Alexanderson of Englewood, N.J., Newark Star, 3 March, 1951. No such document exists in Mary Lincoln's published letters.

170 - Ward to S.L.M. Barlow, Washington, 21 Nov. [1864?], Barlow MSS, CSmH.

Personally, I am a non-believer in all of this. My opinion is that Mary was totally faithful to her husband, and he was the same to her.

I had no idea the World editor's papers existed - I need to read through those! While I would not be shocked to find out any historical figure was unfaithful, I don't think we have any real evidence to suggest it. I think the comments mentioned were more related to her corruption. The one about the Hungarian adventurer sounds more like a joke or exaggeration. Another source Burlingame uses is from an obscure publication by a guy who claims to have known her boyfriend, but his name was Lincoln something, and he sounded like somebody who might write himself into the story. I've tried to find a few of the clippings Burlingame speaks of to get context, but most of them have been lost somehow by the institutions he researched at, or reorganized totally. I'm not suggesting he fabricated them, but I'd love to get my hands on the full context. The Wakeman letter mentioned I think has been taken way out of context - it was heavily reported at the time that Mary wanted to make a trip to Europe throughout Lincoln's presidency, and it was probably a reference to something like that, or to a suggestion that she return to Illinois or something. I think had she been that indiscreet, we'd have heard more about it. She may have been flirtatious enough to be perceived as "indecent," or because of traveling unescorted etc. Burlingame also writes that Herndon told Caroline Heally Dall she was unfaithful - I don't see that so far in her papers. I believe we could get some answers to this stuff if we really raided the archives - I wish I could get more time off work to do it.
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02-03-2018, 02:13 AM
Post: #287
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
Thomas Keneally ('Lincoln') also refers to an anonymous letter sent to Lincoln saying Mary Lincoln may have had an affair with William S. Wood (Commissioner of Public Buildings) ... and we all know the worth of such . Kenally says Wood was required to accompany her on shopping expeditions (and presumably act as a brake).


“In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again.” James Agee.
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02-03-2018, 04:52 AM
Post: #288
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(02-03-2018 02:13 AM)AussieMick Wrote:  Thomas Keneally ('Lincoln') also refers to an anonymous letter sent to Lincoln saying Mary Lincoln may have had an affair with William S. Wood (Commissioner of Public Buildings) ... and we all know the worth of such . Kenally says Wood was required to accompany her on shopping expeditions (and presumably act as a brake).

I was aware Wood accompanied Mary to New York on a shopping trip. But I think they were not alone; there were several others in the traveling party. I cannot visualize Mary's shopping trip as an opportunity for an affair with Wood. Does the anonymous letter indicate where the affair took place?
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02-03-2018, 05:33 AM
Post: #289
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
Infuriatingly, "no" .... Keneally only says "by June 1861 on top of his other causes for grief, Lincoln received an anonymous letter about Mary's relationship with Wood, implying it was adulterous.'
Keneally's sources are (for what they are worth) say 'on the fascinating subject of Lincoln's marriage ... apart from Herndon and other sources, we have Katherine Helm's The true Story of Mary Lincoln ... , 1928,. also, Ruth Painter Randall's Mary Lincoln: ..., and Mary Lincoln : A Biography, by Jean Baker.
Which one of these he uses for the anonymous letter reference, he doesnt say.


“In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again.” James Agee.
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02-03-2018, 11:12 AM
Post: #290
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
I haven't read Burlingames's book. It is a shame that such a noted historian has to repeat gossip and insinuate that there could be some truth to it, with all the frequent references mentioned. Further evidence of his "anti Mary" prejudice? For me, it damages his credibility.

As most of Lincoln's mail was opened and read by his secretary's, I have doubts about those type of anonymous letters mentioned by Keneally ever reaching him. Your thoughts?

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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02-03-2018, 01:47 PM
Post: #291
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
From Randall: "Late in June a letter signed "Union" came to the President saying: "It appears that the appointment of Mr. Wood, as Comr. of P. B. has given great dissatisfactions to the citizens of this District, and some of the dastardly politicians and poltrons, are only waiting the action of the Senate, and if Mr. W. is confirmed, they will attempt to stab you in the most vital part, by circulating scandal about your most estimable Lady and Mr. W. They say the papers of this country and europe will teem with it. Human nature is prone to evil I know, but was ever anything so diabolical heard of before?" The writer said with feeling that by his love for his own wife and children he could "form some idea, of the anguish and pain, that such a report might occasion."

That is the context. It clearly portrays it as a rumor enemies are going to fabricate; Dr. Henry's letter also talks about such plots in 1864. That doesn't mean the rumors were definitely false, but this letter is often taken out of context. The writer clearly does not believe it, and may have even heard people say they will make it up. The times were such that people would make up those things. With Burlingame, I don't mind him bringing up rumors for context and to complete the record, but I do get the sense he mainly does it with Mary, and it is unfair. All through Browning and French's diaries, which are the main sources for her corruption, they are struggling with their own issues. French gets into it with Secretary Usher and is accused of something unspecified; he may have been innocent, but it is easy to insinuate against him, especially because he did get yelled at by Lincoln for trying to bring more under his power to control. Browning, I believe, was involved in cotton speculation etc. This isn't to say any of them are terrible people - the rules were a little fuzzy at the time, and I think they all got a little greedy - it's human nature. But Mary takes the brunt of the rumors. What French says about Mary is nothing given his rants about others. And the big rumors about Mary were usually paired with accusations against Lincoln that get left out.
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02-04-2018, 09:25 AM
Post: #292
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
Thanks Kerry, that puts the anonymous letter in its proper context.

Was this James or Ruth Randal?
Do you know if it is in one of their books, papers or speech's?

Anyone know if this anonymous letter still exists?

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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02-04-2018, 12:56 PM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2018 01:16 PM by kerry.)
Post: #293
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(02-04-2018 09:25 AM)Gene C Wrote:  Thanks Kerry, that puts the anonymous letter in its proper context.

Was this James or Ruth Randal?
Do you know if it is in one of their books, papers or speech's?

Anyone know if this anonymous letter still exists?

Ruth Painter Randall's biography of Mary, available at archive.org for free.

The letter I'm pretty sure does exist somewhere - I seem to remember reading it, but I can't find it. There's another one here that gets some mentions: https://historical.ha.com/itm/autographs...14-61063.s

That one is often used to make it sound like Mary was running into trouble, but I find it hard to believe she went to Beecher's church without Lincoln's permission. I think there were thousands of such letters sent by all the angry people at the time, that look like Mary was up to something but are just your typical complaints - Beecher was too radical for some, and her traveling was unusual at the time.

I find it very interesting that Sumner, Lovejoy, and Joshua Giddings all liked her. All of them were people who weren't afraid to take an unpopular stance with abolitionism, but they were no pushovers or intellectual lightweights. All of them were well acquainted with her at times volatile personality, but liked her overall. Had she been involved in a movement like abolitionism, I think she would have been a lot more stable -- I think her intellect was continuously frustrated. She appeared to try to get involved with her letter to the fair after Lincoln's death, but by then she was at odds with the remaining radicals, minus Sumner, due to the political situation, and Lovejoy and Giddings were dead (as were Caleb Smith and Benjamin French, when most of the allegations about her corruption were made public; I don't think they were made up, but it was certain no context could be provided).
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02-04-2018, 01:20 PM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2018 04:38 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #294
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
A lot of people who knew her in person liked her (and kids in general it was said). I think those people were able to understand she had a good, warm, loving and giving side (which I think she had) despite her tempers. Maybe Mr. Burlingame would have changed his mind had he met her in person. Maybe not, she possibly just doesn't match HIS idea of a "suitable" wife (for him or in his world view... same goes for Hendon). And none of the critics seem to acknowledge she was capable of "dealing" with Abraham Lincoln, his needs in life (career and resulting absence etc.), his moods etc, his "non-etiquette" behavior, his challenge seeking mind.
As for she (or he) and affairs, I think she was faithful as was he. However, until a "love letter" pops up that clearly proves anything else this will always remain a matter of belief gossip and speculation either way. Mary never re-married nor had an affair after his dead when it would have been legitimate, most likely accepted by many, and not unusual. My best guess is that she tried to "let her southern belle charme" help her getting out of debts (without going any further than entertaining conversation, charming small talk, the Scarlett O'Hara way).
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02-04-2018, 02:08 PM
Post: #295
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(02-04-2018 01:20 PM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:  (career and resulting absence etc.),

IMO, that is an excellent point. For many years Abraham was away riding the circuit 6 months a year (3 months in the spring and another 3 in the fall). She did a lot of "raising the kids" all alone. This had to be difficult.
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02-04-2018, 03:20 PM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2018 03:23 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #296
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
Yes, and all "against" her status and pampered upbringing she was willing to do. And she didn't have affairs then, to my knowledge - Herndon would have been the first to spread and indulge in doing so.

Anyway she wasn't good at hiding anything I think - whether moods or feelings. I doubt she could have successfully hidden love affairs.
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02-04-2018, 04:39 PM
Post: #297
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(02-04-2018 01:20 PM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:  A lot of people who knew her personality liked her. I think those people were able to understand she had a good, warm, loving and giving side (which I think she had) despite her tempers. Maybe Mr. Burlingame would have changed his mind had he met her in person. Maybe not, she possibly just doesn't match HIS idea of a "suitable" wife (for him or in his world view... same goes for Hendon). And none of the critics seem to acknowledge she was capable of "dealing" with Abraham Lincoln, his needs in life (career and resulting absence etc.), his moods etc, his "non-etiquette" behavior, his challenge seeking mind.
As for she (or he) and affairs, I think she was faithful as was he. However, until a "love letter" pops up that clearly proves anything else this will always remain a matter of belief gossip and speculation either way. Mary never re-married nor had an affair after his dead when it would have been legitimate, most likely accepted by many, and not unusual. My best guess is that she tried to "let her southern belle charme" help her getting out of debts (without going any further than entertaining conversation, charming small talk, the Scarlett O'Hara way).

There are a lot of people who will never like someone like Mary Lincoln - they care a lot about decorum, conformity, etc., and one instance of her temper would turn them off for good. They can't imagine Lincoln could ever have been happy with her. But many if not most very successful men are attracted to intelligent, outspoken women; we ignore this fact too much. Of the little that is known of Jefferson's wife, her daughter wrote she was "saucy" or something along those lines. I feel that a lot of people who write about Lincoln have completely missed his love of people who were fun and different, and his willingness to look beyond obvious flaws to see people's true character and talents.
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02-04-2018, 10:06 PM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2018 10:11 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #298
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
 He once said as for enduring his wife’s tantrums: “If you knew how little harm it does me, and how much good it does her, you wouldn’t wonder that I am meek.”  (I think Crook is the source.)

And James Gourley, a Springfield neighbor, said: “Lincoln yielded to his wife — in fact, almost any other man, had he known the woman as I did, would have done the same thing.” (Just realize one could read "the woman" in a general way, too, but that would rather have been "the women", so I think he referred to Mary, not women in general. )
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02-05-2018, 04:45 PM
Post: #299
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(02-04-2018 04:39 PM)kerry Wrote:  
(02-04-2018 01:20 PM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:  A lot of people who knew her personality liked her. I think those people were able to understand she had a good, warm, loving and giving side (which I think she had) despite her tempers. Maybe Mr. Burlingame would have changed his mind had he met her in person. Maybe not, she possibly just doesn't match HIS idea of a "suitable" wife (for him or in his world view... same goes for Hendon). And none of the critics seem to acknowledge she was capable of "dealing" with Abraham Lincoln, his needs in life (career and resulting absence etc.), his moods etc, his "non-etiquette" behavior, his challenge seeking mind.
As for she (or he) and affairs, I think she was faithful as was he. However, until a "love letter" pops up that clearly proves anything else this will always remain a matter of belief gossip and speculation either way. Mary never re-married nor had an affair after his dead when it would have been legitimate, most likely accepted by many, and not unusual. My best guess is that she tried to "let her southern belle charme" help her getting out of debts (without going any further than entertaining conversation, charming small talk, the Scarlett O'Hara way).

There are a lot of people who will never like someone like Mary Lincoln - they care a lot about decorum, conformity, etc., and one instance of her temper would turn them off for good. They can't imagine Lincoln could ever have been happy with her. But many if not most very successful men are attracted to intelligent, outspoken women; we ignore this fact too much. Of the little that is known of Jefferson's wife, her daughter wrote she was "saucy" or something along those lines. I feel that a lot of people who write about Lincoln have completely missed his love of people who were fun and different, and his willingness to look beyond obvious flaws to see people's true character and talents.

Well stated Eva and Kerry. There is no substantiated proof Mary had an affair- the 5 Ws and an H
Who was involved?
What happened?
Where did it take place?
When did it take place?
Why did that happen?
How did it happen?

AND so much on the record documenting her complete love and devotion to Lincoln.

I'm not a fan of psychobiography. Here's a review from Amazon.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0252020863?tag...nk22163-20

"Abraham Lincoln's excruciating, yet highly productive, midlife crisis; his woeful marriage to a dishonest woman who often embarrassed and sometimes physically abused him; his intense estrangement from a shiftless father; his streak of cruelty; his explosive temper; and his aversion to women are among the topics covered by Michael Burlingame in The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln.

Based primarily on long-neglected manuscript and newspaper sources - especially on reminiscences of people who knew Lincoln - this psychobiography casts new light on the emotional origins of Lincoln's deep hatred of slavery, on his transformation from a party hack to a statesman, on his relations with his family, on the causes of his depressions, and on the roots of his ambition. Burlingame uses a blend of Freudian and Jungian theory to interpret the psyche of the sixteenth president."
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02-05-2018, 05:31 PM
Post: #300
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(02-04-2018 10:06 PM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:   He once said as for enduring his wife’s tantrums: “If you knew how little harm it does me, and how much good it does her, you wouldn’t wonder that I am meek.”  (I think Crook is the source.)

And James Gourley, a Springfield neighbor, said: “Lincoln yielded to his wife — in fact, almost any other man, had he known the woman as I did, would have done the same thing.” (Just realize one could read "the woman" in a general way, too, but that would rather have been "the women", so I think he referred to Mary, not women in general. )

Yes, Crook said this, and so did about 15 other people. It was clearly a line Lincoln used all the time, probably because it was generally true.

That letter he wrote about the soap to the manufacturer around 1860, saying his wife had told him he didn't know anything about soap but that she had liked it, shows that he enjoyed cultivating the 'henpecked' persona and found it funny. That's not to say it wasn't at times very upsetting to him, but plenty of people love difficult people and have volatile relationships. Plenty of eccentric people with tempers have been very successful and popular. Also, when you read Lincoln Day by Day or the Lincoln Log, it's obvious they spent a lot of time together, considering how busy Lincoln was. They weren't avoiding each other.
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