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Lincoln's Last Speech: Wartime Reconstruction and the Crisis of Reunion

Preview — Lincoln as Hero by Frank J. Most Americans have considered, and still consider, Abraham Lincoln to be a heroic figure.

In this unique and concise retelling of many of the key moments and achievements of Lincol Most Americans have considered, and still consider, Abraham Lincoln to be a heroic figure. Williams explores in detail what it means to be a hero and how Lincoln embodied the qualities Americans look for in their heroes. Lincoln as Hero shows how—whether it was as president, lawyer, or schoolboy—Lincoln extolled the foundational virtues of American society. Williams describes the character and leadership traits that define American heroism, including ideas and beliefs, willpower, pertinacity, the ability to communicate, and magnanimity.

With a focused sense of justice and a great respect for the mandates of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Lincoln came to embrace freedom for the enslaved, and his Emancipation Proclamation led the way for the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. True heroes, Williams argues, are successful not just by the standards of their own time but also through achievements that transcend their own eras and resonate throughout history—with their words and actions living on in our minds, if we are imaginative, and in our actions, if we are wise.

Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Concise Lincoln Library. Abraham Lincoln. Other Editions 4. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Lincoln as Hero , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. May 09, Suneel Dhand rated it really liked it. As a huge fan of Abraham Lincoln, I found this book to be absorbing and insightful. It's great to see a book that specifically focuses on Lincoln as hero—which is what he truly was.

Pete Skelly rated it liked it Oct 05, Aaron Sieben rated it really liked it Jun 25, Gay Ann rated it liked it Jan 27, When the Civil War began, crowds continued to besiege the White House. However, there was a change of character as civilians gave way to a greater number of uniformed officers. Tearful women, some with babies in their arms, came to plead their cause to the president. An atmosphere of fear pervaded Washington and the president's house. Until the capital could be made safe from attack, the president's security was placed in the hands of Senator James H.

Lane of Kansas, who organized a special White House guard of a force of 50 to men, called the Frontier Guard. They slept on the president's rich Brussels carpet and stacked their arms down the center of the transverse hall. Instructed not to allow anyone into the East Room without giving the password, they refused admission to see the president. In this depressing environment, the president's wife determined to make of the building's magnificence, along with its standing army of servants, a national showplace and a comfortable dwelling.

If Lincoln declared that construction of the dome on the Capitol should continue as a symbol of the "Union," so Mary Lincoln determined that the White House should be refurnished and renovated. And such an overhaul was in order because the Congress had appropriated twenty thousand dollars for that purpose before war commenced. A community of the executive office and the White House staff and servants must have a proper setting in which to live and work. The First Lady saw the opportunity to create a comfortable environment for her family, and at the same time, a sumptuous and fashionable house for the people who owned it.

It would also serve as a brilliant setting for lavish entertainment befitting the presidential office. And besides, it was her responsibility as the wife of the president of the United States. She could forget her worries and fears and take up the task of redoing the White House and spend the congressional appropriation. In mid-May Mrs. By August , her shopping sprees had also included carpets, furniture, and drapes. Lincoln ordered the incoming bills to be paid. Carryl—The goods are now here—Mr. Lincoln will please have bill paid.

But the president had already approved a previous bill from Wm. Now came the additional bill. In her love of beautiful things and her desire and sincere wish to perform her task responsibly as First Lady, she had been continually flattered by merchants and victimized. The congressional law appropriated furnishing the house "under the President.

Lincoln had actually made the purchases and spent the appropriation. In desperation, Mary Lincoln sent for Benjamin Brown French, commissioner of public buildings, and pleaded with him to see the President. Lincoln will not approve it," she cried. The matter was settled by Congress with deficiency appropriations. But as far as purchases Mary Lincoln made for herself, Stoddard declared they came out of the president's salary. Through August and into September few parts of the White House were left undisturbed by workmen.

The smell of paint, varnish, and wallpaper permeated the place. The spring-bell system of the presidential offices was expanded, so that Lincoln could signal the secretaries' offices and the reception room from his desk. Furniture began to arrive from Mrs. Lincoln's shopping venture and was stacked still crated in the transverse hall. In time for the opening of the fall season, redecoration was completed in October The First Lady was pleased, and her first official reception was held on December 8 from 1 to 3 P.

Lincoln had been forced by necessity to modify some of her original goals. The East Room chandeliers, installed during President Jackson's tenure and converted by President Polk to gas, had to remain. She kept other furnishings that she also would like to have replaced.

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But within two years the lace curtains, heavy cords, tassels, and damask drapery that she purchased for the house suffered considerably from relic-hunting vandals who actually clipped off small bits of the stuff to carry home as souvenirs or mementoes. Stoddard was appalled at the behavior of "memento-collecting visitors. They took buttons from Mrs. Lincoln's dress, or flowers from the vases, to strips rudely severed from the curtains or the carpet. Tassels, fringes and minor ornaments were perpetually disappearing. But perhaps because the White House belongs to the American people, they wished to take their individual share.

Interior drawing of the Green Room from the Lincoln era. The world watched the White House after war began. Tourists called in droves. The president's family was hounded by the press. The Lincolns knew privacy only in a few rooms at the west end of the second floor. The central corridor outside their rooms was frequently a back route to the presidential offices, used by politicians, messengers, and even strangers who were seeking a presidential audience. Lincoln never denied the people's right to see him.

There probably had never been such a great turnover of personnel as at the beginning of Lincoln's presidential term. Departments "fairly swarmed with the family dependents and connections of the Southern political magnates who then, for so long a time, had controlled the dominant party," wrote Stoddard. Still, a large number of the old employees were retained, and the tremendous increase in government business gave employment to a large number of new people, "many of whom had better have been in the army," declared Stoddard.

For weeks and months after Lincoln's inauguration, the anterooms, halls, and staircases of the White House "swarmed with office-seekers. Lincoln's secretary, Nicolay, wrote: The intense pressure does not seem to abate as yet but I think it cannot last more than two or three weeks longer. I am looking forward with a good deal of eagerness to when I shall have time to at least read and write my letters in peace and without being haunted continually by some one who "wants to see the President for only five minutes. And the president began his day's work long before the city was astir; he was an early riser.

At first Lincoln refused to limit his office hours in any way, saying "They do not want much, and they get very little I know how I would feel in their place. Even the president saw something had to be done. Nicolay got Lincoln to agree "to let me have his business hours limited to from 10 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. A few days later, Nicolay commented that "we are somewhat relieved from the 'outside pressure' by the President's having limited his reception hours from 10 to 1 o'clock. People pushed and shoved when the north doors were opened in the morning, filling the anteroom, the vestibule, the waiting room, with tight lines trailing down the business stairway to the entrance hall.

Callers badgered the doormen and messengers for drinks of water and direction to and use of the water closet on the main floor. During that first month in residence, the president and his staff found the crowd especially unruly. After the first month or so most of the appointments were made and the lines began to thin.

And then when the rumors of war came, it all changed again. Throughout Lincoln's entire time in the White House, anyone who wished to talk to the president could walk up to his office, and after speaking to the doorkeeper go in and meet him. Excepting when engaged with others, "Lincoln seldom if ever declined to receive any man or woman who came to the White House to see him. The law provided for only one private secretary at that time, and John G.

Nicolay served into He measured all things and all men by their relations to the President, and was of incalculable service in fending off much that would have been unnecessary labor and exhaustion to his overworked patron.

For this, and more, he deserves the thanks of all who loved Mr. Lincoln, even if at times they had reason to grumble at "the bulldog in the anteroom. John Hay was "assistant private secretary," but the law did not recognize such an office. He became secretary by "subterfuge. Stoddard wrote: "He is quite young, and looks younger than he is; of a fresh and almost boyish complexion; quite a favorite among the ladies, and with a gift for epigram and repartee.

When the mass of correspondence grew too much for two secretaries to handle, Lincoln secured other help. Another young man with secretarial duties was added to the staff—William O. Stoddard was originally a clerk in the Department of the Interior and was assigned "duty at the White House. Lincoln developed a warm liking and friendship, partly because of his pleasant personality and the fact that he was assigned to open the First Lady's flood of mail. Mary Lincoln liked "Stod" better than the other two secretaries, according to John Nicolay's daughter, Helen, and "they were only too glad to delegate to him.

Early in , Edward D.

The Lincoln White House Community

Neill was appointed to read and dispose of all letters addressed to President Lincoln and commissioned as secretary to sign land patents to succeed Stoddard, who had become ill. Charles H. Philbrick of Illinois, an old friend of Nicolay, was made a second class clerk in the Department of the Interior and assigned to duty at the White House, taking the second class clerkship that Neill had held before.

Matile, Swiss-born, and Nathaniel S. Howe, a pension clerk in the Department of the Interior who served from to As late as March 8, , at the beginning of the second term, Lincoln needed more help. He wrote the secretary of the treasury ad interim: "Please detail a good clerk from your Department, to report to my Private Secretary for temporary duty in the Executive Office.

No other president had labored under such an accumulation of duties. The law gave him one secretary, with no assistant, and one secretary, to sign land patents. The deficiency was "partly remedied by drafting clerks and army officers to the White House to perform special duty, and these frequently take full rank, by courtesy, as Secretaries Stoddard observed that the private secretary had "vast power for good or evil which is placed in the hands of a man constantly in the President's confidence, able at any time to 'obtain his ear,' sure to be listened to without suspicion or prejudice, and always in possession of current State secrets.

Such a person must be "a man of more than ordinary brains and integrity if he does to at times do mischief. But this was at times difficult with Lincoln. The measure of a day's labor was "strength and time alone" and it was often that the hours from nine in the morning until three or four in the afternoon were given to the business of receiving all comers. Unusually a careful distinction was made in favor of public rather than private affairs, "but no man went away without an interview if the President was really able to see him. The only other people whom Stoddard thought important for Lincoln's office staff were Louis Berger, Lincoln's messenger at the door of the president's room, "German, crusty, pragmatical and pertinacious; proud of his position and authority, and little tolerant of interference; but trustworthy, and, on the whole, capable" and "'Edward [McManus]'—he needs no other name—for four administrations doorkeeper of the White House, and an inexhaustible well of incident and anecdote concerning the old worthies and unworthies," he wrote.

He was described as "an undersized, neatly dressed, polite, comical old man, with a world of genuine Irish wit in his white head. Lincoln's Cabinet met pretty regularly on Tuesdays at 1 P.


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One secretary who served for two and one-half years did not remember that he had ever seen Vice President Hannibal Hamlin at the White House, "although he may have been there a few times for all that. He was never an idler or a lounger. Each hour he was busy. Lincoln spent most of his evenings in his office," John Hay wrote, "though occasionally he remained in the drawingroom [The Red Room] after dinner, conversing with visitors or listening to music A vast amount of business came to the president's office through the mail. Stoddard had charge, "with full power," for about two years and half.

Sometimes hundreds of packages and envelopes, of all sorts and sizes arrived in a day, and sometimes dwindled to a few dozens. After careful examination, almost all business letters were referred to the appropriate special office or department. But another large class, probably the largest, as a general rule, went into the secretary's willow wastebasket. A few were properly filed for future reference in the office, and a very small percentage—maybe three or four in a hundred—were properly briefed and remarked upon and laid on Lincoln's desk.

This was necessary because Lincoln did not have the physical energy and time to personally attend to all his mail. Correspondence also took much of Lincoln's time, although he personally read few of the hundreds of letters addressed to him. The president rarely dictated, and usually made a verbal or written summary for his secretaries, or carefully wrote out the entire response himself—and frequently copied it carefully.

In addition, a huge amount of documents was daily transferred from Lincoln's table to that of his secretary. Stoddard recalled: Not unfrequently he would lay aside his despatches and papers, and his Presidency, and stroll into one of the secretaries' rooms for a careless chat with "the boys," and I have seen his face cloud up with concealed chagrin when the messenger [Louis Berger], would announce the arrival of some ponderous Senator, important Congressman, or busy Cabinet Minister, as with a sigh of half weariness and whole vexation he would turn to his own room, or we would disperse to other apartments.

The number of people who really had influence with Lincoln, or could obtain favors from him by purely personal application, was not very large, although many later claimed great influence. William Slade, White House servant. A very close relationship developed between the office and the home in this White House community.

The president was often summoned as early as five o'clock in the morning to his office, and Mrs. Lincoln repeatedly sent his coffee there. He would not have breakfast until 9 or 10 in the morning. Lincoln often invited well-known friends to breakfast, and then sent word to the President we had company, and breakfast was waiting for him.

About this same time, Mrs. Lincoln instituted the daily carriage drive, wrote Cousin Lizzie, and "insisted upon it, as her right, that he should accompany her, as this was the only way in which she could induce him to take the fresh air, which he so much needed. The Lincolns then went for a drive in the countryside, or sometimes he would ride horseback. This was a part of Mrs. Lincoln's campaign to take care of her husband's health and lighten his spirit. Children turned the old House into a home. Willie, ten, and Thomas Tad , aged eight, ranged "lawless and lovable" over the entire mansion.

The boys held a minstrel show in the attic, and "inserted dogs, cats, goats and ponies into various crevices of the domestic establishment.

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The boys, especially Tad, interrupted the President's labors with impunity and escaped periodically from domestic authorities in the house. And after Willie's death in February , young Tad, a warm-hearted little boy, became his father's constant companion, even sleeping in his father's bed. Tad visited with those waiting to see his father and, in some of these cases which he heard of, with tears and sobs, made the case known to his father.

The president dined between 5 and 6 P. The Lincolns ate their meals in the small dining room on the north side of the main floor, close to the pantry and the dumbwaiter from the basement. It was informal and cozy because Lincoln was strictly temperate and simple in his habits. William H. Crook, Lincoln's personal bodyguard, wrote: "Mr.

Lincoln ate heartily but not to excess; he was particularly fond of certain things, especially apples, and Mrs. Lincoln always had a sufficiency of this fruit chosen carefully and ready at hand. At supper time he would usually eat more, but the president never was particularly interested in food. The Lincoln White House chef is still unknown.

A shocking invitation to dine with the President and Mrs. Lincoln came up to the presidential secretaries one evening. Secretary Nicolay wrote: "This is a startling 'change of base' on the part of the lady, and I am at a loss at the moment to explain it. However, as etiquette does not permit any one on any excuse to decline an invitation to dine with the President, I shall have to make the reconnaissance, and thereby more fully learn the tactics of the enemy [Mrs.

Lincoln herself who later became 'Her S atanic Majesty']. By the Lincoln family routine had regularized. As soon as breakfast was over, the president would go to his office and begin his ceaseless toil of his busy day. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lincoln busied herself with the White House, just as any other housekeeper would busy herself about her private home. She walked from room to room, seeing that the work was satisfactorily done. Then she attended to her personal correspondence in her own boudoir, where she had her own desk. Usually, she would then go down to the old conservatory which had become her favorite resort.

During the last months in the White House, President and Mrs. Lincoln usually dined at 7 P. During his absence of two or three hours, Mrs. Lincoln saw Tad to bed and went into the Red Room, or "living-room," as it was then called.


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She remained the rest of the evening in reading newspapers until Lincoln's return. The president usually arrived by 11 P. He then shared the news from the front. They discussed battles, retreats, victories, and defeats calmly and ended their day shortly after midnight, sometimes later, before they retired to their adjoining bedrooms on the second floor. By there was a close relationship between both the Executive Office and the presidential apartments. Lincoln happened to think of something she wished to tell her husband, she did not hesitate to go into his office as she would have gone unhesitatingly into his law office in Spring-field," Crook observed.

He wrote: First of all Abraham Lincoln was her husband; she was his helpmate and comrade, and the fact that he was a world figure, occupied with some of the gravest problems that have ever affected mankind, did not overwhelm and blot out the fact that he was her husband. She did not intrude while the president was engaged in his office, because "she was very careful never to interrupt any of the countless conferences with officials of the government, or with representatives of foreign governments, or with humble citizens of private life who constantly called upon President Lincoln.

Lincoln served as her own White House housekeeper. She had a steward who attended to personal duties, but the First Lady oversaw and directed everything herself. William Crook wrote: She knew just what kinds of foods should be provided, what cuts of various meats were the best, how vegetables should be prepared, how bread should be made. In consequence, the domestic affairs of the executive Mansion ran along their way smoothly and serenely and most comfortably.

Lincoln frivolous," Crook declared. She knew, for example, what the President liked to eat and what was good for him to eat, and she saw that he had it. Mary Lincoln's domain was her home—even in the White House. And she was the domestic authority in the House. Servants, stewards, and doormen were her responsibility, even if they had preceded the Lincolns through earlier administrations. She developed the habit of confiding in her servants and entrusted them with her secrets.

She sent them on confidential errands and exacted personal favors. Mary Ann Cuthbert, for a time a housekeeper at the White House, Thomas Stackpole, an engineer on the staff, and the chief doorkeeper, Edward McManus, served her in both private and public capacities. But in January , Mrs. Lincoln abruptly dismissed "Old Edward," who had served as the doorkeeper since President Jackson's days. It seemed that Edward could not be trusted with Mrs. Lincoln's secrets. The precise reason for his removal is somewhat mysterious, although it must have been a serious betrayal.

She called him a "serpent. French, Commissioner of Public Buildings, dismissed him in When Mary Lincoln wrote home to Springfield in "Thousands of soldiers are guarding us, and if there is a safety in numbers, we have every reason, to feel secure. By the end of , it appeared that White House security had relaxed. But this was deceiving. Many of the guards were dressed as doormen. There were few soldiers because the majority were members of the Metropolitan Police. These "doormen" wore frock coats and baggy trousers, like an average citizen. To improve security for the president, a partition was built across the south end of the reception room, creating a closed passage between his office and the family sitting room, or oval room library.

This gave the president and members of his family increased privacy on the second floor between his office and home. They would no longer have to pass through the second-floor hall, through crowds of people, in order to go from one end of the second floor to the other. As the war progressed, Lincoln's face grew more haggard and careworn. Nicolay wrote: "the president's task here is no child's play.

Sometimes the president wandered through the White House when he should have been in bed, often going to his office and staying there very late. Nicolay and Col. Hay, as well as myself, thought more about it than we ever confessed. At least we spent many an evening in our offices, with a sharp eye and ear open for the footstep in the hall, when we would have been puzzled to give a good reason for our presence, other than that in some vague and unaccountable way we were "on guard. The president's person was utterly unprotected for a while.

There were two attendants—one for the outer door and another for the door of the president's office who were "remiss in their duties. By the president was personally guarded during the afternoon or evening receptions and levees. The bodyguard to the president took his position just inside the Blue Room and directly opposite the president.

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He faced every person who came up to the threshold of that door. It was his responsibility to see that "no suspicious character should come within reach of President Lincoln; and that no person, even though well known, should cross that doorway with hands concealed or covered in any manner whatsoever. Empty hands can never accomplish assassination.