tv President- Elect Lincoln CSPAN April 22, 2019 12:00am-1:36am EDT
mr. burling game holds a distinguished chair in lincoln studies from the university of illinois at springfield. he gave the speech at the illinois symposium in washington, d.c.. a panel of symposium speakers follows his remarks. this is 90 minutes. >> that is my way of saying good afternoon. i am the professor of politics at washington and lee university. worry, i teach some lincoln along with washington and lee. 20 years ago about in the holy land, springfield, illinois. what struck me then has remained true throughout all these years, and that is michael is the most generous scholar i have ever
met. even though he has been doing the legwork crisscrossing the country and digging into these ,rchives and nooks and niches he still loves to share these findings before he publishes them. he is not worried about being scooped. the grand combination of the work was of course his mammoth two-volume biography, "abraham lincoln, a life." what the professor affectionately refers to as the green monster received the lincoln private in 2010. along the way he has published at least a dozen books and earned many awards, including illinois highest honor, the order of lincoln. after teaching at connecticut college for over 30 years and working on his biography, he joined the history department at the university of illinois springfield am aware he has served as the chancellor,
distinguished chair in lincoln studies since 2009. please join me in welcoming the godfather of lincoln research, here to speak about the betweeneld dispatch lincoln's election and inauguration, my good friend, michael burlingame. [applause] michael: thank you for that kind introduction, lucas. lucas is not only a distinguished professor, but he is also my agent. [laughter] michael: i would also like to thank the professor for his kind remarks about my pinchhitting for him last year. i would like to add a footnote to the professors talk. as he mentioned, lincoln was fond of off-color stories. almost everybody that william interviewed after lincoln's assassination that had known lincoln well said lincoln was
fond of off-color stories, but they were reluctant to tell him any of the stories because they did not want to besmirch the memory of their martyred friend. i was excited to discover years ago in the carl sandburg papers at the satellite campus of the university of illinois that sandburg had discovered the off-color stories. i ransacked the papers of sandburg at the university of illinois and found good material for my book, but no off-color stories. i was very disappointed. i was doing research at the newberry library in chicago, a small collection of sandberg materials, and there they were. the off-color stories. i was very excited. carl sandburg was a man of taste, so he did not include any of the stories in his six volume
biography of lincoln, but i have no taste whatsoever. [laughter] michael: i have included them in the green monster. they are not all in one spot and they are not indexed. if you want to get them, you have to read the whole thing. [laughter] michael: by the way, the professor has a very fine book on lincoln's sense of humor that won a book prize last year and should have won the lincoln prize awarded by the lincoln and soldiers foundation at gettysburg college. i think it was considered too short, and therefore was not eligible, which i think was unfortunate. his book last year was clearly the best book on lincoln that had been published. anyway, before i go into the announced topic, i would like to
bring you up-to-date on the latest on lincoln scholarship on a specific subject, the authorship of the bixby letter. one of the most beloved of lincoln's documents is a letter of condolence that was sent to a widow named lydia bixby in boston of 1864. it was signed by lincoln. it is widely admired. people say that the three pillars upon which lincoln's literary reputation rests are the gettysburg address, the second inaugural address, and the letter to the widow bixby. it is a very beautiful letter. it goes like this. "dear madam, i have been shown in the files of the war department a statement that you were the mother of five sons who
have died gloriously on the field of battle. i feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine that should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming, but i cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. i pray that our heavenly father yourssuage the english of brief meant and believe you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom." it is a beautiful letter, but it is not by lincoln. it was written by john hay.
i made this discovery based on help from librarians at brown university, where i did a good deal of research when i was teaching at connecticut college. it is only about one hour away from brown. as i was going through the john hay papers, helpful librarian came with the scrapbook that hay had made of his own writings. the librarian said, you might be interested in this. almost all of the documents that hay had clipped out of newspapers and magazines and pasted into the scrapbook and identified them and his own hand what publication it had appeared in and what date, they were andst all post civil war not much interest to me. the last few pages there were civil war era clippings. one of them, at the bottom of the second page, was the bixby
letter clipped from a newspaper and pasted into a scrapbook of his own writings. at that time, i was not particularly interested in the authorship question, but i know some people had maintained that hay was the actual author of the beloved document. i thought, why would he do that if he did not write it? i did some research, and it seemed to me there were a couple of things a little -- did not sound quite right to me. that lincoln, i don't think would have used certain terms. beguile, for example. i would not attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. or assuage. or i cannot refrain from tendering to you. this is in pre-google days, but there was a database of lincoln's collected works that had been created manually.
i consulted the person who owned it. i said, does the word beguile show up in any of lincoln's writings? no. i had to go through john hay's writings. there was no searchable database, so i read all of the stuff i could lay my hands on, published and unpublished letters. i discovered in one article written during the civil war he uses the word beguile twice, and in another article during the civil war, he used the word beguile twice, and about a dozen -- and i found about two dozen other examples. before the bixby letters he wrote a letter to a general congratulating him on his promotion saying i cannot refrain from tendering to you congratulations on your promotion. i did research and hay told at least three people he wrote the letter but did not want that revealed until after he had died.
his private secretary and others said that they had gathered from other sources that he had written it. i published an article. it seemed to many folks to be pretty conclusive, but not everybody agreed. i was accosted one day on the february day, that is 12 -- [laughter] michael: in springfield by high-ranking member of the illinois judiciary. he said, you know, i don't agree with you about the authorship of the bixby letter. i said, really? how do you account for the fact that hay clipped it out of the newspaper and pasted it into scrapbooks of his own writings and it has his stylistic fingerprints all over it? beguile, assuage, i cannot refrain from tendering to you? other testimony that he wrote it? said, those
considerations are important to be sure, but you're leaving out a more important consideration. i said, what's that? he said faith. i said, faith? yes, i have faith that he wrote it. oh, no. [laughter] michael: i just hope that i never wind up in his court. [laughter] anyway the latest on , lincoln scholarship is that a team of forensic analysts of disputed documents, a team in birmingham, england, a seven-member team, devised a program to analyze the authorship of disputed documents. short documents. most of the computer programs available until recently could not function on a short document. they developed a new technique. they ran 500 documents by
lincoln and 500 by hay through the computer program and concluded there is a 90% chance hay wrote it. that, i think in light of the stylistic analysis and scrapbooks settles the question. some people think if you say john hay wrote the bixby letter , you are besmirching lincoln. not at all. no man who wrote the second inaugural address has to worry his literary prowess will be eclipsed. let me get back to the topic at hand. henry villard is best known as a successful 19th-century railroad promoter and financier. he was responsible for the
creation of the northern pacific railroad. among others. he was born in germany and, in addition to being a financier, was one of the most able and conscientious reporters of the 1860's as a leading historian of civil war journalism observed. his most noteworthy reportage is from late 1860 and 1861 when he was embedded in springfield for three months following lincoln's election. during that time, he wrote scores of dispatches for various newspapers. those dispatches constitute the most intensive journalistic coverage that lincoln ever experienced. villard filed stories from the illinois capital almost daily to herald," less
often to the "cincinnati ," and occasionally to the "san francisco bulletin." many historians have consulted brief excerpts of villard's in a pamphlet-like addition. really pamphlet-like. i joke about long books, like david blight's pamphlet on frederick douglass. by my standard, it is a pamphlet. the green monster is 2000 pages. anyway, in 1941 there is a little pamphlet called lincoln on the eve of 61, a journalist 's story. it is a few of the dispatches that appeared in "the new york herald" from springfield. it omits much valuable information about lincoln during the succession crisis that appears in the herald that others published in the
"cincinnati commercial" and "san francisco bulletin." the latter papers are virtually unknown to historians. recognizing their addition of excerpts from the "harold" -- "herald" were inadequate, those who had edited the pamphlet intended to issue a complete issue of the "herald's" run, but the plans fell through. large dispatches are not only informative, but highly readable. one scholar opined that his work was marked by individuality and mental vigor. these dispatches constitute high grade ore for the historians' smelter, offering descriptions of different things. lincoln's appearance, descriptions of his daily routine. descriptions of his visitors, of his views, as well as information about the illinois capital at the time.
anyone interested in lincoln or the succession crisis, or springfield will find those dispatches highly informative. some background on villard, he was born in germany in 1835. as an adolescent he immigrated to the united states, where he changed his name and worked at various jobs, including journalist. he first encountered lincoln in 1858 when he covered the illinois senatorial campaign for a new york newspaper. villard tells you in his two-volume memoirs, i went to illinois in 1858 and cover the lincoln-douglas campaign, he doesn't tell you he trashed lincoln. he wrote about three of the debates, the first three, for
the new yorker democratic newspaper. i read those and was astounded to see how much he trashed lincoln. i include those as an appendix to the volume of dispatches from 1860-1861. as i say, he trashes lincoln. the reason was because he believed that if the democratic party, which was split at that time between the douglas wing and the president's wing, james buchanan's wing. many people in the republican party sympathetic to the anti-slavery cause believed as long as the douglas and buchanan were feuding, the democratic party was divided, that would open doors to the republican candidate for president in 1860 and they could win. so keep supporting douglas.
in fact, there were prominent republicans back east to called upon the republicans of illinois not to nominate anyone to run against douglas in 1858. among those people, i am embarrassed to say, was a congressman from massachusetts, who was the first member of congress to publicly say illinois republicans, don't run anyone against douglas. need this to say, lincoln and the other illinois republicans were miffed. how can we not run anyone against douglas? he does not believe slavery is wrong, why should we give him a free pass if he does not accept the basic principle upon which our parties founded? -- our party is founded? lincoln, found a new letter by
lincoln in which he refers to sister burlington. ame.urling ga we don't like to talk about that in the family. anyhow, in the 1858 campaign, d bumps intovillar lincoln and chats with him and hears him speak. he has positive things to say in his memoirs. on october of 1858 before the election day, he bumps into lincoln just outside of petersburg, near new salem north of springfield. here's what he says, lincoln and i met accidentally about 9:00 on a hot evening at a flag railroad station 20 miles west of springfield. i was on my return from the meeting held at petersburg.
he, that is lincoln, had been driven to the station on a buggy and left there all alone. i was already there. the train we intended to take was about due. after we had waited for half an hour for its arrival, a thunderstorm compelled us to take refuge in an empty freight car. we fell to talking about all kinds of subjects. it was there he told me that when he was clerking in a country store in new salem, his highest political ambition was to be a member of the state legislature. since then he said, laughingly, i've grown some but my friends got me into this business -- the senatorial race -- i did not consider myself qualified, and it took me a long time to persuade myself i was. now, to be sure, he continued with another peculiar laugh, i am convinced i'm good enough for it. in spite of it all, i am saying to myself every day, it is too big of a thing for you, you will never get it. my wife mary insists that i will
be senator and president of the united states. our talk continued until half past 10:00, when the belated train arrived. i cherish this accidental encounter as one of my most precious recollections since my companion of that night has become one of the greatest figures in history. high praise indeed. villard described lincoln less positively. he was going around organizing pro-douglas clubs. as a democratic activist, villard spoke on behalf of douglas in several towns and cities.
in early august and september, villard spent time in quincy and gave speeches in joliet and elsewhere. this aspect of villard is news and i include these dispatches, letters, to douglas in this volume. that is for an appendix. the heart of it is that the dispatches written in 1860 and 1861. he had written somewhat for the "new york herald" about the pike's peak goldrush. the editor said, you covered the lincoln-douglas debates? he said, i did. well, i want you to go out after the election to springfield and cover lincoln day by day. he said sure. when he was out there, villard told lincoln of his assignment.
as villard noted, the president-elect gave me a very friendly welcome and authorized me to come to him at any time for any information i needed. villard frequently availed himself of that generous offer. he explained how he gathered news from other sources. "i was present almost daily for more or less time during his morning receptions." lincoln would hold open receptions in the government -- the governor's office in the old state capitol. the governor was only there during the session of the legislature, and it was not in session at the time. "i generally remained a silent listener, as i could get him any time of the hour when i needed information and these other people didn't." villard derived information from other men. in all likelihood, he enjoyed a close rapport with a young german immigrant, like himself, who was lincoln's private
secretary, who was just three years older than villard. in villard's dispatches he talked a lot about the mail that lincoln was receiving, and that secretaries responsibility. so when he writes about what lincoln received in the mail, it was likely from that source. another source of information may well have been the president elect's good friend and neighbor. during an 1890 visit to springfield, he told a reporter, i used to live here, and based on what he told them, the journalist wrote that the , was at onelard time on the staff of one of the local papers in the city and was a clerk in the auditor's office. dubois waswhen jesse
auditor. other possible sources included friends they had made during his 1858 sojourn. the new york herald, cincinnati commercial and san francisco bulletin were the only out of time papers to assign a full-time correspondent during the time between lincoln's election and departure for washington the following february. the herald was proud of their journalistic coup, although the editors apparently disliked paying for these lengthy submissions. less than two weeks after he began filing reports, and editorial note in the new york herald informed readers, we are receiving every day telegraphic dispatches and pretty expensive ones from springfield. despite their cost, the herald published his dispatches without change or omission.
what do these reports tell us? in his early dispatches, he occasionally criticized lincoln. on november 19, he called the president-elect, "a man of good heart and good intentions who unfortunately was not firm. i doubt mr. lincoln's capacity for the task of bringing light and peace out of the chaos that will surround him. demand a president andrew jackson." but soon villard came to praise the president-elect, saying that his son eminence has not affected him in anyway that might estrange or lesson the respect of his old friends. he has remained the same frank, openhearted, good-natured, well-meaning, plainspoken and plain mannered western man that through his many qualities of , the head and the heart, has
endeared him politically and privately to so many of the people of this state. there is not a shadow of presumption or vainglorious nurse -- vaingloriousness perceptible in lincoln. he communicates in his old familiar way. he loves to tell old stories and play jokes on his acquaintances. nor is it likely that the air of washington will make him abandon his customary ways. i predict that he will horrify many of the fashionables who will flock around him at the federal capital, by his persistency and frankness of thought and speech, simplicity of manners and habits. that was in november. in december, villard concluded that lincoln would be another andrew jackson after all. he said, "i daresay they are dominant qualities in old abe
which occasion will draw forth, develop and remind people to a certain degree of the characteristics of old hickory, " that is andrew jackson. villard explained why he and become so much more like jackson in december and he had seemed to be in november. i quote, "the determined infatuation and a stubborn deafness to all moderate counsel with which the secession is being approached by the seceding states gradually produced less kind and conciliatory sentiments in lincoln. the openly about purpose of southern leaders to try their disunion experiment at all their heedless of their seditious
plans by the population of the gulf states." that is the lower south. "loosened sympathetic ties." he lost sympathy for them. "the insulting tone with which impossible concessions were demanded resulted in wounded pride and a spirit of hostility. the cruel prescriptions and persecutions of all northern men without regard to political convictions throughout the cotton and southern states called forth in lincoln feelings of deep indignation and desires of retaliation. in sum, as the disunion movement grows in extent and violence, the firmness of the powers to be increases correspondingly. those that imagine the president-elect is scared will find themselves disappointed after the fourth of march.
they will be more apt to find a roaring lion than a frightened lamb in the white house." that is probably a reference to james buchanan who in his annual message to congress said there is no justification for the south to secede and no power that we have is the federal government to do anything about it. its future occupant, lincoln, was showing more pluck than they were perhaps giving him credit for. he is possessed of true kentucky grit and will not fail to demonstrate in a striking manner, that quality. although ready and anxious to respect the constitutional rights of all sections of the country, he feels that he is duty bound to uphold the federal laws. knowing himself to be right, consequences will have no terror for him and he will strictly fulfill his constitutional obligations and let the responsibility for whatever will
arise from southern resistance rest with the public sense of justice placed on their shoulders. he goes on to say that the above may be deemed strong language, but your correspondent knows what he is writing about. he fully understands the meaning of every word he uses. being desirous of the views of the incoming administration for his information, that is villard saying it is my duty to give you readers the views of the incoming administration as best i can. he would not employ other terms in the face of overwhelming evidence, appearing to his senses in support of the fact, the concessions are scouted and peaceable secession is looked upon as impossible in the statehouse.
the day south carolina seceded from the union, the 20th, 1860, villard reported that lincoln did not experience any extraordinary shock of nerves on hearing about the attempted legalization of open rebellion. it certainly did not make him any more willing to listen to compromises. timidity is no element of his moral composition. in january, when news arrived at the confederates had opened fire on a supply ship trying to reach fort sumter, lincoln was not calm.- was not villard reported that he is greatly exercised about it, as were many northerners. villard singled out lincoln's self-reliance, independence of thought and action and straightforwardness of purpose. even more, villard lauded the president-elect's "keen sense and comprehensive conscientiousness of duty is the most distinctive elements of mr.
lincoln's moral composition." villard boasted that he did lincoln a service by scaring off would be office seekers, who, fearing to see their names published in newspapers, abandoned plans to visit the illinois capital in order to badger the president-elect. in laterd wrote december 1860, "although your correspondent has no desire to claim any undue importance, he flatters himself that he is rendering preeminent services to the president elect. the herald's faithful chronicles of whatever transpires in this region has saved many an hour of annoyance and perplexity to the president-elect. it is solely owing indeed to the untiring vigilance with which he watches and the mercilessness with which he brings to publicity the movement of place seekers that abraham has not suffered any overwhelming
attacks from the rapacious expectant from his supporters. no mere sufficient means of keeping the eager host at a safe distance could have been adopted than that which is now exercised to the president benefits in the columns of the herald. the regular advertising of all political characters that venture hither in service of presidential favor is a most powerful scourge." villard claims that he is serving lincoln and doing him a favor. villard may have done an even greater service by indirectly publicizing lincoln's views on the secession crisis. formally the president-elect , refused to comment on the seven southern states that had themselves from the union between december 20 and
february 1. informally, over the years, lincoln had regularly used newspapers to voice his opinion, often in the form of pseudonymous articles from his own pen. in addition, he had journalists float trial balloons on his behalf. in the mid-19th century, there was no such office as presidential press secretary, but lincoln saw to influence public opinion through journalism written by his personal secretaries. each of those young men wrote anonymous dispatches that resemble today's op-ed pieces, explaining and defending the administration's actions. their contributions to the press reveal an aspect of lincoln's political savvy that has been insufficiently appreciated, mainly his politically shrewd attempt to mold public opinion through favorable reporting and commentary in newspapers. during the fall and winter of
1860, 1861, they both contributed anonymous articles to papers describing events and opinion in springfield and continued to serve the function during the civil war. in 1859, lincoln surreptitiously bought a german language newspaper in springfield to promote the republican cause and with other party leaders, he planned to take over a st. louis newspaper which circulated widely in southern illinois. during the civil war, he asked influential journalists to prepare public opinion for the announcement of actions that might not be immediately popular. he also urged him to establish the daily morning chronicle in washington to support the administration. between the time of his election and his departure for washington, lincoln may have been using villard to influence public opinion and give hints about his approach to the secession crisis.
in villard's dispatches, the president-elect is seldom quoted directly, though his remarks are sometimes paraphrased. moreover, the views of springfielders general and statehouse opinion in particular are often described. readers may well have inferred that those views were shared by lincoln. most notably, lincoln seemed to hint that he took a hard line against secessionists, even though he might just except some accept some compromise proposals for solving the sectional crisis. for example, on january 12, 1861, villard reported that although the president elect was loathe to see slavery spread over another inch of ground, he congressional a enactment embodying the restoration and expensing the pacific coast of the mississippi compromise line. that is the 36 degrees, 30 minute equator that bisected the
territory west of the mississippi. which had been declared -- would now be open -- at least the southern part to slavery expansion. that is provided he could be , satisfied that it was demanded by the bulk of the nation and the only means of saving the union. villard's close observation of lincoln for three months in springfield during the fall and winter of 1860 and 1861 gave an insight into lincoln's family life, as well as his public life. but villard did not report much on that, although he did in his memoirs. villard was not the only journalist that lincoln used to influence public opinion. a good book could be written on the subject, focusing more on reporters than on editors. in addition to villard, the president cultivated the washington correspondent and the sacramento daily union, noah burks, the first biography of whom has just been published.
simon hanscom of the new york herald, lincoln's favorite journalist. david bartlett of the springfield, massachusetts republican, and john forney, as i mentioned. moreover, his relationship with the influential editor of the new york herald calls out for more sophisticated treatment than it has received, especially regarding the role of mrs. bennett, who befriended the first lady. lincoln famously said of public opinion, our government rests in public opinion. whoever can change public opinion can change the government. to effect that public opinion, lincoln used the press more skillfully than is commonly understood. i thank you for your attention. [applause]
>> time for question and answer. yes. >> i have a technical question. i was just thinking when you were talking about how he used the press, that would be a good dissertation. there is not a tape recording of douglas or lincoln's speeches to write them down, so, could you give me the technical part of them handing his speech to the newspapers, and are there any newspapers that lincoln wanted to have relationships with and didn't have? to persuade. lincoln-douglas debates were taken down by a court stenographer. one for the chicago press and tribune, a republican paper and a couple of others for the chicago times, which is douglas's paper. we have verbatim accounts of those encounters. yes. so with lululemon -- lou
speech, did lincoln hand that book to somebody? in that regard, with the douglas -lincoln today -- michael: it was stenographic reports. an argument has been made that the republican account of lincoln's words was prettified, that the editors spruced it up to make it more smooth and articulate and impressive. really, if you want to know what lincoln really said, take a look at the democratic newspaper, the chicago times. i'm serious. this is what was said. they did not feel any compunction about making lincoln look like a jerk, because they wanted him to look like a jerk. and vice versa.
the words of douglas would probably be more accurately reflected in the reports of the republican newspaper and vice versa the reports of lincoln. that is preposterous. that notion is simply wrongheaded, because we have abundant evidence that stephen a douglas, who was not particularly scrupulous about political campaigning, hired a stenographer to deliberately mingle lincoln's words. angleliberately mi lincoln's words. we have good testimony from lincoln's shorthand reporter who became a congressman, a fairly eminent guy. he was saying that this other shorthand reporter that he knew personally was incapable of keeping up with lincoln. he was not a good enough stenographer. second, he was to literally hired by douglas to garble lincoln's words to make them -- make him look inarticulate.
there is some virtue in taking the democratic version of what lincoln said and comparing it to the republican version, and if there is a passage which is longer in the democratic paper than in the republican paper and it doesn't make lincoln look bad, that is probably accurate and should be added. that is because the stenographer covering lincoln may have fallen -- may have sneezed or his paper may have fallen off the table, or the wind may have carried it away. so, two very fine scholars at the lincoln study center in galesburg, illinois, who were awarded their first lifetime achievement award a while back, they did that rather painstaking conflation of the two versions, so i think we have, thanks to their efforts, the most accurate version we will have of what
lincoln and douglas both said during those debates. another thing that should be done about the 1858 campaign , another good book, would be to take all of lincoln's speeches which have been published, but all of douglas's speeches, which have not all been published, and when lincoln is responding to douglas in the 1858 debates, he is not responding strictly to a -- to what douglas says in the context of the debate. he is also responding to speeches that douglas gave elsewhere. he gave a lot of speeches in addition to the debates. douglas was in outrageous race baiter, just unbelievable. it is even worse outside of the debate context. we were talking earlier about statues and the controversy about whether they should be allowed to remain. one of the most peculiar examples of a statue that probably should be controversial is stephen a douglas's statue in
chicago, which, as you may know, is in southside chicago, a black area, and here is douglas, this outrageous race baiter, and his statue has not been effaced or spray-painted or attacked because it is on top of a 60 foot pillar. maybe we should do that with all those other statues that are controversial. [laughter] you mentioned that villard covered the stephen douglas and lincoln debates, and that he was very anti-lincoln. and then, your book talks about the time from the election through when lincoln leaves to go to washington, what did villard do after that? did he remain a journalist? what were his attitudes toward lincoln?
he was a journalist during the -- michael: he was a journalist during the civil war. mostly covering military events, rather than political. he did some political coverage, but mostly he achieved renown as a war correspondent reporting on military developments. the reports that the herald ran and the cincinnati commercial, they stacked headlines. you would not have a multicolumn headline in those days, you would a series of one column headlines, one on top of another. most of the military dispatches describing battles would have at the very top headline, maybe out of eight or nine, it would have true ors, "important is ." i think we ought to revive that tradition. [laughter]
michael: this will be the last question. >> lincoln wrote letters anonymously to newspapers. are some of those lost to history? michael: yes. one project i would like to get around to is identifying what i am pretty sure are a couple hundred pieces that lincoln wrote anonymously and pseudonymously to newspapers. we know that, because his law partner and the best man at his wedding and a local politico said lincoln wrote all the time for the journal that became the illinois state journal and it is particularly interesting to see those. i have tried to identify a lot of them viewed -- of them. in the green monster, i often quote from these pieces. i say, in all likelihood by lincoln and so forth. i think now, with the more sophisticated computer programs to identify authorship, like the ones just used this article
, appeared last october, that through that technique, we might be able to identify lincolns 's anonymous and pseudonymous journalism, and expand when all the democratic papers said lincoln spoke and everybody hated it and the other papers said he spoke and everybody loved it, but you don't know what they said. in these anonymous pieces in the newspaper, i think we can get some insight into lincoln that otherwise we can't get. once again, thank you for your attention. [applause]
our last wonderful speaker and the panel that we have, which is a tradition for the abraham lincoln institute, to have this round table as it were, all the speakers from the day's events, so for those who didn't get a chance to ask a question earlier, or thought of something since then, this is the time to line up and ask that question. we had quite a diversity of topics today. we have lincoln and, so in the blank -- environment, humor, frederick douglass, henry villard, the new deal. lincoln, as it were, remains america's man for all seasons, apparently. i am just going to ask one question of all our panelists and then we will open it up to the audience. how do i ask one question do such a diverse array of topics? i just want to say, if you could add a coda to your remarks today
that would say a bit more, why are people from so many walks of life insistent on having lincoln on their side? getting right with lincoln is the old historian way of saying it. in other words, what is it about lincoln's vision of america that our topics or figures today thistain or invite association with lincoln? why do you think that is? and of course, to make it relevant, how does that help us today, or can it help us today? whomever -- you have all about mics. whomever wants to jump on this. >> is this working? i think lincoln is that hero in american history. every faction wants to claim him.
civil rights folks, environmentalists, they all want to claim lincoln as their ally, because he is the good man and we want the good guy on our team. nina: yeah. i think that that is true. everybody does want to claim lincoln. i think there is also an interesting way, and i don't know if it is just lincoln, but there is something that is so moldable, plastic -- that is not describe lincoln but -- lincoln is gumby. [laughter] he does have a quality of -- maybe it has to do with his being so very political, so that he would say different things at different times, so you could look to lincoln and say here is lincoln the civil rights champion, but you could also say here is lincoln the pragmatist. he has so many different political guises, that maybe that is one thing that makes it possible for people to use him
toward different political agendas. david: first, i would say that it has not always been done. actually, i wrote a piece on the global lincoln that richard edited. that was a conference in england at the bicentennial, where they had people all over the world to talk about lincoln. i was given the task of covering a foreign country called the american south. [laughter] it gave me a chance to do research on all the lincoln haters, which was amazing. i did not too deep research on that, but there were professional lincoln haters for years. they were not only not getting right with lincoln, they were showing everybody what was wrong
with lincoln. frederick douglass did this. for 30 years after the war, he created at least three different lincolns at different times. one in 1865, 1876 and 1893. variations on the theme, but he created the lincoln he needed for that political moment. i think that usually is the case. what is the politics of any moment? somehow, either the healer for the emancipator, or the wily politician, or take your pick, is most needed or useful. think of the way that obama used lincoln, which was mostly lincoln the healer. and now we need even more healing, so lincoln better be ready. [laughter]
richard: can you hear me? perhaps i can build on what david has said. lincoln means something not just for the united states. it is not just a handy way of analyzing current problems in any given era to seek a way of solving them. lincoln has been an international figure, even in his own lifetime. he had a reputation abroad as a progressive, as an emancipator, as a democrat, as an embodiment of the self-made man. the kind of man that didn't exist anywhere else outside the united states. america was in the early and mid 19th century seen as the salvation of the world, in the respect of opening up opportunities to humankind. remember his response to horace greeley, when he said in a much misunderstood letter, it is a coded way of telling the world that he is going to emancipate, but he ends by saying i've so far described only my political position. none of this changes my personal
position, which is the ambition that all men everywhere should be free. all men everywhere should be free. people in europe, particularly in the left in europe, the radicals, the socialists, the democrats, those who aspired to the kind of society in which it didn't matter where you were born, but where you were born didn't provide any obstacles to your social progress in your political rights, that vision continued to operate from beyond lincoln's death into the late 19 th century and the early 20th. i will come to a swift conclusion here. there is the malleability of lincoln and the interpretation of lincoln. up until the early 20th century in britain, lincoln remained very much a partisan figure, who was admired by the political left and the left of center.
when the author was born, his father, in the early 20th century wanted to call him abraham lincoln. his father was a staunch liberal. his mother, who was a staunch conservative, said over my dead body. during and after the first world war, lincoln is adopted across the political spectrum. in 1920, 1921, the statue of abraham lincoln is unveiled in parliament square outside parliament in london. the only foreign leader -- foreign statesmen in that celebrated galaxy of british statesman. and who was present? the u.s. secretary of state, the
british prime minister, lloyd george, a great fan of lincoln, born in 1863. nation, aspiring nation that wanted to believe that lincoln was one of them. they called lincoln our welsh president, who descended from medieval welsh princes. in 1921, lincoln is adopted by the british as the democratic hero, and the war leader who had been the inspiration to lloyd george during the war. in the 1920's, the interwar period, there was a cult of lincoln in the united kingdom. bernard shaw said there was this cult where people regarded lincoln almost as a mythic figure to be admired by all ranks of society and all political persuasions.
i have spoken too long. lucas: thank you. just as a footnote to that, a similar phenomenon exists in this country. he has an appeal from left to right, which is rooted not just in his policy statements, proclamations, speeches, but what he stood for. he was a man of real integrity, honest abe is shorthand of a man for integrity who spoke to the better angels of our nature, and i think we hunger for that today. lucas: thank you. let's start with questions. >> the theme is too important. you have all referenced the great moral compass, and yet so many different sides can parse his words and tactics that somehow ignore the overall direction of his philosophy of his life, that moral compass. is it like the bible, like the
constitution? people can read what they want into it and ignore the overall direction? how do we snatch this back, according to the moral compass that he set for us? [laughter] >> have that i end up with the moral compass here? i often think of it this way. if lincoln had lived through his , if he livestreamed to his second term and will beyond, he could not have avoided writing a memoir. everybody was writing a memoir. becausewrote his early confederates were all writing memoirs. how would he have avoided it?
he may have still been guarded hecan be, and yet, as -- if had, we would be starting every conversation with what he said about himself in that memoir. in the lack of any , theiographical writings malleability is what you have to start with, although there are core elements to his ideas. but, it is the lincoln of apotheosis. it is the lincoln of transcendence. it is the lincoln of the ending, which is always our beginning. of course, that is what i did. ofglas loved the lincoln 1863-1865 and he refurbished it in three different ways the rest of his life, because he needed lincoln. -- reason fetters douglas
the reason frederick douglass and black americans need lincoln is if lincoln doesn't free the slaves, the country didn't. and if the country didn't, where were they going to go? what were the options? especially in the jim crow era. so, there are so many elements of lincoln that become necessary for future political persuasions. i think that is what we have to use them. we have also never had a crisis quite like the one he presided over. we have come close, and who knows where we are now, but we never had that crisis again, so it is the only model we have. nina knows about moral compasses. ,> what i was going to say is in some ways, that is a phrase, lincoln's moral compass, but it then takes each generation to fill in what that phrase means.
for lincoln, we see what the moral compass means in terms of his positions on emancipation, thingthink -- that is the that waits to get filled in each time somebody claims lincoln. i think it is easy to say i am following lincoln's moral compass. everybody will to find that differently depending on the moment that they live in. i think we also admire his growth. if we look at his early statements about race or savory and compare them to later statements, you can see how he grew. a few days before he died, he is making a speech about negro citizenship. he wouldn't dare 20 years before that. he grew during those 20 years in a variety of ways and some say that is what led john wilkes booth to say, that is his last speech. ishink that moral growth
something we all like to admire. >> if i could add a footnote, those of you familiar with my writings on lincoln will know that i divide lincoln's political career into an early stage and later stage. the early stage, i have argued he was a low road specialization -- a little road politician than midlifethrough a crisis, is on the sidelines for five years and comes out a high road politician who doesn't engage in ridicule and sarcasm. a high road appeal or to the sense of the public regarding slavery. i may have overdrawn that in my previous writings, because in the first half of his life, in addition to the sarcasm and the ridicule, he is championing what he believes is an economic program of support for tariffs, internal improvements in banks, in order to liberate people from my he
experienced as a youth, mainly rural isolation, which led to backwardness, ignorance, bigotry, prejudice, and the like. and heged to escape would like to make it possible for everybody to escape from rural isolation and poverty and backwardness. there was a subtext of liberating people from ignorance and backwardness and the second stage is liberating slaves from slavery. that, itd just add to entirely conforms to what i see about lincoln, which is he lived at a time when it was possible to imagine a world in which were ever you were born didn't matter. society where social and economic progress was possible. this was not a world of big corporations. it was a world of an expanding market. it was a world of boundless
opportunity and it was the only representative democracy in the world. those two were fused in his own mind. todidn't live long enough see the growth of the big corporations. he didn't live long enough to aspirations -- democratic aspirations would not be universalized. that hise to remember moral compass was operating in a particular kind of society that particular time. it doesn't mean to say that there are continuing and permanent values, but let's be aware that it is possible for lincoln to have this visionary optimistic view of the world, given the nature of the economic milieuial mill you -- in which she was operating. >> ready for another question? did john wilkes booth escaped
the burning of the barn that he escaped from? [laughter] >> do you want me to elaborate? we may have watched the history channel couple of times and i'm sure it is a conspiracy theory, but they were saying there is a possibility and there is some proof potentially the john wilkes booth escaped from the barn. >> he was living in texas 20 years later or something. >> yes. >> and lincoln joined the texas lane -- texas rangers and caught him 20 years later. 1930's, it, in the was very popular that the whole --ry that booth had escaped there were several plays written on this theme in the 1930's that it was stanton who was really behind the assassination,
because i think it was all about smearing radical republicans. themeas a very popular that stanton helped him escape. >> and a man named lloyd. -- boyd. >> don't know him. >> history channel. yeah. they said maybe he was shot instead. >> of. yeah. got it. i'll think so. >> we all begin with good stories, so go with it. [applause] >> i would like to ask the panel over the last three years, we have received a profusion of first rate books revising grand upwards. how about lincoln's influence on ulysses s grant?
each man greatly needed the other to accomplish their tasks and grant is the only president until harding that does something for black people. tries very hard to give them civil rights. i wasn't a speaker earlier, but i have a microphone. as i am sure they have all experienced, it doesn't matter what you talk about, you usually get the $64,000 question, what will lincoln have done about reconstruction had he lived? my good to answer, and historians to like to do this, because they think at a engaging contra factual's. political scientist to mind doing it. i go to grant. grant is the closest to what lincoln would have done as a president any federal constitutional system with regards to civil and political rights for blacks. >> could add a footnote?
the new biography makes a strong case for grant as a champion of black civil rights. there is good argument to be made, because he did insist that the early stages of his administration that the 14th and 15th amendments be enforced rigorously and he appointed an attorney general who oversaw that, and the klan was broken. for various reasons, it cannot persist throughout the administration, but in early stages, he was quite insistent that those amendments be enforced rigorously. >> frederick douglass supported grant for reasons larger than just grant. reviewed the book, and you are right about the revival of grant. there are some a grant looks now, you can't keep up. rivaling the lincoln books.
but slowdown on frederick douglass. anyway, grant is a mixed bag. all people are. he clearly went after the klan to destroy it and virtually did, but then there is the louisiana problem of 1875. lucas makes a very good point. the if lincoln lives problem has everything to do with the fact that lincoln doesn't have to live with reconstruction on his back. if he did, we would be having a different conversation. he would be wearing that as part of his reputation and he doesn't have too, even though he had a lot of thoughts about reconstruction before the war ended. anyway. i am a middle school history teacher, so i am thinking of my students i ask this. maybe a couple of you can answer it. thinking about lincoln's sense of humor, wended his sense of humor disappear from the
mythology? he is presented as such a serious stonefaced person, it is hard to get at that side of him. i'm just curious. was in the 1930's or before then? >> no, carl sandburg talks about him is very funny. maybe he didn't publish all of those jokes, but he still talks about him as being somebody with a big sense of humor. there were definitely popular news stories in the 30's that talked about lincoln as very funny. that was something missing in the 1930's. i don't know. is it just me to think that it has disappeared? >> no, i think when i tell british friends that i was writing about lincoln, they said, that will be a very short book. they had no sense that he had this sense of humor. , the image ofits
lincoln is shaped by statues and by great speeches. if you don't know anything about lincoln but what you see in the public arena, statues, and what he is most remembered by, the gettysburg address, the second inaugural, and his capacity for words, it is perhaps no surprise that you are unaware that there was this capacity for wit and humor. i'm a bit surprised that it has gone quite so blank in the united states, because there are still books that you can find of compilations of his wit. many of which are apocryphal, but they are still available in the bookstores. >> richard, can i ask you a question on this very subject? is there any evidence -- do you
know any cases of lincoln never meeting his match? that is, somebody who, with a similar sense of humor took him on? do any stories exist of somebody who could match lincoln? thought, yound think you have got the stories. do we know that any or was he always in control of these situations? >> we don't know of any. we do know there were competitions, because he would be on the circuit and they would be sitting on the taverns around the fire swapping stories and lincoln would just be there until the very end. occasion -- >> writers get ready, because this could be cool. >> good question. >> on that last one, i would say there are no reality tv shows back in those days. and is kept i had
coming up with me and i never found an answer, the 13th amendment was the fulfillment of the emancipation proclamation. there was a big fight in illinois for 30 years over the illinois basic law of the constitution. inre was a lot of debate washington about the emancipation proclamation and all this, and yet, they couldn't find anywhere anyone made any kind of reference to the fact that in 1847, at the illinois second constitutional debates, they put into the constitution of 1848 near slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist in this state. phrasethe exact same jefferson had written in the 1780's and the exact same phrase the 13th amendment to the federal constitution and yet know where i can find somebody
made a reference back to the illinois constitution. when lincoln was in springfield when they argued it. he had just gone to congress after it passed as the second illinois constitution of 1848. i don't understand this gap. no one picked up on it. i was wondering if you had come across anything about that. >> lucas should take this one, but they are drawing from the northwest ordinance. that is the link. that is the lineage. >> spec is back to 1787. this was 1848. less than 12 years before the debate came up again. >> wouldn't it carry more weight to take it from the northwest ordinance and the state constitution? that makes some sense. yeah. >> as you know, by reading those debates, in the 1847 illinois constitution convention, there
was a great deal of talk about race. shocking, the degree of over racism that gets expressed in that debate. it wound up paving the way for a statute that for made black people from moving into illinois. >> perhaps my question would be professor,ward the but anyone else is welcome to respond. the late editor of the u.s. grant papers once said that carl sandburg made lincoln safe for democrats, capital d. african-americans were a significant element in the republican party in this period. is there any evidence of
pushback from partisan republicans that the democrats were trying to steal their guy? >> yes. absolutely. republicanslot of who say explicitly -- one of the most interesting speeches i of theas by will hayes motion picture industry. as in the hays code. also a prominent republican politician who talks explicitly about this kind of democratic appropriation of lincoln. that they have totally misused lincoln. there were a lot of republicans who were right on that specific theme. partly, he is our president, a republican president. but really feeling that the himcrats had appropriated totally to their agenda. >> also, it is worth pointing out that the republican party in the 1930's was not necessarily
any longer the party of lincoln, so to speak. one of my favorite newspaper headlines of all time was 1936, which is the year that african-americans for the first .ime could vote they were majority democrat. the headline was in the chicago defender, one of the most prominent black newspapers. it read, it him lincoln is not running in this election. >> he is not a candidate in this election. >> he is not running. >> don't be full. be fooled. >> if lincoln were alive, looking at a map of red and blue states, he would say mississippi, louisiana, alabama, how come they are republican states? they hated me down there. things change. >> i would like to pose a couple ideas and get the panel's thoughts on this.
directed mostly on the topic of the views of using lincoln mostly during the 1930's to promote a wide variety of views. through the 1940's, there were still civil war veterans who were very young when they served and were very old by that point. there was still a direct living link to the time span in which lincoln lived and served. as that generation began to fade out, the new generations tried to map their spectrum of hopes, fears, beliefs, etc., ranging all the way from somatic elements in the young mr. lincoln film to the abraham lincoln brigade. right, left, across the spectrum. perhaps not in such a dissimilar ago, world warrs ii generation served. 70 years before the 1930's, it was the civil war era.
that similar type of scenario exists now, where the younger veterans then are very old now and they are dying off. we are trying to map our own generation's hopes, aspirations, perhaps to legitimize those in the light of achievements of a couple generations past. i wanted to get your thoughts on the parallel, that thought, maybe about two generations that since those events may be the rational calculus changes about how people try to connect with those and legitimize their own positions and thoughts. true that there was a dwindling group of civil war veterans. -- atmber that i saw was one point, the federal government was trying to identify all the civil war veterans who were still living in 1938, which would have been
the 75th anniversary of the battle of gettysburg and they counted about 8000 and got about 2000 at the 75th reunion. it is not a big number. one of the things that was interesting to me about studying the 1930's was precisely, it was this moment when you were losing contact with a generation of people who had been there, first-person participants. in a way, people become more anxious about, do we know what they thought? are we being true to their and honoring their vision? but they are also in a funny way less tethered to reality. idea that youe wild --agine these abraham lincoln is reincarnated as a kentucky college professor, there is a way in which it -- i
don't want say it freed peoples imaginations, but maybe that is not a good example of imaginations being freed, but it seems to open up all kinds of ways of imagining the civil war era and imagining lincoln, because you did not feel quite as constricted by the presence of the first-hand participants. is that same thing happening now? i don't know. there is certainly the same demonstrate,people are we being true to a vision that i group of people had your no longer with us? a group of people had who are no longer with us. >> i like the question, because he gets to this almost impossible problem of what is a generation? generations are often defined by major events. we always understand a generation in our own family. that is obvious. but political historical generations are defined by an experience.