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tv   Abraham Lincolns Indiana Childhood  CSPAN  January 7, 2017 1:50pm-3:01pm EST

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today or was even necessary then. watch the entire program tonight at 6:00 p.m. eastern on the civil war. durck talksan about his forthcoming book, "lincoln in indiana." he discusses abraham lincoln's childhood after his family moved to indiana in 1816, and how the formative years influenced lincoln's decision to practice law and seek the presidency. the lincoln group of the district of columbia posted this event. it is just over one hour. >> thank you, john. john mentioned our speaker tonight is dr. brian dirck, who is a professor at anderson university in anderson, indiana. he has several books about abraham lincoln including his , first book which was a
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comparison of abraham lincoln and jefferson davis. the two wartime presidents. he also wrote "lincoln the lawyer," which probably everyone in this room has read. he wrote "lincoln and the constitution," and "lincoln and white america." he will be talking about his new this book coming out in "lincoln in indiana." february,he will talk about lincoln's indiana years. that's where he spent from seven to 21, his formative years. he is going to tell us how important it was to his life. please welcome dr. brian dirck. [applause] prof. dirck: is my powerpoint -- oh. it is on. it is good to go. in my powerpoint.
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let me try that nothing is happening. while he is working on that, thank you for inviting me back. i was sitting at dinner this evening. this is actually my third visit to the lincoln group. i have very fond memories of you guys. i don't know if any of you were here the first time i was here way back, i want to say in the year 2000. i was a freshly minted professor at my university with my first book coming out and you guys were my very first book talk, and i was petrified. [laughter] prof. dirck: i was literally like, oh my god. but you guys were so sweet and i enjoyed the experience. i came back about three or four years ago to talk about my book, "when can the lawyer." it is wonderful to come back and wonderful to be with this awesome facility, it is a beautiful museum.
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i was walking up the stairwell. this is what would've looked like in 1865, it is amazing stuff. my new book is coming out in february, that makes sense with lincoln's birthday. it is about -- it is called "lincoln in indiana." it's funny. i think sometimes anyone who writes a new book on lincoln has to immediately explain why they think there needs to be another book on abraham lincoln. [laughter] prof. dirck: there are something like 15,000 lincoln books in existence, which does not mean there are 15,000 good books, but there are quite a few. whenever you had one more to the stack, you feel like you need to spend some time explaining why you did this. particularly with this topic because -- the indiana lincoln
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is almost like the neglected stepchild of lincoln scholarship. i have personal experience with this. in 2009, when the lincoln bicentennial was getting into high gear, i remember going into some meetings at the lincoln boy home in indiana and what they were going to do, and what kentucky was going to do, and of course we have the 400 pound gorilla in the room, illinois, which has everything. it felt as if indiana had to justify getting involved as if , it were a "me too, me too." that is understandable. the years lincoln spent in indiana were years that were terribly important. i will make a case for that tonight.
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they are also years that are in some ways a little obscure. these are after all the years in which, as david pointed out, he went from childhood to early youth. he came to indiana when he was seven and left when he was 21. roughly a quarter of his life. yet for the most part lincoln is unremarkable. he is not famous yet. he is not winning civil wars yet. he is not freeing slaves yet, he is a young man growing up in difficult circumstances in the indiana frontier. that makes the topic of little harder to get out, and not as romantic, maybe, as the grand stories we always tell about abraham lincoln in illinois in here in washington, d.c. i want to go through his story tonight. some of this will be familiar, perhaps other things will not be familiar about what exactly his
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life was like in indiana. i want to make the case as to why this really matters. before we get further into this -- how about i turn it that way. there we go. usually, and i should apologize . historians don't like to talk about sources when we do this type of thing. when we give a book talk, we don't want to show you how the sausage got made. we would just rather you accept our word for it that we looked at the sources and we put forth a good story. this particular topic i feel i should explain the difficulties involved in getting at this time period. topicget further into the i use a fair number of what my old advisor, professor phil paladin from the university of kansas called "weasel words."
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i would give him a paper. he called them weasel words, probably, maybe. possibly. take a stand. i'm sorry, i have a share of weasel words and i have to explain why that is. the sourcing for this time period in abraham lincoln's life, and this is typical of how his life is been pretreated popular media, the mythos the , young man growing up is the real splitter on the frontier. it is well we got for this time period. we don't have a lot of useful, primary sources. first of all lincoln himself , rarely spoke of his indiana years. it is a pretty unusual thing for
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him to even talk about what his life was like in indiana. to be honest with you, i think that tells you something right there. we will get to that later in the presentation. but he only really spoke at length about his life in indiana in his two autobiographies. one written for jesse fell, the other for john scripps, a chicago newspaperman. he provided to these journalists some meat for his campaign for presidency. autobiography, i am flattering the case. we are about 3-4 pages at most. we are not talking about the books. we are talking about very brief documents in which he laid out his life. these are the only two documents we have for he says anything much about indiana, and even then he doesn't say a whole lot. after that, there is a smattering of things here and there. he did not want to talk about the indiana years. if we were stuck with that, we
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would be having an awfully short conversation this evening. i could not have written this book and we would know next to nothing. except for that man, that is william herndon. billy. i love billy, and i hate billy at the same time. if you know anything about lincoln, you know billy. he was lincoln's law partner in springfield for over 20 years. why am i bringing him up? after abraham lincoln dies, 1865, billy, who was kind of a grappler and dyspeptic sort, was growing angry about the already growing myth of the great man lincoln, and was preparing to write his own true story of lincoln in a biography. it becomes one of the seminal books in the study of lincoln. billy has his heart in the right
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place. he goes out and gets information. back then it was kind of rare. people make stuff up sometimes. war,65, right after the after lincoln ishaqi begins his project of compiling that lincoln is shot he begins his project of compiling eyewitness accounts of people who knew lincoln back in the day. he put an extraordinary amount of work into this. he and his assistant scour indiana and kentucky, finding people who knew abraham lincoln and getting their memories of knowing abraham lincoln growing up. and the herndon collection of what is usually called "the reminiscences" by lincoln scholars is the only information we have got. about abraham lincoln's early life.
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when i wrote my book, that was probably about 75% of my data. on the one hand you just want to throw your arms around billy and just hug him for doing that. -- this all would have been lost. he provided us with almost the sole source on abraham lincoln's stepmother, he went and interviewed this woman when she was an elderly woman. he talked to people who knew him as a little boy, and it is an awesome collection. i am sure i can see a couple of , butuys nodding your head on the other hand think about what he is doing. these are people in their 50's, 60's, in some cases in their 70's to remember things that happened 30, 40, 50 years ago.
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i don't know about you, but i have a hard time remembering what i have for lunch last week. [laughter] prof. dirck: you have these old people trying to remember what happened back then, and of course they get names mixed up and dates mixed up, they contradict each other, they contradict the things that we know from other sources did not actually happen, that kind of thing. also think about the people he is discussing. we are talking about usually very ordinary people. these are still farmers in indiana, people who had really no claim to fame but now they have got their 15 minutes. you have somebody coming into their doorway in 1865 asking if they knew abraham lincoln back in the day. these people are only human. the temptation must have been overwhelming. embellish a little. yes, i saw that kid working in the cornfield when he was 13
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years old and i knew he was going to be president someday. [laughter] yes, and santa claus reads every letter. you read these and you can sell that they so desperately want to hang on to the coattails of the great man. i am not knocking them, i would be the same way. probably most of you would too, you want to be in on it. and then you have billy himself. billy had opinions and they were strongly held. he had strongly held opinions about lincoln's character, his religious views, about whether or not lincoln was a true abolitionist and things like that. these things will color how he goes about gathering these interviews, and the problem is in most cases, all we have are the documents, the notes he
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wrote down -- he did not write down what he is asking. we don't know how he is asking these questions. everybody is biased, everybody has a point of view. if, for example, i don't know if this is true, but for example, he thinks lincoln's religiosity has been exaggerated, he might ask these neighbors, so do you , think lincoln was not very religious? that biases the answer, doesn't it. i don't know if he did that, but we don't know how he is covering the answers he is getting. you can imagine, as an historian, sifting through all of this stuff. more than once i would go, what? i don't know what to do with this. is it true? is it sort of true?
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is it may be true? do i wanted to be true? that is what i have to be careful about because i want to write a good story. i have to watch my own biases and i have to be sure i am not cherry picking stuff that feels like what i think lincoln all to have been like. -- ought to have been like. i am kind of showing you how the sausage is being made, but i want to be honest. this is a difficult period in lincoln's life because the sources are problematic. let's get into the actual story. abraham lincoln -- still having a problem. there we go. he arrives in indiana in 1818. we don't know the exact time, and as a matter of fact we are right on top of the bicentennial. fairly send. that soon. -- fairly soon.
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he arrives in 1816. he crosses the ohio river. i picked a generic photograph of ferry that is to give you an idea. thomas lincoln, his father, his mother nancy lincoln, his older sister sarah, and his cousin dennis hanks. ,you will hear more about dennis. he is a very important source. this is one of the people that billy herndon interviewed at length and we have to rely on him for much of the information that we have. they leave kentucky. this area off the map a little bit. why did they leave kentucky? there is a story right there. we were talking about that before dinner. why does thomas lincoln moved his family from where lincoln was born, why do they go to indiana? hard to say, but there are a couple of explanations.
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abraham lincoln himself in one of his autobiographies says, we left kentucky partly on account of slavery but also because of defective land titles. and over the years, people have done various things with that. people want to look backward and say, here is the great emancipator, his dad was in abolitionist and he got that influence. there is really no evidence of that. we have no idea what his father thought about slavery. we lincoln himself saying it had to do something with slavery but we should not read too much into that. because the other half of the equation is just as valid. kentucky did a terrible job of keeping track of land titles. the ohio river is the breakpoint between the northwest ordinance that organizes indiana territory and the southeast ordinance, which does things in a completely different fashion.
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the northwest ordinance breaks this into organized grids, it is a genius thing the founding fathers did in the 1780's. they don't do the same thing for kentucky so nobody knows where the lines are at. it is a hot mess. thomas lincoln has already lost a fair amount of land. there is long -- lawsuits from land speculation that took his land away. one of these days i'm not going to own anything. to cite my old advisor, when you do history, you use the word "and," not the word "or." is this and this. slavery, i'm sure that played a role. it may simply be thomas lincoln feared that if he lost his farm, he could not compete with slave labor.
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in trying to rebuild any kind of life for his family. it may not have had anything to do with the morality of the thing, although thomas did attend two baptist churches in kentucky that had anti-slavery ministers. they could've had an effect on him, we really don't know. but at the same time we have the land title issue. they seem to operate together on lincoln's father. they look to indiana. this is very common. indiana is generally settled south to north. there are a lot of farmers in the same boat who are looking to indiana, a relatively newer area, to recoup their fortunes. things are not going well for them in kentucky. he is part of a larger wave. they're all going that way. land prices in indiana are cheaper than kentucky. the land is not quite as good, but the land prices are cheaper largely because indiana is such a difficult place to start a farm because of the backwoods and wilderness and difficulty in
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clearing it out. but you can get land cheaper. they have more stable land titles. this is why thomas packs up his family. dennis comes with them. we are not really sure. dennis is what is wondering sorts. he goes back and forth between the various hanks and lincoln relatives across the ohio river. he goes with them, he goes back, he comes back again. he comes to a place somewhere right in here. to this day we are not exactly sure where they crossed the ohio river. there was a good debate about that. i think the records are little better for that, the anderson river. it in tease out in the here. they come to a spot on the southern shore of the ohio river. if you want to get a mental picture in your head, it is probably a little later than this time of year now, late -- it is early november.
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it's getting colder some frost , on the leaves, probably the trees have started to turn in everybody is bundled up in coats. it is a difficult time to do this but they do do it. we think as many as six other families are waiting across the ohio river using a ferry in this area. one trip at a time. they're part of a larger migration. thomas had been to indiana at least one previous time, maybe more. we are not real sure. he scouted the area out. he kind of left the home in kentucky went over to spencer , county. seems to think this is a good place, goes back and gets his family. they don't have much much -- they don't have any oxen yet. they have a family cow, a couple of horses. they have carpentry tools. they have a small amount of stuff.
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they crossed the ohio river in a ferry like this and land on the other side. they spend an entire day just hacking a road through the brush to get to where thomas wants to go. that is how wild the area is. you and i probably have a hard time even imagining how remote this is. it is a very heavily wooded place. indiana is famous for heavy forests and heavy underbrush that had to be very difficult work. they hacked a road out near an area called little pigeon creek. it was a tributary of a larger creek in the area. i imagine, we don't know for sure, that we think they ended up here because there was a pretty good spring. you need water. you need a source of fresh water and there is one nearby and they begin to settle down.
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remember, mental picture winter , is coming. you can't plant anything, they are way past that. thomas can make some fairly sketchy decisions on occasion, and probably would've been better to move at a different time of year but they did it. winter is coming. they have to get something built quickly. they build a little lean-to, it is basically two walls and a roof. it is a family living in what amounts to a cheap pup tent. jessica everybody under something, then they start trying to build a second cabin which is a little larger. they hacked that one out of the woods in about two or three days later. thesecond cabin is so small adults cannot even stand upright
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in the thing. but they are desperate. it is cold and we have to get these people inside. they didn't bring much in the way of resources with them. dennis later said, in so many words, all we did was hunt when we were not working on the cabin. we would have starved. there was a lot of game in the area. they were constantly shooting game. young lincoln one day spotted a flock of wild turkeys flying near the camp, and he is so little -- his dad and dennis are someplace doing something. it's just him and his mom and his sister. he runs back to his mom, he is so little he cannot load the gun himself so his mom loads gun and he throws the gun down and shoot a turkey. as dennis later comically put it that he accidentally killed one. that was the last time, according to lincoln, that he pulled the trigger on big game.
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he did not like hunting for whatever reason. that was the first and last time he ever shot anything. you get the idea. this is living on the edge. they are teetering on the edge until they can get established. now -- there we go. a little more about his family. this is thomas lincoln on the left, the only known photograph of him. this is his father. i love these old photographs. don't you? they give you a feel sometimes for the way people are. he looks a little flinty, tough. he looks tough. there is reason for that. just to give you a little background, thomas lincoln lived a tough life. he was actually born into a family -- his grandfather, abraham, was not a poor man.
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he had over 5000 acres on various plots of land scattered mostly of virginia. they have been migrating pretty steadily from england from the westward. 1600sa lot of people migrating westward. his dad captain abraham lincoln amassed a fair amount of land about 5000 acres. , if things had gone the way i'm sure the captain had planned, thomas's life would've been a lot different. he did have money and means. they were so farmers. they were not wealthy but they , were not doing badly. but then everything goes bad one afternoon when they were on their farm. this was right on the edge between kentucky and virginia. it was originally part of virginia before they split kentucky off. they were troubles with the shawnee indians.
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they had some incidents. while captain abraham and thomas and his brother mordecai are building a fence, a shawnee indian warrior draws a bead on captain abraham and shoots him dead right in front of thomas. very nearly kidnaps thomas. thomas was only about six or seven years old. the shawnee warrior grabs the little boy and has him under his arms and is hauling him off. mordecai, his older brother is running into the cabin. his older brother was running into the cabin, their mother bathsheba hits in the gun, he later said the shawnee warrior had a trinket on his chest, and he used it as a marker and shot him dead. mordecai hated indians the rest of his life for killing his dad.
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abraham lincoln tell stories about uncle mordecai and how he was a difficult man when it came to indians. he killed a couple of them something because they were indians because he was mad about his father getting shot. things go south for thomas and hurry. captain abraham left the land to mordecai. thomas didn't get anything. bathsheba is a single mom in this time. and that is not good. you have a difficult time rising above that. his mother moves them further west into kentucky. abraham lincoln later said that she was an impoverished widow. she could not provide much of anything for thomas. he never gets an education, never gets any real help. she was barely able to keep
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everything together. why mordecai did not step in, i don't know. there is no answers. thomas rose up in difficult circumstances as a day laborer. a farmer. he learned carpentry skills and out a livingekes growing up. the woman on the right is nancy hanks lincoln. it's a painting. we don't know what she really looked like, this was a painting to give us a general idea of what she would've looked like back in the day. there is no photographs. nancy's background is even more difficult than thomas'. you will find this one interesting. you might even think i am making this up. in my book, i speculate that nancy was illegitimate. the reason i wrote that in my book was later in life abraham
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lincoln was having a conversation with billy -- it's all about billy. and abraham lincoln told him that his mother was illegitimate. herndon's memory could be faulty. half the biographies you pick up will say she was illegitimate and the other half will say there is nothing to that. it is hard to say, but here is something very interesting. i did not even mention this at dinner this evening. went out for a run here, i can -- came back about 3:00 this afternoon and there was an e-mail waiting for me from a gentleman who i did even know they were doing this, he is part of a group trying to use dna evidence to establish once or for all whether nancy hanks was illegitimate. he pointed me to a website. they have apparently established beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was in fact illegitimate. i found this out for hours ago.
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ain't history beautiful? i am not sure what i will do about it yet. i reached the same conclusion with different evidence but i think it's pretty clear now she was illegitimate. lincoln believed that she was the daughter of a woman also named nancy hanks and an unknown virginia wealthy man. this new dna project believes she was the daughter of nancy's sister, anne. i am telling you trying to keep , track of all the hanks is nearly impossible. the want to talk about a family tree. they got hit with a lawnmower three or four times. it is hard to untangle all of the stuff. they had a lot of illegitimate children, and the illegitimate children would live with aunts and uncles and friends, and it extended the kinship network. the point is nancy comes from a
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difficult background. she grows up. interestingly enough, she seems to have been somewhat literate. she was apparently at least able to read and write a little, probably more than her husband. he met her when she was living in elizabethtown with a family called the sparrows, we will get with them later. they are also part of the hanks tree. she was a seamstress and a general laborer. at some point they fall in love, we know nothing about their courtship. to be perfectly blunt we know nothing about the relationship. there is no documentation hardly at all. dennis later said that she was a kind, intelligent, somewhat meek woman who tolerated her lot in life and would never go against her husband under any circumstances. we don't know if that is the truth, but that is what we can see. these are abraham lincoln's parents. his sister sarah, i don't even
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, have a painting to work with for her. we don't know much about what she looks like. they say she favored her father in being a bit more heavyset. all we know is that she was a kind girl that everyone had a high opinion of, and she had a good character. i don't know what to do with that, that is all we have. at any rate, they settle down in the area around pigeon creek. this is a modern-day re-creation of the cabin we believe they lived in. the third cabin. they built a small and no one can stand up and. about a year and half later thomas decided they needed a bigger cabin and they built one that had something of a loft where the boys would sleep. abraham and dennis hanks. i believe his sister i have slept up there as well. it is bigger than what they had.
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this is what we think it might have looked like, this is at the lincoln boyhood home in indiana. if you ever get through my state, check this out. they have a great living history farm. they settled on this farm. don't know a lot about what they grew. i have to kind of extrapolate by looking at what typical indiana farmers grew. what they did. they grew a little of everything. --s would look like a more we do know that thomas grew several acres of tobacco that he sold, because he himself smoked. he also grew some flax back before it was cool with vegans, it was used to make clothing. a little bit of everything. they worked at clearing the land. they would clear out a space very difficult work. , if you actually go look at
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what it is like to do this kind of work -- i can't relate to the stuff. i am a modern person. so are you guys. can you imagine? spending a week to get a stump out of the ground? trying to get rocks up. this was hard, back-breaking work. and of course abraham is well in all of this. and while he was doing all of this work, we know that abraham lincoln did not like it very much. he never cared for manual labor. we don't have anything from back then, but later on he would say this himself. he seems to have had a good relationship with his mom. we have next to nothing on that. that is probably because tragedy strikes. i will get to that in a minute. we do know that abraham lincoln have a difficult relationship with his father. i don't think this is a small
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matter. i don't want to psychoanalyze him. this isn't "dr. phil." i don't want to go down the road of doing that kind of thing but , i do believe his troubled relationship with his father contributed to many of lincoln's personality traits. indianahy the years in matter. on the right, the lincoln museum. they have constructed a pretty impressive reproduction of the cabin in the background. and what we think lincoln would've looked like when he was 12 or 13. what they did was they got csi crime scene investigator types who went and got the old photographs of lincoln and use their scientific knowledge to extrapolate backwards. this is probably as close as we will get to knowing what he looked like at the time. i love this picture because it has a book in his hand.
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now thomas lincoln was not against his son reading. some biographies claim that. that he would not the book set his hand. that is not true at all. he wanted his son to be able to read, but he wanted his son to put in the corn crop first. thomas gets a bad rap because it looks like he is keeping the future great man down. this dude will be president someday. he doesn't know that. what he does know is he has got to get this farm operating or they will all-star. -- they will all star. -- starve. sometimes he would say grandpa plow, i have to get you to do this work. they had their share of sparks of that. more generally, to be perfectly blunt, thomas thinks his son is a smart aleck. let's be honest, he kind of was.
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lincoln got to where he could do a spot-on imitation of the local minister. yeah, oh yeah. i've got this mental picture. thomas is a very devout man. a very devout baptist christian. every pious. here is this kid over here making fun of the minister. that does not end well. a couple people said thomas came over and kind of smacked him. stop doing that. lincoln, we think he's funny but thomas did not. he taught his kid was not serious enough. for his part -- as a human being, he has faults like everybody else. lincoln is ashamed of his dad. this is clear if you look at the later documentation from the
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time period. he said thomas could do little more than bogglingly sign his own name. he is ashamed of a step. he does not take things that thomas takes seriously. lincoln hates hunting. thomas loves hunting. we don't know what he thinks about carpentry put he didn't do a lot of it. it is like thomas -- they don't get along. things get worse as they get older. the relation between abraham and his mother is quite different. the trouble is we don't know a lot about that he is two years after they come to indiana tragedy strikes. nancy lincoln apparently a good neighbor. she helps everybody out. everybody agrees on this. it is not a myth. there are multiple eyewitnesses
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that she was also to have as a neighbor. she is awesome to have as a neighbor, she would help you with everything. after they moved into the big cabin, i guess what happened was thomas and nancy sent word back to kentucky, "hey, guys, come on up here, we have the big place. " the sparrows, who had helped raise her, they were not her mom and dad but they were like that, should that she invites them to come out of the elizabethtown and come with them. she says they will help them build a bigger cabin, along with a little girl named sophia hanks. this little girl named sophia hanks, there are hanks
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everywhere. what happens is this, somewhere in the area, a cow owned by somebody, maybe owned by the lincolns or a neighbor because people trade stuff all the time, a cow eats a plant called white snake root. grew wild inoot group indiana and cows could be attracted to it because it stuck out, especially in the fall. the cows eat the snake root and it contains a substance called trimethyl a deadly poison. , they don't know this. they don't understand the biology and how it works but they know there is something in the area called the milk sickness. when the trimethyl gets into the cows' milk, it is odorless,
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tasteless, but you ingest it, usually die, and not only that, but it can get into the dairy products. if you slaughter an animal that has trimethyl, you will die. it will kill you. it is not the lincolns, it is neighbors, a german couple. the mother gets sick, and then the sparrows both get sick with the milk sickness. they do not know what causes this stuff, they do not know how to fix it, but nancy drops what she can do to go help them. she is back and forth to the camps. there are two little kids, helping them out. she must have been exhausted. i can't even imagine what that was like. at some point, she ingests the trimethyl. we have no idea how. she might have just errantly
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grabbed a glass of milk not thinking about it, she grabbed sickness, and all of a sudden she has the same feeling. trimethyl gave people bad breath. they started to develop ever greater severity of diarrhea and stomach cramps until you double over and are bedridden. it is not a pretty way to die. she lasted for seven days, dennis later remembered this. she is completely bedridden in the cabin. she knows she is going to die. she calls abraham and sarah to her bedside, tells him to be good children to their father, and right after that she expires. she dies. the sparrows both die, the bruner woman dies as well.
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this is a pretty widespread outbreak. there is no church cemeter strue yet so they don't have a church , cemetery. they take the bodies and haul them on makeshift sleds. can you imagine how devastating that can be to a little boy helping to push his mother's body to a grave? they did not have this marker until later. this is a modern photograph i took, by the way, and she is still buried there. so abraham lincoln loses his mother at around the age of nine. this had to be traumatic. thomas tries bachelorhood. for about one hour or two. well, i mean, can you imagine, you know? i mean, first of all, single fatherhood was not really thought of as all that great
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and good back then. you are not equipped to do this. the household chores fall to sarah, a little 12-year-old girl. i'll, by the way, sophia hanks the girl with the sparrows, moves in. dennis hangs around. he has this big family. i was being sarcastic, guys. he actually tries to make it for several months and then he finally says that's it, i can't do this anymore. he leaves the family and makes a flying trip back to kentucky and as it happens, there was a woman there he was going to marry before he married nancy.
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this is sarah bush. she has married another man and that has not gone well. he died penniless. she was impoverished. she was down there living in a little house in elizabethtown. thomas literally says to her, hello, sarah. nancy is dead, and your first husband is dead, let's get hitched, you know? and she responded and said, i would like to, but i owe people money in this town. he says, write them all down. he goes and pays all the debts that night. look at the desperation here? i got kids, i got whatever. they get hitched, bam like that. to kentucky.up whereas nancy apparently never had a problem with thomas, she actually had some fine furniture when they showed up at the lincoln camp and. by the way, when they got there, apparently she was looking at the kids going -- i mean -- they were filthy, they had not had baths in weeks.
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can you imagine what that cabin was like with that poor little 12-year-old? i mean, my daughter is 16 now, but if she were 12, that would not go well. i am not knocking rachel, but it would not work well. ok? it is a hot mess and she shows up, cleans everything up, and thomas says, that fine furniture does not work well in indiana. and she says, no. i am keeping my bureau. ok, fine, whatever. she makes him put in a wooden floor in, a door, i do not know what was there before. i like her, don't you? she is like, i am not going to live out here like this, you know, and she kind of takes charge and does a very fine job. she is an excellent stepmother, and she and abraham get along fabulously well. i really do think that he loved her more than he did his father.
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they are tight, and you know, many years later, abraham lincoln said, "i loved my stepmother." he said more about her than he did about his real mother. i'm sure he left her to but they had a good relationship. she strongly encourages him with his reading habits and education. i cannot prove this, guys, but i have the impression on occasion she intervened for him so he can get some done when thomas wanted him to go do manual labor and that kind of thing. they go on this way for a couple years after that. this is another depiction of lincoln. that's what we depict him as, right? self-taught man doing his math problem on the back of a shovel. reading books by firelight. you know what, guys? myths sometimes are true. this is well-documented. this is a very studious young man.
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he did not go to school much. he did a little bit. they had what they called "blab schools," because people recited things by rote. of course, i am sure you are aware of this, there is no public school system. wandereddy into the neighborhood, they know something about reading, writing, deciphering, these things go in and out all the time. he went to three different schools, and none of them was that long. he said he went to school by "littles," a little here a , a little there. the guy would move on or whatever. harvest time would come, the school would close, the aggregate of schooling was probably less than one year, but he was a voracious reader and that part of the myth is completely true. he read everything he can find. not much he can work with.
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the bible, pilgrim's progress, on the shelf of every christian back then. aesop's fables. he loved that. one of the famous stories, he borrows a biography of george washington from a local neighbor named crawford. he is reading this book, puts it loves the biography, puts it on the shelf in the cabin, unfortunately but the close to a window, and it ruins the book. he goes back to crawford, crawford makes him blades for one week in a cornfield to make up for the loss of the book. that is when you pull out the shucks the corn. by the way, abraham resented that. he did not like crawford. later on, he would compose some nasty little rhymes about what they called about nosy crawford because of his big nose. this was also true about lincoln -- he could be merciless and his satire.
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he is a bright young man, he knows how to make fun of people, and he is good at it. there was friction between the lincolns and the local family that lived not far away, the very large grigsby family. they had all kinds of kids. they had friction for a variety of reasons and lincoln, there is a big double wedding the between the grigsby clan and lincoln was not invited. he composed a satirical column about the two boys going up to their rooms on the wedding nights and getting the wrong brides. kind of risqué. not grigsbys did appreciate that, and they handed up in a big fist fight about that. abraham lincoln could be a little bit nasty sometimes. he could poke people that way and he could rub people the wrong way, you know?
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his sister was still around for a while. but, right after sarah shows up, sarah -- begins -- i'm not certain -- she starts to kind of move out of the house a bit. i'm not sure why. she ended up living with the grigsbys for a while. they loved her. she hired herself out to live with them. she was not home much, and she ends up marrying one of the grigsbys, and they settled down into a farm not far. marrying one of the grigsbys and a year later, she was going to give birth to one of their children, and in what must've been a horrific experience, both his sister and the baby died. guys, i even ran this by some of our nurses at the university to get some idea of what happened here, but the evidence is so vague, we just don't know. there apparently was a midwife present, but they had some kind of a birth complication.
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her distraught husband goes and gets a doctor that lives like 30 miles away, goes and gets the doctor, the doctor is so drunk that he cannot do anything. they try to find a second doctor of by the time they do, they are both dead. apparently was a grizzly, bloody mess. they both die. by the way, we have no record of lincoln's reaction to his mother's death, but we do have a record that when they buried the sister and put the dead baby in her arms in the coffin, and by the way, at this time they have the baptist church, lincoln sat down on a log and balled his eyes out. this kind of tells you something about why indiana matters. these are his early experiences. early on, he has experience that with death and die in he has , experience that is not pretty. he has a raw, painful life in a for this young man in a lot of
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ways. he is growing into manhood he and he gets restless. if you go look at the records 19 to 20,om about age 21, he is really at home. -- he is rarely at home. he is moving around the neighborhood, living around the neighborhood, doing odd jobs for them. he became a dentist for a while , going to work on a canal in louisville. he also worked at a mill on the occasion. if you read behind the lines, this is a young man staying away from his father as far as possible, and we think it is because relations were getting worse. the father is beginning to earn money, but according to the law at the time he is legally obligated at the age of 21 to
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-- every time he earns in the pocket of his dad. and it seems thomas took it and did not give anything back. and that wrinkled abraham lincoln for the rest of his life. when he was the president, talking to abolitionists, he said he knew what it was like to be a slave because his dad did it to him. they are at loggerheads. we don't have details but it is obvious. he is not at home. he wants out. he goes to his neighbor, 20 years old, a guy named wood. he says, mr. wood, i know you are well-connected with the riverboat traffic in louisville, can you get me a job as a riverboat high lead or something -- riverboat pilot or something on a steamboat? and mr. wood thought highly of this young man and said, you don't want to do that. you are not legally able to leave your father's home until you're 21, that is the law. you are going to get yourself in all kinds of trouble. please. and lincoln says, but i want a start in life. i want to start now. but wood talks him out of it.
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he is a restless young man here. he is not the only one getting restless. by this point, thomas lincoln is getting restless as well. i am not really sure what is happening here. he does not have land title problems like in kentucky. he is doing ok. i don't know what it is. i think thomas is hitting late middle-age, at this point pushing early 50's, i am 51 so -- back then, that is old. everybody is moving out, man. it is obvious abraham is going to be gone, man. he is going to be out the door. i think thomas is worried about whether or not he and sarah are going to be able to function in old age. another hanks cousin, john hanks, moves to illinois and back saying, "you have got to come to illinois, god, the land is awesome. the land of milk and honey.
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there are no problems in illinois," he sings the praises of illinois, no problems in illinois, and thomas is hemming and hawing. he goes back and forth and finally leaves. he helps them get out of indiana and move to illinois but guys, when they get to illinois , everything goes wrong for thomas lincoln. both he and sarah fall sick with what they called "the egg" back then. probably malaria. this is when they had the great winter, the great snow, they had the worst winter in a century. thomas lincoln was going to beat a retreat back to indiana but when he did that, lincoln said,
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not me, man. i am staying. thomas and sarah were on their way back to indiana. thomas and sarah do not make it back to indiana. i think sarah put her foot down. they sold all their land, sold all of their houses, they had nothing. she makes thomas eventually settled down in indiana where he dies probably of some kind of congenital heart disease in the 1850's. i want to leave time for russians and discussions, but i -- questions and discussions, but i hope you can see why this time matters. lincoln learns about hardship, death and dying, learns about the difficulties of making ends meet. he learns the subtle values that are going to have a big impact on the kind of man he is. and can you kind of see why he did not want to talk about these years very much? i get it now. i don't think he was happy in indiana. i am guessing at this, don't want to read too much into it, but these do not seem to have been good times for him. [applause]
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time?dirck: how am i on am i ok? questions? >> lincoln once said "all i learned i owe to my mother" and some people feel it might have been sarah that he is talking about. do you it might've been nancy? professor dirck: probably he meant sarah. that is not mediated not have regard for an answer, it is just they have nothing. dennis reports a little anecdote of nancy in a shed spinning a spinning wheel and lincoln tells a little joke come and they laugh and play. like these little shards of memory you have you carry around with you, that's all we have. and he clearly says in his autobiography that he adored his
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stepmother, so i would lean more toward sarah. that is just my opinion. other questions, observations? yep? >> what kind of relationship did he have with women? prof. dirck: that is a good one. you could go down a road you don't want to go down. for the record, i do not think he was gay. i don't even want to go there, ok but, yeah, i got a little bit of that in the book. the commentary about lincoln's relations with women are really more from his illinois years. that is where most of that comes from because he is sitting the is hitting the time where you want to settle down and get married. but some people in indiana said he did not like the girls much. i don't get a vibe it was something they thought was you , you know, that odd. i want to say it was a guy named augustus chapman, his cousin who
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left a record behind, he said something to the effect that lincoln thought women were too frivolous. do not get mad at me, guys. that is not me saying this. they did not want to talk about serious ideas. [indiscernible] that is what chapman thought lincoln thought. there is also young sophia who we know next to nothing about. i tried to find something about this little girl who moved in. we know she lived with lincoln for a while. we know she eventually gets married and moves out. i found a little obscure article from 1908 where they interviewed her kids, and they said, mom always said she just did not like the girls much because they wanted to go dancing, and he did not like dancing. i think it is more along those lines than anything systemic. at least that is my feeling on it. >> i was interested in what you difficulty ofcult sources. considering how critical sources
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are to this time in his life, and the problems that you said they have with them, how did you decide what to take and what to reject? and could you give an example of each? prof. dirck: sure, yeah. you know, it is true, you know, we are professionals. i spent a long time dealing with these questions. part of it is, you test the document the way you test any document. is it internally consistent? in other words, is somebody saying things that seem to contradict themselves? can you find another document that corroborates the first document? that was possible on occasion. for example, there are all these stories about abraham lincoln saw honesty. that sounds like mythmaking. like the nickname "honest abe" -- some unbelievable. he couldd, "if h
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falsely," come on, when i was nine years old -- but you know, if i find six or seven people saying he was really honest, that is multiple eyewitness accounts saying these things so part of this is like any source, you test it with other sources. if you have multiple account same saying roughly the thing, then you see those things are probably pretty good. i have to be honest with you, we had a wonderful conversation at dinner tonight, and i have to be honest with you, i have spent now 20 years writing about abraham lincoln. there is my gut. i will just level with you, there are just times when things feel right. the example of the illegitimacy thing. i argued in the book that nancy was illegitimate because the conversation lincoln has with billy feels right. and what i know about billy, i
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t sounds like the sort of conversation they had had for years, -- that they would have, and i have been reading this stuff for years. turns out, thank goodness, i was right. because the research backed it up. there's some instinct. i try and my footnotes to explain my reasoning, you know. for example, a document i rejected. i did not use the anecdote about "he could never tell a lie." it is like the george washington chopping down a cherry tree. part of it is you just have to reason what a kid would behave like. there are fundamental things, and then there is also context. as much as i could, a typical indiana farm looked like. i run across a source about something it seemed like something lincoln was doing something no other kid would do on an indiana farm, that is probably not right. it sounds like a complicated answer to a simple question. it could be frustrating. if worse came to worse, i have
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would wiggle it a little bit. i am sorry -- i have to be honest, i don't want to lie to my readers. i want them to see, yeah, he is probably just guessing here and here is why. i wanted to put that out. it is part of doing this. you have got to be able to make educated guesses sometimes, and i was hoping when you look at the totality of the book, it feels right if that makes sense, you know. great question. >> i have a question. yeah.dirck: oh, sorry, >> one last question. there is a political campaign year. when lincoln was 19 years old, a very big presidential campaign. some indication he was for andrew jackson back in indiana and later changed. did you run across anything
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about how his political views were expressed in indiana or illinois? prof. dirck: those sources are even more difficult because there is very little that says he was politically aware except for woods' testimony where he , and come to wood's cabin they would talk politics and his . apparently one of abraham lincoln's first attempts at writing was a temperance thing. he seems by the time he is 19 or 20. he is more politically aware. he is visiting indiana courthouses, seeing lawyers.
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petty fog, as i said back then, so he is seeing that sort of thing. i do not recall seeing anything definitive that said he was for jackson. later on, he was kind of pro-jackson. when he says, "and jackson dies," he kind of looks back and says that. most people were jacksonian democrats in indiana at that time. thank you very much, guys. thank you. [applause] host: we have this that we like to give to -- professor dirck: thank you. [applause] host: thank you for coming out to indiana. prof. dirck: thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] weekend on american
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history tv on c-span3, this evening not 6:00 eastern on the civil war, author william marvel on abraham lincoln's secretary of war, stanton. of stanton, grant said the secretary was very timid. he could see our weakness, but he could not see that the enemy was in danger. the enemy would not have been in danger if mr. stanton had been in the field. "lessons inn history," describing the careers and social pressures on pioneering women writers. >> i tried to assign her stories about hours, the things that would make surge is a hail very happy, and she wrote stories about divorced wives, called for a reform of divorced wives. she wrote about conditions for women to work in factories. the medicalout
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treatment of the poor. >> sunday afternoon at 4:00 on "reel america," documenting john glenn's orbit around the world. >> i feel fine. the capsule is turning around. oh, that view is tremendous. a at 8:00 on the presidency, constitutional law professor talks about the passage of the second amendment limiting the number of terms a president conserve. >> no person should be elected to the office of the president more than twice, and no person who has held the office of president or his active for more from whichars a term another person was elected shall be elected to the office of the president more than once. >> for a complete american history tv schedule, go to > author and political science professor talk colleen sheehan
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talks about james macklin's role in the bill of rights. this is to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the bill of rights. this program runs about 45 minutes. host: good evening. i am cherry live in, a vice president of the supreme court wantrical society, and i to welcome everybody here on behalf of the society and the georgetown center for the constitution. we're both cosponsoring tonight's event, which, as you know, celebrates the 225th anniversary of the bill of rights. it is my duty and obligation to tell you first to please turn off your cell phones and any other electronic devices you may have and also not to use any cameras during the course of the


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