Post Reply 
An American Marriage
06-04-2021, 11:45 AM (This post was last modified: 06-04-2021 04:50 PM by Gene C.)
Post: #1
An American Marriage
Full title - An American Marriage : The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd
by Michael Burlingame

Recently published.
Here is the Amazon Page
https://www.amazon.com/American-Marriage...34&sr=8-14

The sample pages were informative.
From what I've read of the sample, it seems life wasn't all peaches and cream in the Lincoln household.
Burlingame indicates Mary had some issues, both physical and mental, which contributed to the normal challenges of married life.
The book seems to be well documented.

Considering the author and subject matter, , I will probably purchase it.
I'm not usually the first on the forum to read new books, so I'm looking forward to someone sharing a review (especially if they have read it) on this book before I buy it.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
06-04-2021, 12:16 PM
Post: #2
RE: An American Marriage
Someone at the NYT read the book -
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/01/books...-todd.html

By Amy S. Greenberg, June 1, 2021
AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE
The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd
By Michael Burlingame

Mary Lincoln was not a great first lady. A compulsive shopper, she ran up huge debts that she tried to hide by falsifying bills and misappropriating federal funds. She accepted lavish gifts from men and then lobbied her husband for patronage appointments on their behalf. And she was emotionally unstable, with an explosive temper that was exacerbated by migraines, a debilitating menstrual condition and what was most likely bipolar disorder. She also endured unspeakable tragedies: the deaths of her son Eddie at age 3, her son William at age 11, while the family was living in the White House, and her husband’s after he was shot sitting next to her at Ford’s Theater.

She wasn’t the worst first lady; at least she made an effort. Anna Harrison didn’t set foot in the White House during her husband’s brief presidency. Nor was Mary the least popular, an honor currently held by Melania Trump. In an ordinary decade her failures would likely have faded into obscurity. But Mary presided during the nation’s greatest crisis, and her husband was the nation’s greatest president. Abraham Lincoln’s light would have cast the most successful spouse into shadow.

Most scholars have approached Mary Lincoln’s shortcomings with compassion, excusing all but the worst of her sins on account of her traumas and mental illness. But Michael Burlingame, a leading expert on Abraham Lincoln and a professor of Lincoln studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, believes this sympathy is misplaced and has obscured a central truth about Lincoln: that his home life was, as Lincoln’s law partner, William H. Herndon, put it, “a burning, scorching hell.” “An American Marriage” forcefully argues this thesis in a series of lively chapters designed to discredit the possibility that the Lincoln marriage was happy, functional or loving.

It isn’t easy to prove that someone else’s marriage is miserable, particularly when neither of the parties will admit as much. Given how few of us fully understand the marriages of our close friends, siblings, even our parents, how is one to unlock the mystery of the Lincoln marriage?

Burlingame’s approach is multifaceted. He relies heavily on written accounts by the Lincolns’ contemporaries, most of which were composed after Abraham’s death by individuals unfriendly to Mary, and on journalistic accounts published during the couple’s years in the White House. He also draws on modern psychology. Research into the mental state of abused spouses provides an explanation for why the 6-foot-4 Abraham evinced so little concern over the physical abuse he sustained at the hands of his 5-foot-2 wife (ranging from throwing hot beverages at him to a blow to his face that drew blood). At the heart of this volume is the bold claim that Abraham did not love his wife and deeply regretted his marriage. Burlingame aggressively criticizes scholars who have suggested otherwise by interrogating the objectivity of their sources. Whether his own would withstand similar scrutiny is impossible to determine, given that the volume provides no citations (although an appendix suggests that research notes can be accessed online).
Couples therapists are unlikely to approve of Burlingame’s method. A marriage is the creation of two responsible parties, but the author’s initial assertion that the Lincoln marriage failed because the emotionally distant Abraham and the needy Mary were unsuited for each other quickly collapses under an avalanche of accusations against Mary. The reader learns that Mary was vain, snobbish and pretentious, that she tricked her husband into marriage and then belittled him, that she gossiped, mistreated her servants, asked houseguests to do chores, was both a spendthrift and a pinchpenny, that she didn’t like pets, had delusions of political grandeur, didn’t respond to correspondence promptly, attended séances and sold the milk of the White House cows.

The guiding spirit of this volume is Herndon, the Lincoln memorialist whose hatred of Mary was loud and passionate. He wrote of her, “After she got married she became Soured — got gross — became material — avaricious — insolent — mean — insulting — imperious; and a she-wolf.”
Burlingame might have interrogated Herndon’s objectivity, or expressed skepticism about the hearsay and rumors that underlie many of the accusations in this volume. Instead, he conjectures. An anonymous letter to the president accusing Mary of having an affair with a lobbyist named William S. Wood allows the author to infer that Abraham “might have had a possible adultery scandal in mind” when he reportedly expressed concern to Orville Browning about his wife disgracing him. A paragraph later, Burlingame asserts, on equally questionable grounds, that “Mrs. Lincoln may have been unfaithful with others as well as with Wood,” without having established the truth of the Wood affair.

Primary caregivers will note how frequently Mary and Abraham are held to different standards. Mary is dismissed as a negligent mother when she entrusts a 6-year-old with the care of her baby. But Abraham is “not a good babysitter” when he ignores his screaming children and allows one to fall out of a wagon. Mary’s physical disciplining of her children receives censure, but when Abraham beats one of his sons an approving observer notes that he “corrected his child as a father ought to do.” After Burlingame has asserted that the first lady secured patronage appointments by lobbying her husband, he then qualifies his accusation with the note that “her voice counted for little except in relatively minor cases.” To admit that Mary had influence over her husband would open up the possibility that the Lincoln marriage was functional, that Abraham valued her opinion or that Mary’s claims to political power had a basis in fact.

Burlingame goes so far as to assign Mary a certain culpability in her husband’s assassination. Her rude treatment of Julia Grant reportedly prevented Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from accompanying the first couple to Ford’s Theater on April 14, when John Wilkes Booth fired the fatal shot. Had Grant been there, Burlingame asserts, his “own self-protective instincts, honed by long battlefield experience, would have made it unlikely that Booth would have succeeded.” If “An American Marriage” is to be believed, Booth put the president out of his misery.

Amy S. Greenberg, a historian at Penn State University, is the author of “Lady First: The World of First Lady Sarah Polk.”
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
06-04-2021, 01:38 PM
Post: #3
RE: An American Marriage
(06-04-2021 12:16 PM)Amy L. Wrote:  Burlingame goes so far as to assign Mary a certain culpability in her husband’s assassination. Her rude treatment of Julia Grant reportedly prevented Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from accompanying the first couple to Ford’s Theater on April 14, when John Wilkes Booth fired the fatal shot. Had Grant been there, Burlingame asserts, his “own self-protective instincts, honed by long battlefield experience, would have made it unlikely that Booth would have succeeded.” If “An American Marriage” is to be believed, Booth put the president out of his misery.

IMO, Professor Burlingame is overstepping when he "assigns Mary a certain culpability" regarding the assassination. He apparently feels her "foresight" should have warned her about the danger of attending the theater without the Grants. I really do not think this is fair to Mary.
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
06-06-2021, 01:35 PM
Post: #4
RE: An American Marriage
Think this will be a pass for me. It sounds very one-sided. (I'm also wondering how Lincoln could have sustained so many missiles to the face without any apparent scarring or burning.)
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
06-06-2021, 07:44 PM (This post was last modified: 06-06-2021 07:45 PM by Rob Wick.)
Post: #5
RE: An American Marriage
I will likely buy it if only for the fact that I have all of Burlingame's books. Will I read it immediately (or ever)? Probably not anytime soon.

I think what you're seeing with Burlingame stems from the fact that for so long, James Randall, Benjamin Thomas, and Paul Angle among others (and even Ida Tarbell, to a point) denigrated William Herndon so blatantly and unfairly that one would be surprised if an eventual correction never came about. With Burlingame I think you have an overcorrection. Douglas Wilson and Rodney Davis seem to me to have done a much better job of rehabilitating Herndon in the eyes of Clio.

I've often wondered if Burlingame is doing this in an attempt to overcome his graduate advisor, David Herbert Donald, who helped create the anti-Herndon school. They had a falling out at some point that I don't think was ever resolved.

As for Mary, while it's easy to understand how she could have become the "hellcat" in the eyes of her enemies, she certainly didn't help herself. She gave them plenty of ammunition to use against her. Ida Tarbell often talked about the dichotomy she faced. On the one hand, she thought Herndon was trying to hang onto Lincoln's coattails to salve his own failures in life, but she also disliked Mary for most of her life. She even urged Harper's to hold off on publishing Orville Hickman Browning's diary until after Robert Todd Lincoln died because the suppressed portion of his diary (that Burlingame published decades later) that painted a poor picture of MTL would be easier to include with RTL dead. Of course, Harper's never got the rights to publish the diary, given that the family wanted to make sure the portions were expunged. When Randall and Theodore C. Pease agreed to leave those passage out, the family gave the rights to the Illinois Historical Commission.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
06-07-2021, 02:46 PM
Post: #6
RE: An American Marriage
I wonder if Professor Burlingame ever mentions that Mary Lincoln made many trips to hospitals to take food, flowers, etc. to injured soldiers? Or that she read to the soldiers, wrote them letters (and wrote letters for them), and once raised $1,000 for the Christmas dinner at a military hospital?
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
06-08-2021, 01:16 PM (This post was last modified: 06-08-2021 01:17 PM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #7
RE: An American Marriage
(06-07-2021 02:46 PM)RJNorton Wrote:  I wonder if Professor Burlingame ever mentions that Mary Lincoln made many trips to hospitals to take food, flowers, etc. to injured soldiers? Or that she read to the soldiers, wrote them letters (and wrote letters for them), and once raised $1,000 for the Christmas dinner at a military hospital?

The answer is: Yes, he did make reference to her kindness to the wounded soldiers under the section caption "First Lady: Visiting the Front and Hospitals" (Abraham Lincoln: A Life, by Professor Michael Burlingame, Vol. Two, pages 494-95.

At Falmouth, Mrs. Lincoln visited hospitals and unostentatiously distributed small gifts. In Washington, too, she often made "Good Samaritan" calls on the wounded. On one occasion, Lincoln gave her $1.000 out of his own pocket to buy Christmas turkeys for the hospitalized troops and helped her distribute them. She won praise for "the generous devotion with which she has tenderly cared for the sick and wounded soldiers." Pro-Confederate elements in the capital might sneer at her as the "hospital matron," but Unionists applauded "her errands of mercy to those brave men who are cheered by her visits and benefited by her liberal donations." (Footnote 156.)

It is unclear to me if the "$1,000 for the Christmas dinner at a military hospital" (referenced by Roger in his post) are one in the same.

Not many people may know this: Professor Burlingame's great-grandfather was a Union soldier captured at Petersburg and incarcerated in Andersonville. Treatment of Union prisoners of war was much different.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
06-08-2021, 04:49 PM
Post: #8
RE: An American Marriage
Here's a link to the full context of the Lincoln quip quoted from the product description about the deserting soldier leaving to see his fiancee

https://democraticthinker.wordpress.com/...n-lincoln/

Here's the relevant part:

I was in Washington once more in 1864, when the great struggle was nearer its close. My business was to secure a pardon for a young man from Ohio, who had deserted under rather peculiar circumstances. When he enlisted he was under engagement to a young girl, and went to the front very certain of her faithfulness, as a young man should be, and he made a most excellent soldier, feeling that the inevitable “she” at home would be proud of him. It is needless to say that the young girl, being exceptionally pretty, had another lover, whom she had rejected for the young volunteer, and also, it is needless to add, that the stay-at-home rejected hated the accepted soldier with the utmost cordiality. Taking advantage of the absence of the favored lover, the discarded one renewed his suit with great vehemence, and rumors reached the young man at the front that his love had gone over to his enemy, and that he was in danger of losing her entirely. He immediately applied for a furlough, which was refused him, and half mad and reckless of consequences, deserted. He found the information he had received to be partially true, but he came in time. He married the girl, but was immediately arrested as a deserter, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be shot. I stated the circumstances, giving the young fellow a good character, and the President at once signed a pardon.

“I want to punish the young man—probably in less than a year he will wish I had withheld the pardon. We can’t tell, though. I suppose when I was a young man I should have done the same fool thing.”

No man on earth hated blood as Lincoln did, and he seized eagerly upon any excuse to pardon a man when the charge could possibly justify it. The generals always wanted an execution carried out before it could possibly be brought before the President.
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 


Forum Jump:


User(s) browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)