The Historical Lincoln Rediscovered!

Welcome to the year 3735.

Near the start of the 21st century, an asteroid some seven miles in diameter slammed into the mid-Atlantic ridge just south of Iceland, setting off a chain of destruction that nearly annihilated all life and culture on our planet.

Less than fifty thousand survived the resulting chaos. The technological societies of the Americas, Europe and Japan were wiped out.

Now, our reconstruction of society nearly complete, we seek to reconstruct our past - and that is where I come in.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Teachminder Phonias J. Futz, and it is my ambition to reconstruct the history of one of Earth's foremost pre-20th century personages - Abraham Lincoln.

This turns out to be a more difficult task than you might imagine. The only things still known for certain about Lincoln in my time are:

  1. That he was President over the major power in the Americas, sometimes called Usa;
  2. That he presided over the country in a time of internecine conflict.

These were the core facts that were left to us.

Some less believable and non-authentic information we have relates to Lincoln taking some major action to end slavery. That this actually happened, at least as described, is doubtful. The extreme bigotry and prejudice known to have existed in the 19th and 20th centuries makes it unlikely that someone of that era would make an effort to end an institution that provided important economic stimulus and confirmed the prevailing (and of course incorrect) view that various races were somehow inferior to the dominant American race. All stories attributing the ending of slavery to Lincoln should be regarded as apocryphal, a mere creation of pro-Lincoln civil rights forces. If slavery ended at all, it ended in the early to mid-20th century, although many areas of America surely took an initiative and ended it well before then.

My mission began with scouring the globe, looking for any ancient sources about Lincoln that might have survived the Catastrophe. I was able to uncover only four biographies from the 20th century that had survived intact. They, and their apparent purposes, are (in chronological order):

How "original" is Donald's portrait of Lincoln? So original that it is full of events and reports not mentioned in the other three biographies. This, and the stated purpose of the book, gives us ample cause to regard Donald's book with suspicion.

The media, at this time, was so deluded by the movement to recreate Lincoln that they awarded Donald a Pulitzer Prize!

The works of Oates and Donald are also clearly written in popular narrative style. This is strongly indicative of fabrication.

In all fairness, the movement to recreate Lincoln was one with noble intent. The 20th century was a barbaric time, when people around the world suffered oppression; some 90 percent of the population lived in desperate poverty. People needed a savior, and Lincoln was a natural choice, having been first of all a leader, and second of all being sufficiently distant from the 20th century for these writers to recreate a history that fit their needs. We, however, have no need for such a hero in our enlightened time. We may admire Lincoln for what he was in truth; but we may also freely strip him of the excess baggage attached to him in part by Masters and Basler, and in full by Oates and Donald.

Owing the variable taintedness of all four of these documents, we are constrained to adapt seven primary criteria for their evaluation:

  1. If only one of the writers mentions it, it probably did not happen. As alluded to just before, this will apply mainly to Donald's biography.
  2. Events and sayings expressed in language like that of the 20th century are the creation of the authors. The pro-Lincoln civil-rights community developed statements to defend its claims and attributed words and actions to Lincoln that backed up their claims.
  3. Words or events that resemble those of the 20th century are often ascribed to Lincoln and his contemporaries.
  4. Anything that seems incredible, probably didn't happen.
  5. The writers, according to their own biases, added to or expanded upon Lincoln's deeds and words.
  6. Many of Lincoln's words or deeds are invented for an occasion.
  7. Only words or deeds that reflect our present knowledge and conception of Lincoln may be regarded as authentic.

In addition, we shall note contradictions between the accounts. These contradictions serve to warn us of the unreliability of these documents.

We will begin with an examination of Lincoln's early life.

1.1.1 Lincoln's Mother (Nancy Hanks Lincoln) - Basic Description

Because Lincoln's mother died when he was young, there is comparatively little information about her. Her Lineage

Masters: Reports that Lincoln confided to a friend, William Herndon, that his mother was the natural child of Lucy Hanks and "a well-bred Virginia planter." Reports that Lucy had been indicted in Kentucky on a charge of "unbecoming conduct." (pp. 11-12)

Basler: "The illegitimacy of Nancy seems at last to be above suspicion." Basler notes that two different and varying genealogies were created in an attempt to prove her legitimacy. Masters' quote concerning the Virginia planter is repeated almost verbatim in a footnote. (p. 111)

Oates: Refers to her "confused and cloudy past" and says that "a controversy has long raged over Nancy's legitimacy, with many authorities insisting that she was born out of wedlock and others retorting that she was not." He also notes the notation from Herndon about Lincoln himself saying that his mother was illegitimate. (pp. 6-7)

Donald: Reports that a grand jury in Mercer County, Kentucky, "presented a charge of fornication" against Lucy Hanks, and that Lincoln thought that his mother was illegitimate. Says Lincoln believed that his mother was illegitimate, but rarely discussed it; one time that he did was with Herndon, when he also observed that "illegitimate children were 'oftentimes sturdier and brighter than those born in lawful wedlock,' " with his mother being a primary example, stating that she was the daughter of Lucy Hanks and "a well-bred Virginia farmer or planter." (pp. 19-20)

This is but a small example of the changes wrought by the evolution of Lincoln. The overall effort seems to be to distance Lincoln from Nancy, while creating an image for him as a loving and forgiving son. Note these differences: Note also these efforts to cloud Nancy's already clouded past: The two genealogies cited by Basler, and Oates' wishy-washy claim that experts are still debating the issue! In Masters' and Baslers' day, the issue seemed quite settled! Apparently this was realized by Donald to be a useless tactic; he instead invents a larger quote to Herndon, no hints of which are in the earlier accounts; at any rate, being that Herndon was an unreliable source (see his entry), we may assert that either he or these writers simply assumed that this is merely the sort of thing that Lincoln would have said on such an occasion. These words were created to back up the claim that Lincoln was a loving son, and as a corollary, that he was worthy of respect because he forgave his mother in spite of her questionable background. Her Appearance

Masters: Notes that there are a variety of reports of Nancy's appearance, including variations in her eye and hair color and stature. "...Lincoln himself left no description of her..." (pp. 12-13)

Basler: Also notes the varieties of description. (p. 107)

Oates: Asserts a brief yet definite appearance for Nancy: "thin, dark-haired...with eyes like pools of sadness..." (p. 5)

Donald: Cites a variety of descriptions, differing in respect to her height, build, and beauty.

There is little of note here, although it seems that Oates attempted to assert of definite appearance for Nancy in order to give his other, fallacious assertions about her more credence. The tactic obviously did not work, for Donald reverts to the variety of descriptions. Her Education

Basler: Notes that while those who knew her thought of her as intellectual, "The matter of Nancy's education has never been and probably never will be settled." Basler compares on the one hand, images of Nancy "reading the Bible and teaching (Lincoln) to write" with the fact that there are no signed legal documents by her, and the evaluation of one biographer that she was "absolutely illiterate." (pp. 107-8)

Oates: "Unable to read, she recited prayers for the children and quoted memorized passages from the family Bible. Incapable of even writing her name, (she) signed legal documents with her mark." (p. 5)

Donald: "According to tradition, she was able to read, but, like many other frontier women, she did not know how to write and had to sign legal documents with an X." (p. 23)

Here, it seems, was a clumsy attempt to give Abraham Lincoln some source for his intelligence while dealing with the obvious and incontrovertible fact that his mother has left no visible indication of literacy. Oates and Donald absolutely contradict each other (and Basler), one saying that Nancy couldn't read, the other saying that she could. Also, Donald's statement that she could read but not write is an absurdity. Her Meeting with Lincoln's Father

Masters: Records that the two met during an ecstatic religious meeting, described exaggeratedly as an "orgy". (p. 14)

Donald: States only that she married Thomas Lincoln in 1806.

Masters' story was apparently too embarrassing for even Basler to report; it was quite likely violently suppressed. This is an obvious attempt to cover up Lincoln's sultry origins and make him a more adequate icon for the civil rights movement. Lincoln's Opinion of His Mother

Masters: Lincoln was reportedly stung by his mother's illegitimacy (p. 66).

Basler: Reportedly Lincoln once said: "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." Basler writes of this: "It is such an expression as any man is likely to make, but...(it) has furnished the keynote of the Nancy Hanks legend." (p. 108)

Oates: Indicates that his mother's obscure origins, along with his general family history, was a "social albatross about his neck." (p. 60) Indicates that he left his mother's grave without a monument. (p. 104)

Donald: Says Lincoln rarely discussed his mother's illegitimacy. "(Lincoln) referred to her as his 'angel mother,' partly in recognition of her loving affection, but partly to distinguish her from his stepmother, who was very much alive. If he ever said, as Herndon reported, 'God bless my mother; all that I am or ever hope to be I owe to her,' it was a tribute not so much to her maternal care as to the genes that she allegedly transmitted from his unnamed grandfather." (p. 23)

This again shows an attempt to distance Lincoln from his mother while still allowing for him to have cared for her. The "angel mother" quote is subtly altered by Donald, and made into a reference to a supposed genetic gift - which is ridiculous, since the science of genetics had yet to be discovered in Lincoln's time. It, too, is put on Lincoln's lips to reflect what the writers believe that Lincoln would have said at the time. Three writers at least agree that Lincoln was uncomfortable with his mother's status.

1.1.2 Lincoln's Father (Thomas Lincoln)- Basic Description

Masters: "Thomas Lincoln had all the indicia of the Southern poor white...He was unmoral, shiftless, bound down in poverty, in spite of the fact that he had inherited enough from his father Abraham (Note: Abraham Lincoln's same-named grandfather) to have made him well circumstanced, if he had possessed ambition and prudence. He was described as a man five feet, ten and one-half inches in height, and of great strength, and in disposition rather good-natured and amiable..." (pp. 9-10)

Basler: "(His) life was rough and poor, but neither rougher nor poorer than were the lives of many others...the worst that can be said of him was that he was always poor..." (pp. 14-15)

Oates: Dennis Hanks "falsely characterized (Thomas Lincoln) as a slow and shiftless oaf a who neglected his family." (p. 8)

"...Thomas was a popular yarn-spinner and enjoyed considerable status as a skilled carpenter, whose cupboards and furniture enriched the cabins of his neighbors."(p.10)

Donald: His personal description: "...a stocky, well-built man of no more than average height, with a shock of straight black hair and an unusually large nose. 'He was an uneducated man, a plain unpretending plodding man,' a neighbor remembered; one who 'attended to his work, peaceable - quiet and good natured.' 'Honest' was the adjective most frequently used to describe Thomas Lincoln, and he was respected in his community, where he served in the militia and was called for jury duty." (p. 22)

States that Thomas Lincoln received no "patrimony" from his father, "all the money" having been taken by an older brother. "Abraham Lincoln never fully understood how hard his father had to struggle during his early years..." (p. 24)

"After an exceptional burst of energy at the time of his second marriage, (Thomas) began to slow down. He was probably not in good health, for one neighbor remembered that he became blind in one eye and lost sight in the other. He was not a lazy man, another settler reported, but 'a tinkler - a piddler - always doing but doing nothing great.' "

It is not difficult to discern a pattern of rehabilitation in the later accounts, to the point of fabrication: Donald ignores the inheritance reported by Masters because it does not suit his purposes. Note, also, the glowing descriptions of Thomas Lincoln in the latter two reports, compared to the moderate reports by the first two. Note how Thomas evolves from being shiftless and imprudent (Masters) to being convival and hard-working, and having stories of his laziness invented by a jealous relative (Oates), to not being lazy and, in fact, having good health reasons for not working (Donald).

One particular aspect demonstrates the paradigm shift even more aptly: Thomas Lincoln's Attitude Towards Slavery

Masters: "In March of 1805 he was appointed a patroller of Hardin County, and by the duties of that office he became a slave catcher, empowered to catch and whip insubordinate negroes..." (pp. 9-10)

Basler: "(He) is not without his legendary aspects, however; one of the most persistent of which is that he was the first Abolitionist in Kentucky...It fitted well into the biography of his son...(but) an aversion to slavery did not keep Thomas from serving as slave 'patroller' in 1805." (Basler then recounts a legend of the young Thomas Lincoln setting free a slave that he inherited, and being ostracized as a result.) (p. 114-5)

Oates: "He stayed sober, accumulated land, paid his taxes, sat on juries, and served on the county slave patrol. Though he came from a family of small slaveholders and undoubtedly shared the anti-Negro prejudice of nearly all whites of his generation, he came to question the peculiar institution itself...In 1816 Thomas and Nancy Lincoln united with the separatist (antislavery) church and sang and prayed with its antislavery ministers." (p. 6)

Donald: Donald also mentions Thomas and Nancy's joining an antislavery church, the "Separate Baptist Church," and writes: "Thomas Lincoln's hostility to slavery was based on economic as well as religious grounds. he did not want to compete with slave labor...." (p. 24)

A brief note, referring back to the earlier entry - did Thomas serve in the militia and get called for jury duty (Donald), or were accumulating land, paying taxes, and sitting on juries the fruits of his citizenship (Oates)? This is partially contradictory.

Note what happens to Thomas Lincoln's role as a slave patroller. Oates attempts to countermand this image of Thomas by portraying him as a basically good citizen and reporting what is probably a fictitious account of Thomas and Nancy joining an anti-slavery church. (This is a tale in line with the one cited by Basler; it is hardly credible that a former slave patroller who whipped escaped slaves would have such a reversal in temperament!) The account is further embellished by Donald, who proceeds to invent a name for the church, and neglects to even mention that Thomas was a patroller! Can there be any clearer evidence that history has been tampered with? All of this serves, of course, to buttress the claim that Abraham himself somehow was anti-slavery; if his father was, so it goes, it is reasonable to assume that he could have been too! But most of Lincoln's anti-slavery views and actions are a product of the 20th century, and so are Thomas'. Few 19th-century men would have been so enlightened, and certainly almost none from the oppressing race. Thomas' Second Marriage

Masters: "In the winter of 1819 Thomas journeyed from Indiana back to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where he married Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow, to whom he had proposed marriage before he married Nancy Hanks." (p. 10)

Basler: Notes the recorded marriage of Thomas to Sarah Bush Johnston in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. (p. 118)

Oates: "...(Sally Johnston and Thomas) had known each other for more than a decade...Since her husband's death, she had lived in a modest cabin she had bought herself. Thomas found her there, proposed, paid her debts, and married her in a Methodist ceremony." (p. 9)

Donald: "Within a year of Nancy's death, Thomas Lincoln recognized that he and his boys could not go one alone, and he went back to Kentucky to seek a bride. In Elizabethtown he found Sarah Bush Johnston, whom he had perhaps unsuccessfully courted before he wed Nancy." (p. 27)

There is not much insidious here, although we may observe that the in the later biographies this second marriage to Sarah Johnston takes on the guise of an act of charity - an obvious attempt to rehabilitate Thomas Lincoln. Abraham's Reaction to Thomas' Death

Masters: "Down at Goose Nest Prairie in Coles County, in the winter of 1850-51, Thomas Lincoln became ill, and showed signs of soon dying, as he did. Lincoln's stepbrother wrote him touching the aged man's condition. Lincoln did not answer. Then another letter was written Lincoln, this time by Harriet Hanks. Now in the extremity of death the old man wanted to see the son..."

Masters notes that Lincoln replied to this letter with his own, indicating that business and his wife's poor health would keep him from coming. (p. 140)

Lincoln much later "put up a stone to the long neglected grave of his father (p. 376)

Basler: "Then, too, there was general knowledge that Abraham Lincoln had never had much respect or love for his own father. Indeed, it would seem that he held not even the love of a friend for his father. He would not visit him during the lengthy illness that terminated the old man's life, and he did not attend the funeral..." (p. 114)

Oates: On Thomas Lincoln's death, Oates reports that it was Lincoln's stepbrother, John Johnston, who wrote to Lincoln of his father's deathly condition. Lincoln replied - to Johnston, in January 1851 - that he did not reply because 'it appeared to me I could write nothing which could do any good,' and that both his wife's illness and pressing business commitments made a visit impossible. Oates notes that Lincoln did not attend Thomas' funeral. (pp. 103-4)

After an emotional visit with his stepmother, Lincoln visited Thomas' grave and "ordered a stone marker for Thomas' grave. At least the old man should have a marker." (p. 223)

Donald: As Thomas neared death, he heard in May 1849 from John Johnston. Also, "At Johnston's request, Augustus H. Chapman, Dennis Hanks' son-in-law, reinforced the plea with a letter describing Thomas Lincoln's 'Seizure of the Heart' and his 'truly Heart-Rendering' cries to see his only son. Though Lincoln at the time was actively campaigning to secure appointment as commissioner of the General Land Office, he rushed off to Coles County to see his father, probably missing a second letter from Chapman assuring him that Thomas Lincoln had no heart disease and would 'doubtless be well in a Short time.' Lincoln's visit to Goosenest Prairie delayed by nearly a wekk his trip to Washington, and it may have cost him the Land Office appointment.

"The next winter, when John D. Johnston wrote him two more letter about Thomas Lincoln's declining health, Abraham Lincoln did not respond. He thought that his stepbrother was again crying wolf. Only after he heard independently from Harriet Chapman did he take the news seriously."

Lincoln cited business concerns and his wife's sickness as reasons that he could not visit; Donald notes that the business aspects could have been covered by Lincoln's law partners or put off, and that Lincoln's wife could have been left in the care of friends and neighbors; but says "Once again, the husband allowed his wife to take the blame for an uncomfortable decision." "Unable to simulate a grief that he did not feel or an affection that he did not bear, Lincoln did not attend his father's funeral. He was not heartless, but Thomas Lincoln represented a world that his son had long ago left behind him." (pp. 152-3)

It is sad to see the pathetic extremes to which Oates and Donald stoop in an attempt to make both father and son look good in this matter. Notice, first, though, these irreconcilable contradictions as to who it was that wrote to Lincoln to inform him of his father's demise. Was it John Johnston and the single Harriet Hanks (Masters), Johnston only (Oates), or Johnston and Harriet Hanks, now married as Harriet Chapman (Donald)? Or was it indeed anyone (Basler)?

The accounts at least agree that it was business and his wife's health that Lincoln cited as reasons to not visit his father, although Oates attempts subtrefuge by reversing their order of priority. Apparently this attempt to excuse Lincoln's behavior was widely rebuffed, for Donald invents an incredible story, uncorroborated by any of the other writers, about Johnston "crying wolf" and Lincoln losing an important post as a result of rushing to see his father. Also, instead of properly blaming Lincoln, Donald blames Lincoln's wife - thus is inexcusable coldness made excusable by embellishment! And thus we demonstrate how, over time, history is added upon and embellished. Here is another embellishment: Abraham and Thomas: Reason for their Poor Relations

Masters: Indicates that Abraham did help his father with "small doles" (p. 10) and that he "sent him money from time to time." (p. 140)

Basler: Says no more than the above.

Oates: Oates attributes the estrangement between Lincoln and his father to a difference in education: "Probably Thomas felt both respect and resentment for a son who read books and wrote poetry, moving toward a world of the mind Thomas could neither share nor comprehend. And young Lincoln, for his part, had considerable hostility - all mixed up with love, rivalry, and ambition - for his father's intellectual limitations. In later years Lincoln remarked that his father 'never did more in the way of writing than bunglingly sign his own name.' "

Donald: "But Abraham's pulling away from his father was something more significant than a teenage rebellion. Abraham had made a quiet reassessment of the life that Thomas lived. He kept his judgment to himself, but years later it crept into his scornful statements that his father 'grew up, literally without education,' that he 'never did more in the way of writing than to bunglingly sign his own name,' and that he chose to settle in a region where 'there was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education.' To Abraham Lincoln that was a damning verdict. In all his published writings, and, indeed, even in reports of hundreds of stories and conversations, he had not one favorable word to say about his father." (p. 33)

Donald notes a gift of $200 by Lincoln to his father after the latter suffered an unsuccessful business venture in Coles County, and another gift of $20 sent to prevent Thomas' farm being sold due to a legal judgment. However, "Thomas Lincoln's unambitious, unsuccessful way of life came to represent the values his son wanted to repudiate. He had reason, too, to believe that his father, as he reached seventy, was becoming a little senile and was too much under the influence of the unreliable (John) Johnston."

How generous, understanding and tolerant Abraham Lincoln becomes in the skilled hands of Oates and Donald! Masters' "small doles" become an amazing (in that time)$200! Why? Because the amount is a late fabrication! That, and the reasoning based on the difference in educational level and ambition, are pure invention, meant to rehabilitate both Lincoln and his father for the purposes of the civil-rights movement.

1.1.3 Lincoln's Boyhood Living Conditions The "Log Cabin" and Environs

An extended quote here from Masters is warranted.

Masters: "In Lincoln's day (log cabin) windows were fitted with greased paper to admit light, in lieu of glass, which was not obtainable. The floor of these cabins was of earth; the doors were of broad slabs hinged with wood or hide; the fireplace was built of stones and sticks held together by clay...The bed was made of poles resting in notched sticks, and covered with rags. From the crude rafters hung bacon and ham, if the family happened to have any...The kitchen utensils, pots, kettles, and the like, were scanty enough. The whole family, whether there were few or many children, slept in one room. In summer the heat was terrific in Kentucky and middle Indiana; in winter the cold was pitiless...Bathing was unknown, and washing was avoided rather than otherwise, especially in winter when the brook was frozen, or the well or spring afforded water stinging with ice.

"Living was in every way indecent. The cabins were filthy, and rats and other vermin abounded. Men and women undressed before each other; and the children were cognizant of the most intimate relationships carried on within a few feet of where they slept...The food was vile, consisting of pork and game, but much meat at any rate, and of corn and wheat bread which was made from meal ground in crude mortars. The cooking, too, was conducive to all stomach ailments, since nearly everything was fried and in over quantities of grease. People had bad colds in the winter, and fevers in the summer...Much whisky was drunk; and all weird superstitions abounded concerning the moon, the flight of birds, the bringing of a shovel into a room, which meant a near death and there were ghosts and witches about, whispering in dark corners and flying over the roofs. In this sort of cabin was Abraham Lincoln born, in an obscure back settlement of Kentucky of cane brake society, in no wise fit to be called the home of a human being." (pp. 15-16)

Basler: NOTEWORTHY COMMENT: "If (biographers) do not hesitate to paint what they consider an accurate picture of the squalor of (Lincoln's) early life, it is only because that background enhances the romance." (p. 103)

Nothing specific, however, is said of his boyhood living conditions.

Oates: "The truth was that Lincoln felt embarrassed about his log-cabin origins and never liked to talk about them." Lincoln himself said that his early life could be condensed into a single sentence: "The short and simple annals of the poor." (p. 4)

In his own autobiographical notes, Lincoln "Try as he might...could not remember much about Kentucky - and nothing at all about the log-cabin farm..." (p. 5)

Donald: "The land Thomas claimed was in an unbroken forest, so remote that for part of the distance from the Ohio (River) there was no trail and he had to hack out a path so that his family could follow. It was a wild region, and the forests were filled with bears and other threatening animals..."

The family began by living in a temporary camp, then with help "built a proper log cabin. It offered more protection, but because of the freezing weather the men could not work up the usual mixture of clay and grass for chinking between the logs and the winds still swept through."

"The family was able to get through the winter because they ate deer and bear meat...

"The first year in Indiana was a time of backbreaking toil and desperate loneliness for all the family, but by fall they were fairly settled...(p. 25)

Basler's admonition seems hauntingly accurate here. Gone are Masters' descriptions of squalor, and life as it really was for the young Lincoln, most likely suppressed by pro-Lincoln forces; the hero of Oates and Donald could not possibly have arisen in such dire circumstances! Instead, the facts are either lost in Lincoln's memory (Oates) or romanticized and made not to look so terrible as they seem (Donald). Lincoln's Early Education

Masters: Lincoln at age 6 or 7 attended a few weeks at the Knob Creek School; "according to his word, he attended school less than a year in his whole life." In Indiana he learned to read, to write and to cipher to the rule of three. From his tenth to his fourteenth year he had no schooling whatever. But about 1822 he came under the instruction of a teacher named Azel W. Dorsey...under Dorsey he learned the fine and characteristic penmanship which is conspicuous in the earliest document which we have in his hand. He also excelled in spelling from the first...He was not expert in arithmetic..." (pp. 16-17)

One Nathaniel Grigsby is cited as saying that Lincoln was always at school early. Lincoln is also characterized as a voracious reader, and several titles he read are listed. (p. 20)

Basler: "The life of young Lincoln as it was remembered in after years by his friends who had known him as a boy...was inevitably remembered in the spiritual presence of the savior of the nation, the martyr and saint...Every act became in some respect hallowed; as the man was great, so was the child...(p. 120)

"Thus is was recalled that he was never late to school...What a model for mothers to point out to their sons!" (p. 121)

Basler explains that the image of Lincoln as a voracious reader is merely the result of reports from his relatives and friends who were "of meager education and generally lowly ambitions in regard to study," so that in their eyes, he was a voracious reader. (p. 122) In fact, "Lincoln was never a consistent reader...That he read sufficiently and with comprehension goes without saying." (p. 123)

Oates: Notes that Lincoln's "first exhilirating brush with education" was "two brief sessions in 1815 and 1816" when he and his sister "could be spared from the family chores in the winter" to walk to "the log schoolhouse on the Cumberland Road," where he learned his alphabet, taught by an unnamed 52-year old Catholic slave owner. (p. 7)

"Between his eleventh and fifteenth years he went to school irregularly...All told, he accumulated about a year of formal education...In later years he scoffed at the instruction he received in Indiana, insisting that 'there was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education.' 'Still somehow, I could read, write and cipher to the rule of three: but that was all.' " (p. 11)

Oates mentions that Lincoln "took pride in his penmanship" and "enjoyed reading" so much that although "(b)ooks were rare in frontier Indiana...(he) consumed the few that he found, reading the same volume over and over. He would bring his book to the field and would read at the end of each plow furrow while the horse was getting its breath; and he would read again at the noon break." (pp. 12-14)

Donald: Cites a recollection of Lincoln, that he went "for two brief periods" to a nearby school, though mainly for company for his sister rather than to learn anything. "It was first taught by one Zachariah Riney, about whom little is known except that he was a Catholic, and then by Caleb Hazel, who, according to a contemporary, 'could perhaps teach spelling, reading and indifferent writing and perhaps could cipher to the rule of three, but had no other qualifications as a teacher...' " At this school, "Abraham probably mastered the alphabet, but he did not yet know how to write when the family left Kentucky." (p. 23)

In Indiana, Lincoln was enrolled in a school run by one Andrew Crawford, but attended only three months; the next year, he Attended a school run by a James Swaney, although only sporadically because of the distance from his house. "The next year, for about six months, he went to a school taught by Azel W. Dorsey...With that term, at the age of fifteen, his formal education ended. All told, he summarized, 'the aggregate of his schooling did not amount to one year.'

"In later years Lincoln was scornful of these 'schools, so called' which he attended: 'No qualification was ever required of a teacher, beyond readin', writin, and cipherin', to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin, happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizzard.' " (p. 30)

"Through constant repetition and drill (Lincoln) learned how to spell. indeed, he became so proficient that it was hard to stump him in the school spelling bees...So adept did he become that unlettered neighbors in the Pigeon Creek community often asked him to write letters for them.

Of Lincoln's reading habits: "he could never get enough" of reading. A relative, John Hanks, recalled that Lincoln would read during meals; his stepmother said that he would copy passages that struck him onto "boards if he had no paper and keep it there till he did get paper." Donald then describes several books that Lincoln read. (p. 30)

Concerning Lincoln's arithmetic skills, Donald says that Lincoln put together a notebook in which "he recorded complicated calculations involving multiplication (like 34,567,834 x 23,423) and division (such as 4,375,702 divided by 2,432), which he completed with exceptional accuracy, and he also solved problems concerning weights and measures, and figured discounts and simple interest." (p. 31)

First let us cite the usual "evolutions" of Lincoln. From Masters to Donald, Lincoln has gone from being "not expert" in arithmetic to "extremely accurate" in it! In Donald also, as well as Oates by implication, poor Azel Dorsey is robbed of his specific contribution to Lincoln's education; instead of teaching Lincoln penmanship, these writers would lead us to believe that Lincoln taught it to himself, which is an invention that would suit that pro-Lincoln forces admirably! Three writers at least agree that he attended school no more than a year in total, that he was an avid reader (although Basler's comment should give us pause here), and that he was a good speller, though Oates' and Donald's anecdotes are probably fiction, since they are not mentioned by the other writers - or by each other!

This subject also presents us with some disturbing contradictions:

Masters: "From his tenth to his fourteenth year he had no schooling whatever."

Oates: "Between his eleventh and fifteenth years he went to school irregularly..."

In this time frame, did Lincoln not go to school, or go to school irregularly?

Masters: Lincoln at age 6 or 7 attended a few weeks at the Knob Creek School.

Oates: Lincoln's "first exhilirating brush with education" was "two brief sessions in 1815 and 1816" when he and his sister "could be spared from the family chores in the winter" to walk to "the log schoolhouse on the Cumberland Road," where he learned his alphabet, taught by an unnamed 52-year old Catholic slave owner.

Donald: Lincoln...went "for two brief periods" to a nearby school, though mainly for company for his sister rather than to learn anything. "It was first taught by one Zachariah Riney, about whom little is known except that he was a Catholic, and then by Caleb Hazel..."

Was it the "Knob Creek School," "the log schoolhouse on Cumberland Road," or an unnamed "nearby school"? Was the teacher an unnamed, 52-year old Catholic slave owner, or were there two teachers - a named Catholic (Riney) and Caleb Hazel?

Finally, note the recurrence and shifting of this phrase:

Masters: "In Indiana he learned to read, to write and to cipher to the rule of three."

Oates: "In later years he scoffed at the instruction he received in Indiana, insisting that 'there was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education.' 'Still somehow, I could read, write and cipher to the rule of three: but that was all.' "

Donald: "In later years Lincoln was scornful of these 'schools, so called' which he attended: 'No qualification was ever required of a teacher, beyond readin', writin, and cipherin', to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin, happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizzard.' "

Masters does not make this a quote; Oates puts it in Lincoln's mouth; Donald seems to imply that it comes from Lincoln, although the peculiar form and the "wizzard" addition make it unlikely. As usual, it seems that Basler has the clearest eye on this issue, and that the later two writers are inventing stories to improve Lincoln's reputation. Oates' ridiculous story about Lincoln reading while plowing is especially humorous, but of course too incredible to be believed!

In summary, it seems that the subject of Lincoln's childhood education is one which we can not now, nor ever, speak of with any surety. The accounts simply contain too many contradictions and obfuscations. What little information we do have here is undoubtedly a creation of pro-Lincoln forces intended to make Lincoln look self-reliant and of such natural intelligence that he did not require schooling.

Also, the lists of books read by Lincoln, given by Masters and Donald, only partly agree. Lincoln and Hunting, and Treatment of Animals

Masters: "He did not care for fishing and hunting..." (p. 20)

"He had a tenderness for animals, and wrote in those youthful days a composition denouncing cruelty to dumb beasts." (p. 23)

Basler: "The stories of Lincoln's kindness to animals are legion, and certainly many are fiction. Some of the more famous are doubtless fact, especially those which Lincoln himself related in later life...Terrapins, toads, fawns, dogs, hogs, pigeons - all were beholden to young 'Abe' for protection against the cruelties of mankind. The fact that he never cared for the one great sport of the frontier, hunting, gave rise to many sentimental and fantastic stories of his 'chicken-heartedness.' There are stories of boyhood speeches and essays against cruelty to animals..." (p. 121)

Basler adds a footnote on same page that expresses doubt over the authenticity of one incident in which Lincoln was said to have helped in sewing up the eyelids of some hogs that refused to be driven off of a flatboat.

Oates: Shortly after the move to Pigeon Creek, Lincoln "stood inside the doorway and shot a wild turkey as it approached. It was a traumatic experience, for he loved birds and animals, hated killing them for food. He never liked to hunt or fish again." (p. 8)

Donald: "In February 1817, just before his eighth birthday, he spied a flock of wild turkeys outside the new log cabin. He seized a rifle and, taking advantage of one of the chinks (in the wall), 'shot through a crack, and killed one of them.' But killing was not for him, and he did not try to repeat his exploit. Recalling the incident years later, he said that he had 'never since pulled a trigger on any larger game.' " (p. 25)

After his mother's death, Lincoln "began to reprove other children in the neighborhood for senseless cruelty to animals. He scolded them when they caught terrapins and heaped hot coals on their shells, to force the defenseless animals out of their shells, reminding them 'that an ant's life was to it as sweet as ours to us.' " (p. 27)

There is common agreement among all authors, at least, that young Lincoln had some consideration for animals. However, there are still incredible problems with these accounts. Donald's p. 27 quote is cited as being recorded third-hand, reported from one Matilda Moore to William Herndon (p. 604). This makes it quite suspect, and likely a fabrication. At any rate, these quotes and stories are all probably invented; how could we expect that children - the only ones who would have witnessed the events described - would remember such stories? And do not these stories fit into the scheme of recreating Lincoln as someone who in future would bring an end to slavery?

A story with the same setting as the one told in Basler's footnote is related by Oates, but there is no mention of how the hogs were treated. Instead, there is a remarkable story of how Lincoln ingeniously saved a boat from sinking (p. 18). The same story is also related by Donald, though in greater detail (p. 38-9), which suggests embellishment, although the story is probably generally true.

Here again we are faced with insuperable contradictions:

Oates: Lincoln "stood inside the doorway and shot a wild turkey as it approached."

Donald: Lincoln "spied a flock of wild turkeys outside the new log cabin. He seized a rifle and, taking advantage of one of the chinks (in the wall), 'shot through a crack, and killed one of them.' "

Was there just one turkey, as Oates says, or a whole flock, per Donald? And was it shot from the doorway, or through a crack in the wall? Donald's version at least cites a third-hand source, but this could be easily fabricated. Indeed, the fact that these two authors so directly contradict each other is clear evidence of fabrication.

Masters: "He did not care for fishing and hunting..."

Basler: "The fact that he never cared for the one great sport of the frontier, hunting..."

Oates: "He never liked to hunt or fish again."

Donald: "But killing was not for him, and he did not try to repeat his exploit. Recalling the incident years later, he said that he had 'never since pulled a trigger on any larger game.' "

The first three authors more or less agree, but the last clearly indicates that Lincoln did hunt smaller game - perhaps rabbits. This is contradictory to the other three authors' statements. It is my theory that Donald here was making a lame attempt to inspire the admiration of another political group of the 1990s, the National Rifle Association, who probably denounced Lincoln as "chicken-hearted" themselves. Lincoln's Accident: Kicked by a Horse

In the account of this event, we see a most blatant and irreconcilable contradiction between the two later authors.

Masters: Does not mention this incident. However, we must note that he records the death of Lincoln's mother as taking place in the winter of 1819, of milk-sickness. (pp. 9, 16)

Oates: Records that an epidemic of "milk sick" swept through the area, killing Lincoln's mother. Then, " 1819 there occurred another scrape with death: a horse kicked Abraham in the head 'and apparently killed him for a time,' as he put it later." (p. 9)

Donald: With no numbered date given, but indicating that it was sometime after 1817, Donald reports: "First, Abraham had a dangerous accident. One of his chores was to take corn over to Gordon's mill, some two miles distant, to be ground into meal. When he got there, he hitched his old mare to the arm of the gristmill. Because it was getting late and he was in a hurry to get home before dusk, he tried to speed up the mare by giving her a stroke of the whip with each revolution. She lashed out at him with a kick that landed on his forehead, and he fell bleeding and unconscious. At first it was thought that he was dead and his father was summoned. He could not speak for several hours, but he revived and suffered no permanent damage.

"Then the Pigeon Creek community was devastated by an attack of what was called milk sickness...Nancy fell ill" and later died, on October 5. The "next year" is given in the following paragraph as 1819, so Donald places her death in 1818. (italics added)

What more clear evidence can there be of conspiracy? These accounts do not agree on what year Lincoln's mother died, and pointedly disagree on whether the horse incident occurred before or after her death! Their fundamental disagreements, the obvious embellishment by Donald, and that only the two later writers mention it, clearly and unarguably means that this story of Lincoln being kicked by a horse is a fable - created to make him look like some sort of godlike figure that rose from the dead!

We have looked at only a small number of incidents of Lincoln's family and childhood and found many irreconcilable contradictions and obvious myths. Are there more to come? Regrettably, the admirers of Lincoln did not stop there in recreating the President in their own image, as we shall see!

1.2 Lincoln's Personal Life

1.2.1 Marriage to Mary Todd

Lincoln's relationship to Mary Todd was a stormy and troublesome one. As Masters says, "That Lincoln had an urge to marry someone, is clear enough. The tragedy is that he did not find his mate - not in Mary Todd." (p. 67) The reasons for this shall be revealed in later entry on Joshua Speed, where also we shall see how the couple first met, and the contradictory accounts of that incident. For now, let us explore the relationship the two had, their wedding, and afterwards. The Wedding and Honeymoon

Masters: The morning of November 4, the day of the wedding, Lincoln "aroused his friend (James) Matheny from bed to tell him that he was to be married that night and to ask him to act as best man for him. The same morning Mary Todd hurried to the house of a woman friend and secured her attendance as maid of honor. Meanwhile the Episcopal rector, Rev. Charles N. Dresser, was asked to come to the Edwards mansion and perform the ceremony...While Lincoln was dressing for the wedding, at the Butler boarding of the Butler's little boys asked Lincoln where he was going. Lincoln replied, 'To hell I reckon.'

"The wedding was painfully ludicrous. Lincoln was pale and trembling as if being driven to slaughter, as Herndon described him...The rector stood forth in his canonical robes, and at the proper point handed the ring to Lincoln, repeating the words of the ritual that the groom was thereby endowing Mary Todd with all his worldly goods." A Supreme Court judge present cracked a joke which sent the rector into convulsions and probably embarrassed Lincoln. "With the union solemnized, the bride and groom went to the Globe Tavern in Springfield where the couple took board and room at $4 a week. A picture of this hostelry was taken in 1886, which showed it as it was in 1842. It was a two-story, frame structure with four windows in the second story, and two windows and two doors in the ground story. It was altogether less than a commonplace house; it was the ugly, almost shabby sort of building that succeeded the picturesque log structures." (pp. 71-3)

Oates: "They set November 4, 1842, as their wedding day...

"Later, as Lincoln blackened his boots and dressed for the ceremony, a young fellow entered his room and asked where he was going. Lincoln cracked, 'To hell, I reckon.' Which was his way of fighting back anxiety.

"That evening, with rain pelting the Edwards mansion, Lincoln and Mary Todd...stood before an Episcopal minister in the parlor with a small group of friends in attendance. Lincoln seemed pale and nervous as he exchanged vows with Mary. But with a rising hope that his old trouble would soon be over, that he would be happier or at least 'less miserable' living with Mary than alone, Lincoln took her hand...and he gave her a wedding ring with the inscription 'Love Is Eternal.'

"Later that night, the newlyweds drove their carriage through the blinding rain and came at last to the Globe Tavern, where Lincoln had rented a single room as their home. A few days afterward Lincoln wrote an acquaintance that nothing was new 'except my marrying, which to me, is a matter of profound wonder.' "(pp.68-9)

Donald: "...Lincoln renewed his offer of marriage and was accepted. At the last possible moment they informed the Edwardses, for, as (Mary) told her sister, 'the world - woman, and man were uncertain and slippery was best to keep the secret courtship from all eyes and ears.' " The wedding was on November 4.

"Lincoln was equally secretive, and he did not ask James H. act as his best man until late afternoon of the wedding day. As he prepared for the ceremony, Lincoln, like many another bridegroom, began to get cold feet, and Matheny recalled that he 'looked and acted as if he were going to the slaughter.' While he was dressing and blacking his boots, Speed Butler, the son of his landlord, asked where he was going, and Lincoln replied, 'To hell, I suppose.'

"Despite the haste and the forebodings, the wedding ceremony, presided over by Episcopal minister Charles Dresser, went off without incident, and Lincoln placed on his wife's finger a ring engraved 'Love is eternal.' " (p. 93)

" 'Nothing new here,' Lincoln wrote a friend on November 11, 1842, 'except my marrying, which to me, is a matter of profound wonder.'

"The newlyweds took up residence in the Globe Tavern, a simple, two-story wooden structure...It had about thirty rooms, mostly for transients, but in addition, according to its advertisement, it offered 'eight pleasant and comfortable rooms for boarders.' " The room cost $4 a week. "This was not an unusual arrangement for a young married couple...Though the Globe was a respectable hotel, its accommodations were inferior to those of its principal competitor, the American House, and it was often noisy." (pp. 94-5)

Here are the many contradictions and alterations we find in these accounts:

Why was Lincoln in such a hurry to get married, and why was it a "matter of profound wonder" to him? These are questions to keep in mind for later. Their Early Relationship

Masters: "One can search all through the records of Lincoln to the last without finding any passion in them, any tenderness of moment expressed to Mary Todd or any other woman, who occupied any intimate relationship toward him." His letters to her were with but one exception "entirely colorless."

"He married Mary Todd out of fear for his own conscience, out of torturing pity for her that he had so shamefully humiliated and wounded; and in consequence, we have no letter from him to her in which he wrote as a man does who loved a woman..." (pp.74-6)

"...there is no day that Lincoln does not do something to arouse her distaste, her indignation. He has forgotten to do something that she asked him to do; or else he has been lying about on the floor reading newspapers, and when there was a knock at the door he has gone to answer the summons, and has presented himself in his stocking feet to the well-dressed lady caller; and he has stood before her, with his coat off, and his one suspender barely holding up his trousers. To the inquiry whether Mrs. Lincoln is in he has said, 'I reckon she is,' and he has admitted the fashionable lady about the time that Mrs. Lincoln appears to witness the unceremonious and shocking conduct of her husband. Her eyes have told him what is to come when the lady is out of the way, and he has gone uptown to escape for as long as possible the wrath that is surely to descend." (pp. 111-2)

Basler: "The domestic relationship was too well known to be, not merely matter-of-fact, but on occasions unbearably cross and common...She was a vain, extravagant, mentally unbalanced woman - a picture of great pathos that can inspire nothing but pity in the student of her misfortunes. But to her inconsiderate and not-too-tender contemporaries she was a disgrace to the memory of her sainted spouse." (p.148)

Oates: "Of the two, Lincoln may have adjusted more readily to married life, because he was used to hardship and responsibility...Mary, on the other hand, was shocked at the realities of marriage and utterly unprepared for the demands it placed on her." (p. 70)

"Though on the surface Mary seemed a blunt and willful woman, she was extremely sensitive and suffered from deep insecurities which marriage and motherhood only aggravated." (p. 70)

Thunderstorms "terrified her and brought on blinding headaches that sent her to bed for days at a time. When this happened, Lincoln tended to her every need, lavished affection on her, and she reveled in all his attention...Lincoln, for his part, knew that Mary loved him to dote on her, call her 'little woman' or 'my Molly, ' tease and pamper her in a fatherly, gentle way.

"Other conflicts derived from their different habits and temperaments. If Mary liked a good argument to get everything out in the open, he often withdrew at the first sign of a quarrel...There was his practice of answering the door himself, often in his stocking feet, instead of leaving it to the maid. He also liked to lie on his back in the hallway, resting his head against an upside down chair, and read the newspapers aloud. And there was his carelessness of dress, which, if scarcely so extreme as legend claims, was still a problem until Mary taught him how to match his clothes and improve his appearance.

"Inevitably, as in any marriage, the Lincolns had their conjugal spats, especially when Lincoln was too melancholy or Mary became frustrated and so 'got the devil in her,' as a neighbor recalled. Then they would both lose their tempers and have a pretty good row. Still, they didn't quarrel very often - and always made up when they did. In truth the Lincolns enjoyed a relatively stable marriage, with a physical need and mutual respect for one another which transcended their differences. Lincoln, for his part, understood Mary better than anyone, loved her in spite of her flaws, shielded her from criticism, and remained thoroughly loyal to her as a husband. In turn, Mary could be tender to him, extremely tender...and was fiercely proud of him." (pp.71-2)

Donald: Notes that Lincoln called his wife "Mary" in letters, and she called him "Mr. Lincoln." In private, he says, he called her "little woman" or "child-wife." After the birth of their son, he called her "Mother." (p. 95)

"The Lincoln's domestic life was often troubled. Husband and wife were as different in temperament as they were in physique. He was slow, moody, given to bouts of melancholy and long periods of silence...She was lively, talkative, and sociable, constantly needing the attention and admiration of others. Indifferent to what other people thought, he was not troubled when visitors found him in his favorite position for reading, stretched out a full length on the floor. She...was embarrassed when he answered the doorbell in his shirtsleeves."

Mary was famous for giving people tongue-lashings, including her husband. On one occasion, when Lincoln three times ignored her directive that the fire in the fireplace was going out, she got his attention by bopping him on the nose with a piece of firewood.
"Such episodes were infrequent. The subject of much gossip in Springfield, they incorrectly represented the Lincoln's marriage. For all their quarrels, they were devoted to each other." Lincoln was never unfaithful; she was proud of him and very supportive. (pp. 107-8)

It is obvious that the later authors have taken great pains to ensure that the discord in the Lincoln home is effectively covered up with excuses, such as blaming the stories on gossip and attributing the problems to normal adjustment and the variance in the couples' personalities. It is also obvious that they have tried to improve the situation by embellishment.

I do believe that Mary and Lincoln - in part because of their children - did settle down into a moderately happy relationship. However, there was another reason that Lincoln had to adjust to his situation - and we shall save that for our final entry.

One quick and unrelated contradiction: Mary's White House Shopping Spree

This final section of Mary Todd is included as a simple and further demonstration of the inability of the two latest writers to keep their stories straight - and not contradict each other. We may take this as further warning that their accounts are embellished and/or unreliable.

Oates: "When they had first moved in, the White House was a shambles - the walls smudged, the furniture shoddy and broken down, the carpets stained with tobacco juice...So she obtained twenty thousand dollars from Congress" for renovations. "Through the spring, summer, and fall, Mary traveled back and forth to New York and Philadelphia on shopping expeditions. She bought imported drapes, custom-made carpets, ornately carved furniture, glittering vases, and a seven-hundred-piece set of Bohemian cut glass, not to mention a $1,100 set of china emblazoned with the national emblem...(pp. 294-5)

"But Mary's pride turned to panic when all the bills came in. She'd exceeded her appropriation by $6,700, and she was terrified. She knew Lincoln would never approve. In her misery, she called on Benjamin French, Commissioner of Public Buildings, and begged him to plead her case with Lincoln. Tell him, she said in tears, 'that it is common to overrun appropriations - tell him how much it costs to refurbish.' (emphasis in original)

"When French interceded in Mary's behalf, Lincoln became furious and refused to cover the excess bills with government funds. 'It can never have my approval,' Lincoln stormed. 'I'll pay it out of my pocket first - it would stink in the nostrils of the American people to have it said the President of the United States had a approved a bill over-running an appropriation of $20,000 for flub dubs for this damned old house, when the soldiers cannot have blankets.'

"Congress finally settled Mary's dilemma by burying an extra appropriation in the White House budget for the ensuing year..." (p. 297)

Donald: "(Mary) made refurbishing the White House her main project as First Lady. She found it in bad shape. The furniture was broken down, the wallpaper peeling, the carpeting worn, and the draperies torn. The eleven basement rooms were filthy and rat-infested...Congress had appropriated $20,000 to be expended over the four years of her husband's term of office for rehabilitating the Executive Mansion...

"In the summer of 1861 she went to Philadelphia and New York" to buy suitable furnishings. "...she bought everything: chairs, sofas and hassocks; fabrics of damask, brocade, pink tarlatan, plush...wallpaper imported from France; and a full set of Haviland china...with the American coat of arms in the center of each plate...117 yards of crimson Wilton carpet...and for the East room an imported Brussels velvet carpet...

"But by fall, when the bills began to come in, she discovered that she had greatly overspent the congressional allowance...Desperately she tried to keep her husband from learning what she had done...She authorized the sale of secondhand White House furniture," but it brought in little. "Then John Watt, the White House gardener, showed her easier ways of covering her deficit, by padding bills for household expenditures and presenting vouchers for nonexistent purchases...

"None of this, however, could cover her enormous overrun of expenditures, and she had to ask Benjamin B. French, the commissioner of Public Buildings, who kept the White House accounts, to explain the situation to the President and to ask him to sponsor a supplemental congressional appropriation. Lincoln was furious. Never, he said, would he ask Congress for an appropriation 'for flub dubs for that damned old house!' 'It would stink in the land to have it said that an appropriation of $20,000 for furnishing the house had been overrun by the President when the poor freezing soldiers could not have blankets,' he went on....Rather than ask Congress for more money he vowed he would pay for Mary's purchases out of his own pocket. Eventually, though, he was obliged to back down, and Congress quietly passed two deficiency appropriations to cover rehabilitating the White House." (pp. 312-3)

This short and amusing story contains a number of contradictions:

            Oates: 'It can never have my approval. 'I'll pay it out of my pocket first

            - 'It would stink in

            Donald: 'It would stink in

            the nostrils of the American people to have it said the President of the United States had

            the land to have it said that an

            approved a bill over-running an appropriation of $20,000 for flub dubs for this damned old house,

            'for flub dubs for that damned old house!'

            appropriation of $20,000 for furnishing the house had been overrun by the President

            when the soldiers cannot have blankets.'

            when the poor freezing soldiers could not have blankets

Confusing? For perspective, note Donald's original order of the quote:

  1. 'for flub dubs for that damned old house!'
  2. 'It would stink in the land to have it said that an appropriation of $20,000 for furnishing the house had been overrun by the President when the poor freezing soldiers could not have blankets

While there is probably some genuine material behind this quote, it is obvious that Donald has embellished it to make Lincoln look more indignant, and therefore more appealing in the eyes of the pro-Lincoln forces, who would be familiar with 20th century stories of government excess. Indeed, one wonders if the story is not based on excesses of First Lady Nancy Wilson Reagan, rather than being a reflection of true history from Lincoln's time. The fact that it is only mentioned by the authors closest to that time makes it suspicious.

1.2.2 Religious Beliefs

An examination of Lincoln's religious beliefs is nothing if not frustrating. Each author here, while as usual contradicting the others on details, nevertheless agrees that no one is quite sure what exactly Lincoln believed in, aside from a general sort of fatalism. Before commenting further, let us look at some specific citations: Early Beliefs: General

An extended quote here from Masters is warranted.

Masters: "...if Dennis Hanks is to be believed, Lincoln did not read the Bible much, though he was always reading something. In a community where religious revival swept the inhabitants as if with flame which drove them to repentance, Lincoln stood aloof, not joining any church; and according to his stepmother Lincoln as a boy had no religion, and never talked about religion, and, so far as she could observe, did not even think about religion." (p. 21)

Oates: Through his father's influence, Lincoln got a job as a sexton at Pigeon Creek Baptist Church, his duties being "sweeping the place out and furnishing it with candles. The preacher was known for washing his feet and inveighing against slavery, and Abraham no doubt heard some of his antislavery sermons. Like his father, Lincoln came to oppose human bondage. But he never joined his father's church."

Donald: "From his earliest days Lincoln had a sense that his destiny was controlled by some larger force, some Higher Power. Turning away from orthodox Christianity because of the emotional excess of frontier evangelism, he found it easier as a young man to accept what was called the Doctrine of Necessity," a type of fatalism. (p. 15)

Lincoln attended sermons at Pigeon Baptist Church, and afterwards, "climbing on a tree stump, he would rally the other children around him and repeat - or sometimes parody - the minister's words." His father would be offended by this and send him to work. (p. 33)

These three accounts present inherently contradictory pictures of young Lincoln's religious life. How could Lincoln not think about religion (Masters) and yet attend church and pay attention well enough to imitate or parody the sermons (Donald)? How could he get a job as a sexton in that same church acting that way (Oates)? How could he be absorbing ideas from the preacher's anti-slavery sermons (Oates), yet make fun of the preacher (Donald)? As we have seen, the idea that Lincoln's father was anti-slavery is itself bunk; therefore, Oates here is simply making up a way whereby Lincoln himself was absorbing anti-slavery ideas, and presumably, we are to believe, being influenced by them. Later Belief : General

Masters:Lincoln was known to have read the works of Paine, Voltaire and Volney, three famous skeptics. "Lincoln at this time and place was regarded as a skeptic; but to call him such then, and especially within a few years of this time, is to take a superficial view of the man. He was immersed in Hebraic-Christianity from his earliest years, which is something deeper than belonging to a church or professing a creed. He was really a Jehovah man all his life; and he early realized the advantage of using the Bible for his appeals to the people." (p. 34)

In a letter to Joshua Speed in 1842, he shows that he "held to a belief in a punishing Almighty who sends afflictions for the good of mortals..." (p. 70)

"...Ingersoll claimed Lincoln as one of his own, as a free thinker, or infidel. Lincoln is not that easy to classify. Already many letters and some speeches of Lincoln have been quoted in which he spoke of God...One does not know whether to believe or not that in his New Salem days Lincoln wrote an essay against the Bible, in which he attacked its inspiration as God's revelation, and in which he strove to prove that Jesus was not the son of God. Herndon affirmed in his book that Lincoln did this...John T. Stuart, Lincoln's first law partner, said of him that he was an open infidel; and others called him an avowed atheist...Stuart further asserted that Lincoln always denied the divinity of Jesus. On the other hand the sober David Davis scouted the idea that Lincoln talked about religion, especially to any stranger. He added, however, that Lincoln had no faith in the Christian sense, but that he had faith in laws, principles, causes and effects. Another man, a friend of Lincoln's, gave the opinion that Lincoln believed in a Creator; and that, as to the Christian theory that Christ is God, Lincoln stated to him that it had better be taken for granted; and while the divinity of Jesus came to man in doubtful shape, yet the system of Christianity was an ingenuous one, and perhaps was calculate to do good...

"Leonard Swett wrote in 1866, 'As he became involved in matters of the greatest importance, full of responsibility and great doubt, a feeling of religious reverence, a belief in God and his justice and overruling power increased with him. He was always full of natural religion; he believed in God as much as the most approved church member, yet he judged of Him by the same system of generalization as he judged everything else.' " (pp. 150-1)

Netwon Bateman said Lincoln once came to him and said, "Mr. Bateman, I am not a Christian - God knows I would be one - but I have carefully read the Bible, and I do not understand (it)...I know there is a God, and that He hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that His hand is in it...I know that liberty is right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God..."

Masters indicates that these words do not sound characteristic of Lincoln. (pp. 152-3)

In a proclamation after the Union loss at Fredericksburg, Lincoln supported a national day of "prayer and humiliation" and referred to "the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord...It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." (p. 155)

Masters doubts Lincoln's sincerity in this regard and says that Lincoln "was the first president to introduce the cant and the hypocrisy of Christianity into American politics." (p. 156)

Basler:"There is a respectable library, so far as numbers are concerned, of books and pamphlets dealing entirely with Lincoln's religion..." Bateman, who said that Lincoln affirmed that 'Christ is God,' was criticized by Lamon and Herndon. Among those who knew Lincoln, "Testimony was divided...The most fair-minded said they could never ascertain exactly what Lincoln's religion was...

"Lamon claimed that Lincoln was an infidel...Herndon admitted that he was an infidel himself and contended that Lincoln was." Basler notes that this does not always mean a disbelief in God (pp. 166-7) and makes several citations showing that Lincoln considered himself to be receiving divine guidance.

One Father Chiniquy reported that Lincoln said, "Is not our Christian religion the highest expression of the wisdom, mercy, and love of God! But what is Christianity if not the very incarnation of that eternal law of divine justice in our humanity?" (p. 175)

Oates:"(Lincoln) thought he might be a skeptic. He loathed all the emotionalism and fierce sectarian disputes that characterized organized religion in his day, and so he never joined a church. Still, he believed in God, believed there was a Supreme Being who endowed people with individual destinies. And he had read the Bible and was a religious fatalist like his mother. Yet he had reservations. What, for instance, was he to make of Christ? of sin and salvation? of Heaven and Hell? Well, perhaps he was a deist then." Lincoln was known to have associated with a club of freethinkers in New Salem and "most likely read some Voltaire and Paine."

Lincoln later complained that he lost an early political race because of opposition by churchmen who said he "belonged to no church, was suspected of being a deist, and had talked about fighting a duel." (p. 73)

In a later contest that Lincoln won, he circulated a signed handbill with these contents: "He confessed that he wasn't a church member, but argued this didn't make him an infidel. On the contrary, he believed in a Supreme Being and had never denied the truth of the Scriptures. But with an eye on the electorate, he said he wouldn't support an atheist for public office, since no man had the right to injure community feelings and morals." (p. 83)

After the death of his son, Lincoln rented a church pew for Mary at Dr. James Smith's First Presbyterian Church. Lincoln read a book Smith wrote against skepticism, but refused "to let Dr. Smith convert him and declined to join Mary's church." (p. 101)

Donald:Lincoln associated with a freethinkers' club in New Salem, which introduced him to the works of Thomas Paine and Constantin de Volney. In a political race in 1846 he issued a handbill with a formal denial to the claim that he was "an open scoffer at Christianity," saying, "That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular." He went on to assert his fatalistic viewpoint, and said that he could never "support a man for office, whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion." (pp. 49, 114)

Lincoln said once to White House visitors, who were of the anti-slavery Quakers, "Perhaps...God's way of accomplishing the end [of slavery]...may be different from theirs." (p. 354)

Joshua Speed noticed Lincoln reading the Bible. Lincoln acknowledged that in doing so, he was "profitably engaged." He then said of the Bible, "...take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance of faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man." To a delegation of Baltimore African-Americans "who presented him a magnificently bound Bible in appreciation of his work for the Negro," he said, "this Great the best gift God has given to man." (p. 514)

Some contradictions: The only references above we may be sure are false are those given by Bateman - first, because they are disputed; second, because they depict Lincoln as being so opposed to slavery. So what exactly is the issue where Lincoln's religion is concerned?

The answer is as Basler indicates - no one knows for sure what Lincoln believed, beyond fatalism. But one thing is evident: Lincoln altered his statements of beliefs as much as possible to please others. Even the authors admit this much. Masters notes that Lincoln "early realized the advantage of using the Bible for his appeals to the people." The handbill mentioned by Donald and Oates, and the reply to the Negro church about the Bible recorded by Donald, shows that Lincoln was a religious chameleon, given to changing his stated views as needed, doing what he could to further himself.

In that light, we may also wonder if he ever made statements against slavery in order to please people whose votes he needed. Donald's cite of Lincoln talking to the Quakers - already suspicious because "of slavery" is in brackets, not in the direct quote - could perhaps be viewed as authentic; but in light of what Lincoln said and did regarding public statements of his religion, even if this and other statements against slavery are authentic, they assuredly represent times when Lincoln was making himself seem to be against slavery in order to win votes. Masters writes that Lincoln "was the first president to introduce the cant and the hypocrisy of Christianity into American politics." To this we may add that he may have done the same with slavery when it suited him. For this and other reasons, no anti-slavery statements attributed to Lincoln should be taken at face value.

1.2.3 Sense of Humor/Storytelling

Lincoln presents a contrast in this area. He is noted for his long periods of depression - an area we will not explore here - and also for his bouts of good humor. We may agree that Lincoln had a sense of humor; as a politician, he doubtless could not have been elected without one. But how these authors report this information reflects, once again, on the conspiracy behind their reporting - to make Lincoln a suitable icon for the civil rights movement.

Masters: At work at a store in Gentryville, "Lincoln regaled the crowd with stories and witticisms..." (p. 23) Lincoln would act as storyteller to his comrades on the legal circuit. His stories were remembered in Illinois for 30 years afterwards. "Some were sex stories justified by their really witty points, others were of the filthy variety for which no point is good enough to make them permissible." (p. 87)

Masters describes Lincoln's humor as "the only aesthetic gift that he had; and by this he drew people to him and held them...His sense of humor rose from the comprehension of the incongruous, the illogical, the ridiculous, and it was related to his mimicry, and expressed itself through mimicry. Thus he could be a satirist, he could command terrible invective, and he was forever gathering stories and making them up with which to illustrate logical absurdities, or with which to burlesque preposterous phases of human behavior." (p. 142)

Oates: At ages 12 and 13, Lincoln would gather with other boys and entertain them with "a procession of hilarious stories" including "raunchy ballads." (p. 11)

In meetings with other bachelors at Speed's store, Lincoln and the others "vied with one another in spinning bawdy tales." (p. 49)

"Some of Lincoln's stories were quaint anecdotes which illustrated some point. Others were mindless rib-ticklers, like the one about the man in an open carriage who got caught in a nighttime downpour. As Lincoln repeated the yarn, the traveler was out on a lonely country road when the storm hit, and as he passed a farmhouse a drunk fellow stuck his head out a window and shouted, 'Hullo! Hullo!' The traveler stopped his buggy and asked what the drunk wanted. 'Nothing of you,' the man replied. 'Well,' the traveler exclaimed, 'what in damnation do you yell hullo for when people are passing?' 'Well,' the drunk retorted, 'what in damnation are you passing for when people are yelling hullo?'

"Still other Lincoln tales were pungent and downright bawdy." (p. 108)

Lincoln noted that humor had the same effect on him that "a good square drink of whiskey has on an old toper; it puts new life into me." (p. 268)

Donald: Dennis Hanks recalls Lincoln's storytelling and joking ability at age sixteen. He would tell jokes and play tricks for people at the Gentryville store. (p. 34-5)

Lincoln was welcomed at a the local store because of his anecdote-telling ability. "When no women were present, his stories sometimes took on a scatological tone...Such stories had no special point. Unlike Lincoln's later anecdotes, they were not used to illustrate any argument or to ridicule any particular person. Lincoln repeated them because he thought they were funny and because he had grown up in a household where swapping stories was an accepted way of passing the time. Told at great length, with much mimicry and many gestures, his stories eased his acceptance by the predominantly masculine society of New Salem..." (pp. 39-40)

As a member of the House of Representatives, Lincoln would charm other guests in his boardinghouse with his jokes and stories. He would also interrupt serious discussions with anecdotes, which set the group laughing and "disarrange the tenor of the discussion." (p. 120)

We should notice the trend here, for it is obvious. Lincoln could not be a good role model if he told dirty jokes; but it could not be denied that he did tell them. So what to do? Oates begins the transition by noting that this was a characteristic of Lincoln when he was young - and who could blame a young man and bachelor for having a bawdy sense of humor? (There was a reason for Lincoln telling such jokes, as we shall see later.) Donald completes the excuse by noting that Lincoln learned such habits at home, and that he never told such jokes around women! But the last quote by Donald gives the whole conspiracy away. Lincoln obviously had no remorse about interrupting a serious conversation for the sake of a joke. Why, then, would he care about whether women were present when he told an off-color joke? Obviously, the later writers were trying their best to make light of what was clearly, for the pro-Lincoln community, an embarrassing situation.

1.3 Lincoln as Speechmaker

How well were the speeches of Abraham Lincoln recorded? In this survey we will examine three of Lincoln's speeches as recorded by these writers - two here, and one later in a more appropriate area. We can learn several lessons about how freely and carelessly these (and probably earlier) writers transmitted Lincoln's words.

1.3.1 Gettysburg Address

Basic Information: The Gettysburg address was given at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, near the close of the Civil War. Gettysburg had been the scene of a decisive battle won by the Union. On the Address

Masters: "The Gettysburg Address is Lincoln's most famous utterance. In a measure it parallels the oration of Pericles over the dead who had fallen in war between Athens and Sparta...But while Pericles clung to the historic truth in referring to the past as the background of what he said, Lincoln carefully avoided one half of the American story, just because Gettysburg could not be lauded if he had said that 'governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.' When our fathers brought forth this government it was by the assertion of this truth. Lincoln at Gettysburg could not celebrate such a philosophy, for with all his original, if perverted, view of things, he knew that it was on this field where the right to set up a new government had received its first deadly blow....

"Lincoln dared not face the facts at Gettysburg. He had so long duped his own mind with the falsely formed judgments of his early and inadequate thinking and reading that he was unable to deal realistically with the history of his country..." (pp. 478-9)

Oates: The speech at Gettysburg was the result of an invitation to attend a commemoration on November 19 of a new National Soldiers' Cemetery at Gettysburg. "...Lincoln accepted...because he thought it an appropriate setting to say something significant about the meaning of the war, to explain how Union armies were fighting not just to subdue a rebellion, but to save democracy and America's liberal institutions. Yes, something like that.

"In rare moments alone, in his office or on a crisp ride in the country, Lincoln reflected on his speech and arranged phrases in his mind. He managed to write down several lines on executive stationery, but was too busy to finish the speech before it was time to go. He confided in Noah Brooks that it was going to be 'short, short, short.' " (p. 393)

"He left on November 18, but the train was too crowded and noisy for him to work on his speech." (p. 394)

"The next morning, Lincoln finished his speech, took a wagon ride with Seward, and then joined a slow, chaotic procession out to the battlefield cemetery south of town." (p. 395)

"At Gettysburg that day, (Lincoln had) called for a national rededication to the proposition that all men were created equal, a new resolve to fight for that proposition and salvage America's experiment in democracy for all mankind. Let Union people of all colors and conditions come together in a new national crusade. Let them cease their petty quarrels, put aside their differences, and vow together that those who died in battle...had given their lives for a true and noble ideal..." (p. 397)

Donald: During fall of 1863, Lincoln "allowed his thoughts to turn to making another public statement...But the President's thoughts were not yet sufficiently matured for full expression..." The opportunity presented itself when he was "invited to attend the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg."

"...Using White House stationery, Lincoln began writing out an address...(but) shortly before he went to Gettysburg he told James Speed that he had found time to write only about half of his address."

"But he had the rest of it in mind before he left the White House on November 18 and needed only a few quiet minutes to write it out...

"...Lincoln's message was at once a defence of his administration, an explanation why the war with its attendant horrors had to continue, and a pledge that because of these exertions, 'government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.' " (pp. 460-2) Lincoln made "final touches" to the speech on the morning it was to be given. (p. 463)

Note first these contradictions: Text of the Speech

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation,

conceived in liberty.

conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Oates: "He waited for the applause to die away, then went on."

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave there lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - from these honored dead we take increased devotion - that we here highly resolve that these

this nation under God have a new birth of

dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of

(under God?) new birth of

freedom that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish

freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish

freedom that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish

from the earth."

from the earth."

from the earth.

Oates: "The audience gave him a sustained ovation." (p. 397)

Donald: "So brief were his remarks that those in the audience came away with very different recollections of the occasion - whether Lincoln read his manuscript or relied on his memory, whether he made gestures, whether he inserted the phrase 'under God' in his promise of a new birth of freedom, whether he was interrupted by applause." (p. 465)


What exactly is going on here? Why is Oates the only one who gives any substantial portion of this allegedly important speech?

The reason is obvious from the opinions of the writers. Masters probably has the correct view; in all probability, aside from the few words all three writers preserve, this speech was actually filled with invectives against the Confederacy, the Constitution as framed, and also racism - though none of the three writers would dare mention the latter. Oates has simply attempted to invent an entire speech for Lincoln's lips that fits what the pro-Lincoln coterie wanted him to say, and provided a most incredible interpretation for his cohorts to follow - but they couldn't get away with it, so Donald returns to a minimal account of it, and appeals to the confused recollections of the audience - obviously an excuse to cover up Oates' previous fakery.

What did Lincoln really say? Using what few genuine words we do have, and what information I have deduced from this report, I believe I have reconstructed a semblance of the speech - but only those in purple may be regarded as genuine words of Lincoln.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty. Yet they did their job poorly; they did not adequately insure that our most primitive members should remain in their place. Today we suffer the results of that carelessness. Our soldiers lie dead because of rebellion. We are overrun by rebels and runaway slaves. We, the people - the true people, who alone qualify as members of the human race, and are the true descendants of our fathers who founded this country - have found it necessary to take charge of our land, and to spill our own blood in defense of what is right. If that is what is needed for us to retain control, so be it. If the blood of the inferior be spilled, so be it. Our freedom to do as we please is the very backbone of our society. When this war is at last won, we shall regain and reclaim the freedom that we have lost. We will not, can not, must not give up now. We will send the forces of inferiority down to defeat, and I promise that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

This may not be fully accurate - but it is undoubtedly as close to the true words of Lincoln as we shall get.

1.3.2 "House Divided" Speech

This speech was delivered by Lincoln at a convention in June, 1858. The authors all use substantial paraphrases - no doubt in order to eliminate references that do not support their pro-Lincoln stance.

Once again we are forced to read between the lines of what little we are provided. Again it is Oates who provides the bulk of the speech; Donald gives us quite a bit, Masters almost nothing. Basler does not record it at all. Paraphrases will be ignored in our reconstruction, as they are undoubtedly fabrications.

Note in these parallel phrases how freely in some cases they paraphrase Lincoln beyond what is actually preserved.

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention,

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge

what to do, and how to do it.

what to do, and how to do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object,

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object,

and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has

constantly augmented.

constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

'A house divided against itself cannot stand.'

'A house divided against itself cannot stand.'

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall - But I do

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall - But I do

I do

expect it will cease to be divided.

expect it will cease to be divided. (Note the fundamental disagreement here. - PF)

not expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing, or all the other.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the

Either the opponents of slavery, will place it where the

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the

public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will

public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will

public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction its advocates will

push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new - North as well as South.

Put it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new - North as well as South.

push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.

Comment: We are obliged to wonder, as with the Gettysburg speech, how much of this speech is the invention of the late pro-Lincoln forces. Words not preserved by all three authors are automatically suspect, especially since Masters, the author closest to Lincoln, gives him the fewest words. Based on the undeniable principle that elaboration is performed upon any person's recorded words over time, it is wise to assume that Oates and Donald have performed an elaboration upon Lincoln's speech. (Masters says nothing else on this speech after this.)

Note that in the above there is no condemnation of slavery. Oates informs us - by paraphrase only! - that Lincoln's next words were that "We Republicans must place slavery back on the course of ultimate extinction." There is no direct quote given - because no such quote exists; Lincoln was not against slavery, except insofar as it caused economic harm to white men or disrupted the Union. But both Oates and Donald intersperse further quotes with paraphrases of their own invention to make Lincoln "say" what they want him to. Further analysis will be done when we consider Lincoln's position on slavery later. For now, we shall see that we start receiving the speech piecemeal - and thus are we forced to do our own reconstruction.

We continue with the report of the speech, reminding the reader that the earliest writer, Masters, has no knowledge or indication of the following. Items only in Oates, and only in Donald, stay in their original color. Parallels shall be performed as needed. Our emendations, reflecting what Lincoln probably said in addition to these words (assuming he said them at all) will, again, be in purple.

Section 1

Words from Oates only are used here. He uses the phrases below in context of the above statement about Republicans, and the Democrats possibly nationalizing slavery. Donald does not seem to have any knowledge of this section.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition? Yea, and more - we are, and should continue to be, determined to maintain slavery in perpetuity. Daily our success in this area grows. We have in this country now an almost complete legal combination - piece of machinery so to speak - compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. (T)he design and its chief bosses do good - but it is not great. Our opponents the Democrats have gone far; but not far enough. It is our party that will guarantee the preservation of both slavery and the Union - by force of arms, if needed.

Section 2

Here the words of Oates and Donald join briefly. Both present these words in the context of Lincoln's chief rival, Stephen Douglas, being part of a plot to preserve slavery - though Oates does not make this as clear.

Unparalleled phrases from Oates:

from a common plan.

another supreme court decision

we cannot absolutely know. But, when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions

a lot of framed timber

of which we know have gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen - Stephen, Franklin, Roger and James, for instance - and when we see these timbers joined

Stephen, Franklin, Roger and James

together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all these tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and not a piece too many or too few

another nice little niche

probably coming unless the power of the present political dynasty shell be met and overthrown.

We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free,

and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State.

certain unknown personages

it would be perfectly natural in him, just like him.

remind us that he is a very great man, and that the largest of us are very small ones

a very great man

a living dog is better than a dead lion.

a living dog is better than a dead lion. at least a caged and toothless one

This is a difficult reconstruction, for the authors have been very free in quoting Lincoln's direct words. But most likely, here, if anything, is what was said:

What sort of plan our opponents have for preserving slavery, we cannot absolutely know. But, when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen - Stephen, Franklin, Roger and James, for instance - and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all these tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and not a piece too many or too few - we may be sure that there will be no means whereby we may cooperate from a common plan. If they remain in power, to be sure, we will get another nice little niche - twiddling our thumbs while suppressed under their thumbs, while the imminent slave revolt that is probably coming because of their weakness of control, their delays, their counting on another supreme court decision rather than the necessity of force - brings the Union closer to catastrophe. This shall happen, unless the power of the present political dynasty shall be met and overthrown.

Our opponents ignore the atrocities of the Abolitionists performed right before their eyes; the Abolitionists who said of Dred Scott, "We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free." We Republicans will assume power - and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State because of our actions.

It has been proposed that my opponent has sent certain unknown personages hither to divide us - sheep in wolves' clothing, pretending to be Republicans, but in truth, they are Abolitionists sent to make our party look incohesive in the public eye. Yes, it would be perfectly natural in him, just like him. He never ceases to try to remind us that he is a very great man, and that the largest of us are very small ones. But I say to you that a living dog is better than a dead lion, at least a caged and toothless one.

Section 3

A comparison is fairly easy here, and again reminds us how freely these authors used Lincoln's words:

How can he oppose the advance of slavery? He don't care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the 'public heart' to care nothing about it.

its own undoubted friends - those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work, who do care for the result.

Of strange, discordant, and even, hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.

dissevered and belligerent

we shall not fail - if we stand firm, we shall not fail.

The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail - if we stand firm, we shall not fail.

A single phrase is all that may possibly have been preserved from here. And now our reconstruction:

And how this toothless lion does besmirch us! He says of me, "How can he oppose the advance of slavery? He don't care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the 'public heart' to care nothing about it." But I say to you - I challenge you to prove otherwise - that where slavery is concerned, I am one of those who is one of its own undoubted friends - those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work, who do care for the result.

Of strange, discordant, and even, hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy. Let them attempt to divide us. Let them portray us as dissevered and belligerent. The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail - if we stand firm, we shall not fail.

1.4 Lincoln as President

We now come to actions of Lincoln as President. Our special focus, of course, is upon the myth that Lincoln was somehow instrumental in ending slavery. We shall see that he was not opposed to slavery at all, except, possibly, inasmuch as it provided competition for poor whites seeking employment or disrupted the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation, if it ever was made, was made for such reasons.

We will begin with one issue of Lincoln's Presidency not related to slavery in order to demonstrate that, as elsewhere, there are far too many contradictions in the works of these writers to recover any semblance of what the historical Lincoln was really like.

1.4.1 Baltimore Assassination Plot

Masters: On his way to Washington after being elected President, "At Philadelphia on the night of the 21st, Lincoln had been notified of a plot to assassinate him at Baltimore, and naturally he recalled that Maryland had not invited him to speak on the way to Washington." His detectives and one of his officials named Judd suggested that he get on the train in Harrisburg and go to Washington "secretly and in disguise...Lincoln and a friend were bundled into a carriage and driven in secret through the darkness to a deserted railroad crossing outside of Harrisburg, where an engine and one coach awaited them. They entered the coach and at ten o'clock the train was at West Philadelphia. There Lincoln and his companion got out, and entered another carriage. All the while Lincoln did not know exactly where he was going, or whether for that matter the driver was not taking him to a secret spot to be done to death.

"Now followed a drive of about an hour, when the carriage came to the depot in Philadelphia where Lincoln took the train to Washington. The man with Lincoln all this while was Lamon...(who) told the conductor that his companion was sick. He gave the tickets to the conductor while Lincoln lay secreted in the berth of the sleeper. At three in the morning the train reached Baltimore, and Lincoln was tossing sleeplessly in his berth. Lincoln looked out the window. There was no enemy in sight." The train went on to Washington and arrived at six o'clock. (pp. 381-2)

Oates: In Philadelphia, Lincoln met with Allen Pinkerton, a detective who worked for the railroad, and Norman Judd. "A short, bewhiskered man who spoke with a slight Sottish burr, Pinkerton informed Lincoln that his detectives had uncovered a well-organized plot in Baltimore...Lincoln was scheduled to change trains there, and the plotters intended to kill him as he took a carriage from one station to the other." They insisted that Lincoln take a train to Washington that night, but Lincoln refused to break his engagements for the next day. (p. 228)

"On the train to Harrisburg that afternoon, Judd took Lincoln aside and rehearsed a clandestine getaway plan Judd had worked out with railroad officials and trusted army officers. At dusk, a special train would convey Lincoln back to Philadelphia, where he would be ushered in disguise aboard a sleeping coach. A night train would pull it to Baltimore and another would take it to Washington in secret. Tomorrow the regular Presidential train would go on to Baltimore as scheduled, with Judd and the military escort on board to protect Lincoln's family and traveling companions." Lincoln didn't like the idea, but consented, and insisted that Mary be told; she was upset, but went along with the plan, insisting that Ward Hill Lamon accompany Lincoln.

"That night, disguised in a 'brown Kossuth hat' and an overcoat, Lincoln waited in a carriage somewhere in West Philadelphia. Lamon was with him, armed with two revolvers, two derringers, and two large knives. In the darkness someone approached...It was Pinkerton....They escorted the President-elect to the depot and sneaked him into the last sleeping car of the Baltimore train, where he climbed into a berth reserved for the 'invalid brother' of a Pinkerton detective." The berth was cramped and Lincoln was unable to sleep, worrying about the safety of his family in Baltimore. "At three-fifteen in the morning, the train passed through the empty streets of Baltimore and left Lincoln's car to be picked up by the night train. As Lincoln lay there, he could hear a drunk singing 'Dixie' on the platform outside..." The train finally moved again and arrived in Washington in dawn. (pp. 229-30)

Donald: "Allen Pinkerton, the head of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, informed Judd of a plot to assassinate Lincoln as he passed through Baltimore...Working for S. M. Felton, the president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad," Pinkerton and his operatives "reported details of a plot to kill the President-elect. When Lincoln's train from Philadelphia arrived at the Calvert Street Station, the President-elect and his party would have to get out and go across town to Camden Street Station in order to board the Baltimore & Ohio train bound for Washington. Just as Lincoln emerged from the narrow vestibule of the Calvert Street Station, Cypriano Ferrnadini, a Baltimore barber, and a few associates planned to assassinate him." Pinkerton urged that Lincoln leave at once, bit Lincoln refused, wanting to fulfill his engagements. The next day Williams Seward's son came and "brought confidential news from Washington" that both his father and General Scott "believed the Baltimore conspiracy was genuine...Pinkerton proposed that Lincoln, traveling alone so as to avoid suspicion, should take a special train from Harrisburg to Philadelphia; there, incognito, he would board the 11 PM train to Baltimore, passing unrecognized through that city at 3:30 AM and arriving unannounced at Washington two and a half hours later." Colonel Sumner denounced the plan as cowardly and suggested a cavalry escort to cut the way to Washington' but the impressions of Pinkerton and Seward convinced Lincoln to go ahead with plan, although he said "he was not entirely convinced that there was a conspiracy," and insisted that Mary be told. "Against Colonel Sumner's protest, Lamon was chosen as his only companion and bodyguard during the trip."

"That evening the President-elect quietly slipped out of the hotel in Harrisburg. He was unrecognized because, instead of the usual stovepipe hat that had become his trademark, he wore for the first time in his life a soft felt 'Kossuth' hat someone in New York had given him. To help conceal his tall figure his long overcoat was thrown loosely over his shoulders without his arms being in the sleeves. He boarded a special train in Harrisburg, where all telegraphic communication had been interrupted to prevent possible leaks to the conspirators. At Philadelphia, accompanied only by Pinkerton and Lamon, he entered a sleeping car of the train to Baltimore and occupied a berth Pinkerton had reserved for an 'invalid passenger.'...The train proceeded undisturbed to Baltimore, and without being observed, Lincoln transferred to the Camden station and went on to Washington." (p. 278)

The incident provoked unfavorable comments from the media, which wanted proof that a conspiracy had existed. (p. 279)


This entire incident appears to have been nothing but an exercise in cowardice and selfishness on Lincoln's part, and the authors have carefully orchestrated, embellished upon, and altered the details. He probably did not ask that Mary be told of the plan; this is added only be the later writers to make Lincoln look better. Oates even gives us a few "worrying thoughts" for Lincoln to think of as he rests safely in the train, and has a drunk sitting outside singing the enemy theme song! In all likelihood, the media furor Donald alludes to was brought up in reply to Oates' version of the story, and that is why Donald brings in Seward's son, creates a name for the assassin, and increases the details on the plot, to make Lincoln look better and seem to be more beholden to the others in his party. Note, too, how Donald creates a buffoonish reply by Sumner. This is calculated to make any alternative plan look foolish and further excuse Lincoln.

As usual, there are contradictions which demonstrate the unreliability of these authors:

* What time was the train in Baltimore - 3:00 (Masters), 3:15 (Oates), or 3:30 (Donald)?

* What exactly was Pinkerton's job? Did he just work for the railroad (Oates) or did he do that and head up a detective agency (Donald)?

* Was the berth not reserved (Masters), reserved for the invalid brother of a Pinkerton detective (Oates), or for just an invalid passenger (Donald)?

* In the same vein, where was Pinkerton in Masters' story? In all likelihood, Pinkerton is a fictional character, created by the later authors, for Masters clearly indicates that Lincoln was accompanied only by Lamon. Furthermore, if Pinkerton had been along, Lincoln would not have wondered if he was being driven to some remote spot to be assassinated.

Note the variations in the scheme by author, by color-code:

1) Put in a carriage and driven to a deserted railroad crossing outside of Harrisburg, where an engine and one coach awaited them. They entered the coach and at ten o'clock the train was at West Philadelphia.

1) Disguised in a 'brown Kossuth hat' and an overcoat, Lincoln waited in a carriage somewhere in West Philadelphia. Lamon was with him.

1) He slipped out of the hotel in Harrisburg wearing a soft felt 'Kossuth' hat and a long overcoat. He boarded a special train in Harrisburg.

So did they take a carriage to outside Harrisburg (Masters), or board one in Harrisburg and take a train to Philadelphia (Donald, Oates)?

2) There Lincoln and Lamon got out, and entered another carriage. After an hour in the carriage, they came to the depot in Philadelphia where Lincoln took the train to Washington. Lamon told the conductor that his companion was sick.

2) Lamon and Pinkerton escorted him to the depot and sneaked him into the last sleeping car of the Baltimore train, where he climbed into a reserved berth.

2) At Philadelphia, accompanied only by Pinkerton and Lamon, he entered a sleeping car of the train to Baltimore and occupied a berth Pinkerton had reserved for an 'invalid passenger.'

We have already pointed out that Pinkerton was obviously not present, according to Masters, and the discrepancy relative to the status of the berth. To this we add - did he go to Philadelphia by carriage (Masters) or was he simply escorted (Oates, Donald)?

3)The train reached Baltimore at 3 AM, then went to Washington.

3) At three-fifteen, the train passed through the empty streets of Baltimore and left Lincoln's car to be picked up by the night train, which took it to Washington..

3) The train proceeded undisturbed to Baltimore, and without being observed, Lincoln transferred to the Camden station and went on to Washington.

We have pointed out the time discrepancy. Did Lincoln stay in the train (Masters, Oates) or get off, go to another station, and get on another train (Donald)?

As we can see, this story was carefully orchestrated to make the best of yet another Lincoln miscue - though not carefully enough to escape our notice.

1.4.2 Views on Slavery: A Chronology and Reconstruction

We come now to the central issue in our thesis, that of slavery and Lincoln's view of it. To summarize what we have said so far, and make our position more clear:

1) If slavery ended at all in America, it ended sometime in the early or mid-20th century. There were indeed places where slavery was abolished in America, such as Massachusetts; but these were few, and motivated by economic reasons; it remained as an institution in most of the country, especially the South, and it remained approved throughout the country implicitly, by actions such as the Dred Scott decision, the Fugitive Slave Laws, and general bigotry and prejudice.

2) Lincoln himself did not oppose slavery, except insofar as it:

a) adversely affected white employment;

b) caused disruption of the Union;

c) served his political purposes to do so.

3) Lincoln himself was hostile to the African-American race, though as a politician, he could certainly act to appease them when necessary.

4) The Emancipation Proclamation, if indeed it was made and had anything to do with slavery, must also be viewed in this light - or, based on Lincoln's evident racism, it is probable that he issued the Emancipation with the intent to someday revoke it, and enslave the black race all over again. In that case, Lincoln's death may have actually been a boon to slaves.

5) Finally, in an attempt to make Lincoln a suitable icon for the civil rights movement, the later authors downplayed his pro-slavery inclinations, excusing them to social and political factors beyond Lincoln's control. Personal Views on Slavery - General

Information on Lincoln's view of slavery may be derived from examining his attitude towards enslaved races and specific statements on the topic of slavery. Because of the importance of this topic, we will at times comment directly after the quotes, rather than after the entire set of them. Attitude Towards Enslaved Races ("Negroes") Was the Negro Inferior?

Masters: "(Lincoln) called the negro an inferior being (in public speeches in Illinois, as late as 1858), and he said that there was a physical difference between the white and the black race, which would forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social equality, and that he was in favor of the superior position being assigned to the white man. Yet all men were created equal. But that equality was fulfilled when the negro was permitted to work for wages! It was this idea of of social inferiority that dictated and perpetuated Southern slavery." (p. 148) Lincoln reaffirmed this basic position in Charleston on September 18, 1858: "...I as much as any other man, am in favor of the superior position being assigned to the white man." (p. 307-8)

Quote by Lincoln: "There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people at the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races." (p. 267)


The above clearly represent the closest we will get to Lincoln's true evaluation of "negroes." It is clearly a racist view, and one wonders how the later writers altered this in order to make Lincoln suitable for the civil rights movement. The answer is: very subtlely.

Oates: In a debate with Douglas, said: "Now I protest against that counterfeit logic which concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her...either, I can just leave her alone. In some respects she is certainly not my equal' but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands...she is my equal, and the equal of all others." (p. 146)

In a debate with Douglas, said that "Negroes were not his equal or the equal of Douglas in moral and intellectual endowment." (p. 166)

In a debate with Douglas in Charleston, Lincoln gave these views: "He was not and never had been in favor of Negro social and political equality with whites," nor of giving them suffrage, allowing them to serve on juries, letting them hold office, or intermarrying with whites. Douglas replied by calling Lincoln a "racial hypocrite, a chameleon" who changed his positions as his audience required. "In his rebuttal Lincoln denied that he favored Negro citizenship, as Douglas charged" and replied that he was consistent on the race issue. (p. 171)

Later on, "...Lincoln had just about decided that the fate of former slaves would have to be worked out in the South itself, that the white and black races in America would have to learn how to live with one another." (p. 359)


The above view is portrays Lincoln as still racist, but slightly more moderate - as we should expect; it would take quite a while to establish a believable turnaround from the view recorded by Masters! Note especially the charge by Douglas; we will get to that shortly. But by 1995, the pro-Lincoln forces had become quite bold:

Donald: In a debate with Douglas, Lincoln "acknowledged that he thought it impossible to free the slaves and make them 'politically and socially, our equals.' 'My own feelings will not admit of this,' he declared; nor would those of the majority of whites...'A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, can not be safely disregarded....

Note here that Donald has appealed to the incorrigibly racist nature of the society as a reason for Lincoln stating that equality was not possible.

"He and (Douglas) might both regret that slavery had ever been introduced to the American continent and they might both believe that African-Americans could never be the moral or intellectual equal of whites. But their views of African-Americans were fundamentally different. Douglas, Lincoln said, 'has no very vivid impression that the negro is a human; and consequently has no idea that there can be any moral question in legislating about him.' But to Lincoln the African-American was very much a man. The Declaration of Independence taught him that all men - even men of limited abilities and prospects - are created equal. Because the Negro was a man, there could be no moral right to slavery, which was 'founded in the selfishness of man's nature.' " (pp. 175-6)

This type of statement is found nowhere else in the biographies. It is pure fabrication.

In Charleston, Lincoln gave these views: " 'I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races...I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people...There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality...'

Donald writes of this: "This was a politically expedient thing to say in a state where the majority of the inhabitants were of Southern origin; perhaps it was a necessary thing to say in a state where only ten years earlier 70 percent of the voters had favored a constitutional amendment to exclude all blacks from Illinois. It also represented Lincoln's deeply held personal views, which he had repeatedly expressed before...Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was not personally hostile to blacks...But he did not know whether they could ever fit into a free society..." (p. 221) (Douglas accused Lincoln later of tailoring his speeches according to whether he was in a place that favored abolition or not. - p. 223) So this obviously virulently racist statement is turned into something Lincoln said to save his political skin!


In this area, Donald is certainly the most creative liar imaginable. In a FOOTNOTE in his book - how many people would read their small type? - he writes:

"It would, I think, be a mistake to attempt to palliate Lincoln's racial views by saying that he grew up in a racist society or that his ideas were shared by many of his contemporaries...At the same time, it ought to be noted that Lincoln fortunately escaped the more virulent strains of racism. Unlike many of his fellow Republicans, he never spoke of African-Americans as hideous or physically inferior; he never declared that they were innately inferior mentally or incapable of intellectual development; he never described them as indolent or incapable of sustained work; he never discussed their supposed licentious nature or immorality...Lincoln's own views on race...were nearly always expressed tentatively..." (pp. 633-4)

In another footnote Donald recognizes an article in a leading African-American magazine with the title, "Was Abe Lincoln a White Supremacist?" which labels Lincoln a racist; Donald refers his reader to "more balanced discussions" instead. (p. 683) More balanced, indeed! The article in the magazine was probably an attempt to counter people like Donald who were COVERING UP Lincoln's racist views and denying, as Donald does but as Masters (and indirectly Oates) contradicts, that Lincoln considered blacks inferior and whites superior. The above footnote by Donald is a bare-faced, propagandic lie; and what he regards as a "mistake" is in fact what he is doing himself! Very subtle is his use of the proper term "African-Americans" in his book - used in some cases as if to imply that Lincoln used this term! No; Lincoln's most polite term for African-Americans was "Negroes" - and we may be certain that he had less polite terms that he used when expressing his opinion in private! August 14, 1862 - Colonization Meeting

Masters: On August 14, 1862, "a committee of colored men called upon Lincoln at the White House, seeking to learn what was to be that fate of the negro people in America." Lincoln advised them that money had been set aside "for the purpose of aiding the colonization of negroes in Africa," and noted that there were several reasons that colonization would be a good idea: "He thought the physical disparity between the races worked to great disadvantage to both. He believed that the presence of the negroes in America had an evil effect on the whites; for now the whites were cutting each other's throats on account of the negroes. Therefore it would be better if the two races were separated." He urged colonization, pointing to the success of Liberia.

Oates: On August 14, 1862, Lincoln met with "several local Negro leaders" and read them an address. "He conceded that American blacks were suffering 'the greatest wrong inflicted on any people.' Yet it was impossible for them to be free in the country," for whites would always oppress them. And yet the whites were suffering too....'See our present condition - the country engaged in war! - our white men cutting one another's throats...But for your race among us there could not be war.' " Lincoln therefore encouraged colonization "in Liberia or some other place" and said that while he knew some blacks would want to stay, he saw that as "an extremely selfish view of the case." (pp. 338-9) (Note: Lincoln abandoned the colonization idea for Latin American sites when Latin American countries objected, threatening to prevent such colonization by force. - p. 358)

Donald: On August 14, 1862, Lincoln "summoned a delegation of African-American leaders to the White House in order to discuss future relations between blacks and whites. 'You and we are different races,' he reminded them. 'We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races.' Nowhere in America were blacks treated as equals of whites. 'It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated,' he concluded, and he urged these blacks to take the lead by accepting government aid and forming a colony in Central America." (p. 367)

Antislavery and black media outlets criticized Lincoln harshly on this matter; but Donald writes: "Abolitionist critics of the President's shortsighted racial views failed to note that this was the first occasion in American history when a president received a delegation of African-Americans in the White House," or that some black leaders supported the colonization idea; the critics also did not realize that it was "a shrewd political move, a bit of careful preparation for an eventual emancipation proclamation. No doubt he expected his proposal to be rejected. But he knew that a plan for the voluntary removal of blacks from the country would make emancipation for blacks more palatable to the border states and also relieve Northerners of a fear that they would be inundated by a migration of free Negroes from the South." (p. 368)


Note these contradictions first:

Overall, these passages make it very obvious that an attempt has been made to soften Lincoln's actions in this incident. Gone in Donald is the saying by Lincoln blaming blacks for the war. Gone is the idea that some racist motive of black inferiority was behind the move (Masters); it now becomes a move out of concern for their inequal treatment at the hands of whites (Donald)! And then there is the ultimate twist and spin added by Donald - turning the whole scheme into a shrewd political move by Lincoln! How far did Donald think he could stretch the credulity of his reports? He is attempting, again, to hide the obvious racist motives of Lincoln, who no doubt supported colonization as a way to get rid of the "inferior" blacks - with the added bonus that a black sent to a colony is a black that would not be causing trouble in America or taking jobs from "superior" whites! His citing of this being the first delegation of blacks invited to the White House is a shrewd move of his own; but it is quite irrelevant. The delegation surely never saw the inside of the White House. More likely Lincoln forced them to stand outside somewhere while he addressed them from a window.

Oates reports just after his account that the leaders Lincoln met with approved of his plan. How could this be so, since nearly every other black disapproved? It is probably because Lincoln personally threatened the delegation with imprisonment if they did not come out in support of his idea; this would be far more in accord with Lincoln's racism. Henry Clay's Funeral

Oates: At Henry Clay's funeral, Lincoln praised Clay's "moderate antislavery views." Oates notes that Lincoln, like Clay, "counted himself a friend of gradual abolition and colonization, because he considered this the only workable solution to slavery - and the problem of racial adjustment after the blacks were liberated. For he understood how much Southerners fretted over racial amalgamation - his term in Congress had shown him how Southerners equated emancipation with racial mongrelization and social chaos." (p. 115)

Donald: At Clay's funeral, Lincoln announced that "he ever was, on principle and in feeling, opposed to slavery." and proclaimed his support for colonization because, as Clay put it, slavery could not "at once be eradicated, without producing a greater evil." (p. 165) He supported "voluntary emigrations of the blacks - and, unlike some other colonizationists, he never favored forcible deportation - would succeed both 'in freeing our land from the dangerous presence of slavery' and 'in restoring a captive people to their long-lost father-land, with bright prospects for the future.' " (p. 166) Donald notes the utter impractibility of the suggested colonization solution: "(Lincoln's) failure to take into account the overwhelming opposition of blacks to colonization stemmed from his lack of acquaintance among African-Americans.' " (p. 167)

What embellishment we have here! It is unlikely that Lincoln actually expressed any of these views; it is obvious from Oates that Clay's words were lifted from his dead and unobjecting lips and placed in Lincoln's mouth. Needless to say, the Donald quote about "restoring a captive people to their long-lost father-land, with bright prospects for the future," is much too incredible and shows far too much concern to possibly be truly Lincoln's words, though he may have said something like this when stumping for colonization in front of hostile blacks. If so, the context would have been one in which he was trying to persuade African-Americans to leave the country. Other Statements

Masters: In a statement on suffrage in Illinois in 1836, Lincoln wrote: " '...I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding females).' At this time (Masters notes), and for long before, negroes had voted in some of the Northern states; but Lincoln did not include negroes in this advocated enlargement of the suffrage." (p. 35)

Oates: In a debate with Douglas in Charleston, Lincoln gave these views: "He was not and never had been in favor of Negro social and political equality with whites," nor of giving them suffrage, allowing them to serve on juries, letting them hold office, or intermarrying with whites. Douglas replied by calling Lincoln a "racial hypocrite, a chameleon" who changed his positions as his audience required. "In his rebuttal Lincoln denied that he favored Negro citizenship, as Douglas charged" and replied that he was consistent on the race issue. (p. 171)

Donald: In a statement on suffrage in Illinois in 1836, Lincoln favored "admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms...(by no means excluding females)."

"Lincoln's announcement revealed incidentally that he, like virtually every other Illinois politician, did not think African-Americans were entitled to the ballot." (p. 59)


Note here that: Statements on Slavery and Associations Texas Annexation Letter

Masters: In a letter written October 3, 1845, to Williamson Durley, mostly about the subject of the annexation of Texas, Lincoln wrote: "...I hold it to be the paramount duty of us in the free states, due to the Union of the States, and perhaps to liberty itself (paradox though it may seem) to let the slavery of the other states alone; while on the other hand, I hold it to be equally clear that we should never knowingly lead ourselves, directly or indirectly, to prevent that slavery from dying a natural death - to find new places for it to live in when it can no longer exist in the old..." (p. 97)

Oates: Wrote in a letter in 1845 concerning annexing Texas: "I hold it to be the paramount duty of us in the free states, due to the Union of the States, and perhaps to liberty itself (paradox though it may seem) to let the slavery of the other states alone; while on the other hand, I hold it to be equally clear that we should never knowingly lead ourselves, directly or indirectly, to prevent that slavery from dying a natural death." Oates says of this statement: "One must be realistic about the slavery issue. And realistically, this was Lincoln's stand." (p. 76)

Donald: Wrote in a letter to a "member of the Liberty Party" on the annexation of Texas: "I hold it to be the paramount duty of us in the free states, due to the Union of the states, and perhaps to liberty itself (paradox though it may seem) to let the slavery of the other states alone; while on the other hand, I hold it to be equally clear, that we should never knowingly lead ourselves, directly or indirectly, to prevent that slavery from dying a natural death." (p. 134)


We have perhaps in this letter a genuine strain of information on Lincoln's opinion of slavery, for all three writers agree on its content generally; thought they disagree on who it was sent to - Williamson Durley (Masters) or an unnamed member of the Liberty Party (Donald). As we can see, Lincoln had no desire to take decisive action to end slavery - Oates' feeble excusing of "realism" notwithstanding. This is a lame excuse for Lincoln not doing his part to end the miserable institution. That he favored a "natural death" indicates not that he opposed slavery, but that he would not desire it to end until economic conditions made it obsolete. On Abolitionists

Masters: Notes that "As late as 1858 Lincoln was denying with all his might that he was an abolitionist..." (p. 2)

Notes that as of 1847, abolitionist societies had been "running for fifteen years," but Lincoln was not part of one. (p. 86)

"As late as 1858 Lincoln said all over Illinois in speeches made to win the United States senatorship...that he was not in favor of giving the negro the vote, or of allowing him to sit on juries, or of intermarrying, or of associating with white people." (p. 148)

Oates: "...Lincoln didn't agree with the tactics of the abolitionists. He thought them much too strident, too uncompromising, too obsessed with damning Southerners as unregenerate sinners. Screaming at misguided people, Lincoln believed, was not the way to correct their wrongs." By their tactics, abolitionists "were setting back the clock of emancipation by fifty years. For Lincoln persuaded himself that if slavery were kept in the South and left alone there, time would somehow solve the problem and slavery would ultimately die out.

"...He realized that the institution was a blight on America's experiment in popular government, realized what a profound moral contradiction it was...At the same time, as a student of the law and the Constitution, Lincoln conceded that slavery was protected by a veritable web of constitutional, legal, and political safeguards." (pp. 40-1)

Donald: "...he was, as he said many times, 'naturally anti-slavery,' as his father had been...But he did not support any active measures to end slavery" because he did not have the opinion that the Constitution allowed the Congress power to "interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

"The extension of slavery was another matter. Like many of his contemporaries, Lincoln viewed slavery as an institution that would die out if it was confined to the areas where it already existed. Unless slavery could expand, he was convinced, it would become so unprofitable that it would be abandoned. From this point of view it was important not to arouse Southern defensiveness of slavery, and for this reason Lincoln believed 'that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils.' " (p. 134)

Lincoln's antislavery friends in Washington "helped him see that the atrocities that occurred every day in the national capital were the inevitable results of the slave system. As Lincoln's sensitivity to the cruelty of slavery changed, so did his memories." Where he had seen near Speed's plantation before "been amused by the cheerful docility" of a gang of soon-to-be-sold slaves, he now recalled it as " 'a continual torment' which crucified his feelings." (pp. 165-6)

Said he "would consent to the extension of (slavery) rather than see the union dissolved." (p. 181)


The later writers have created excuses for Lincoln making clear disassociations with abolitionists - "too radical," "they will only hurt things," "the law protects slavery," and so on - how pathetic! We may only hope that the members of the 20th-century civil rights movement were not fooled into accepting this nonsense. Note how Donald has invented stories of Lincoln's "changes" in memory -as though he were some kind of recovering slaveaholic! Only the final statement by Donald reflects the truth" Lincoln considered the keeping of the Union far more important that breaking the chains of human bondage. Note, too, how Oates attempts to deify Lincoln by referring to his feelings as "crucified" - suggesting, in line with Christian theology, that Lincoln's feelings about slavery went through a miraculous "resurrection" which saw him return from the "dead" as anti-slavery! Douglas Debates

Masters: Said in a debate with Douglas, "in our greedy chase to make profit of the negro, let us beware lest we cancel and tear to pieces even the white man's character of freedom." (p. 221)

In answering Douglas, Lincoln affirmed that did not "stand in favor" of repealing the Fugitive Slave Law (see below), opposing admission of slave states to the Union, abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, and prohibiting trade of slaves between states. (p. 284) In Charleston, on September 18, 1858, he denied that he was in favor of political and social equality for blacks. (p. 307)

Oates: In a debate with Douglas, Lincoln restated the views listed above, saying that slavery was not mentioned in the Constitution "just as an afflicted man hides away a when or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death." (Oates, in his usual way, then provides a series of paraphrases and very few direct quotes - mostly pithy phrases that could be read in either direction; for example: "the narrowest limits of necessity," "sacred compact," "Wilmot men," "took us by surprise - astounded us," and "domestic institutions". (pp. 125-6)

In a debate with Douglas, said: "The Republicans inculcate...that the negro is a man; that his bondage is cruelly wrong, and that the field of his oppression ought not to be enlarged." (p. 147)

In another debate with Douglas: "He hated to spend time on these subjects, but Douglas kept raking them up and distorting Lincoln's position so wildly that he had to explain himself or risk being misunderstood in Illinois. Once again, he was not for Negro equality. There was 'a physical difference' between the black and white races, he concluded, that would 'probably' always prevent them from living together in perfect equality. And Lincoln wanted the white race to have the superior position so long as there must be a difference...

"Frankly, Lincoln went on, Negroes were not his equal or the equal of Douglas in moral and intellectual endowment. But they were their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which included the rights to the fruits of their labor." (p. 166)

Donald: In answering Douglas, Lincoln affirmed that did not favor of repealing the Fugitive Slave Law (see below), did not "stand pledged" against the admission of slave states to the Union, and did not "stand to-day pledged" to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia ("but he would be very glad to see it accomplished").


Notice how Donald has carefully removed all traces of Lincoln's white superiority complex; notice also how he has obfuscated and embellished the statements of Lincoln to make him look more righteous. But we may agree, again with Douglas, that Lincoln was a poilitcal chameleon, quite capable of changing his mind on the spot if it earned him votes. We may be sure that Lincoln did what he could to capture those precious abolitionist votes! Other Quotes and Actions

Oates: In answer to Speed's statement that he would rather dissolve the Union than give up his slaves, Lincoln said, " 'Who is asking you to give up your right to own slaves? Very certainly I am not,' because slavery is your own matter and enjoys constitutional guarantees I have to acknowledge. But 'I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet.' " (p. 133)


Again we have the usual excuse: Slavery is constitutionally protected, so what can be done? Lincoln was obviously a coward - and Oates unwittingly reveals this in the statement by Lincoln that while he disliked seeing slaves hunted down, he never said anything about it!

Notes that Lincoln "investigated Southern proslavery arguments, scrutinizing Southern journals" for articles by people like George Fitzhugh, "a cranky Southern ideologue" who wanted to "revive the halcyon days of feudalism, and enslave all workers - white as well as black."

"And sometime in this period (Lincoln) wrote out in notes and fragments a counterargument to guide him in his speechmaking." Among the arguments: "You mean the whites are intellectually superior of the blacks, and, therefore, have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own." (pp. 137-8)


In all likelihood, this story was created to explain why Lincoln subscribed to pro-slavery publications. He was not investigating the arguments; he agreed with them! Does the last argument cited by Oates sound like the words of someone who proclaimed that white men were superior?

Said before Congress, "I have always hated slavery, I think as much as any abolitionist...Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man - this race and that race and the other race being inferior." (p. 162)


This quote is absolute fabrication. How could Lincoln hate slavery as much as an abolitionist and yet not become one? How can he condemn the "quibbling" when he was so clearly part of it? Absurd!

Donald: As President, Lincoln told a group of border-state representatives of slavery, that he "thought it wrong and should continue to think so." Lincoln "willingly signed a law prohibiting slavery in all the national territories - even though the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision had declared such exclusion unconstitutional. He welcomed a new treaty with Great Britain for the more effective suppression of the Atlantic slave trade. At the urging of Charles Sumner, he refused to commute the death penalty for Nathaniel Gordon, the first American slave trader convicted and hanged for participating in the nefarious traffic." (p. 342)


This paragraph is full of obfuscations, bit we may easily peel back the layers of fabrication and determine the truth. The treaty with Britain was welcomed because it suppressed the ILLEGAL Atlantic slave trade - which was undermining the government's slave trade. Gordon was probbaly a ringleader in the non-government trade. The signing of the law prohibiting slavery was a political act designed to draw abolitionist votes - for as Donald admits, it had no effect, and could not have been any risk to Lincoln to sign into law. Lincoln-Stone Protests

Masters: Along with another Illinois legislator, Dan Stone, on March, 1837, Lincoln issued a resolution protesting the passage of previous resolutions generally disapproving of abolitionists and approving slavery. "...they protested against their passage, believing that the institution of slavery 'is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase its evils.' In other words, slavery was an evil thing, but it was unwise to attack the evil." (pp. 41-2)

Herndon later recalled that a "careful reading" of the Lincoln-Stone protests was used to refute the characterization of Lincoln as an abolitionist. "But if he was not an abolitionist what was he but a wrestler whose tactics were cunning enough to make it difficult for an adversary to know where he stood, and where he was to be found and grappled?" The protests were so equivocal that one abolitionist, Wendell Phillips, because of them called Lincoln a "slave hound." Masters notes that "unalert moralists might be tricked into believing that Lincoln must be sound on the slavery matter, since he had denounced slavery as founded on injustice and bad policy. These words Lincoln meant: If the wind come my way I have set my sail for it; and if it does not come my way it is not much of a sail that I have flung forth, and not dangerously noticeable." (pp. 42-3) Masters also notes other inconsistencies in Lincoln's legislative voting record, on other topics.


These protests are regarded by the later writers as proof of Lincoln's early opposition to slavery. However, as we can see both from the quotes of Herndon and Phillips, and by Masters' keen analysis, these protests were mere politicizing - Lincoln is truly the chameleon Douglas accuses him of being; he made his stance so that every voter could see his face!

Oates: Regarding proslavery resolutions ratified by the Illinois legislature in January 1837: "Lincoln was among those who voted no, and his vote is significant because it was the first time he'd publicly recorded his stance on slavery. Later he claimed that he'd always hated the peculiar institution - as much, he thought, as any abolitionist. As a boy, he'd heard his father and several antislavery preachers denounce human bondage, and he'd grown up and entered politics thinking it wrong. Yet because of all the racial prejudice that existed in Illinois, he'd been extremely careful in what he said about slavery, abolitionists, and the position of the free Negro in American white society....young Lincoln was not about to ruin his career by supporting Negro suffrage. Nor was he going to get himself branded an abolitionist, because in Sangamon County that would be certain political suicide. (p. 40)

"So what to do? One bided one's time. One believed that slavery would eventually disappear...Meantime, one could reject as a matter of principle such proslavery resolutions as his legislative colleagues adopted." (p. 42)

Lincoln and Stone, on March 3, 1837, "composed an official protest against slavery and had it recorded in the (Illinois) House Journal...In the protest, they decried human bondage as a bad and unjust policy - and yet condemned the abolitionists for only compounding the evil. They agreed that Congress had no constitutional authority to interfere with the institution in the Southern states, but insisted that if the voters in the national capital approved, then slavery could be legally extinguished there." (p. 42)


Here again is that lame excuse for Lincoln not taking significant action against slavery: Political suicide! It was going to disappear soon, anyway! Abolitionists only make it worse! HA! Tell all of this to those unfortunate slaves! Is this Lincoln one that is worthy of our respect? Hardly! But these writers had much whitewashing to do to make him suitable for the civil-rights movement, because there were plenty of damaging statements like these:

In a private letter to Georgia's Alexander H. Stephens, Lincoln wrote, "Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly, or indirectly, interfere with their slaves?" Lincoln assured Stephens that this would not happen, and said, "You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub." (p. 217)

During a peace conference with the Southern states, Lincoln said that he would support a proposed slave amendment to the Constitution, but "he would never guarantee slavery in the territories." (p. 232)


Abraham Lincoln did more flips on slavery than the entire contents of a pancake griddle. He obviously said whatever pleased his audience most at the time.

Donald: Describes the protests by Stone and Lincoln as "a cautious, limited dissent....Instead of the resolution of the General Assembly declaring that 'the right of property in slaves, is sacred to the slave-holding States by the Federal Constitution,' Stone and Lincoln suggested, 'The Congress of the United States has no power, under the constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different states.' Where the General Assembly announced, 'we highly disapprove of the formation of abolition societies, and of the doctrines promulgated by them,' the two Sangamaon legislators voiced their belief ' that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils.' " (pp. 63-4)


Note the minute change in the last sentence:

Masters: the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase its evils.

Donald: the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils.

Donald has added three tiny words that serve to excuse Lincoln's stance against abolitionists even further. Note how he and Oates have precisely excluded the quotes by Herndon and Phillips - no wonder; for their presentations are in enough trouble already! Other Actions (or Inactions)

Masters: Lists several laws in Illinois pertaining to Negroes; for example, denying them the right to vote while they were nevertheless taxed; not being able to serve in the militia; not being permitted to marry interracially; and so on. "Lincoln never lifted his hand to change any of these regulations, except to demand that negroes be permitted to earn their own bread and to eat it, which differs little from earning bread as a slave, or as an indentured servant, and eating it. In neither case are there civil rights." (p. 89)


Here we see again a truer picture of Lincoln: If he had any notion of the Negroes as human, would he not have acted to repeal these shameful laws? Did he have no principles in this regard? Evidently not.

Oates: Records that in January 1849, Lincoln, offended by the spectacle of slavery in the District of Columbia, "informed the House that he would introduce a bill to abolish slavery itself" in the District. It would include a provision to return fugitive slaves in the District to their owners, prompting Wendell Phillips to call Lincoln "that slave hound from Illinois." However, Lincoln "never formally offered the emancipation bill...In later years, all Lincoln said was that his backers abandoned him so he dropped his plan," and Oates suggests that it was an abolitionist named Giddings who had withdrawn support, angry over the fugitive slave provision; he also notes that "Southerners were adamantly hostile to his bill, viewing it as one of a mounting number of Yankee assaults against slavery...that seemed part of a sinister design to clear the way for a national abolition law, one that would plunge the South into racial chaos" and threaten the Southern way of life. "Southern resistance like that clearly made Lincoln stop and listen to the advice of moderate and conservative Whigs - that his abolition bill would only drive Southerners to more dangerous threats." (pp. 93-5)


Note here how Oates finally does use the "slave hound" quote - in entirely the wrong context! And here we see that he finally got some backbone in him; but abandoned his plan for lack of support. This again is the act of a gutless political animal.

By the way, Oates also notes that Wendell Phillips called Lincoln "a huckster in politics." (p. 202) And here is further evidence of his true nature:

Lincoln wrote local Republican leaders about strategy, including advising them to "keep the whole political theatre in mind" and "do nothing that would damage the party somewhere else. For example, Republicans in Ohio and New Hampshire must not openly defy the fugitive slave law, because that would alienate Illinois conservatives..." (p. 176)

Lincoln inserted a few passages in a speech for Trumbull in Springfield that were conciliatory towards the South, including a passage stating that "the Republicans would not lay a hand on Southern slavery." (p. 213)

Lincoln during reconstruction advocated limited suffrage for Negroes in Louisiana, preferring that it be limited to "very intelligent blacks" and those that had served in Union forces. (p. 461)


Lincoln obviously cared very little about the African-American race as persons. He was far more interested in keeping his hide safe. The latter statement is a clear indication of bigotry; note in a moment how Donald tries to twist it!

Donald: Notes that Lincoln, as an attorney, represented a slave owner trying to get his slaves back whom he had brought into "free" territory. Donald says that the case "should not be taken as an indication of Lincoln's views on slavery; his business was law, not morality." (pp. 103-4)


His business! Is not mankind our business? Is this the action of a man who does not support slavery?

On blacks voting in Louisiana during reconstruction: "Recognizing that Radicals objected to the Louisiana constitution because it did not give African-Americans the ballot, he declared that he shared their discontent. 'I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.' This was an opinion Lincoln had previously expressed in private, but never before had any American President publicly announced that he was in favor of Negro suffrage." (p. 585)


See how this is twisted: The obvious bigotry is ameliorated by noting that this was the first time any President had supported Negro suffrage! SO WHAT?? It is still a form of bigotry; Lincoln is in effect saying, "Any Negro that is like white people in these ways can vote." Moreover, the act was self-serving, since any Negro allowed to vote would probably vote for him!

This is the basic overview of Lincoln and his views on slavery, and the subjects thereof. Truly this was a lame effort by the later authors to rehabilitate him in the eyes and minds of the country's children, its citizens, and the civil-rights movement. Even further proof of their duplicity is found in our next, more specific entries. Dred Scott Decision

One of the principal exemplars of the racism prominent in America at this time was the so-called Dred Scott decision. Briefly, Dred Scott, a slave, had been brought by his owner into "free" territory. It was assumed that Scott would therefore be free. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that slaves were property; therefore, even if a slave was brought into free territory, he was still subject to his owner. Let us look at how each author describes this event, and Lincoln's reaction to it. Basic Information

Masters: The case was argued before the Supreme Court, February 11-14, 1856. "The question raised there was whether Dred Scott, who was a negro, was a citizen of the United States, and admissible as a suitor in the Federal Courts." (p. 251) Scott's owner, Dr. John Emerson, a surgeon in the Army, in 1834 took Scott with him from St. Louis to Rock Island, Illinois. They stayed there 2 years; then moved to Minnesota. Scott married while there. Soon after, Dr. Emerson returned to St. Louis. The doctor died in 1844, leaving Scott, his wife, and their two children to his widow. In 1846 Scott brought suit against Mrs. Emerson in state court, demanding his liberty on the grounds that while in Illinois, he had made free by virtue of Illinois being a free state; and while in Minnesota, he had been emancipated by virtue of the Missouri Compromise. The Missouri court agreed and gave Scott his freedom. Mrs. Emerson appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri, which ruled that Scott had resumed his slave status upon returning to Missouri. (pp. 252-3) The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 the same way; thus, since Scott was a slave, he had no standing as a citizen in Federal court. (p. 257)

Oates: Begins his report from the level of the Supreme Court. The decision was 7-2 against Scott. Chief Justice Roger Taney, in his opinion, wrote that "free negroes were not and never had been U.S. citizens." At the time of the framing of the Constitution, negroes were regarded as "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." Regarding slavery, Congress had no right to "prohibit slavery in the national lands," the territories. "All Congress could do...was protect the rights of property owners." (p. 143)

Donald: Dred Scott was "a Missouri slave, who had been taken by his owner, an army surgeon, first to Rock Island, Illinois, a state where slavery was prohibited by the Northwest Ordinance and by its own constitution, and subsequently to Fort Snelling, in Minnesota Territory, from which slavery had been excluded by the Missouri Compromise. After returning with Scott to Missouri, his master died. Scott sued for his freedom on the ground that he had been a resident of first a free state and then a free territory." Chief Justice Roger Taney, speaking for "a majority of the justices," ruled that Scott was not entitled to sue, since Negroes were not citizens, and at the time of the framing of the Constitution, blacks were "so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." Furthermore, residence in a free territory did not entitle Scott to freedom, since congressional enactments like the Missouri Compromise were "not warranted by the Constitution" and were "therefore void."


The following basic problems are observed:

* Only Masters mentions the following: The name of Dred Scott's "master," his widow and her involvement, the lower-level judicial history of the state (including Scott's initial victory), and Scott's marriage.

* Was the move to the state of Minnesota (Masters) or to Minnesota Territory, before it became a state (Donald)?

* Did the Supreme Court rule only on Scott's right to sue (Masters), or also on the alleged inferior status of blacks (Oates, Donald)?

In considering this material, I am quite sure that the racism displayed by Taney and the court - including the "inferior" quote, represents a historical truism, albeit one probably taken out of context. Taney very likely did say something to that effect, but not in the context of the Dred Scott case.

Why have the authors done this? The idea, I surmise, is to make the Supreme Court look even more evil than it truly was - and thus set up Lincoln's very weak and compromising reaction (see below) as looking much stronger. (Note, too, how Donald does not specify the 7-2 vote, just "a majority" - increasing the impersonability of the Court.) At any rate, the authors did not have to do much modification here. Lincoln's Reactions

Masters: At the Cooper Institute, Lincoln "denied that the right of property in a slave was distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution, as Taney had declared it to be in the Dred Scott case." Masters notes that that Lincoln was incorrect in this argument: The Constitution did protect slavery. (p. 161)

Says that Lincoln "argued that the Dred Scott decsion was the result of a conspiracy on the part of the slavocracy to nationalize slavery" (p. 252) and made use of this charge in facing his rival, Douglas (pp. 288-292).

Oates: Lincoln objected to the decision, "observing that if neither Congress nopr a territorial government could keep slavery from advancing west, then wasn't the net effect to legalize slavery in all the territories, as many Southerners demanded?" (p. 144)

In a rebuttal to Douglas on the issue, Lincoln said that Republicans "regarded the idea in Dred Scott as erroneous, and through the power of criticism and persuasion they would work to have the court overrule itself." Regarding Taney's opinion of Negro rights, he said it was "based on assumed historical facts which are not really true," and pointed out that at the time of the Constitution, five of the original 13 states gave free Negroes the vote; thus they were included as citizens. Regarding the Declaration of Independence's statement that all men are created equal, Lincoln decided that it meant only equal in "their inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," not in color, size, intellect, etc. Though there were slaves at the time, that right would serve as a "standard maxim of free society in the future."(p. 146) In later rebuttals, Lincoln used the Dred Scott decision against Douglas' assertion of a doctrine of popular sovereignty for new states to determine whether or not they would accept slavery. (pp. 164, 168, 170).

Donald: Says that Lincoln "was reluctant to challenge the Court's ruling" due to his respect for the law and judicial process. "But the Dred Scott decision forced him to rethink his position. The court had ignored "the extensive historical evidence that throughout American history many states had recognized blacks as citizens..." He said that Taney, in saying that the Framers never intended to include blacks in the Founding documents, was doing "obvious violence to the plain unmistakable language of the Declaration" and was misreading them. This shook Lincoln's faith in the judiciary.

In a rebuttal to Doulglas, Lincoln said that the Republican party "think(s) the Dred Scott decision is erroneous...we know the court that made it, has often over-ruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to have it to over-rule this. We offer no resistance to it." He also suggested a conspiracy to extend and perpetuate slavery. "To do so they joined in further oppression of the already oppressed Negro: 'All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him...They have him in his prison house; they have searched his person, and left no prying instruments with him. One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him, and now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys...' " (pp. 199-202)


What we see here, tragically and not unexpectedly, is that Lincoln was adept at making political hay out of anything. Note that there is no indication of pity or sympathy for the Negro - save Donald's obviously manufactured quote, although is perhaps misapplied: In and of itself it does not mention Negroes; it is Donald who makes that application. Note that there is no rebuttal of Taney's racism - rather, Lincoln agreed with such ideas, as we have seen earlier.

In order to defeat his rival Douglas, it was absolutely necessary for Lincoln to create the idea of a conspiracy to perpetuate slavery - not because he opposed slavery, but because the taint of corruption would guarantee his rivals' defeat. If Lincoln were not truly racist, he would have fought the Dred Scott decision tooth and nail - but all we see is more politicizing, and attempts by the later authors to make Lincoln look good. Donald goes so far as to imply that Lincoln lost his faith in the judiciary over the Dred Scott case! No other mentions this sudden change of attitude, because it didn't happen. Any disagreement Lincoln had with the decision had to do with, first, his economic objections to slavery; and second, his need to implicate his opponent Douglas in some scandal in order to win the election. Were it otherwise, we would have seen quite a different reaction from him in the next area: Fugitive Slaves/Fugitive Slave Law

The Fugitive Slave Law was an instrument whereby slave owners were able to recover their escaped slaves, even if they escaped into "free" territory.

Masters: Notes that in debates with Douglas, Lincoln "stood for the Fugitive Slave Law." (p. 147) He affirmed this stance at the Republican convention of 1856. (p. 242) He declared in a debate with Douglas that "Southern states were entitled to a Fugitive Slave Law." (p. 284)

Oates: The law had the effect of "runaways being arrested in Northern communities and sent in chains back to slavery." (p. 102)

In the Peoria speech, Lincoln agreed that he would endorse "legislation to return (Southerners') fugitive slaves, since the Constitution required that people 'held to Service or Labour in one State' must be sent back if they ran away." (p. 126) Lincoln later acknowledged that upholding the law must be part of the Republican platform (p. 135) and in a debate with Douglas, said that he was not against repealing it (p. 168).

Donald: As a candidate for state office, Lincoln said that he "accepted the Fugitive Slave Act, though he suggested that it should be modified so that it would 'not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into slavery...' " (p. 181)

In a debate with Douglas, affirmed that "he was not in favor" of repealing the Act. (p. 218)

When Ohio Republicans adopted a platform "calling for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave law," Lincoln bluntly warned then-Ohio governor Salmon Chase that "the cause of Republicanism is hopeless in Illinois, if it be in any way made responsible for that plank." He went on to advise that "every locality" should strive to "look beyond our noses." (pp. 231-2)

As President, Lincoln was willing to "please the Southerners" by seeing the Act more strictly enforced, "provided that it contained 'the usual safeguards to liberty, securing free men against being surrendered as slaves.' " (p. 269)


As we can see, Lincoln again cared more about politics than human freedom. Donald has obviously tried to ameliorate the embarrassment Lincoln's strong stance caused by creating Lincoln's stern warnings that "free" blacks not be taken to be escaped slaves. This is purely fabrication on Donald's part; this concern is not attested to elsewhere, and it fits too well into making Lincoln look more attractive to the civil rights movement. Letter to Greeley

Horace Greeley was an important journalist of the Lincoln era. We find some interesting information here showing how at least one major member of the media viewed our subject. Greeley - General Information

Masters: Says of Greeley: " man in American history did more to stir evil passions by a peculiar journalistic malevolence and misrepresentation than Horace Greeley." (p. 231) His newspaper, the Tribune, was "so well worded to excite the most dangerous passions of human nature." (p. 249)

Basler: Notes that Greeley was an erratic sort who changed his opinions often: "Vehement and bitter, he struck out at everything not in keeping with his idea of the moment. He had no consistency himself and blamed it in others. In his own panic and distraction he could not abide calmness." (p. 66)

Oates: Describes Greeley, along with several others, as one of a group of so-called "radicals" who "often took up this or that social reform, spoke out forthrightly against the wrong and anacronism of slavery...wanted to repeal the fugitive slave law, and refused to surrender another inch of territory to the Southern 'man stealers.' " However, they did wish to fight slavery within the bounds of the Constitution. (pp. 197-8)

Donald: Describes Greeley as "erratic." (p. 236)


It is very peculiar here that the later authors chose not to display Greeley in the same way as Masters and Basler. From the latter we get the idea of a dangerously unstable man; but from the former we see a man of principle, albeit just "erratic!" Why was this change needed? We shall see in our next entry: Greeley's Attitude Towards Lincoln - General

Masters: After the Cooper speech, Greeley "referred to Lincoln as a man who was born in a slave state, but who had become a proper example of what labor may be; and how effort and honest aspirations may bring a man from the humblest ranks of society and place him in connection with the highest." (p. 351)

In context of the Republican convention, notes that Greeley had hated Seward for a long time. No reference is made of his opinion of Lincoln. (p. 368)

Basler: Notes that Greeley "strove for the acceptance" of Lincoln's rival Douglas as Republican candidate for the Senate; in the 1860 Presidential race, he hoped for one of Lincoln's rivals, Seward or Chase, to be nominated. However, at the 1860 convention, he fought for Lincoln, though he generally posed as a supporter of Seward. Greeley wrote "a brutal, bitter, sarcastic personal attack" against Lincoln for his newspaper, but his managing editor did not print it. (p. 65)

"Greeley's opinion of Lincoln may be summed up as an excellent expression of the unreasonable, discontented complaint of a large number of patriotic and devoted citizens who did not know at any time what the real purposes and abilities of Lincoln were." (p. 67)

Donald: After the Cooper speech, Greeley described Lincoln as "one of Nature's orators, using his rare powers solely and effectively to elucidate and convince, though their inevitable effect is to delight and electrify as well." (p. 240)

After Lincoln became President, and chose Seward (whom Greeley did not like) for his Cabinet, he wrote, "Old Abe is honest as the sun, and means to be true and faithful, but he is in the web of very cunning spiders and cannot work out if he would." (p. 281)


It is odd that Oates does not address this issue; but we see now why it is that Donald limited his description of Greeley - he wished to insert some high priase for Lincoln in Greeley's mouth. Were it realized that Greeley were as he was described by Masters and Basler, we would have the problem of an obviously deranged man supporting Abraham Lincoln! Obviously this would not do, so the later authors have conspired to tone Greeley down considerably. Lincoln's Response to Greeley

Basler: "On August 22, 1862, Lincoln wrote a letter in reply to Greeley's 'Prayer of Twenty Million,' which, among other things, had complained of the policy of the Administration in upholding slavery." The letter said:

"I would save the Union...If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not to either save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it...What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union..." (p. 211)

Oates: In an open letter to Greeley, in response to Greeley's complaint that Lincoln had not freed the slaves, he wrote:

"My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not to either save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it...What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union..." He added in closing, "I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty: and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free."

Oates says of these words: "...they were the only terms the white public was likely to accept...his letter to Greeley was a calculated statement, part of his efforts to prepare Northern whites for the proclamation filed in his desk." (p. 340)

Donald: Lincoln published a reply to Greeley's essay, "The Prayer of Twenty Millions," in which he said:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not to either save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it...What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union." He also referred to his "my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free" and promised to "adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views." (pp. 368-9)

Of this, Donald notes praise for the letter from several sources.


We certainly have a great deal of real history here, though it only affirms the obvious: That Lincoln cared more for the Union's preservation than he did about slavery. The closing words about wanting all men to be free and adopting new views are later emendations, words put in Lincoln's mouth to make him more attractive to the civil rights movement. Note how Oates attempts to excuse Lincoln's lack of concern for slavery by indicating that the "white public" would not stomach any statements against slavery, and turns the letter into a "preparation" for the Emancipation Proclamation. This, too, is pro-Lincoln propagandic interpretation after the fact. Lincoln was merely defending himself, as any politician would, from the attack of a major journalist. Emancipation Proclamation

Masters: Herndon wrote that Lincoln issued the Emancipation "through a sense of duty, and love of principle, and in obedience to his oath of office." Masters says the first two reasons are untrue and the last is "legally erroneous." "It was rather in the direction of inspiring negroes to to rise and kill the white people" who oppressed them. "(I)t was a war measure, as Lincoln called it..." (p. 435; also p. 469)

This reasoning represents a quite accurate reflection. The later authors, however, attempted to minimize the reality of the Emancipation as a war measure rather than as a humanitarian or moral one.

Further, Lincoln "gradually grew to see that emancipation would be a historic monument to himself; and after he had issued the Proclamation he declared that it was the central act of his administration, and the great event of the Nineteenth Century." Lincoln submitted the first draft of the Proclamation of July 22, 1862. (p. 436)

Here we see another reason for the Emancipation: It was a colossal monument to Lincoln's ego. This will be confirmed by Oates, but dropped by Donald, who undoubtedly realized how bad this would look to the civil rights movement.

Lincoln said of the Proclamation: "What good would a proclamation of emancipation do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the world will see must necessarily be inoperative...Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in rebel states?...And suppose that (the slaves) could be induced by a proclamation of freedom to throw themselves upon us, what should we do with them? How can we feed and care for such a multitude?...They eat and that is all..." (p. 438)

Here, contrary to Donald's earlier assertion that Lincoln never said anything about blacks in line with the racist stereotype, is clear evidence to the contrary. Lincoln regarded blacks as lazy do-nothings that only sat around and ate precious food. No wonder we do not see this quote in Oates and Donald!

Lincoln issued a preliminary Proclamation on September 22, "intended to free slaves in states or portions of states in which the so-called rebellion existed." (p. 439)

Finally here, we see that the Emancipation left slavery intact in Union-controlled areas! This will be more specifically addressed later.

Basler: Based on Lincoln's statements to Greeley and elsewhere, Basler concludes that the Proclamation, "and, indeed, all that he did for the freedom of the slaves was done, not for them, but for the preservation of the Union." (p. 213)

Basler, as part of the movement attempting to keep Lincoln from being enshrined, is here explaining that Lincoln's motives were less than humanitarian. It is regrettable that he made no stringer a case than this one.

Oates: At a Cabinet meeting on September 22, Lincoln discussed "the final draft of his preliminary proclamation." He began the meeting by reading them an odd story, then got down to business. "When Congress convened in December, he would push again for gradual compensated emancipation in the loyal states and would continue his efforts at voluntary colonization...If the rebels did not stop fighting and return to the Union by January 1, 1863, the President would free 'thenceforward and forever' all slaves in the rebel states, and the executive branch of the government, including the army and navy, would recognize and maintain the freedom of black people there." Lincoln published the decree the next day. It was heralded by abolitionists, and welcomed by Republicans as "a bold and necessary war measure." Democrats were angered; "(T)hey were not going to support (Lincoln) in a revolutionary struggle for 'nigger' freedom," and wanted to throw Lincoln out of office. The Confederacy regarded it as a means of stirring up a slave revolt. Lincoln later said of the Proclamation, "I can only trust in God I have made no mistake." (pp. 346-9)

The contrast here to the Democrats' reaction is quite purposeful, whether it is true or not. By using a strong racial epithet in the mouths of Lincoln's rivals, Oates is attempting to make Lincoln look like the less racist alternative. We see again, however, evidence that is was issued as a war measure, not a truly humanitarian measure.

The Proclamation "set off a powder box of racial discontent" as Republican candidates were turned out of office by white voters put their own spin on the Proclamation. (p. 350)

Again, this report is created to make Lincoln look like less of a racist; but here, the entire country is made to seem in opposition!

The final version of the proclamation exempted certain areas loyal to the Union from emancipation. Lincoln admonished slaves in those areas to refrain from "unnecessary violence." Later, while signing it, he said, "If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act." (p. 361)

The colossal egotism here has been toned down, and it has also been confirmed that Union-controlled areas were exempt. If the Emancipation were truly humanitarian, it would have freed ALL slaves - not just those conveniently needed for the war effort!

Donald: Notes Lincoln's early work as President on an emancipation proclamation, during which time "he often played a kind of game with the numerous visitors who descended on him to urge him to free the slaves. The measures they advocated were precisely those that he was attempting to formulate in his document at the War Department. If he challenged their arguments, he was, in effect. testing his own. No doubt he enjoyed his little game, relishing the use of his lawyer's skills to make the worst cause sound the best. No doubt, too, he was pleased to retain total flexibility, since these discussions committed him to nothing." (p. 364)


Here is a contorted admission that Lincoln opposed ending slavery. No doubt Donald here is answering charges that Lincoln rejected Emancipation when asked about it by his visitors. Donald attepts to circumvent these accounts by proposing that Lincoln was just playing devil's advocate! This is truly repulsive; human freedom was at stake, and that was no suitable topic for political games. We may presume here that Lincoln was simply attempting to keep valuable abolitionist votes when he received such people. And at least one visitor got a clear-eyed view and didn;t keep his mouth shut about it:

A visitor to Lincoln, Leonard Swett, after a personal discussion with Lincoln on the issue, found him so neutral on the topic that he determined that "He will issue no proclamation emancipating negroes." (p. 366)

Notes that while Lincoln was actively refusing the use of Negro soldiers, he "began preparing the public opinion for a proclamation of freedom if one was to be issued" by summoning the delegation of local African-Americans to discuss colonization. (p. 367)

We covered this particular action earlier.

Issued the Proclamation September 22. (p. 385)

Signed the final copy on January 1, 1863. "Excepting Tennessee and portions of other Southern states that were already under the control of Union armies, it declared that all slaves in the states or portions of states still in rebellion 'are, and henceforward shall be free.' For this 'act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity,' the President invoked 'the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.' " (p. 407)


It is significant that only Donald provides us with any indication of the actual contents of the Emancipation. What it said in full, though, hardly matters; we see again that it was strictly a war measure and excluded certain slaves from its provisions. This hardly makes it worthy of attention; yet for this very document, Lincoln was made an icon of the civil rights movement. It was attention, as we have seen, that was truly undeserved.

1.5 Lincoln's Death

1.5.1 Final Speech - April 11, 1863

Once again, we shall use color codes to compare the given texts of this speech. We find here what is surely the most confused and contradictory recounting of the speeches we have examined thus far.

"We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of

"We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart.

"We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart.

Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army give hope of a

give hope of a

righteous and speedy peace, whose joyous expression cannot be restrained. In the midst of this,

whose joyous expression cannot be restrained.

righteous and speedy peace.

however, He from whom all blessings flow must not be forgotten.

Only the first line of this speech, being multiply attested, an certainly be traced to Lincoln. The rest sound altogether too much like a typical Presidential victory speech to be considered genuine. The following two lines by Donald are not paralleled elsewhere:

Gen. Grant, his skilful officers, and brave men.

The re-inauguration of the national authority

"It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike the case of a war between independent nations,

fraught with great difficulty

there is no authorized organ for us to treat with. No one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with, and mould from, disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ

we, the loyal people, differ

among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of reconstruction."

among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of reconstruction."

"We all agree that the seceded states, so called, are out of their practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of their government, civil and military, in regard to these states is to again get them into that proper practical relation."

Only the "loyal people" phrase here is perhaps genuine. Note that "the loyal people" is probably a euphemism for the white race, particularly those of the Union. Here are two other disconnected phrases, from Oates:

very intelligent blacks

help to improve it

"Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining, or by discarding her new State Government? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it."

This section, appearing only Donald, may be a genuine Lincoln saying to some extent, or else the work of an impostor well-versed in sounding like Lincoln. Donald has probably extracted the egg/fowl analogy from another of Lincoln's speeches and applied it here, to Reconstruction.

we also reject one vote in favor of the proposed amendment to the national constitution.

This refers to the Thirteenth Amendment, which supposedly ended slavery permanently. As we have mentioned, slavery probably did not end until the early to mid-20th century; this Amendment, therefore, either did not exist or else said something entirely different than these authors suggest.

"The colored man, too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance and energy,

the colored man

and daring to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it

Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it

sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it than by running backward over them?"

sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it than by running backward over them?"

What is left unquoted here is undoubtedly Lincoln's adamant refusal to grant blacks the elective franchise, in spite of their desire for it. Here is another pair of disconnected phrases, this time from Masters:

judgments of the Lord

true and righteous altogether.

Fondly we do hope - fervently do we pray that this might scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be repaid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still must it be said, 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' " (p. 475-6)

This final phrase, if genuine, should not be taken as an invective against slavery. Lincoln here was merely referring to the colonizers of the North American continent. He would hardly have referred to the slaves in this manner.

"In the present 'situation' as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new

"In the present 'situation' as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new

announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action will be proper." (pp. 460-1)

announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action will be proper." (p. 582)

What, may we ask, was this "new announcement" Lincoln had in mind? Lincoln was killed three days later, so we will never know. However, it is my opinion that the announcement was that slavery was to be re-instituted in full force, now that the need for the slaves being free was over with. The war had been won; so what need was there of keeping the slaves emancipated? Truly Lincoln was pro-slavery to the very bitter end.

We come now to that bitter end - and concerning the life of Lincoln, one final set of contradictions.

1.5.2 Assassination

As suitable for a hero, these writers would have us believe that Lincoln died a spectacular martyr's death. I would like to draw attention here to something in the work of Basler that deserves attention for its perception.

In 1894, a critic named Bocardo Bramantip penned a fictitious narrative called The Abraham Lincoln Myth. It was written from the perspective of someone living in the year 3663 - not too far from our date. Remarkably, it anticipates what has actually happened - we have seen through the myths of Lincoln. What is said about the assassination is particularly noteworthy:

"The story of his assassination suggests, in all its details, the hand of the novelist or playwright. The time chosen for the tragedy, a Good Friday night; the place, a crowded theater; the assassin, a professional actor of tragedy; the murderer's dramatic leap upon the stage, brandishing the weapon of death and exclaiming in dramatic tones, 'Sic semper tyrannis!' (which it may be remarked, was simply the legend of the State of Virginia); the vast audience paralyzed with amazement or fear - all the accessories seem like skillfully arranged settings for the tragic climax of a romance or drama...the story looks artificial and suspicious on its face."

Bramantip goes on to postulate, through his persona, that the myth also includes the idea that slavery was abolished by Lincoln's actions, and concludes that the whole myth was concocted to establish a "sacred precedent" for the expansion of Executive power; or else that the Lincoln story was "a forgery of the twentieth century." (pp. 303-4)

Bramantip was perhaps a very perceptive critic. For we, in 3735, have come to much the same conclusions: the Lincoln story has been grandly altered by 20th-century biographers, not to the degree that Bramantip thought it would be, but altered nevertheless.

Is the assassination story as embellished as Bramantip implies? Not quite, but it does come close.

Masters: Notes that Lincoln went to Ford's Theatre unguarded. Booth shot him by sneaking up to the door and pointing his pistol through a hole "already bored through its panel." (p. 477)

Oates: The Lincolns left for the theatre at 8:15 PM, and arrived at 8:30. The box door to their balcony was "closed but not locked" and "nobody noticed a small peephole dug out of the door." (pp. 467-8)

The third act was in progress. "Behind Lincoln, the door opened and a figure, a man, stepped into the box and aimed a derringer at the back of Lincoln's head, not six inches away." Just after the line "you sockdologizing old mantrap" was spoken on stage, "A gunshot rang out in the state box, and Lincoln's arm jerked up convulsively. For a frozen instant nobody moved - Mary and Miss Harris (one of the Lincoln's companions) sat rigid in their seats, and the man stood there enveloped in smoke. As Lincoln slumped forward, Mary reached out instinctively and struggled to keep him from falling. She screamed in deranged, incomprehensible terror. The man jumped out of the smoke brandishing a dagger, a wild-looking man in a black felt hat and high boots with spurs. He yelled something and stabbed at Rathbone, gashing his arm open to the bone. Then he leaped from the box, only to catch his spur in a regimental flag and crash to the stage, breaking his left shinbone in the fall.

"The audience was stunned, incredulous. Why, it was the actor John Wilkes Booth. Was this part of the play? An improvised scene? Witnesses heard him shout something in defiance - either 'Sic semper tyrannus!' or 'The South shall be free!' Then he dragged himself out the back stage door, while Rathbone and Miss Harris both screamed, 'Stop that man! Stop that man!' 'Won't somebody stop that man?' Miss Harris pleaded. 'The President is shot!' " (pp. 468-9)

Donald: Booth was admitted to the box where Lincoln sat by Charles Forbes, White House footman who recognized him. "Barring the door behind him, so as not to be disturbed, (Booth) noiselessly moved behind Lincoln, who was leaning forward, with his chin in his right hand and his arm on the balustrade. At a distance of about two feet, the actot pointed his derringer at the back of the President's head on the left side and pulled the trigger...

"When Major Rathbone tried to seize the intruder, Booth lunged at him with his razor-sharp hunting knife, which had a 7 1/4b inch blade." Rathbone was cut "from the elbow nearly to the shoulder." "Shoving his victim aside, Booth placed his hands on the balustrade and vaulted toward the stage. It was an easy leap for the gymnastic actor, but the spur on his heel caught in the flags decorating the box and he fell heavily on one foot, breaking the bone just above the ankle. Waving his dagger, he shouted in a loud, melodramatic voice: 'Sic semper tyrannis'. Some in the audience thought he added, 'The South is avenged.' Quickly he limped across the stage...and made his escape through the rear of the theater.

"Up to this point the audience was not sure what had happened. Perhaps most thought the whole disturbance was part of the play. But as the blue-white smoke of the pistol drifted out of the presidential box, Mary Lincoln gave a heart-rending shriek and screamed, 'They have shot the President! They have shot the President!' " (p. 597)


Bramantip may well have been correct. Look at the following contradictions and absurdities in these accounts:

Thus it is that even in his most tragic moment, President Lincoln's life story is muddled. The lavish embellishment of the assassination by Oates and Donald indicates that Bramantip was quite prescient in his analysis.


As with any life, Lincoln's was filled with personalities. No man lives in a vacuum, after all; and least of all the leader of a free country.

As usual, we will find many variations and contradictions between the accounts. There are also a large number of people mentioned in only one of the books (primarily Donald's, as we'd rightly presume), so we cannot really know if what is said about any of them is true. For those who appear in more than one book, where accounts disagree, it is not always possible to guess why the writers created the portrait that they did. They offer little insight. Such things will inevitably remain mysteries, as well as being further evidence of carelessness, collusion, and incompetence on the part of Lincoln's biographers. Their greatest collusion, however, shall be reserved for our final entry.

2.1 John Brown: His Role and Lincoln's View of Him

2.1.1 Re: Lincoln's Speech at Cooper Union/Institute

Masters: (Lincoln, in a speech at the "Cooper Institute":) "You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it: and what is your proof? Harper's Ferry! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise...

"...John Brown's effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate. That affair in its philosophy corresponds with the many attempts related in history at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by heaven to liberate them...Orsini's attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown's attempt at Harper's Ferry were in their philosophy precisely the same." (pp. 349-50)

Basler: "Lincoln's complete aversion to extreme Abolition policies is nowhere made more evident than in his disapproval of John Brown of the sentiment which he expressed and acted on. In the 'Cooper Union Address' he thus characterized John Brown: 'An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt which ends in little else than his own execution.' (p. 208)

Oates: (At the "Cooper Institute" Lincoln said:) "You charge that we stir up insurrection among your slaves. We deny it: and what is your proof? Harper's Ferry! John Brown!! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise." Your accusation "is simply malicious slander..." (p. 186)

Donald: (At "Cooper Union":) "Now (Lincoln) took the offensive, pointing out that John Brown's raid was not a slave insurrection but "an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate"; further, he pointed out, Southerners after an elaborate congressional investigation had failed to implicate a single Republican in it. Southern efforts to capitalize on John Brown's raid were simply additional evidence of their determination to "rule or ruin in all events." (p. 239)


We instantly note the confusion over whether the place of Lincoln's speech was an "Institute" or a "Union." We also note that although the four reports of the speeches contain common, often seemingly word-for-word transcriptions, they do not agree as to what the core of the speech consisted of. This is evidence that the speech was not actually recorded, but that someone has decided that these are the sort of things Lincoln would say on such an occasion; or else that the speech went through an extended phase of oral transmission before it was finally committed to writing. To demonstrate this, let us do as we have previously done, placing the words in line by color. We will use the same colors as before.

"You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it: and what is

"You charge that we stir up insurrection among your slaves. We deny it: and what is

your proof? Harper's Ferry! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to

your proof? Harper's Ferry! John Brown!! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to

(further, he pointed out, Southerners after an elaborate congressional investigation had failed to

implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise...

implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise."

implicate a single Republican in it. )

"...John Brown's effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It was

(...pointing out that John Brown's raid was not a slave insurrection but)

an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to

(an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to)

participate. That affair in its philosophy corresponds with the many attempts related in history at


the assassination of kings and emperors.

An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself

'An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself

commissioned by heaven to liberate them...

commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt which ends in little else than his own execution.'

No Parallels:

"Orsini's attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown's attempt at Harper's Ferry were in their philosophy precisely the same."

Southern efforts to capitalize on John Brown's raid were simply additional evidence of their determination to "rule or ruin in all events."

(Your accusation) "is simply malicious slander..."

We see here some very basic disagreements over what has been said, and the order in which is was said; in particular, Donald puts the comment about implication of Republicans in an entirely different place than Oates and Masters. The last comments find no match anywhere at all.

Therefore, we see that the authors have been quite free with Lincoln's words, and it is likely that Lincoln actually said very little at all about John Brown in the Cooper speech, other than loyally defending his party from charges related to him. Masters' last two sentences contain obscure references inappropriate for a public speech, and do not match the rhetorical value of the rest of the quotation, suggesting that they are late additions, and thus that Lincoln never said them. The loss of the Orsini reference in Basler suggests that skepticism over attribution of the quotes to Lincoln was common, and grew to the point where Donald and Oates could not include it, and instead appended simpler lines that were far more believable and in line with the rest of the speech as recorded, as well as beneficial to the 20th-century attempt to identify Lincoln as a forerunner of the civil rights movement. Also, the words in Masters and Oates regarding "not implicating a single Republican" are more suited to the 20th-century era of political scandals, particularly those associated with politician Skink Gingrich; they are a 20th-century product put upon Lincoln's lips.

2.1.2 On Attitudes Towards John Brown (Lincoln)

Masters: "As late as 1858 Lincoln was denying with all his might that he was an abolitionist; and he was avoiding, as if they were contagion, the contact of fanatics like Garrison and Giddings and Phillips. In a few years he was at the head of an army which was singing hymns of praise to John Brown, who had robbed and murdered under the inspiration of that religious zealotry which claims to divine the purposes of God... (pp. 2-3)

Oates: "Lincoln, too, was distressed about Harpers Ferry...Maybe old Brown was 'mad,' Lincoln conceded. But the more he read about Brown's life in the newspapers, the more he thought Brown a man of "great courage" and "rare unselfishness." And Lincoln throughout sympathized with his hatred of slavery and contended that the institution itself fostered outbreaks like Harpers Ferry. Nevertheless, Lincoln would never approve of Brown's raid, because no reasonable man could ever condone violence and crime. And alas, where had Brown begun his career in violence? In the Kansas civil war... (p. 182)

"On December 3, the day after Brown died on the gallows in Virginia, Lincoln told a crowd at Leavenworth that hanging the old man was just, 'even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed, and treason. It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right.' But Lincoln warned Southerners that 'if constitutionally we elect a President, and therefore you undertake to destroy the Union, it will be our duty to deal with you as old John Brown has been dealt with.' (p. 183)

Donald: "At that time (October 1859) Lincoln denounced Brown's attempt to stir up an insurrection among the slaves as 'wrong for two reasons. It was a violation of the law and it was, as all such attacks must be, futile as far as any effect it might have on the execution of a great evil.' Though he had paid tribute to Brown's 'great courage, rare unselfishness' and sympathized with his hatred of slavery, he concluded that the old abolitionist was 'insane.' (p. 239)

"When one enterprising Illinois Republican suggested that (Lincoln) ought to have a campaign chest of $10,000, Lincoln replied that the proposal was an impossibility: 'I could not raise ten thousand dollars if it would save me from the fate of John Brown...' " (p. 243)

"If a decree of emancipation could abolish Slavery," (Lincoln) argued, "John Brown would have done the work effectually." (p. 354)


Here the two latest authors, Oates and Donald, agree nicely overall, though varying on minor points. This lends further credence to our suggestion that sometime between the writings of Basler and Oates, a radical change was made in reports concerning John Brown. Gone is Masters' and Basler's total condemnation of John Brown; now Lincoln is made to praise him a to a great extent, although still acknowledging Brown's insanity.

We also see, significantly, that Lincoln denies being an abolitionist (Masters) and makes arguments against ending slavery (Donald). This is a strong indication that later stories indicating that Lincoln put an end to slavery are fabrications developed by the 20th-century civil rights movement.

2.1.3 On Attitudes Towards John Brown (Public)

Masters: "It remains, perhaps, to refer to to the most notable, as he was the most notorious, character of the Kansas imbroglio. This was John Brown, who had settled at Lawrence, Kansas, and who was a fanatic to whom robbery and murder were justifiable means for whatever plans entered his mind.

"On the night of May 24, 1856, with his three sons to aid him, he went to the cabin of a settler who had come from Tennessee...The man's name was Doyle. Brown called him and his two sons forth into the night, where the murderers shot and stabbed one, split open the head of another, also cutting off his arms and legs. The third was mangled, and had his fingers chopped off. Then Brown took the horses of the dead Doyles and decamped. This is a sample of Brown's raids and crimes...

On one occasion three hundred so-called pro-slavery men attacked Brown, who had thirty or more brigands under his command, and overcame them. (pp. 230-1)

"Sometimes the soldiers as they swung along chanted the runic hymn of 'John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave,' for that horse thief and murderer had become one of the gods of the Republican hierarchy..." (p. 455)

Basler: "John Brown was the spirit that inspired the Abolitionists, but he in no wise symbolized the spirit which brought volunteers who were unopposed to slavery. (p. 102)

"The downfall of slavery was, after all, Lincoln's greatest prophecy. In that, at least, he was able to effect, to a certain extent, what he had prophesied...

"As if that were not enough for mortal man, Fate decreed that he should become in addition the martyr to the cause and usurp, to a considerable extent, the shrine of John Brown." (p.203)

"John Brown's Body is in many respects the most complete realization of the epic of the Civil War. Lincoln is the guiding hand in the struggle, but he is not the all-in-all of the period. He is the master, but John Brown is the spirit of the time." (p. 224)

Oates: "Meanwhile old John Brown had arrived on the Kansas prairie with a wagonload of guns, knives, and artillery broadswords... (p. 134)

"In retaliation, John Brown and his little free-state company had massacred five proslavery men down on Pottawatomie Creek, dragging them out of their cabins in the dead of night and assassinating them with broadswords." (p. 136)

"In October Lincoln was back in Illinois...when the papers blazed with reports from Harpers Ferry in northern Virginia. According to the Chicago Press and Tribune, a band of Northern abolitionists - most of the young, five of them black - had tried to capture the remote mountain town, seize the federal arsenal there, and ignite a full-scale rebellion...The leader of the attack was old John Brown, late of Kansas fame, who warned Southerners that God had appointed him to liberate their slaves 'by some violent and decisive move.'

Though no slave uprising had occurred and Brown had been jailed, Harpers Ferry produced 'a profound sensation' in the Southern states...When Democratic papers erroneously linked several national Republicans with Brown's venture, distraught Southerners considered this dramatic, conclusive proof that insurrection was what the Black Republicans had desired all along... (p. 181)

"An Ohio Democratic paper, reflecting conservative Northern opinion, blamed the raid not on Brown, 'for he is mad,' but on Black Republicans...

(Reference is made to one "Gerit Smith" as a "secret backer" of John Brown.)(p. 198)

Reference to opinion of Lincoln in the Southern states: "You are another John Brown, a mobocrat, a Southern-hater, a lunatic, a chimpanzee." (p. 203)

Donald: (In reference to John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin:) Acting in a Richmond theatre when he heard the news of Brown's capture, he borrowed a uniform and went with the Richmond Grays to witness the execution of the old abolitionist." (p. 586)


If we need further confirmation of the "rehabilitation" of John Brown, this is it. The earliest writer, Masters, recites a litany of Brown's crimes; even those who praise him make light of his "a-moldering" body, hardly a complimentary reference! Basler's references are profoundly neutral; Donald's reference actually seems inclined to inspire sympathy! Oates, in more detail, reports little of Brown's crimes and cites views of him that are calculated to inspire sympathy. But alas, since much of what Oates says is not reported in the other biographies, and nor is what Donald writes, it is unlikely that they are true.

We conclude, therefore, in light of this and of the noted bigotry of the 19th century, that any words of praise or sympathy for John Brown, from either Lincoln or others, are pure invention. Oates and Donald were undoubtedly putting these words in Lincoln's mouth as support for the nascent civil-rights movement known to have been ongoing in the mid-20th century. Their purposes were noble, but alas, their words were invented.

2.2 Charles Francis Adams

Basler: Identifies Adams as head of a special committee on the state of the Union, and notes that Lincoln had passed over him when selecting a Cabinet. (pp. 63-4)

Much more is made of Adams' son, who wrote a biography of Lincoln, and describes him at first as being an "absolutely unknown, and by no means promising, political quantity," but in a later report compliments Lincoln for having developed "immensely" under the trial of the Presidency.

Oates: Indicates that Adams was under consideration for Lincoln's Cabinet as a representative of New England (p. 214); that Adams wanted to admit New Mexico as a slave state. Adams is later identified as "United States minister to London" (p. 260), and it is said that it would be Adams' job to present a strong ultimatum to Britain about recognizing the legitimacy of the Confederacy; later, Lincoln revised the ultimatum and marked it for Adams' eyes only.

Adams later reports to Lincoln that the Emancipation Proclamation was being received well in England, although he exaggerates (p. 368)

Donald: Notes that Adams "proposed admitting New Mexico as a slave state without any prohibition on slavery." (p. 269) Adams' son, described as "supercilious," is reported to have been "appalled" that as President-elect, Lincoln went about the country "kissing little girls and growing whiskers." A "more sober observer" is cited in contrast, giving a more positive view of the journeying. (p. 276)

Concerning the choice of Adams as ambassador to England, it is recorded that William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, was the one who chose Adams, and that in response to Adams' gratitude, Lincoln told him coolly, "Very kind of you to say so Mr Adams but you are not my choice. You are Seward's man." (p. 321)

Concerning Adams' work in England, Donald says that Adams was "doing excellent work" influencing British opinion in favor of the Union, but that further covert and informal influence was needed. (p. 415)


My analysis here is that Adams was selected from the mists of obscurity by the later writers to become a performer of deeds that were too dirty to associate with Lincoln - for example, the exaggeration of Britain's reception to the Emancipation Proclamation. (Of course, as we have proven, there probably was no such proclamation; this is a fancy that all four writers share. The Proclamation is the grandest fabrication of those wishing to first deify Abraham Lincoln, and second make him an icon for civil rights.) Thus it was necessary to eliminate any positive comments by Adams' son; thus the citation of Adams as a proponent of slavery; thus his obfuscation of events in England, and thus the singular (and therefore obviously manufactured) quote from Lincoln asserting that he had nothing to do with Adams' appointment.

2.3 Nathaniel Banks

Masters: A Union general ordered by Simon Cameron (see entry) to arrest members of the Maryland legislature who were suspected of disloyalty. (p. 422)

Oates: Cited as a candidate for Lincoln's Cabinet from Massachusetts (p. 211) who was later removed from consideration in favor of Charles Francis Adams. (p. 213) Given a generalship along with other politicians, to, according to Lincoln, " 'keep them from fighting against the war with their mouths.' " (p. 257)

Headed a Union force routed by Stonewall Jackson at Shenandoah Valley on May 24-25, 1862. (p. 327) Later commanded a "Department of the Gulf" (p. 375) and captured Port Hudson (p. 382).

Headed up Reconstruction in Louisiana, where there was great difficulty over the issue of slavery (pp. 399-400). Banks started a "free-labor system" for Negroes, under which "a federal agent hired out freedmen to white planters or government 'lesees' - those who managed abandoned rebel estates - at government-regulated conditions and wages." One Michael Hahn was elected governor, and a constitution was drafted that "outlawed slavery and established a segregated public school system for black and white children." (p. 409)

Later, Banks and Lincoln persuaded the Louisiana constitutional convention to include empowerment for the legislature to enact Negro suffrage. (p. 411)

Later in the Civil War, Banks led an expedition up the Red River "which ended in failure." (p. 420)

Donald: Identifies Banks as a former Speaker of the House and a Massachusetts Republican. (p. 240; also p. 564)

Mentions Banks as one of three people commanding Union forces at Shenandoah Valley; the other two are Fremont and James Shields. (p. 355)

Referenced as a commander of Louisiana, succeeding General Benjamin Butler. (p. 409)

Banks later led an "ill-timed and bloody assault" on Port Hudson, Louisiana. (p. 435)

Describes Banks' actions as commander of Louisiana, in more detail, but generally in agreement with, the description by Oates (pp. 485-8; also see pp. 562-4, 584-5)

Reports that the War Department, at Lincoln's urging, sent Banks on an expedition up the Red River to liberate more of Louisiana from Confederate rule, as well as capture an enormous amount of cotton thought to be stored in the middle and western part of the state. However, the "Red River expedition was a total disaster." (p. 499)


We find here a number of minor discrepancies, but recall that details are important, and if a writer cannot get the details right - how can we trust anything that that writer says? Some questions:

Note that only Oates mentions a beneficial system of work for former slaves. Donald does not mention this, because it is yet another invention designed to support an anti-slavery stance being held by Lincoln.

2.4 John Wilkes Booth

See our entry above on the assassination for further information.

Masters: Booth was present at Lincoln's last speech on the evening of April 11, which celebrated the surrender of the South and the coming Reconstruction, and giving blacks suffrage. "Before (Booth's) vision rose the South that he loved with a lover's madness, ruled by negro votes, deployed by the North to that end. According to one report, Booth at that moment vowed to kill Lincoln." (p. 475)

Oates: Says that Booth was at Lincoln's second Inauguration. Lincoln arrived along Pennsylvania Avenue in a carriage, and went to a platform in front of the Capitol to make his speech. "Up behind the railing of the right buttress, looking down at the President, was the actor John Wilkes Booth, a dashing man with raven hair and a black mustache, wearing a fashionable stovepipe hat. Lincoln had seen Booth perform in The Marble Heart at Ford's Theater; it was on the night of November 9, 1863, just over a week before Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg." (p. 446)

Donald: Lincoln had seen Booth perform in The Marble Heart. (p. 569)

Gives a brief account of Booth's life. He is described as "handsome, vain...the next-to-youngest son and his mother's darling in her brood of ten children..." His father is described as "alcoholic and mentally unstable." He attended school irregularly.

He is described as five foot eight inches tall, "Strikingly handsome, with curly black hair and a full mustache" and raven hair. He is given credit as an excellent actor. (pp. 585-6)

He declared unwavering loyalty to the South, and his "contempt for President Lincoln was open," as he seemed offended by everything about Lincoln, both trivial aspects of his appearance and personality and his stances on slavery and the Union.

Booth contacted the Confederate Secret Service and put together a plan to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage in exchange for Southern prisoners of war. Donald provides many details of this plan. (pp. 586-7)

In the workings of the plan, Booth is described as having at times "trouble separating fantasy from reality" (p. 587).

The kidnapping plan failed when, on the intended night, bad weather kept Lincoln from the theatre. Booth then began planning an assassination: "Standing in the rotunda of the Capitol as Lincoln passed through to the portico, where he gave his second inaugural address, Booth reflected on the excellent chance he had to kill the President if he wished." (p. 588)

Booth was drinking very heavily at the time. At the April 11 speech, he made some racist remarks, then said, after Lincoln recommended negro suffrage, "That is the last speech he will ever make." he asked one of his companions to shoot Lincoln on the spot; when the companion refused, Booth told another companion in disgust that he would kill Lincoln himself. (p. 588)


We cannot doubt in the least that John Wilkes Booth was an evil man. However, it seems that this was not enough for authors Oates and Donald. They see fit to add unto Booth a menacing description, making him virulently racist, and invoking blackness to amplify his evil; the invocation of "raven" hair seems calculated to bring up images of Booth's dark-hearted contemporary, fictionalist Allan Edgar Poe. (Previously we have seen an attempt to make him an "Old West" villain.) Donald goes even further, creating an unstable family life, theoretical mental problems, a kidnapping plot for Booth to head up, and all manner of embellishing details - contradicting, in the process, one of Oates' accounts: At the second inaugural, did Lincoln go directly to the platform outdoors to make his address, with Booth up behind him (Oates), or did he pass through indoors, where Booth saw him from the rotunda on the way to the portico (Donald)? Embellishment often leads to embarrassment; and while we may accept that Booth was capable of all of the things Donald claims, it is quite unlikely that most of this information, presented as it is by a single source, is fully credible.

Booth may well have been a racist as is stated. But since Lincoln did nothing that was sincerely anti-slavery or pro-black, this cannot be the reason why Booth killed him. See our entry above on the assassination for the true reason behind Booth's actions.

2.5 Gen. Ambrose Burnside

Masters: Burnside was the presiding Union general in November, 1862, at a loss suffered to Lee at Fredericksburg. The Union lost 12,653 soldiers to the Confederacy's 5309. (p. 154) Another battle between the two there in December resulted in a loss of 13000 men for the North and 4000 for the South. (p. 441)

Commander of the military district of the Ohio in Cincinnati. (p. 423)

Was removed for another general, Hooker. (p. 426)

Oates: Lincoln put Burnside in charge of the Army of the Potomac, "because he had nobody else to choose." He is described as six feet tall, with "prodigious sideburns," virile and tough-looking, but also "a nervous insomniac and deeply insecure about himself." Burnside "sputtered" that he was not "fit" to lead a whole army. (pp. 352-3)

Says Burnside sustained more than twelve thousand casualties at Fredericksburg in mid-Deecmber. (p. 355)

Made commander of the Department of the Ohio, covering the Midwest. Suspended the Chicago Times for "violent outbursts against the administration." Lincoln revoked the suspension. (p. 372)

Successfully captured mountain country in east Tennessee, receiving Lincoln's gratitude for it. Later mistakenly thought his reinforcement was not needed at Chickamauga, and took his forces to Jonesboro, much to Lincoln's consternation. (pp. 390-2)

Later fought off an attack from the Confederacy's Longstreet, thus securing eastern Tennessee for the Union. (pp. 397-8)

Donald: Credits Burnside with the capture of Roanoke Island, and moving inland to New Berne, North Carolina. (p. 338)

Lincoln gives Burnside command of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside is described as "a happy choice" and having "a sturdy figure...commanding presence...elaborate side-whiskers." Burnside himself "said that he was not capable of leading the Army of the Potomac."

Says that Burnside, "against the advice and the warnings" of Lincoln, attacked Fredericksburg on December 13. Casualties are not numbered, but it is said that Burnside lost one out of ten to death or injury; "Confederate losses were less than half as great." Burnside himself assumed responsibility for the loss. (p. 399; also p. 409)

Reports a January attempt on Fredericksburg that was called off after three days due to excessive rain and sleet. This was called the "Mud March." Lincoln replaced him with Hooker thereafter. (p. 411)

Burnside, as commander of the Department of the Ohio, suspends the Chicago Times. Lincoln overturns the suspension. (p. 421)

Proclaimed martial law in Kentucky. (p. 454)


First, we find it odd that both sides of the December Fredericksburg battle should lose exactly 13000 and 4000 men, as Masters claims. Round numbers are very suspicious, and probably fabricated. It is also at variance with Oates' given number for the December battle, 12000. (Oates and Donald seem to know nothing about a November battle there; Oates has Burnside only partway there in November, waiting for some pontoon bridges with which to cross the Rappahannock River - p. 353.) Perhaps this is why Donald does not give casualty numbers, only losses of all kinds: There was no certain record of casualties.

Second, notice how Lincoln is absolved of responsibility for choosing Burnside in Oates: supposedly because no one else was available! Notice, too, how Oates degrades Burnside in his description - how can Lincoln be blamed for hiring this man? It isn't Lincoln's fault that Burnside was an insecure insomniac!

Apparently this was a fabrication, and not received well, for Donald describes Burnside in more glowing terms; and so, where in Oates he uncertainly "spluttered" of his lack of "fitness," in Donald he only only "said" that he was not "capable." Donald's Burnside looks like much more of a hero than Oates'. But at least they agree on his ample facial hair...

Donald also absolves Lincoln by placing the decision to attack Fredericksburg on Burnside - allegedly against Lincoln's wishes, and even having Burnside admit his responsibility, which is said nowhere else; then - perhaps to mollify Burnsides' descendants, who would openly contradict such false information - later has Lincoln compliment and look with favor on Burnside (p. 410) and makes his loss of command to Hooker look like a principled resignation. (p. 411)

Most likely, Lincoln was responsible for the travesty at Fredericksburg, and the later authors are simply covering it up. (Indeed, why else would the press of the day blame Lincoln for it, as Donald openly admits? - p. 399)

Also, Mr. Oates - are we to believe that the bungling Burnside was the only person available in a nation of several million?

Third, why does Masters not mention the suspension of the Chicago newspaper? Surely an event of such note would be recorded. Freedom of the press was an essential part of the American Constitution.

Fourth - two events are mentioned only by Donald and are therefore suspicious: the capture of Roanoke, and the "Mud March." These were also probably added to mollify Burnside's descendants.

Finally, did Burnside act later in Tennessee, per Oates, or Kentucky, per Donald?

2.6 Simon Cameron

2.6.1 His Selection and Character Relative to the Republican Convention

Masters: Politician from Pennsylvania and Presidential candidate suggested for Lincoln's Cabinet by Judge David Davis, in return for a promise of support from the Pennsylvania delegation at the Republican Convention. Indicates there is "no record" that Lincoln authorized any such promises. (p. 367) After the election, Lincoln receives word from Joseph Medill, via Herndon, that Cameron is "a corrupt and debased man." Lincoln protested that "he had authorized no promise to be made of patronage." (p. 374)

Oates: "...Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania was a renegade Democrat who'd amassed a personal fortune in public office, some said by unsavory means. Moreover, his principles were so vague and his loyalties so suspect that he had opposition in his own state and little appeal anywhere else." (p. 191)

Donald: "Pennsylvania Republicans, irate because the low tariff of 1857 had removed protection from their iron industry, mostly favored Simon Cameron, but he had few followers outside that state and was widely suspected of financial improprieties or even gross corruption." (p. 236) Explains in detail how Davis "made a bargain," contradictory to Lincoln's general advice, with the Pennsylvania delegation, to secure Cameron a Cabinet post in exchange for the delegation's support for Lincoln: "Judge Joseph Casey, Cameron's representative in Chicago, demanded that Davis and Swett pledge that Cameron would become Secretary of the Treasury...with control of all federal patronage in Pennsylvania, in return for the votes of that state on the second ballot. Davis responded vaguely that Pennsylvania would surely have a place in the cabinet and that he would personally recommend Cameron for it." (p. 250)


The three writers agree that Cameron was no saint, that he had opposition from his own state, and that few outside Pennsylvania supported him, although Donald later contradicts himself by saying that "Cameron had no following outside of Pennsylvania." (p. 247) However, it is strange that Oates says nothing about Davis' actions at the Convention; indeed, all that is said of Pennsylvania's delegation is that they voted for Lincoln, as though it were some kind of surprise. (p. 193) Apparently this obfuscation on the part of the 20th century pro-Lincoln faction was unsuccessful, for it appears that Donald shortly thereafter was forced to acknowledge the incident. However, it became garbled in the process: Neither Masters not Oates indicate that Swett, a friend of Lincoln, was part of the process. His Appearance

Oates: "...tall and silver-haired, with a jutting nose, pinched mouth, receding chin, and sagging neck."

Donald: "...tall and thin, with a sharp face and thin lips."


These descriptions do not totally agree. Was Cameron tall and have a pinched mouth/thin lips only, or that and all of the other characteristics as well? His Wrongdoings and Lincoln's Consideration

Masters: After the election, Lincoln receives word from Joseph Medill, via Herndon, that Cameron is "a corrupt and debased man." Lincoln protested that "he had authorized no promise to be made of patronage." (p. 374)

Basler: Cites another writer who describes Cameron as an "astute grafter." (p. 31) Cites in a footnote the existence of a letter dated January 11, 1861, expressing jealousy and disappointment over Cameron's appointment and the passing over of Charles Francis Adams. (p. 64)

Oates: On December 20, Lincoln discusses Cabinet appointments with Thurlow Weed. "They discussed several men, including Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania. Republicans there had persuaded Lincoln that they deserved a Cabinet appointment and one faction was booming Cameron as the man. When Weed warned that a lot of other Pennsylvanians despised him, Lincoln wanted to know what other choice they had." (p. 216)

"...Cameron made no secret of the fact that he wanted to be Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury. His enemies, though, cried out in protest, insisting that to make him Treasury Secretary was equal to appointing a bank robber as president of a bank. One Cameron foe contended that he was so evil and unscrupulous, with such a stench of corruption about him, that he would contaminate Lincoln's entire administration. Yet Cameron's friends all argued that he was honest, sincere, and capable."
Lincoln then made a list of pros and cons about Cameron. The cons were:

The pros were:

Donald: Indicates that a party of Cameron's supporters visited Lincoln when he was considering Cabinet nominations, upon hearing that he was considering appointing someone else. Lincoln baffled them by telling "story after story of frontier days." Davis advises them to organize "a letter-writing campaign in Cameron's behalf. Soon Lincoln's desk was covered with testimonials for the senator, and he could not help being impressed."

However, Cameron's detractors object to his economic views, but mostly to his "checkered record." Cited:


Again, it seems agreed that Cameron is a bad fellow, but the later writers, while agreeing on the nature of Cameron's two primary sins, disagree on the details. Oates says Cameron defrauded the Winnebagos of land and got money from it; Donald says it was a specific amount of money directly. At least they agree on his position and his amusing nickname. The second crime set is similar only in nature; Oates makes no mention, however, of the use of intimidation. Cameron's Springfield Visit and the Letter of Acceptance

Masters: "In the latter part of December, Cameron came to Springfield, and, after a conference, departed with a letter from Lincoln appointing him to the secretaryship of war. The letter was dated December 31." (p. 374)

Oates: "Late in December, after a good deal of soul-searching, Lincoln invited Cameron to Springfield...He was a solicitous fellow, but rather insistent about becoming Treasury Secretary. Lincoln handed him a letter, dated December 31, which stated that 'at the proper time' Cameron would be appointed to head either the Treasury or the War Department." (p. 218)

Donald: "Drawing up a memorandum of the charges against Cameron and a list of the numerous letters recommending him (see above), (Lincoln) tentatively concluded that, on the balance, the evidence favored the Senator. He invited Cameron to Springfield, and they met in the Senator's hotel room December 28. ...The two very practical politicians hit it off at once and the next day, as Cameron was preparing to go home, Lincoln sent him a brief note promising that he would nominate him for either Secretary of the Treasury or Secretary of War." (p. 266)


Masters indicates that Cameron "came" to Springfield, with no invitation from Lincoln mentioned as in Oates and Donald. Also, why is it not mentioned by the other writers that the meeting was in a hotel room? Perhaps by doing this, they are attempting to disassociate Lincoln from Cameron, since this would mean Cameron was never under Lincoln's roof.

In Masters, Cameron came to Springfield; in Oates and Donald, he was invited. This minute change by later writers is calculated to make Lincoln look more polite and civil, and perhaps cover up the fact that Lincoln was probably rudely ignoring him. Another discrepancy is that, according to Masters, the initial letter promised charge of the war department only; Oates and Donald say either Treasury or War. Finally, did Lincoln hand him the letter at the meeting (Oates) or send it to him at his hotel room the next day (Donald)?

Taking these last two topics together, we find a peculiar puzzle. Donald's account of the visit by Cameron's supporters and the letter campaign is mentioned nowhere else, and is probably fictitious (for reasons we shall shortly see); merely a way to make Lincoln less responsible for choosing such an immoral man as Cameron. By Oates, the support for Cameron by his friends was there, but quite intangible - certainly there is no hint of a letter campaign; and at any rate, this is supposed to have happened sometime after December 15. Oates implies that a definite decision about Cameron had not been made by December 20, so the invitation could not have been sent yet, and the letters of support could not have reached Lincoln yet. Cameron came to visit Lincoln on December 28. In those days of primitive communication, where is there room for Cameron's friends to start a letter campaign, and for all those letters to get there and cover Lincoln's desk, in the eight days before Cameron arrives and the presumably fewer days before Lincoln sends the invitation? Lincoln Changes His Mind (For the Time Being) About Cameron

Masters: "On January 3, Lincoln wrote Cameron withdrawing the appointment. On January 13, Lincoln wrote Cameron saying that he had heard that Cameron's feelings were wounded by the letter of the third. 'I wrote that letter under great anxiety, and perhaps I was not so guarded in its terms as I should have been; but I beg you to be assured I intended no offense,' were Lincoln's words." He sent with this letter another backdated to January 3, with more polite terms. However, "After all this change of mind, and indecision Cameron won the war department at Lincoln's hands." (pp. 374-5)

In a conference with Senator Harlan at the Capitol a few days after arriving in Washington, and before his inauguration, Lincoln mentions that "he had intended to appoint Cameron to be secretary of war." (p. 382)

Oates: "But after he'd gone, Lincoln had nagging doubts about his decision. For one thing, a Pennsylvania Republican called and recounted Cameron's misdeeds in vivid detail. When Lincoln demanded that the man document his accusations, he promised to do so 'with fearful fidelity.' Also, Trumbull, Hamlin, Blair and Chase all objected to Cameron's appointment and demanded a Cabinet member with clear Democratic antecedents and uncompromising antislavery views. Cameron was such a chameleon, his critics said, that nobody knew where he stood on anything but making money - usually by nefarious means.

" 'Under great anxiety,' Lincoln wrote Cameron on January 3, 1861, and rather curtly withdrew his Cabinet offer, insisting that developments in and out of Pennsylvania now made it impossible for him to join Lincoln's official family. But as luck would have it, Cameron had already shown Lincoln's offer to his friends - and it had somehow leaked to the papers. Lincoln was scandalized." (pp. 218-9)

Noting that Cameron's enemies had yet to prove a charge against him, and learning that he had hurt Cameron deeply by dropping him, on January 13 Lincoln "wrote him again and sincerely apologized if he'd seemed offensive, noting that he'd withdrawn the offer under mounting anxiety and perhaps hadn't been so guarded as he should have been. He therefore enclosed a new and kinder letter to replace take the place of the offensive one. And he promised Cameron that if he appointed a Pennsylvanian to the Cabinet before he reached Washington, he wouldn't do it without consulting Cameron and weighing his views and wishes." (p. 220)

"...happily for Lincoln, the Cameron problem had resolved itself, with rival Pennsylvania factions, afraid that the state might lose a Cabinet post altogether, rallying behind Cameron as their man. So Cameron would go to the War Office." (p. 233)

Donald: "Exultant, Cameron showed the letter to several friends on the way back to Washington. His rejoicing, however, was premature, for his train must have passed another bearing his old enemy, A. K. McClure, bringing documents to Springfield to prove Cameron's moral unfitness for high office. Lincoln recognized his blunder and promptly wrote Cameron that 'things have developed which make it impossible for me to take you into the cabinet.' He suggested that Cameron, to save face, should decline the appointment. In order to ease the blow, he asked Trumbull to promise that Cameron's friends should 'be, with entire fairness, cared for in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.' Restlessly he waited for the desired telegram from Cameron but none came. Hearing that the Pennsylvanian's feelings were wounded by the abrupt phrasing of his letter, Lincoln apologized that it had been written 'under great anxiety' and he drafted another, somewhat more tactfully phrased...

Pennsylvania's rival factions later get together behind Cameron, reasoning that Cameron would be better to have representing their interests than no one at all. (pp. 266-7)

Lincoln asks Republican senators for votes on who would be Treasury Secretary. Nineteen respond: Eleven vote for Chase, three for Cameron, and five for other candidates. "With that, Lincoln had a mandate, and he offered the Treasury Department to Chase. Cameron was given a choice of the War Department or the Interior Department and rather grumpily chose the former." (p. 281)


Here is an egregious and notable error: How could a Pennsylvania Republican have "called" Lincoln about Cameron? The telephone had yet to be invented. The fact that this person is not named by Oates is also suspicious. This story must have been jumped on by the opposition, for in Donald, the detractor is named and comes in person, and has documents in his possession rather than just promises! It is also suspicious that this person is not mentioned at all by Masters; perhaps the later authors are trying to hide an arbitrary and capricious side of Lincoln, and make him look better by suggesting that his blunder was the result of inadequate information! How could this be, since Lincoln obviously had a great deal of information about Cameron already?

The basic story of the letters is probably true, but the authors still disagree on minor details, which throws much of the story into doubt. Where was the phrase referring to "in and out of Pennsylvania" mentioned? Donald says it was in a message to Trumbull; Oates says it was in the letter to Cameron! It was undoubtedly created for the occasion and was not actually used by Lincoln at all; it is something the writers imagine Lincoln said under the circumstances. Similarly, the "under great anxiety" phrase was invented; and we ask: Was in the latter letter (Masters) or was it somehow said by Lincoln (Oates, Donald)? Did Lincoln pick Cameron himself in the end (Masters) or was it the result of Pennsylvanian factions uniting behind Cameron (Oates, Donald) and an indirect result of a poll of Republican senators (Donald)? (In the latter, where does the idea of Cameron taking the Interior Department come from?) Why does Donald not mention the opinions of Trumbull, etc. after the meeting? Why is Donald the only one that mentions that Lincoln suggested Cameron withdraw on his own? These are all things calculated to make Lincoln look better in a bad situation.

2.6.2 His Advice Re: Fort Sumter

Masters: Cameron writes to Lincoln, advising against provisioning it: " 'Whatever might have been done as late as a month ago, it is too sadly evident that it cannot be done without the sacrifice of life and treasure not at all commensurate with the object to be attained; and as the abandonment of the fort in a few weeks sooner or later, appears to be an inevitable necessity, it seems to me that the sooner it is done, the better.' " (pp. 392-3)

Oates: Indicates that Cameron was at a Cabinet meeting on the subject, and that Lincoln told his Secretaries to submit written reports on the matter. (p. 239)

Donald: Sumter is a lead topic at a Cabinet meeting of March 9. "On March 15 (Lincoln) asked each member of his Cabinet to respond in writing to the question..." Cameron is recorded as siding with the majority view that an expedition would provoke combat and possibly war.


Oddly, although Oates indicates that Cameron was among those directed to provide a written report, he does not mention Cameron writing one. This is rather strange if Cameron was the head of the War Office; but we see later on where Oates has Lincoln himself making the military decisions. (p. 242) Why was Cameron dropped out of the picture, and his opinion subjugated?

Here is a peculiar place where Donald contradicts himself. In a later Cabinet meeting on the subject, it is said that Cameron was absent. (p. 288) But on the very next page, describing the same meeting, Lincoln directs Welles (the navy Secretary; see his entry) and Cameron to prepare an expedition to relieve Sumter. How can Lincoln give instructions to someone who isn't there?

2.6.3 His Management of the War Department

Oates: Reports that Cameron's understaffed War Department was swamped with responsibility, and had difficulty accomodating and keeping track of the regiments arriving in Washington. Cameron, "as confused as we was injudicious, sometimes refused to accept state regiments, which set both governors and officers squalling at Lincoln." Lincoln stepped in to resolve the situation.(p. 252)

Lincoln later describes Cameron as "utterly ignorant and regardless of the course of things," incapable of "organizing details or conceiving and advising general plans," "selfish," and "openly discourteous" - yet in spite of this, and "whispers of corruption," he left Cameron in place. Oates says, "It was as though Lincoln rejected his own instincts, covered his eyes, and waited for inept men to reform themselves so he would not have to go through the pain of sacking them." (p. 283)

Among the charges against Cameron in the War Office, as detailed in a 1109-page indictment:

On January 13, 1862, Lincoln asks for and receives Cameron's resignation. He is made Minister to Russia, and Edward Stanton becomes Secretary of War. (p. 300)

Donald: See below.


The purchases delineated above are seem strangely characteristic of wasteful government purchases of the 20th century, and we may wonder if they were somehow created out of the whole cloth based upon 20th-century data. But see also the next entry - these two authors differ on why Cameron was ultimately let go! Oates says (above) it was due to Cameron's personality, his insubordination (below being just one example), and corruption. But Donald says insubordination alone was the cause.

The estimations of Cameron by Lincoln are simply put upon his lips to counteract the undeniable fact that Lincoln kept this incompetent grafter in office. In all probability, Lincoln was in on the take himself, and that is why he kept Cameron on board.

2.6.4 His Opinion of Recruiting Black Soldiers

Oates: Says Lincoln would use Negroes in the navy, but not in the army except as "foragers and laborers," lest Southern loyalists revolt against the government. However, Cameron "cheerfully disregarded" Lincoln's directions in the matter, and released an unauthorized report in December 1861 indicating that Negroes would be used in the army. Oates suggests: "Maybe (Cameron) sincerely believed in emancipation and the use of Negro fighting men and hoped to pressure Lincoln into embracing his views. On the other hand, there were reports of scandal in Cameron's office...and maybe Cameron was maneuvering to protect his job. He'd been consorting with Republican liberals of late; perhaps his report was an attempt to get their support, so that Lincoln would be reluctant to fire him." Although Lincoln acknowledged the strain the report caused between himself and Cameron, Cameron kept his job. (p. 291)

Donald: Reports that Cameron, after suggestions from Lincoln that he resign, took "a daring gamble" and put together a report announcing that it was "clearly a right of the Government to arm slaves...and employ their services against the rebels." He sent this document to the newspapers without telling Lincoln. "Lincoln immediately ordered the report recalled and Cameron's remark concerning slaves expurgated. After that it was simply a matter of time before Cameron left the Cabinet." Donald notes the release of Cameron immediately thereafter, on January 11, 1862, and his change to be minister to Russia.


Here, Oates, who has previously described Cameron in sour terms, presents an unlikely juxtaposition in order to make Cameron into far worse of a villain. Who, after reading about Cameron earlier in Oates, would believe he had a sincere desire to emancipate the black man? This is an obvious attempt to deflect attention from the fact that Lincoln himself opposed the step, and for the flimsiest of reasons; this would not do for the hero of the civil rights movement, so the blame had to be laid squarely elsewhere! Lincoln had nothing to do with offering further freedom to the black man. We may suggest that stories of him "allowing" black men into the Union army are a 20th-century distortion of what actually happened: Northern slaves were impressed into the army. They may have been falsely promised emancipation, and that may explain why some like Frederick Douglass (see below) gave support to Lincoln. This is more in line with the known bigotry of the 19th century.

But now the difference between Oates and Donald is painfully obvious. Oates puts the discovery of corruption before Cameron's firing. Donald puts the discovery primarily after the firing. (p. 326) (Donald offers no list of particulars, just generalities.) Their basic reasons for Cameron's dismissal are fundamentally at odds. (Most likely, Cameron was skimming profits before giving Lincoln his cut.)

2.6.5 Other Actions

Masters: Instructed Nathaniel Banks to arrest members of the Maryland legislature who were suspected of disloyalty, on September 17, 1861. (p. 422)

Donald: Cameron gives up his job in Russia and returns to play politics in Pennsylvania. (pp. 495, 502, 529, etc.)


It is strange that Cameron disappears so abruptly in Oates. There is not even a hint that he returns from Russia! But it fits nicely the overall poor treatment (not necessarily undeserved) that Cameron receives from these authors.

2.7 James Conkling

Masters: Mentions Conkling only as someone to whom Lincoln wrote a letter, in August 1863, after the battle of Gettysburg. (p. 151)

Basler: Referred to as J. C. Conklin; also referred to as someone to whom Lincoln wrote a letter in 1863. (p. 180)

Oates: Identifies Conkling as "dapper and dashing, a Princeton graduate and rising young Whig attorney in Springfield," who was courted by a female friend of Mary Todd Lincoln. (p. 59) Conkling is cited as one person who remarks upon Lincoln's stressful appearance after having spent "a week in his boarding room in acute despair" during trying times in 1841 involving his courtship of Mary Todd. Conkling observes that Lincoln looked emaciated and " 'seems scarcely to possess strength enough to speak above a whisper.' " (pp. 62-4)

Lincoln spoke to Conkling in Conkling's law office while the Republican National Convention was choosing their candidate, of whom Lincoln was one choice. (p. 193)

Donald: Referenced as "a Princeton graduate," part of a group that Lincoln met with in Springfield. (p. 70) Comments, after Lincoln has spent "about a week" in bed in January, that Lincoln " 'is reduced and emaciated in appearance and seems scarcely to possess strength enough to speak above a whisper. His case at present is truly deplorable.' " (pp. 87-8)

Lincoln went to Conkling's at the time of the Republican National Convention, where Conkling reassured him. (p. 250)

During Lincoln's Presidency, he invited Lincoln to Springfield for a rally on September 3, 1863; Lincoln replied with a letter that was published in "nearly every major newspaper throughout the country." (pp. 456-7)


Although there is much more detail of this person added in the later authors, there seems to be little that could not be regarded as at marginally true. Donald, though, has added on to Conkling's description of Lincoln's troubled state after his sickness in order to inspire sympathy, or to make Lincoln look like more of a heroic figure on the rebound. We may wonder if the letter referred to by Masters and Basler is supposedly the one printed in "every major newspaper," for if it was, it seems strange that Masters and Basler do not mention this, and that Oates does not mention the letter at all. It would be an easy tale to fabricate.

2.8 Frederick Douglass

2.8.1 General Actions

Masters: Opposed a second term for Lincoln. Associated himself with a faction in the Republican party which called for a convention on May 31, 1864, to be held in Cleveland and supported Fremont instead of Lincoln.(p. 448)

Oates: Supported Lincoln over Stephen Douglas, coming out from New York state to Illinois to do so. (p. 167)

He "contended that there was little difference between Lincoln's party and the Democrats. Still, Douglass admired Lincoln personally, said he was 'one of the most frank, honest men in political life.' " (p. 203)

Exhorted Lincoln to issue an emancipation decree. (p. 272)

Reacting to Lincoln's proposal that blacks colonize Liberia, he blasts Lincoln for " 'his inconsistencies, his pride of race and blood, his contempt for negroes and his canting hypocrisy.' " (p. 339)

Cheered the Emancipation Proclamation, saying, " 'We shout with joy, that we live to record this righteous decree.' " (p. 347)

Was part of a movement against Lincoln having another term and supporting Fremont. (p. 422)

Was in the crowd at the second inaugural ceremonies. (p. 445)

Lincoln is later informed that Douglass wants to congratulate him, but is not being allowed into the White House because of his race. "Lincoln had Douglass showed in at once. 'Here comes my friend Douglass,' the President announced...'I am glad to see you...I saw you in the crowd today, listening to my address...There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours I want to know what you think of it.' Douglass said that he was impressed; he thought it 'a sacred effort.' 'I am glad you liked it!' Lincoln said...It was the first reception in the history of the Republic in which an American President had greeted a free black man and solicited his opinion." (p. 447)

Donald: Remarked of Lincoln's "entire freedom from popular prejudice against the colored race." (p. 221)

Demanded that Lincoln "Let the slaves and free colored people be called into service, and formed into a liberating army, to march into the South and raise the banner of emancipation among the slaves." (pp. 429-30)

Says that Douglass initially favored Fremont over Lincoln. (p. 541)

Of his second inaugural address, "(Lincoln) positively beamed when Frederick Douglass, who was in the throng at the White House reception after the inauguration, pronounced it 'a sacred effort.' " (p. 568)


We see here what probably represents a significant, genuine strain of data. The authors agree substantially on Frederick Douglass: The "sacred effort" quote may reflect Douglass' feelings at the time, but I doubt if he actually said any such thing at the inaugural. These words are invented for the occasion. The progression of Oates and Donald indicates a subtle twisting of the story, for we see that in Donald, the latest writer, there is no mention of Douglass not being allowed into the White House, and in Masters, no hint that Douglass was present for the inaugural at all. Undoubtedly, owing to the prevalent racism of the time, Douglass had never been allowed anywhere near the White House, at any time. Lincoln's effusive praise of Douglass is pure fancy, an invention; it is what the pro-Lincoln forces wish that Lincoln had said. What Lincoln did say may be partially preserved here - he favored sending blacks to Liberia; in all probability, this is a mangled statement that originally referred to what he would have liked to have done to blacks. It is strangely like the favorite bigots' cry of the 19th and 20th century to "send blacks back to Africa." Thus we have substantial proof that Lincoln was actually a bigot. This is made more clear in our second entry:

2.8.2 August 10 Meeting with Lincoln

Oates: "On August 10 (he) came to the White House to talk about the Union's black soldiers. Lincoln was in his office, sitting in a low chair surrounded by books and papers, when Douglass came in and introduced himself. Lincoln rose - and kept rising, Douglass said, until the President stared down at him. 'You need not tell me who you are, Douglass, I know who you are.' Sit down, sit down. A handsome, bewhiskered man with full hair and stern, frowning eyes, Douglass was the most eminent black leader of his generation. In all honesty, he had several minds about Lincoln. He thought Lincoln 'preeminently the white man's President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men.' For the first year and a half of the war, he 'was ready and willing' to sacrifice blacks for the benefit of white people, and Douglass had been outspoken in his opposition to Lincoln's administration. But since the preliminary emancipation proclamation, Douglass said, American blacks had taken Lincoln's measure and had come to admire and even love this enigmatic man....

"But that was not what Douglass had come to discuss. He was busily recruiting black soldiers himself - was on his way down to help Lorenzo Thomas on the Mississippi - and wanted to protest Lincoln's discriminatory policies against blacks in the army. Douglass argued that they deserved the same pay as whites and should get promoted for meritorious service just as the white troops were. He also insisted that if the Confederacy executed Negro prisoners of war, Lincoln must kill rebel captives in retaliation.

"Lincoln replied quietly, measuring his words. As for discrimination in the army, he pointed out that among whites there was great opposition to enlisting blacks at all. Many white men had threatened to throw down their arms rather than fight beside them. Still others argued that Negroes were inferior and ought to receive less pay than whites. So 'we had to make some concession to prejudice,' the President explained. But...'I assure you, Douglass, that in the end they shall have the same pay as white soldiers."

"But Lincoln hedged about the treatment of black prisoners of war...According to Douglass, Lincoln now shunned 'eye-for-an-eye' reprisals and said, 'I can't take men out and kill them in cold blood for what was done by others.'

"That aside, Lincoln deeply appreciated Douglass' work in recruiting Negro soldiers and heartily approved of his plans to help Thomas on the Mississippi. After their interview was over, Douglass left the White House with a growing respect for Lincoln. He was 'the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely...who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color.' " (pp. 385-6)

Donald: "In August, Lincoln had welcomed Douglass into the White House and, in response to Douglass's fears that he was vacillating about the value of Negro troops, assured him, 'I think it cannot be shown that when I have once taken a position, I have ever retreated from it.' " (p. 471)


The fact that Donald sees fit to compress this account that Oates puts together so elaborately is a strong indication that the whole scenario was fabricated. Indeed, the whole story is too incredible to believe: As pointed out in the previous entry, the racism of the day makes it impossible that Douglass would have been permitted into the White House. The loss of the elaborate detail suggests an evolution which slowly drops the incredible, and probably widely-criticized, story that Lincoln welcomed Douglass to the White House and considered him a friend. The "I know who you are" statement may be genuine, but it was assuredly said in a far different context - probably after some time when Douglass was arrested at Lincoln's orders.

Douglass, we may be sure, was a hero to the 20th-century; but unlike Lincoln, he probably deserved the recognition. The attempt here is obviously to somehow tie Lincoln and Douglass together in a much closer way than actual history would reveal. (It is also hard to believe that Douglass would leave this interview with any respect for Lincoln, since Lincoln rebuffed or hedged on every request that Douglass made.) A few other noteworthy points that indicate fabrication are:

2.9 Jesse Fell

Masters: A friend to whom Lincoln provided an autobiographical sketch on December 20, 1859. He was corresponding secretary of the Republican State Central Committee and went all over Illinois "gathering proof that there was sentiment in the state which favored Lincoln for the presidential nomination." (p. 356)

Basler: A recipient of a letter from Lincoln giving some facts of his life. (p. 106)

Oates: "...founder of the Bloomington Pantagraph, one of the leading Whig papers in Illinois," and someone Lincoln formed a personal and professional tie with. (p.11)

"...Lincoln's friend and a leading Illinois Republican" who agreed with others that Lincoln was the top Republican in Illinois. He took Lincoln for a walk one evening in Bloomington and told him, that he "had just visited in the East and everywhere he went Republicans asked, 'Who is this Lincoln we read about in the papers, who ran Douglas such a fine race?' If Lincoln's personal history and his speeches on the slavery question were brought before the public, Fell said, Lincoln could become a serious Presidential contender. True, Seward and Chase were front runners, but both had reputations as 'radicals,' which hurt them...

" 'Fell,' Lincoln said, 'I admit the force of much of what you say, and admit that I am ambitious, and would like to be President.' But Lincoln had to be realistic. He didn't stand a chance against nationally known men like Seward and Chase. And anyway, 'there is nothing in my early history that would interest you or anybody else; and as Judge Davis says, "it won't pay." ' He told Fell good night and walked on alone in the twilight." (pp. 174-5)

Although preferring going to the Senate than the White House, Lincoln "finally wrote a short autobiographical sketch for Jesse Fell, secretary of the Republican State Central Committee. Though Lincoln remarked that 'there is not much of it, for the reason, I suppose, that there is not much of me,' he did stress his Pennsylvania and Quaker ancestry. Fell sent the sketch to a newspaper in Pennsylvania, one of the critical states a Republican candidate must have in order to win, and the journal published an article about Lincoln widely copied in the Republican press." (p. 184)

Donald: A "Bloomington politician" to whom Lincoln sent "am autobiography for campaign purposes," as a result of a request "forwarded...from Joseph J. Lewis, of the Chester County Times in Pennsylvania. Lincoln sent "a terse sketch" to Fell, saying, "If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be said, I am, in height, six feet, four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair, and grey eyes - no other marks or brands recollected," and noting "There is not much of it, for the reason, I suppose, that there is not much of me." Lewis added on to the sketch with remarks of his own and it was published widely. (p. 237)

Helped with Lincoln's convention party. (p. 248)


Oates directly contradicts himself: How could Fell have been the founder of a Whig newspaper and also have been a leading Republican? Oates also gives away that the letter to Fell, while probably genuine, was more personal in nature than it was a campaign tactic. How? He refers to Pennsylvania as a state Republicans must win, in the present tense. Also, the idea of appealing to a Presidential candidate's humble roots clearly originated in the 20th century, and was used in particular by the two-term President William Clinton and Oates' contemporary President, James Carter.

The "not much of me" comment is likely genuine, but I believe that it has been misapplied in subtrefuge. Note first the confusion over who wanted the sketch: Was it Fell (Oates) or Lewis (Donald)? And was Fell himself a newspaper founder (Oates) or a politician (Masters, Donald)?

Why should Lincoln send such a specific description of himself, including noting his complexion and lack of scars? I propose that Lincoln was not doing it for campaign purposes, but was interested in joining the Union army to fight in the Civil War; or else, this was taken from an earlier attempt by him to enlist in the Black Hawk War. His description is what one would give to an Army recruiter; and the "not much of me" comment is obviously nothing more than a reference to that same description: Lincoln was obviously pleading to be accepted for conscription in spite of his lean frame - "not much of me," in other words! Oates and Donald have simply taken the quote woefully out of context.

2.10 Millard Fillmore

Masters: Cited as a Presidential candidate "on the Whig platform" in 1856. (p. 248)

Oates: Recognizes Fillmore as the person who took the place of President Zachary Taylor after the latter died of "cholera morbus" in 1850. (p. 102) Cited in the 1856 election as "a former Whig President now running as the American party candidate." (p. 139) Indicates that Mary Todd Lincoln supported Fillmore in the campaign, though incoln supported a different candidate, Fremont. (p. 141)

Donald: Cites Fillmore as the Whig vice-presidential candidate in the 1848 campaign, Taylor being the presidential candidate. Lincoln met Fillmore in Albany, New York, and supported the Taylor/Fillmore campaign.(pp. 131-2)

In the 1856 campaign, Fillmore is identified as the candidate of the American party and someone with "highly respectable Whig antecedents." Mary Todd Lincoln favored him; Lincoln favored Fremont and made extensive efforts to woo Fillmore's supporters to Fremont's side. (pp. 192-4) This effort to win the votes of Fillmore's supporters continues even after the election. (pp. 230, 240, 255)


Again Oates and Donald each offer their own unique and otherwise unsubstantiated details, though they may in this case both be correct. However, they directly contradict Masters, who identifies Fillmore as a Whig in 1856, whereas Oates and Donald say that he was a former Whig who switched to the American party in 1856. Also peculiar is that Lincoln allegedly supported Fillmore's candidacy in 1848, but did not later. This appears inconsistent; Donald has perhaps invented this meeting in order to give the early Lincoln some credibility as someone who rubbed shoulders with previous Presidents. The entire situation is no doubt founded upon political intricacies of which we shall never be fully informed.

2.11 Ulysses S. Grant

2.11.1 Relevant Personal Data Standard Personal Data

Masters: Saw service in the war against Mexico. (p. 85)

Basler: One of two Northern generals - Sherman being the other - who was from the Middle West. (p. 232)

Oates: "Grant was a slight, shy man who stood about five feet eight and weighed around 135 pounds. He had stooped shoulders and mild blue eyes, walked with a lurch, chewed cigars, and surrendered word with much reluctance. Ohio-born, he'd graduated twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine at West Point, fought in the Mexican War, and married a trim and vivacious Missouri girl named Julia Dent. Later he went off to outpost duty on the West Coast, but loneliness and whiskey got the best of him. In 1854 he quit the army, rejoined his family in Missouri, and tilled a small dirt farm he called 'Hardscrabble.' Eventually he moved into Saint Louis, but failed there as a real estate salesman. Suffering from ague and rheumatism, and feeling useless, Grant moved his family to Galena, Illinois, where he clerked in his father's leather goods store." (p. 416)

Donald: "(Lincoln) knew he could count on (Grant)...Though a former Democrat, Grant expressed no interest in politics and no reservations about the President's emancipation policies; instead he concentrated his energies on defeating the Confederates." (p. 384)

"In Grant (Lincoln) had a commander whom he liked and trusted. Everything about the unpretentious, businesslike general pleased the President...Lincoln was struck by the simplicity and directness of the language Grant used in his reports. He was even more impressed by their infrequency and brevity..." (p. 497)


Though it seems little can be garnered here, in fact this gives us a hint of what is to come. Oates wants us to sympathize with Grant, and that is why we are given so many intimate personal details of his life. Donald does not care if we sympathize with him or not. Why? Further examples are needed to demonstrate. However, the basic premise is that in Oates, Lincoln very much likes, almost worships, the figure of Grant; in Donald, he has respect and some liking for the man, but not much - and indications are that the less he heard from Grant, the more he liked him! For a further example, Donald also indicates praise from Lincoln because Grant "doesn't worry and bother me" and doesn't ask for reinforcements. (p. 497) Note the different manner in which Oates uses this praise by Lincoln below ( - it comes after a mention of a special letter of thanks Lincoln wrote to Grant, a letter which is never mentioned in Donald. Drinking Problem

Oates: April 1862: "(I)n southern Tennessee, at Shiloh Church near the Mississippi border, Grant had battled a rebel army for two bloody days before driving it from the field." The Union suffered "over thirteen thousand" casualties. Rumors in Washington were that Grant had been drunk during the battle, "prompting one critic to demand his dismissal. But Lincoln refused. 'I can't spare this man,' the President said. 'He fights.' " (pp. 325-6)

Chase passed on a letter from a Cincinnati editor who declared that Grant was 'a poor drunk imbecile' who couldn't organize, control or fight an army. 'I have no personal feelings about it,' the editor added, 'but I know he is an ass.'

"Alarmed, Lincoln and Stanton sent out various people to look Grant over - among them Charles A Dana, lately of the New York Tribune. Dana traveled with Grant's army and filed daily reports that were extremely complimentary about the general, praising him as industrious and sober. Dana's dispatches did much to restore Lincoln's confidence in the only army commander he had who could really fight." (p. 374)

Even after Vicksburg, rumors of Grant's "drunken sprees" circulated among his critics, "and the tales have persisted through the years. Grant may have had his troubles with the bottle earlier in his life, but by the civil war he seems to have imbibed no more than most army officers in that hard-drinking time...there is no documentary evidence that he was the chronic drunk his foes make him out to be." In reply to stories that Grant would be fired because of his drinking, Lincoln supposedly said "that if they could find out Grant's brand of whiskey he would 'send every general in the field a barrel of it.'

"When asked if the story were true, Lincoln laughed. 'That would have been very good if I had said it; but I reckon it was charged to me to give it currency.' " (p. 383)

Donald: When no further reports were heard after the capture of Fort Donelson, "Reports spread that Grant had gone back to his old habits, and in Washington he was now considered 'little better than a common gambler and drunkard.' " (p. 338)

After Vicksburg: "The general, reported Murat Halstead of the Cincinnati Commercial, 'is a jackass in the original package. He is a poor drunken imbecile. He is a poor stick sober, and he is most of the time half drunk, and much of the time idiotically drunk.' " (p. 409)


An enormous contradiction emerges here in the way Oates and Donald regard the figure of Ulysses S. Grant. Oates produces information indicating that Grant was not the drunkard that the press and others made him out to be; Donald makes no such effort.

Why has this happened? We do not possess much information about Grant, but we do know that he followed in Lincoln's footsteps and became President also. I suspect that, in order to keep Lincoln in esteemed company, Grant's reputation was mildly enhanced, and Lincoln was made to praise him profusely in Oates' rewrite of true history. As with many of Oates' schemes, this apparently failed, because Donald gives us an eminently sober (pun intended) view of the general instead.

For a further comparison, see the note below concerning the battle at Shiloh.

Also relevant: Other Actions

Oates: Made an "ill-considered" attempt to expel Jewish peddlers from his lines, "on the grounds that they were rebel spies. Lincoln countermanded the order because it proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom were serving in Union ranks. (p. 374)

In reply to Lincoln's instructions, endorsed the use of Negro troops, calling it, along with the Emancipation Proclamation, "the heavyest blow yet given the Confederacy." (p. 384)

Refused the endorsement of James Gordon for the Presidency, saying that the country needed Lincoln, and that his defeat would be "a great national calamity." (p. 413)

Donald: "Further controversy rose over Grant's ill-conceived order banning 'Jew peddlers' from the lines." Lincoln revoked it as proscribing an entire religious class, some of whom fought for the Union. (p. 409)

Considered for the Democratic Presidential nomination. (p. 478)

Says that Grant "unquestioningly accepted" Lincoln's policies on emancipation and use of Negro troops. (p. 497)

Grant refused any idea that he would run for President, saying that he considered it "as important for the cause that [Lincoln] should be elected as that the army should be successful in the field." (pp. 525-6)


The Jewish peddlers story is probably a well-preserved tidbit, although it is interesting that the charge of spying in not mentioned by Donald; Oates has probably invented this to make Grant less culpable. Note also that Donald makes scant mention of Grant receiving Negro troops positively, and provides no quote from Grant on the matter - indicating that Grant was probably actually a virulent racist who opposed the use of Negro troops, in line with his poor treatment of Jews. (As mentioned earlier, the Negro troops idea is subtly fabricated anyway; they were impressed into the army as slaves, not set free and allowed to join.)

The subtle difference in Grant's minor role as a Presidential candidate is also telling. Both authors have Grant openly refuse consideration, but only Oates says that Grant viewed the potential loss of Lincoln as a "national calamity."

2.11.2 Civil War Data Tennessee/Kentucky Action

Oates: Under Halleck, sent as Brigadier General down Tennesee River to operate in western Tennessee and Kentucky. In February 1862, "Grant drove into northwestern Tennessee, captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, and then stormed Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, pounding the shell-torn garrison until it met the terms of unconditional surrender." Lincoln was pleased at this and noted that many of Grant's men hailed form Illinois. "Subsequent reports indicated that Grant's victories had cracked the Confederate line in Kentucky and forced the opposing rebel army, its flanks now exposed, to retreat down into Tennessee. Though Halleck, from his Saint Louis desk, claimed most of the credit, Lincoln himself nominated 'Unconditional Surrender' Grant for promotion to major general. In this long and dismal winter, Grant alone had given the President something to cheer about." (p. 313)

April 1862: "(I)n southern Tennessee, at Shiloh Church near the Mississippi border, Grant had battled a rebel army for two bloody days before driving it from the field." The Union suffered "over thirteen thousand" casualties. Rumors in Washington were that Grant had been drunk during the battle, "prompting one critic to demand his dismissal. But Lincoln refused. 'I can't spare this man,' the President said. 'He fights.' " (pp. 325-6)

Donald: "More significant was a campaign that General Ulysses S. Grant launched to open the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. On February 6, Grant's forces, aided by navy gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew Foote, captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, and eleven days later forced Fort Donelson to surrender."

Lincoln later signed papers promoting Grant to "major general." (p. 335)

"In the West at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee Rver the Confederates came close to routing Grant's army in the battle of Shiloh (April 6-7). The timely arrival of Buell's forces helped to save the day. In the end, Shiloh was a great Union victory, but the 13,000 Federal casualties marked this as the bloodiest engagement yet in the war. Halleck blamed Grant for the losses, and there was strong sentiment to have him removed. Lincoln overruled the objections with the quiet comment, 'I can't spare this man; he fights.' But with Grant's reputation under a shadow, Halleck now took personal command of the heavily depleted Western army..." (p. 349)


The inevitable contradiction arises: Did Grant take Fort Donelson immediately after Fort Henry, as Oates implies, or did they take it 11 days later, per Donald?

The major contradiction, however, is the continued disparate treatment given to poor Grant by Oates and Donald. Oates has Lincoln practically worshipping Grant: he is 'something to cheer about' and is stood up for steadfastly when criticized for being drunk during battle. Donald reports no such specific accolades to Grant; instead, Donald reports only Lincoln's general satisfaction with "the recent gallant behavior of Illinois troops," which were under Grant. (p. 335)

Another question: Did Lincoln actually sign the papers promoting Grant (Donald), or just nominate him (Oates)?

Concerning Shiloh, note how Oates has omitted any mention of Buell helping out, so that Grant is made into a bigger hero. Other contradictions: Vicksburg Action

Oates: Spring, 1863: "...Grant was still stalled in the tangled river country above Vicksburg. Since Sherman had failed to penetrate the bluffs and bayous northeast of Vicksburg, Grant had made one abortive attempt after another to get at the river garrison. He'd even tried to dig canals to facilitate troops movements, but the canals had also failed. Frankly Lincoln worried about Grant. Why didn't he forget about those foolish canals and simply march down the Louisiana side of the Mississippi and operate on Vickburg from below?" (pp. 373-4)

Mid-April, 1863: "Unable to take (Vicksburg) from the north, Grant threw military theories to the winds: he cut himself off from his Memphis base and led his force of twenty thousand down the Louisiana side of the river, heading southward through an area of humid bayous and mosquito-infested lakes. Meanwhile Union gunboats and transports ran past Vicksburg's batteries and steamed downriver. Good, Lincoln exclaimed, this was what he'd wanted Grant to do all along. Now if he would march on down the Mississippi to link up with Nathaniel Banks...they could mount a concerted operation against Vicksburg from the south. But Grant intended to campaign with the men he had. At the end of April, he used the transports to ferry his army back across the river, them drove inland to Port Gibson and prepared to strike out for Vicksburg. Lincoln feared it was a mistake not to join Banks, but he admired Grant's daring and refused to intervene." (pp. 375-6)

"A cryptic telegram arrived from Grant. On May 11 he left Port Gibson - 'you may not hear from me for several days,' the dispatch read - and stormed northeast toward Vicksburg and Jackson, subsisting entirely off hostile country. For two weeks nobody in Washington knew for sure what was happening. Then on May 25...came a glorious report from Grant's chief of staff. The general had won five straight battles in Mississippi, captured the state capital of Jackson, split the rebel forces, and driven to the very trenches of Vicksburg itself.

"Lincoln could not have been happier. In spite of his earlier reservations, he now pronounced Grant's campaign 'one of the most brilliant in the world.'

"Yet Grant couldn't capture Vicksburg. When two assaults failed to break rebel lines, Grant settled in for a siege, with Union artillery shelling the city day and night..."

Lincoln called upon Rosecrans (see entry) to leave his Tennessee theater to help Grant, and after much fuss, Rosecrans agreed. (pp. 377-8)

Later Lincoln sends Grant a personal note of thanks for his "almost inestimable service" to the country. "Lincoln could scarcely restrain his admiration for Grant. In truth, he was 'the joy of Lincoln's heart,' because the man fought without demanding reinforcements." (p. 383)

Donald: "After an unsuccessful attempt to proceed overland through central Mississippi, Grant entrusted the offensive to W. T. Sherman, who led his troops on December 29 in a disastrous assault on the Chickasaw Bluffs defending Vicksburg..." (p. 409)

April: "Equally disappointing were the operations on the Mississippi River. After grant's army spent much of the spring digging a canal on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River in the hope of bypassing Vicksburg, the banks caved in, and the whole enterprise was abandoned. An attempt by Union warships to run the batteries of Vicksburg was successful but costly. Then Grant, taking no one into his confidence, marched his troops down the west side of the river, crossed into Mississippi, and disappeared, with no one in Washington knowing where he was or what he planned to do."

Lincoln called upon Rosecrans to stage an offensive against Bragg or send Grant reinforcements. "But Rosecrans was unconvinced and remained inactive." (p. 435)

"...Grant plunged into the interior of Mississippi, defeated Confederate forces in a series of engagements, and pushed John C. Pemberton's army back into Vicksburg. During much of this campaign Grant told no one of his plans and seemed simply to have disappeared." Lincoln desperately sought news of what had happened; when he found out about the siege of Vicksburg, he "could understand both the boldness and the skill of his general," and wrote to a Grant critic that Grant's campaign so far had been "one of the most brilliant in the world." (p. 445)


The pattern is no doubt obvious to the reader by now.

Overall, the picture again is one of Oates making Grant into a sort of godlike figure, reciting exactly how many engagements were won and having Lincoln admire Grant's boldness throughout; Donald, however, has no such admiration for the general, and has Lincoln compliment him only with qualifications and only after the advance through Mississippi. In Command: Chattanooga

Oates: "In mid October (Lincoln) gave Grant command of all armies in the West and ordered him down to Chattanooga with the authority to fire Rosecrans if he wanted to. Grant, then at Louisville, relieved the general by telegram and hurried south to Chattanooga, riding horseback over gullied mountain roads." Grant took charge of the city. (pp. 392-3)

"In late November, Grant attacked the rebels south of Chattanooga and defeated them in the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. A report from Dana moved Lincoln deeply, for it told how eighteen thousand Union men charged without orders from Grant or Thomas, how they crawled, pulled and hacked their way to the summit of Missionary Ridge and put the rebels to flight." Grant then sent Sherman to Knoxville to join Burnside in an attack on Longstreet.

Donald: "...Lincoln put Grant in charge of the new Division of the Mississippi, which combined the former Departments of the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee, and replaced Rosecrans with Thomas. By the end of October, Grant relieved Chattanooga..." (p. 458)

"In November decisive Union victories of Grant, Sherman, and George H. Thomas at Lookout Montain and Missionary Ridge pushed the rebels out of most of Tennessee..." (p. 468)


I am frankly astounded by the level of contradiction here. Oates had Grant relieving Rosecrans, whereas Donald has Rosecrans replaced with Thomas, per Lincoln's orders! Also, was Grant put in charge of the armies of the West or some entirely new organization, the Division of the Mississippi? They cannot be the same, for Mississippi was in the South.

Notice, again, how Donald removes the glory from Grant, attributing the Tennessee victories to the triad of Grant, Sherman and Thomas, rather than to Grant alone as Oates does.

Again, also, the use of round numbers makes us suspicious, and alert to fabrication. Surely it was not EXACTLY 18,000 men who went in the charge.

2.11.2. War's End Washington: General in Chief Who's in Charge Here?

Oates: Arrived in Washington March 8; now commander of "860,000 total troops in all Union armies." In late March, "Grant established his headquarters at Culpepper Court House down in Virginia. But once a week he rode back to Washington and conferred with Lincoln in the White House...Together they produced a grand strategy that called for simultaneous offensive movements on all battlefronts."

Donald: Lincoln, in a private interview with Grant, confesses ignorance of military matters and gives Grant full control and whatever he desires militarily, writing later to Grant, "The particulars of your plans I neither know, nor seek to know..." (pp. 497-8)


So - did they work together, or did Lincoln just let Grant do his job? We hold that there is a reason why Donald disassociates Lincoln from Grant's planning. It shall be seen shortly. Strategies


"Lincoln loved the grand plan" and helped Grant work it out in their weekly meetings. "It entailed exactly the kind of concerted action he'd advocated since 1861...When Grant promised to utilize the entire federal line, Lincoln remarked happily, 'Those not skinning can hold a leg.' " (p. 418)

Donald: Grant first favored "a series of massive raids against the Confederacy" by small armies of around 60,000 men. Proposed:

"Under the influence of Lincoln and Halleck," however, "Grant abandoned nearly all of this plan." Lincoln thought what was needed "was not more maneuvering but assault after assault on the Confederate army." Grant put together a new plan:

Lincoln "pretended to be surprised when Grant told him" about his plan - similar to Lincoln's own earlier suggestion to use the Union's numerical superiority to their advantage - and "remarked, in all apparent innocence: 'Oh, yes! I see that. As we say out West, of a man can't skin he must hold a leg while somebody else does.' " (p. 499)


By now the reader needs no instruction to spot the variances in these accounts; indeed, there is no need to harp on them here, for we shall probably never understand why battle strategies, of all things, are so variably recorded. What IS important is the way each author portrays Lincoln as reacting. The "leg skinning" colloquialism is a happy compliment in Oates; in Donald, it is a veiled sarcasm! (It is probably also drawn from the 20th century wisdom sayings; it is the sort of thing that would have been said by Oates' contemporary, President James Carter.) The effect, again, is to distance Lincoln from Grant, and we shall see why this is done in our next entry. Last Battle, Part 1

Oates: On May 3, Grant attacked Lee's forces. "For four days Lincoln scarcely slept" as he waited for news of the battle. A telegram came May 8 from Grant: "He was pounding Lee again and again, his casualties were heavy, he was inching forward." (p. 419)

One month later, "...Grant was stalled nine miles northeast of Richmond with Lee's army entrenched in his front" and total casualties of 54,000 killed or wounded. "From all corners of the Union came waves of indignation against Lincoln, that he could sanction such senseless carnage, that he could put a butcher like Grant in command." (p. 420)

Donald: "In the early hours of May 4" Grant moves the Army of the Potomac. "For the first two days" Lincoln waited anxiously for information; Grant had "forbidden newspaper correspondents to use the telegraph." On Friday Grant sends a telegram saying "Everything pushing along favorably." At 2 AM the next day Grant sends word through a New York Tribune reporter that there will be "no turning back." Then, over the next two weeks, between battles in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania, the Army of the Potomac lost "nearly 32,000 soldiers, and thousands more were missing."

Lincoln bewails the great loss of life, hardly sleeping at all. A later message from Grant expresses intent to keep up the fight all summer if needed.

On May 17, facing a depleted army due to casualties and expiration of terms, Lincoln drafted an order for the conscription of 300,000 additional men. Two newspapers in New York pick up and exaggerate the story, causing a general financial panic. Lincoln is forced to withdraw the order and angrily directs the army to "take possession by military force" the premises of the two newspapers, and orders the arrests of the editors.

"By July it seemed that Grant's campaign...was a failure." Several failures are listed. Newspapers report the carnage; "the country shuddered with a sickening revulsion at the slaughter." Lincoln is "sensitive to the suffering," visits the wounded and grants pardons to soldiers who had been court-martialed. He debates what his responsibility is in the matter, and seeks comfort in the Bible. Mary Lincoln refers to Grant as a butcher. (pp. 512-5)


Here at last the disassociation of Lincoln and Grant becomes clear: Donald has distanced the two in order to separate Lincoln from the charges of butchery (Oates, p. 420). No longer is it Lincoln and Grant who the papers blame; in place of this we have the peculiar, unattested, and likely fabricated story of the conscription order allegedly ruined by two newspapers - the press thus becomes a villain instead of a hero; Grant remains the only bloodthirsty one of the pair, and Lincoln's hands are washed of the whole affair - instead he becomes a Bible-reader and meditates on his guilt for the bloodshed; he obviously feels bad about it, so who could blame him? Donald, throughout his book, puts so much distance between Grant and Lincoln because it would not do for the hero of the civil rights movement to be associated with the blood-stained General Grant. Even Lincoln's wife is made to agree that it is Grant who is the butcher!

Obviously, there are these contradictions: Last Battle, Part 2 and Surrender

Masters: Saw to the needs of the Confederate negotiation team of Stephens, Hunter and Campbell. Received a telegram from Lincoln at that time saying, "Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder or delay your military movements or plans." Grant replied on February 1: "Your dispatch received. There will be no armistice in consequence of the presence of Mr. Stephens and others within our lines. The troops are kept in readiness to move at the shortest notice, if occasion should justify it." Grant was "exceedingly anxious" that the war should end. (p. 464)

Received Lee's surrender at Appamattox on April 9. "Grant forbade his troops to cheer. A gallant foe lay exhausted. It was unmanly, it was brutal to send up huzzas over the bowed heads of brave men." (p. 473)

Oates: With Lincoln's approval, Grant heads to Petersburg in an attempt to cut off Lee's communications. He arrives June 18 and settles in for a siege, hoping to flush Lee out for a showdown. (p. 423)

Mid-march the next year: Lincoln, on Grant's invitation, joins him at his headquarters "at Ciry Point, at the confluence of the Appamattox and James rivers some twenty miles south of Richmond." Lincoln's wife says that "the rest and fresh air would be good for him." (p. 453)

April 1: 'Heavy fighting all day around Petersburg. That evening a war correspondent came aboard the River Queen (Lincoln's boat) with some rebel battle flags captured that day. Grant sent them back to Lincoln with his compliments. 'Here is something material,' Lincoln rejoiced, 'something I can see, feel and understand. This means victory. This is victory.' " On the morning of April 3, word comes that Lee is retreating; Lincoln "rode into smoldering Petersburg and pumped Grant's hand for this glorious victory. At first, Lincoln said, he'd thought Grant might wait for Sherman to come up from North Carolina and then launch his attack. No, Grant said, he'd decided that the Potomac Army - Lee's old foe - ought to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia without help from Western troops. Lincoln remarked that his anxieties were so great he didn't care where help came from, 'so that the work was perfectly done.' " (pp. 456-7)

April 9: Lincoln receives a telegram from Grant indicating that Lee has surrendered at Appamattox. (p. 458)

Donald: On June 20, Lincoln makes an unannounced visit to Grant's headquarters a City Point. Lincoln is well-received by the Negro troops. (pp. 515-6)

As the war continues, Lincoln's patience wears thin, even with Grant. (p. 519)

July 30: Grant tried to break Petersburg's defense by "exploding a huge mine under the Confederate line; 15,000 Union troops rushed into the crater produced by the explosion, but they were poorly led by drunken or incompetent officers and within hours 4,000 men were killed or wounded and the rest had to be withdrawn." (p. 528)

A Confederate peace commission, consisting of Stephens, Campbell, and Hunter, arrived at City Point. (p. 553) Grant persuades them to delete some possibly offensive language from their peace proposals, for he was "increasingly eager to finish off the war" and "was not attuned to the niceties of diplomatic negotiations." (p. 557)

"On March 20, at Mrs. Grant's prompting, General Grant invited the President to come down to army headquarters at City Point for a few days, suggesting that the rest would do him good." (p. 572) Lincoln goes to cheer up the troops, and they in turn offer him cheers. Lincoln even makes "a point of shaking hands with the hospitalized Confederates." (p. 572)

On April 3, Lincoln follows his troops into Petersburg. Secretary of War Stanton admonishes him for taking the risk. (p. 576)

"That night (April 9) he (Lincoln) learned that Lee had surrendered to Grant at Appamattox." (p. 581)


There is a fundamental disagreement here, for Oates implies that Lincoln's first visit to City Point was at Grant's invitation, in mid-March; Donald puts an unannounced visit in the previous year, and the second visit on March 20 is at Grant's invitation, but at the insistence of Grant's wife. And is it Mrs. Lincoln or General Grant who makes the suggestion about using the visit for recreation? Actually, the whole story stinks; no sensible President would take a vacation like this in a time of war.

Note the warm reception given to Lincoln: It is further rehabilitative propaganda, quite unrealistic for soldiers to praise someone who is basically ordering them to their deaths. The idea that Lincoln was friendly to wounded Confederate POWs is even more ludicrous: Is this really a likely scenario from that barbaric age?

Note the loss of patience by Lincoln that Donald reports - and that Oates does NOT report. Note the failures of Grant that Donald reports and that Oates does not. Notice how the events of April 1 and 3 are changed - Grant is not even MENTIONED in the April 3 incident in Donald, although per Oates, it was a date when Lincoln heaped congratulations on the general. No longer is Lincoln salivating over captured flags and congratulating Grant for butchering people! Note how Grant goes from receiving Lee's surrender and being manly about it (Masters) to reporting it (Oates), to simply receiving it with no comment (Donald). This continues to fit perfectly into our scenario of disassociation.

Overall, we can see how poorly General Grant has been treated as time progressed. Deserving or not, he has been pummeled to Lincoln's benefit, all for the sake of making the latter an appropriate icon for the civil rights lobby.

2.12 William Herndon

In all of the books, Herndon is cited as a friend of Lincoln who provided a great deal of information about him. However, he provided this information some time after Lincoln's death, and many more years after the events allegedly happened; he interviewed and wrote to people who had known Lincoln some 35-50 years before, or spoke to the children of people who had known Lincoln. Although Basler (pp. 103-4) allows that these are "no obstacles to the memory of a great man," we must disagree. Thirty to fifty years allows much time for memories to be befuddled and for accounts to be embellished. Herndon also was practically a worshipper of Lincoln, as several of the writers admit; this makes all of his recollections suspect. Furthermore, if the accounts about Herndon are suspect, anything reported as coming from him is suspect. Unfortunately, this turns out to be the case.

2.12.1 Early Association with Lincoln

Masters: "One day quite suddenly Lincoln rushed in on Herndon, who was a beginning lawyer, and said that he going to sever his partnership with Logan, and asked Herndon to be his partner. Herndon was delighted, and the partnership between them came to pass at once...Lincoln found in Herndon just what he wanted, namely, the younger partner who was the studious and self-effacing member of the firm, while he, the older partner, could follow his natural bent of loafing, and talking and being the orator and jury man of the firm, which he was well equipped to be." Herndon, however, acted more as a tutor to Lincoln, working on Lincoln to read the great books and telling him about them when Lincoln wouldn't read them, and pushing Lincoln to make a definite stand politically. "All along Herndon was writing and publishing editorials in the Sangamon Journal in praise of Lincoln" and when Lincoln became a presidential possibility, he wrote letters to all over the country to "keep the political fires burning bright and warm for the man he almost worshipped." (p. 84)

Oates: In December 1844, Logan and Lincoln "dissolved their law firm by mutual agreement." Lincoln is quoted as citing Herndon's organizational skills as a reason for the choice, being that he was a careless records keeper himself; Herndon "had a system and would keep things in order." "Also, since (Herndon) was young and inexperienced, he wouldn't contest Lincoln's decisions, wouldn't argue with him about which cases to accept." Lincoln also wanted to align himself with Herndon because he wanted to have the backing of Herndon's fellow young Whigs when he ran for Congress in 1846. (p. 78)

Working for Lincoln became the focal point of his life. He performed only routine book-toting and research chores at first; then he "tagged along" when Lincoln went to court or stayed in the Springfield office when Lincoln went traveling. After the first year, "Herndon became an accomplished lawyer in his own right, sought out cases himself, and defended people in court. As he faced a jury, he often cursed, flung his coat to the floor, shouted, and wept - you won cases, he told his nephew, by making jurors cry." The pair finally settled after many moves "on the second floor of a brick building across from the public square." "Neither man bothered to sweep the floor, so that little mountain ranges of dust rose in the corners and along the walls. Clients were apt to step on cherry and orange seeds, too, since Lincoln liked to munch on fruit for lunch. According to a law student, the office dirt was so fertile that some seeds fell to the floor and subsequently sprouted." Despite Herndon's alleged organizing skills, the office remained unorganized, with papers everywhere in disarray; Lincoln even kept papers in his stovepipe hat, which Herndon called "an extraordinary receptacle...his desk and memorandum book." Visitors often found the pair "thrashing" through papers looking for things; Lincoln kept a special pile of paper tied with string "on top of his desk" with a note attached: "When you can't find it anywhere else look into this." Oates observes that the pair got to know each other well; but Herndon considered Lincoln "obtuse" when it came to learning new things; didn't find his anecdotes funny, and hated when Lincoln would bring his sons around and allow them to "gut the room," pulling books off the shelves, spilling inkstands, and stabbing gold pens into the stove as "Lincoln worked away unperturbed." (pp. 79-80)

Lincoln once bailed Herndon out of jail and paid his fine after he'd been arrested the night before for breaking tavern windows during a drunken brawl. Despite urgings to dump Herndon because of this, Lincoln asserted that he intended "to stick by him." (p. 81)

Donald: "In the fall of 1844, Logan and Lincoln decided to dissolve their highly successful partnership...The severance was not an abrupt one.

"One fall morning in 1844 he came dashing up the stairs to the third floor of the Tinsley building, where he found William H. Herndon busily studying. 'Billy,' he asked breathlessly, 'do you want to enter into partnership with me in the law business?' " Herndon "managed to stammer" and affirmative reply.

Lincoln "left no record of his reasons" for selecting Herndon, "but it is clear he was tired of being a junior partner and wanted to head his own firm." He also recognized that Herndon was a leader of the "populist element" in the Whig party, which would help him in his aspirations to Congress. (pp. 100-1)

The new partners "occupied a room in the Tinsley building," of which a law student, Gibson Harris, said: "The floor was never scrubbed" and the furniture was dilapidated. (p. 102)

Herndon began by doing routine book-toting and research chores and "answered inquiries as to Lincoln's whereabouts" and was charged with keeping the office managed and the files straight. Lincoln later told lawyer Henry Whitney that he supposed Herndon "had system and would keep things in order." But Herndon was not orderly, and at any rate, Lincoln himself was a hard person to keep files for. "The firm had no filing cabinets and no files. In one corner of the office was a bundle of papers with a note in Lincoln's handwriting: 'When you can't find it anywhere, look in this.' Herndon sometimes took legal papers home, where they were lost. Lincoln frequently stuck documents and correspondence in his stovepipe hat, which Herndon said was 'his desk and memorandum-book.' " Papers were lost so often that they had to confess to clients that they could not find them.

On Sundays, Lincoln would bring his children to the office with them, "where Herndon found them a nuisance." Herndon recalled that they would "take down the books - empty ash buckets - coal ashes - inkstands - papers - gold pens - letters, etc. etc. in a pile and then dance on the pile. Lincoln would say nothing, so abstracted was he and so blinded to his children's faults. Had they s--t in Lincoln's hat and rubbed it on his boots, he would have laughed and thought it smart." (pp. 159-60)


The mythologizing of William Herndon requires that he be recognized as an accurate source. Hence these many personal details are given, few of which make sense. Who would really believe that the dirt in their office was thick enough to grow plants? Who on earth believes that Lincoln used his fine stovepipe hat as a filing cabinet? How do Oates and Donald expect us to believe that despite all this, despite losing important client papers, the pair ran a successful law firm, and that one of these persons became leader of the nation? Such poor work habits would surely be reflected in all their work. Oates is creating humorous yet unbelievably false stories in order to endear us to Herndon and trust his reporting; Donald embellishes them with names of witnesses (likely fabricated) and tones them down somewhat. Evidently, both had hoped that their readers would be so busy laughing that they would not notice how silly the stories were. Oates also sidesteps that fact that Herndon was obviously a creative liar: his strategy in court was not to tell the truth, but to manipulate the jury. Thus we have excellent reasons from the start to question his accounts of Lincoln's practices and life.

Now here are some contradictions:

Masters: Study aspects of the work.

Oates: Routine work, then tagging along or staying in the office.

Donald: Routine work, answering inquiries, office management.

2.12.2 Advice and Direction to Lincoln War with Mexico

Masters: In a Congressional speech January 12, 1848, Lincoln attacked President Polk for his decision to attack Mexico, on the basis of it was a usurption of power. Herndon, concerned about the speech, wrote to him saying that "the United States to repel possible invasion might invade the territory of another country first." Lincoln replied by saying that this gave the President too much power to do what he wished and make reasons for it. (pp. 97-8)

Oates: January 12, 1848: Lincoln attacks Polk's decision to attack Mexico. In Illinois, Democratic newspapers call him an "Illinois Benedict Arnold" for his stance. Herndon "considered his partner frightfully misguided. Herndon wrote that he not only approved of the war, but thought Polk had a right to dispatch troops to the Rio Grande to guard against Mexican invasion." Lincoln rejects Herndon's arguments, asserting that he had spoken out against the war "as a matter of conscience" and saying that Herndon's way of thinking would "allow an American President 'to make war at will.' "

Donald: "A few days later" than a January 3 speech made by George Ashmun condemning Polk's actions, Lincoln made his own speech condemning Polk. Democratic papers in Illinois were "uniformly critical" of the speech, one calling him "this Benedict Arnold of our district." Herndon wrote reporting dissatisfaction among Whig ranks, warning Lincoln that his speech would not be well received by Whig soldiers, and that Lincoln ought to argue " 'that if it shall become necessary, to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line, and invade the territory of another country.' "Because Herndon claimed to speak for a considerable Whig constituency in Illinois, Lincoln went to some pains to refute his arguments," citing the possibility of giving a President too much power.


For once we seem to have a remarkable agreement between authors, although that Donald does not assign a specific date to the speech seems suspicious. The correspondence between the pair seems valid, having only minor differences; though only Donald gives the issue a political twist, suggesting a further need for reply. In all likelihood, however, no such correspondence has been found. They are the creation of someone - perhaps Herndon; more likely a later writer - who believes that this is what Lincoln said under the circumstances; who believes that Lincoln was the sort who would take a principled stand against the powers-that-be - much as would be required for him to act to end slavery! State Convention

Masters: "On May 24, 1856, Herndon convoked a meeting in Sangamon County of all those who favored 'the policy of Washington and Jefferson,' whatever that was, to select delegates to the Bloomingtom state convention...Herndon signed Lincoln's name at the head of those making this call. As soon as the call became public, Herndon was beset by shocked and terrified men who asked if Lincoln had authorized him to put Lincoln's name at the head of this list. When Herndon replied that he had no authorization from Lincoln...the indignation against Herndon was outspoken. 'You have ruined him,' said the cautious Stuart...Herndon then sent off a letter to Lincoln in Tazewell County apprising him of what he had done...Lincoln merely said, 'All right; go ahead. Will meet you radicals and all.' " (p. 237)

At the convention, Lincoln demanded "that the platform should be conservative, and that it should be written by men like himself, and like Browning..." "Browning drew the platform as Lincoln sat by in collaboration." (pp. 238-9) Lincoln's speech was not written down beforehand, and recorded in some measure only by Whitney; Whitney's notes were verified by reporter Joseph Medill. (p. 240)

Oates: Does not mention the Herndon incident, but says that Lincoln helped make arrangements for the convention and promised to "buckle on the armor" in the 1856 Presidential contest. (p. 135) Lincoln "played a prominent role" in the convention, helping to draft a party platform and draw up a slate of Republican candidates, and delivering a keynote address which was spoken "extemporaneously for an hour and a half." No script or record of it was made. Herndon called the speech "the grand effort of Lincoln's life." (pp. 136-7)

Donald: "On May 10 (Herndon)...published a call for a meeting of Sangamaon County citizens opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act to select delegates to the Bloomington convention. Though Lincoln was out of the office...Herndon signed both his name and Lincoln's. Dismayed at this evidence of radicalism, John Todd Stuart rushed into the Lincoln & Herndon office to ask whether Lincoln had actually signed the call. Herndon admitted his responsibility. 'Then you have ruined him,' muttered Stuart. But Herndon knew he was doing just what his partner wanted...To placate Stuart, he wired Lincoln that the announcement was causing a stir among conservative Whigs, and his partner promptly responded: 'All right; go ahead. Will meet you - radicals and all.' " (p 190)

Orville Browning "constructed a platform on which all could stand" after conferring with "about twenty influential politicians representing all shades of opinion." Lincoln gave "what was universally acclaimed as the best speech of his life" at the end of the convention; "there was no reliable record of what he said," though one newspaper, the Alton Weekly Courier, "gave the highlights."


As usual, we find contradictions:

Because there are so many contradictions here, we must assume that while Lincoln made some major contribution to this convention, it is doubtful that he actually made a speech of any kind. He may have served to introduce each speaker, and perhaps he told some jokes that were so memorable that they left an impression that he had played a more active role than he did.

The authors excuse the pitiful record by saying that the audience, including Herndon, was enraptured and couldn't write; this is manifestly silly, and a very poor excuse for what was allegedly Lincoln's greatest speech not being written down. The conclusion must be that such a speech never took place; or else that is was so befuddled by an oral transmission process that it could not be reasonably recovered.

2.12.3 Background/Personality

Oates: Lincoln first met Herndon when the latter was a clerk at Speed's store. He was a Kentucky native, attended Illinois college for a year, and "married a shy and reticent woman who was his exact opposite. A nervous, windy fellow, Herndon stepped about in fancy clothes, a big silk hat, kid gloves, and patent leather shoes. He was thin, stood about five feet nine, and had raven hair and black eyes. But the most memorable thing about him was his nonstop chatter, his effusive philosophizing on everything from metaphysics to sex, science, and phrenology. An intellectual gadfly, he had answers to everything and possessed an impressive library that comprised the works of Hegel, Kant, and Francis Bacon. He regarded himself as an expert psychologist and bragged about his 'dog sagacity' and 'mud instinct,' which enabled him to divine other men's inner secrets. Yet Herndon's knowledge of people derived almost entirely from books, and he was a man of striking contradictions. Though he considered himself an intellectual, he often consorted with rowdies and hooligans in Springfield's saloons. A man of causes and a leader in the local temperance movement, he was still a hard drinker and in his later years became an alcoholic. And though he chose the law for a career and worked hard at it, he felt out of place in the legal world." (pp. 78-9)

Donald: Herndon "bubbled over with ideas and enthusiasm." He had been born in Kentucky and had "an unmanageable appetite for books." "On his shelves were authors almost unknown in the Mississippi Valley - Kant, Renan, Fitche, Buckle, Froude. Perhaps he did not always understand what he read, but he learned enough to become a kind of frontier evangelist fro transcendentalism...He prided himself on his 'mud instinct' and 'dog sagacity' that enabled him to see 'to the gizzard' of questions...

"...Herndon was short, quick, and something of a dandy, affecting patent-leather shoes and kid gloves...(he) was always upbeat and optimistic, and he had no sense of humor at all. (pp. 101-2)


So - beyond the general (but still inexact) agreements -

These many differences prove that reports about Herndon are unreliable; also note Herndon's appeal to his alleged perceptive abilities - could this be the talent he used to fabricate stories about Lincoln? We may also assume, based on the above, that the many quotes from Herndon, heavily used by the authors, are not reliable.

2.13 John Nicolay

Like Herndon, Nicolay is used as a source often; again, the rule applies that if the authors cannot agree on Nicolay himself, it is unlikely that the material they take from him is reliable. Also, Nicolay's biography was written in 1890, some 25 years after Lincoln's death, and like Herndon, he admired Lincoln deeply. Thus the same stringencies applied to Herndon's biographical material apply here. There was ample time and motivation for fabrications and embellishments.

Masters: One of Lincoln's secretaries. (p. 150) One of two people whom, at the request of Robert Lincoln, prepared Lincoln's Works; also an author of Life of Lincoln. (p. 359)

Sent by Lincoln to see General Scott on the matter of military protection for Lincoln when he arrived in Washington. (p. 375)

Basler: Co-author of Abraham Lincoln: A History, a 10-volume set published in 1890. He was Lincoln's private secretary during the war. (p. 13)

Oates: Describing Nicolay: "A native of Bavaria and a gifted journalist, Nicolay had been working as custodian of records for the Illinois secretary of state." Lincoln hires him as a private secretary because he admired his "punctual and fastidious ways, and thought his writing talents made him an ideal personal secretary." (p. 195) He was "an emaciated fellow with blue eyes and a slow smile, who write love letters to a girl back in Illinois." (p. 264)

After the Presidential election, traveled to Washington with Lincoln, along with Hay, Browning, Governor Richard Yates, and Ward Lamon, a "self-appointed bodyguard." (p. 225)

Received a promise to Lincoln from the publisher Greeley that Greeley would "fight like a savage" on behalf of Lincoln's re-election. (p. 433)

Donald: An authorized biographer of Lincoln. (p. 14)

A "young German-American newspaperman" paid $500 by Lincoln to promote the circulation of a particular Republican newspaper. (p. 211)

Was paid $75 per month from a fund "contributed by ten of Lincoln's wealthy Springfield friends" to serve as Lincoln's "secretary and assistant." (p. 252) Nicolay, along with Hay, helped Lincoln manage the "several baskets of mail" that came each day. (p. 258)

Went to Washington with Lincoln after the Presidential election, along with Hay, Dr. William Wallace (Lincoln's brother-in-law and personal physician), Elmer Ellsworth, Judd, David Davis, Hatch, Dubois, Yates, and Browning. Guarding Lincoln were volunteers Col. E. V. Sumner, Capt. John Pope, and Ward Hill Lamon. (p. 273)

Described as "self-effacing, methodical" (p. 310)

Along with Hay, became like a son to Lincoln. (p. 428)

Given an appointment as consul at Paris. (p. 550)


Not much can be garnered here, so as far as reports of Nicolay himself, our regard for quotes of Nicolay must be inconclusive. (The time-span and embellishment arguments, of course, remain standing.) The descriptions are not directly contradictory, but they offer entirely different information. Questions:

2.14 Joshua Speed

I diverge from my normal reporting for a moment to advise the sensitive reader that the this final entry may be found offensive. Earlier, in the entries on Lincoln's relationship with Mary Todd, I alluded to some further difficulty that would come later in the essay; and here it is. I propose that the pro-Lincoln forces of the 20th century covered up one of Lincoln's gravest secrets: A brief but meaningful homosexual relationship with Joshua Speed.

Bigotry against homosexuals went hand-in-hand with bigotry against minorities in the 19th and 20th century. In order to maintain the broadest possible appeal for Lincoln, the pro-Lincoln civil rights movement - hypocritically, of course - made every effort to cover up this part of Lincoln's past. However, by reading between the lines of the preserved data, both here and in the previous entries concerning Mary Todd, and observing what has been carefully edited in the later texts, we uncover a definite history leading to my conclusion.

2.14.1 Personal Data: The Meeting with Lincoln

Masters: Owner of a store in Springfield, from whom Lincoln obtained a "room without rent." he is described as "a man of some worth, handsome to look at, and capable of being a good friend." (p. 61)

Sold his store on January 1, 1841, to moved to Louisville. He begged Lincoln to come visit him there and talk to him about his "troubled thoughts." Lincoln wrote a series of letters to Speed throughout 1842 (see below).

Oates: Owner of a General Store in Springfield, "where (Lincoln and Speed lived together. When Lincoln first came there looking for a place to stay, Speed was astonished at his sadness. 'I never saw so gloomy and melancholy a face in all my life,' he declared. But Speed liked the strapping attorney and invited him to share a double bed in the upstairs room...

"A bachelor, too, Speed was a brooding, hefty Kentuckian who soon became Lincoln's 'most intimate friend.' They not only slept together, but confided in one another about their fears, their feelings, and their problems with women. In the evenings, they often met with other young bachelors at the back of the store, where they vied with one another in spinning bawdy tales." (p. 49)

After noting Lincoln's January 1, 1841 breakup with Mary, writes: "In truth, everything seemed to be coming apart (for Lincoln). Speed had recently sold his store and Lincoln had been forced to take another room by himself. Now Speed was planning to move back to Kentucky, and Lincoln was distressed about that, too." Lincoln thereafter entered a period of depression. (p. 62)

Donald: On April 15, 1837, Lincoln arrives in Springfield and enters Speed's store. He buys some bedding material costing $17, but advises Speed that due to his precarious financial state, he must purchase in credit. "Speed, who knew this young man by reputation and had heard him make a political speech, suggested a way he could avoid incurring a debt that clearly troubled him. 'I have a large room with a double bed up-stairs, which you are very welcome to share with me,' he offered." Lincoln looks at the room and accepts the offer. (p. 66)

"From the beginning Speed was (Lincoln's) close companion, and he became perhaps the only intimate friend that Lincoln ever had. Four years younger than Lincoln, Speed was also a Kentuckian...With flashing blue eyes and a mane of dark curly hair, he was a handsome young man, whose vaguely Byronic air of elegance made him especially attractive to Springfield ladies.

"For nearly four years, Lincoln and Speed shared a double bed, and their most private thoughts, in the room above Speed's store. No one thought that there was anything irregular or unusual about the arrangement. It was rare for a single man to have a private room, and it was customary for two or more to sleep in the same bed. Years later, when Lincoln was a well-known lawyer, he and the other attorneys traveling the judicial circuit regularly shared beds...Much of the time when Lincoln and Speed were sharing a bed, young William H. Herndon...slept in the same room, as did Charles R. Hurst, a clerk in another dry-goods store." (pp. 69-70)

Speed sold his interest in his store on January 1 and moved to Kentucky. "...Lincoln was about to lose his best and closest friend, at just the moment when he was being rushed into a new, potentially dangerous kind of intimacy with Mary...(he) found himself awash on a sea of turbulent emotions." (p. 87)


Here we see clear evidence of my theory. Masters, writing as he was in the Puritan early 30s, could not mention these men sharing a bed, of course; but we shall see that he left ample evidence of a homosexual relationship in the letters Lincoln wrote - which the later writers suppress.

Consider that:

As we shall see, there is further evidence of this relationship having existed, although undoubtedly, living in such bigoted and prejudicial times, Lincoln and Speed literally had to "convert" to heterosexuality to survive. We shall see that while Speed adjusted rather quickly, it took Lincoln a while to do so, and even then he paid a terrible price.

2.14.2 Speed, Lincoln, and Mary Todd Introduction

Masters: "Lincoln, being introduced by Speed to Mary Todd, began to make frequent calls upon her." (p. 63)

Oates: At a Springfield "cotillion," "In the course of dancing, Lincoln met a young woman named Mary Ann Todd, who was Elizabeth Edwards's younger sister..."

"(Lincoln) wanted to call on her but couldn't without an official invitation from the aloof and critical Edwardses. Luckily for him, Speed was a favorite of theirs and evidently secured permission for Lincoln to see Mary." (p. 57)

Donald: "Abraham Lincoln was one of those who danced in attendance - literally so, since he first met Mary Todd at one of the Edwards' parties and told her he wanted to dance with her 'in the worst way.' And, Mary laughed, he did. Lincoln was enchanted by his vivacious, intelligent young woman, and soon he was one of her regular attendants at parties...(p. 85)


Notice the subtle alteration here as the story develops: Speed directly introduces Lincoln to Mary in Masters; in Oates, he does not introduce them, but paves the way for them to see each other; by the time of Donald, he has nothing to do with it at all! This is an obvious attempt to cover up the truth, which is that Speed was helping Lincoln divest himself of his homosexual tendencies so that they could both survive in a bigoted society. Advice

Masters:"...according to Speed, Lincoln came into the store one evening wrapped in the deepest gloom. He had written a letter to Mary Todd which he wanted to show Speed to get his advice upon it. 'The letter,' said Speed, 'made a plain statement of his feelings, telling her that he had thought the matter over calmly and with great deliberation, and now felt that he did not love her sufficiently to warrant her in marrying him. This letter he desired me to deliver. Upon my declining to do so he threatened to entrust it to some other person's hand.' Speed counseled Lincoln to have the courage of manhood, and to go and see Mary and tell her that he did not love her and would not go on. So Lincoln buttoned up his coat and started out in the darkness for the Edwards mansion, with Speed waiting for him to return, and report what had happened. Finally Lincoln came back; it was after eleven o'clock. Lincoln brought the word that, when he told Mary that he did not love her, she burst into tears, wrung her hands in agony, and called him a deceiver, adding that a deceiver himself might be deceived. It was too much for Lincoln. He caught Mary in his arms. 'I found the tears trickling down my cheek,' Lincoln told Speed. And that was the way the engagement was not broken..."

Oates: Lincoln broke up with Mary and told Speed that her unhappiness "killed" him. (p. 61)

Donald: Lincoln "decided to break the engagement (with Mary), and he wrote Mary a letter saying that he did not love her. Speed tried to persuade him to burn it. 'If you think you have will and manhood enough to go and see her and speak to her what you say in that letter.' he told him, 'you may do that. Words are forgotten...but once you put your words in writing they stand as a living and eternal monument against you.'

"Reluctantly Lincoln accepted his friend's advice...When he told Mary he did not love her, she burst into tears...

"When he told Speed what had happened, his friend said, 'The last thing is a bad lick, but it cannot now be helped...' " (p. 87)


We need not point out the differences in these stories; the reader can recognize them. More important is the meaning of the events described. This is a major transitional point where Speed is trying to help Lincoln "overcome" homosexual tendencies and make a show of it by wedding Mary Todd. Lincoln obviously is having trouble doing this, and comes to Speed for comfort and direction - perhaps hoping to get the younger man to change his mind.

2.14.3 Visit - and Letters from Lincoln

Masters: Notes several letters written to Speed (see below) but no visit.

Oates: Says that Lincoln visited Speed in Kentucky in August 1841. "Alone with Speed, Lincoln opened up about Mary and his depression, and Speed confided in Lincoln about his own romantic troubles. As it happened, Speed was courting a young woman named Fanny Henning, but should he marry her? Could he make her happy? Was he capable of love?..." Speed accompanied Lincoln back to Springfield on a river steamer, then returned to Kentucky in January 1842. Then, "for several weeks he and Lincoln exchanged intimate letters, with Speed fretting about his 'intense anxieties' and Lincoln offering encouragement." (p. 64)

Donald: In August, Lincoln visited Speed and stayed for a month with him in Kentucky. "Everything was arranged for his comfort. One of the house slaves was even assigned to be his personal servant." (p. 88)


Oates says that Speed returned to Illinois with Lincoln; Donald does not mention this - probably because it implies that Speed was considering returning to Lincoln! We may also ask for what purpose this "house slave" was assigned personally to Lincoln - it is well known that slaves were utilized in a sexual sense.

Let us now examine the correspondence between Lincoln and Speed for further clues. Actually, we are only offered a bit of Speed's writings, which suggests that they were suppressed because they reveal too much! But even the text of Lincoln's letters is quite revealing, and this is perhaps why Oates and Donald do not reveal anything except snippets from them, and offer few dates for the letters or their contents.

Knowing that much of these letters has probably been suppressed or altered, let us look at what evidence we do have:

Oates: (no date given) "Speed, he said, you are my everlasting friend and I feel your pain and suffering as though they were my own. Everybody worries about marriage, Speed, but the 'painful difference' between you and the mass of the world is your 'nervous debility.' But you'll overcome it. After you're married, your nerves may still fail you now and the, but once you've got them straightened out, you'll be over that problem. In any case, you are clearly in love with Fanny and should marry her. Your fear that she is destined for an early grave is evidence of your love, Lincoln insisted, because if you didn't love her, you wouldn't be so apprehensive about her death. Lincoln was sorry to dwell on this, but 'you know the hell I have suffered on that point, and how tender I am upon it.'...

"With Lincoln's reassurances, Speed went through with his marriage and then wrote Lincoln that most of his nervous fears had been groundless. "I tell you, Speed, our forebodings, for which you and I are rather peculiar, are all the worst sort of nonsense,' Lincoln rejoiced. When Speed wrote again and said he was happier than he'd ever hoped to be, Lincoln replied: 'I am not going beyond the truth, when I tell you' that 'your last letter, gave me more pleasure, than the total sum of all I have enjoyed since that fatal first of Jany. '41.' " (p. 66)


What "problem" is it that Lincoln refers to, and what "forebodings"? It is self-evidently the problem of adjusting to a heterosexual lifestyle successfully. The pair were obviously worried that they would be unable to make the transition, both socially and in terms of learning to love a woman. Speed, it seems, overcame his problem; Lincoln was not so successful, as we have seen from his stormy relationship with Mary Todd.

Now let us examine some of the dated letters, provided mostly by Masters: January 1842

Masters: Giving Speed advice on his love life: "I know what the painful point with you is at all times; it is an apprehension that you do not love her as you should. What nonsense! How came you to court her? Was it because you thought she deserved it, and that you had given her reason to expect it? Did you court her for her wealth? Why, you knew she had none...Say candidly, were not those heavenly black eyes the whole basis of all your early reasoning on the subject? After you and I had once been at the residence did you not go and take me all the way to Lexington and back for no other purpose but to get to see her again?...What earthly consideration would you take to find her scouting and despising you and giving herself up to another?" (p. 70)


The only comment worthy of note is that Speed has an apprehension that you do not love her as you should. Obviously this again refers to the transition from a homosexual lifestyle to a heterosexual one. February 3, 1842

Masters: "Your letter of the 25th, January came to hand today. You well know that I do not feel my own sorrows much more keenly than I do yours, when I know of them. I hope and believe that your present anxiety and distress about her health and her life must and will forever banish those horrid doubts which I know you sometimes feel as to the truth of your affection for her. If they can once and for all be removed (and I almost feel a presentiment that the Almighty has sent your present affliction expressly for that object) surely nothing can come in their stead to fill their immeasurable measure of misery. The death scenes of those we love are surely painful enough; but these we are prepared for and expect to see; they happen to all, and we know they must happen." (p. 70)


This reflects Speed's continuing struggle to overcome his natural tendencies and truly love the woman. February 25, 1842

Masters: Reacting to news of Speed's marriage: "I have no way of telling you how much happiness I wish you both. I feel somewhat jealous of you both now." (pp. 70-1)


Lincoln, of course, is jealous because his former lover has been permanently stolen away. Undoubtedly the rest of the letter is too revealing, for this is the only part quoted! March 1842

Masters: In response to a letter about the delights of rural life, and a flower Speed sent with it: "The sweet violet you enclosed came safely to hand." (p. 71)


Why would one man send another a flower? It is obviously a token of love from Speed - assuring him that, in spite of his marriage to a woman, he still has feelings for Lincoln. July 1842

Masters: "I acknowledge the correctness of your advice too; but before I resolve to do the one thing or the other I must gain my confidence in my own ability to keep my resolves when they are made. In that ability you know I once prided myself as the only or chief gem of my character; that gem I lost - how and where you know too well. I have not regained it; and until I do I cannot trust myself in any matter of much importance. I believe now that had you understood my case at the time as well as I understood yours afterward, by the aid you would have given me I should have sailed through clear, but that does not afford me sufficient confidence to begin that or the like again...You make a kind of acknowledgement of your obligation to me for your present happiness. The truth is that I am not sure that there was any merit with me in the part I took in your difficulty...I was always superstitious; I believe God made me one of the instruments of bringing your Fanny and you together, which union I have no doubt he had foreordained. What he designs he will do for me yet. 'Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord' is my text just now." (p. 71)

Oates: (Date Presumed) "Speed, now advising Lincoln, warned him to either wed Mary or forget her. Lincoln agreed. 'But before I resolve to do the one thing or the other, I must regain my confidence in my own ability to keep my resolves when they are made.' Until he did, he could not trust himself in love. Meanwhile, he was extremely pleased for Speed and Fanny. 'I always was superstitious,' he wrote his friend; 'and as part of my superstition, I believe God has made me one of the instruments of bringing your Fanny and you together, which union, I have no doubt He had fore-ordained. Whatever he designs, he will do for me yet.' " (p. 66)


Note how freely these authors alter Lincoln's words; we may be sure that the original letter was much more revealing! Here Lincoln expresses the desire for God to provide him with the same success that Speed has evidently had in adapting to heterosexuality. October 1842

Masters: "But I have your word for it, too, and the returning elasticity of your spirits which is manifested in your letters." "But I want to ask you a close question, 'are you now feeling as well as judgment glad that you are married as you are?' From anybody but me this would be an impudent question, not to be tolerated; but I know you will pardon it in me. Please answer it quickly, as I am impatient to know." (p. 71)

Oates: In a letter dated October 5 1842, Lincoln asked Speed in a letter, "Are you now, in feeling as well as judgment, glad you are married as you are?" Speed replied that he was; Lincoln married Mary Todd shortly thereafter. (p. 68)


Why was Lincoln so impatient to have this question answered? Because this was his final attempt to recapture Speed's love before he himself took the grand step into heterosexuality and married Mary Todd. It should come as no surprise for us to then read in Oates that:

Sometime after this, "(Lincoln) and Speed also drifted apart. Lincoln wrote that 'you and your Fanny' and 'I and my Molly' should get together, but apparently they never did so in these years. Lincoln was sorry that they were letting 'a friendship, such as ours, to die by degrees,' but he and Speed were moving in separate worlds now." (p. 69)

Thus was the bond finally broken. We hear little of Speed after this, other than that he once visited Lincoln in Washington; but we may be sure that Lincoln suffered greatly for his denial of his basic sexual identity. Likewise, history has suffered due to the ignominious cover-up perpetrated by these writers - both here and elsewhere throughout these purported biographies.

3.1 Conclusions

The results of my study have caused quite a ruckus among my colleagues who revere Lincoln. They have objected to my attempts to uncover the true history of the President, saying that I am not seeing the essential harmony underlying the biographies. I disagree. Harmony is a misguided method: if we want the truth, we have to choose one of the four biographies, or none at all.

Some of my pro-Lincoln colleagues, acting as apologists, assert - to use one example from above - that since Oates does not say that there were not more turkeys outside Lincoln's cabin, then it is wrong to accuse him of contradicting Donald, who says it was a group of turkeys. But this is a non-argument. With this kind of thinking, I could claim that also outside the cabin there was a herd of buffalo, a spaceship, and sixteen boxes of navel oranges. Since Oates does not specifically exclude these other items, then there is no way to prove that this is not true--if such fragile logic is valid.

All of this protest is nothing more than attempt to maintain the fiction that Abraham Lincoln was some kind of wonderful, admirable person whom we should hold in the highest respect. In fact, I do have respect for Lincoln, as a President - and that is why I believe we must remove from his image the trappings and accoutrements laid upon him by his worshippers. We do not need such heroic figures for our enlightened age, though our ancestors well might have. It is time to face the facts - Lincoln was a bigot, a racist, and a nervous wreck, and his biographers of the 20th century simply covered up the facts and remade Lincoln to suit their purposes. Until this is realized, there will be no intellectual honesty concerning the historical Abraham Lincoln.

Go to Part 3, a summary of the findings