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Mary was a leaker
10-15-2017, 11:19 PM
Post: #16
RE: Mary was a leaker
(10-12-2017 05:12 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  Regarding her loyalty, Mary Lincoln withstood a lot of strange rumors - I once read that at least one newspaper wrote that Confederate agents came by ladder to her bedroom window at night where she passed military secrets to them!

Roger, I thought that you might want to consider the following which came first "chicken or the egg" story in Reveille in Washington: 1860 - 1865 by Margaret Leech.

As a measure of self-protection, Mrs. Lincoln ceased to open her own mail. The second assistant secretary, William O. Stoddard, read every letter that came to her, even from her sisters, and examined every package. He could testify that there was no treasonable matter in any of them. Stoddard was a rather stuffy fellow, whom Nicolay and Hay disliked. He admired Mrs. Lincoln, and was angry at the injustice of the charges of disloyalty. Standing at the window of Mrs. Lincoln's sitting-room, the Red Room, he sarcastically reflected that this must be the scene of her betrayal of the Union plans. "The Confederate spies work their way through the lines easily enough, fort after fort, till they reach the Potomac down yonder. The Long Bridge is closed to them, and so is the Georgetown Bridge, but they cross at night in rowboats, or by swimming, and they come up through the grounds, like so many ghosts, and they put a ladder up to this window, and Mrs. Lincoln hands them out the plans."

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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Yesterday, 05:30 AM
Post: #17
RE: Mary was a leaker
In researching this topic, I came upon a 1973 letter. I thought it was of interest. Here is the text:

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

July 6, 1973

Senator Lowell Weicker
U. S. Senate
Washington, D.C.

Dear Senator Weicker:

On page 13, the July 9, 1973 issue of Time quotes your allusion to Abraham Lincoln's visit to Congress to vindicate his wife from charges of disloyalty.

You apparently relied on Sandburg, who is, alas, a notoriously unreliable source. We doubt that the incident ever occurred. The only evidence for its occurrence stems from a clipping in the files of the
Lincoln Library and Museum that appeared in a Washington newspaper sometime between 1904 and 1916 (the article was so clipped that the name and date of the newspaper do not appear).

The author of the article, one E. J. Edwards, says the "anecdote" (his word) came from General Thomas L. James. At the time James was Postmaster General in Garfield's cabinet an unnamed "member of the Senate committee on the conduct of the war in Lincoln's first administration" allegedly related the story of Lincoln's surprise appearance.

The anecdote seems very doubtful. For one thing, the Committee on the Conduct of the War was a joint committee, not a Senate committee. The biographies of Senate members of the committee do not mention the incident. Time alleges that the story came from the "committee's chairman." The chairman was Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, but his biographers, H. L. Trefousse and A. G. Riddle, make no mention of the incident.

Mary Lincoln's biographer, Ruth Painter Randall, questioned the likelihood that the event ever occurred, and she did this reluctantly because she liked to picture Lincoln's wife as a victim maligned by unfair criticism. The story would have fit Mrs. Randall's argument perfectly, but as an historian she knew she must discredit what, as a Mary Lincoln apologist, she may have wanted to believe.

Yours truly,

The Staff

Lincoln Library and Museum
Lincoln National Life Foundation
Fort Wayne, Indiana
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Yesterday, 07:03 AM
Post: #18
RE: Mary was a leaker
(Yesterday 05:30 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  In researching this topic, I came upon a 1973 letter. I thought it was of interest. Here is the text:

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

July 6, 1973

Senator Lowell Weicker
U. S. Senate
Washington, D.C.

Dear Senator Weicker:



Yours truly,

The Staff

Lincoln Library and Museum
Lincoln National Life Foundation
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Here's another coincidence:

Gerald J. Prokopowicz specializes in Public History and the Civil War era. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan, and practiced law for several years in Chicago. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and served for nine years as the Lincoln Scholar at the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he co-wrote the award winning permanent exhibit “Abraham Lincoln and the American Experiment,” and edited the quarterly bulletin Lincoln Lore.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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Yesterday, 11:36 AM
Post: #19
RE: Mary was a leaker
The bottom line on this topic for me is the following analysis which begins with the Hertz version of this story:

"During a crucial period of the war many malicious stories were in circulation, based upon the suspicion that Mrs. Lincoln was in sympathy with the Confederacy. These reports were inspired by the fact that some of Mrs. Lincoln's relatives were in the Confederate service. At last reports that were more than vague gossip were brought to the attention of some of my colleagues in the Senate. They made specific accusation that Mrs. Lincoln was giving important information to secret agents of the Confederacy. These reports were laid before my committee [on the Conduct of the War] and the committee thought it an imperative duty to investigate them, although it was the most embarrassing and painful task imposed upon us.

The sessions of the committee were necessarily secret. We had just been called to order by the chairman, when the officer stationed at the committee-room door opened it and came in with a half-frightened, half-embarrassed expression on his face. Before he had the opportunity to make explanation, we understood the reason for his excitement. For at the foot of the table, standing solitary, his hat in his hand, his tall form towering above the committee members, Abraham Lincoln stood. Had he come by some incantation, thus appearing of a sudden before us unannounced, we could not have been more astounded.

The pathos that was written upon Lincoln's face, the almost unhuman sadness that was in his eyes as he looked upon us, and above all an indescribable sense of his complete isolation--the sad solitude which is inherent in all true grandeur of character and intellect--all this revealed Lincoln to me and I think to every member of the committee in the finer, subtler light whose illumination faintly set forth fundamental nature of this man. No one spoke, for none knew what to say. The President had not been asked to come before the committee, nor was it suspected that he had information that we were to investigate the reports, which, if true, fastened treason upon his family in the White House.

At last Lincoln spoke, slowly, with infinite sorrow in his tone, and he said:

"I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, appear of my own volition before this committee of the Senate to say that I, of my own knowledge, know that it is untrue that any of my family hold treasonable communication with the enemy."

Having said that, Lincoln went away as silently and solitary as he came. We sat for some moments speechless. Then by tacit agreement, no word being spoken, the committee dropped all consideration of the rumors that the wife of the President was betraying the Union. We had seen Abraham Lincoln in the solemn and isolated majesty of his real nature. We were so greatly affected that the committee adjourned sine die."


To the very best of my knowledge, there has never been made in any Lincoln scholarly work a reference to a report made by the Committee on the Conduct of the War on the subject of the "specific accusation that Mrs. Lincoln was giving important information to secret agents of the Confederacy." Why not? There was no investigation? I think that there were just the beginnings of such a legitimate investigation. The only logical explanation to me that the Committee's investigation went no further than it did is the alleged appearance before the Committee on that fateful day by President Lincoln that properly resulted in no more consideration of the subject by the members of the Committee.

As to other scholarly analyses that have concluded there is no precedent for the President of the United States to appear before a Congressional Committee to give testimony, I also believe that there was no precedent for the President of the United States to attend the Hampton Roads Conference to discuss with high-ranking members of the Confederacy an end to the Civil War. The bottom line for consideration is that President Abraham Lincoln was a pragmatic Man.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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