Monthly Archives: May 2014

Inventor president

At Slate.com, Jacopo della Quercia examines Lincoln’s fascination with technology:

As a wartime president, Abraham Lincoln quickly found himself in a unique position to oversee and approve some of the latest developments for the U.S. military. Lincoln welcomed inventors to the White House, personally tested some of the new rifles being developed, and presided over a technological boom that flooded the U.S. Patent Office with thousands of new inventions. Among these were the Gatling gun, repeating rifles, and, perhaps most revolutionary of all, a remarkable, iron-hulled warship that, much like Jules Verne’s Nautilus, was “a masterpiece containing masterpieces.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil War, Lincoln the Man

Jonathan White on emancipation and the soldier vote

John Fea’s blog has an interview with Jonathan White, author of the forthcoming book Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln.  White teaches at Christopher Newport University in Virginia.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lincoln Historiography

Abraham Lincoln, amateur astronomer

From The Washington Post:

Back then, the Naval Observatory was on 24th Street NW, in Foggy Bottom. It was an easy walk or carriage ride from the White House. On Aug. 22, 1863, Lincoln rode over, and Asaph Hall, the observatory’s astronomer, showed him the moon and the star Arcturus.

A few nights later, Hall heard a knock at the door. It was Lincoln, back with a question: Why had the moon been upside-down in the telescope’s eyepiece?

Hall explained that the observatory’s telescope worked differently from the surveying instruments and terrestrial telescopes Lincoln was accustomed to. Satisfied with the answer, Lincoln gave his thanks and left.

“He was an inquisitive guy,” Kirk said. “He didn’t just blow it off and not worry about it. He wanted to know.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Lincoln the Man

Mary Todd Lincoln reconsidered in new book

In a new biography, Betty Boles Ellison argues that the Union’s First Lady doesn’t deserve the bad press she’s gotten for the past 150 years.  Ellison discussed her findings with Kentucky.com:

Ellison says in her new book, The True Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography (McFarland: $39.95), that the first lady was both frugal and outspoken, her son Robert a priggish manipulator who had his mother committed while Mary Todd Lincoln masterminded her own release from an asylum by gathering together friends and supporters who did not want to see a first lady humiliated.

“No person should have had to experience what she did, perpetuated by her own son and Lincoln’s so-called friends,” Ellison said in a recent interview at her Lexington home.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lincoln and Memory, Lincoln Historiography

Lincoln opposes an appointment

On this date in 1849, Lincoln wrote to Secretary of the Navy William B. Preston to complain about an impending political appointment:

Last night I received letters from different persons at Washington assuring me it was not improbable that Justin Butterfield, of Chicago, Ills, would be appointed Commissioner of the Genl. Land-Office.…Mr. Butterfield is my friend, is well qualified, and, I suppose, would be faithful in the office. So far, good. But now for the objections. In 1840 we fought a fierce and laborious battle in Illinois, many of us spending almost the entire year in the contest. The general victory came, and with it, the appointment of a set of drones, including this same Butterfield, who had never spent a dollar or lifted a finger in the fight. The place he got was that of District Attorney. The defection of Tyler came, and then B. played off and on, and kept the office till after Polk’s election. Again, winter and spring before the last, when you and I were almost sweating blood to have Genl. Taylor nominated, this same man was ridiculing the idea, and going for Mr. Clay; and when Gen: T. was nominated, if he went out of the city of Chicago to aid in his election, it is more than I ever heard, or believe. Yet, when the election is secured, by other men’s labor, and even against his effort, why, he is the first man on hand for the best office that our state lays any claim to. Shall this thing be? Our whigs will throw down their arms, and fight no more, if the fruit of their labor is thus disposed of.

Lincoln’s opposition to Butterfield was rooted in his desire to strengthen the Whigs in his home state of Illinois by assuring loyal members that their efforts on the party’s behalf would be rewarded.  Historian Thomas Schwartz  examined this episode in a 1986 article for the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, which you can read here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lincoln's Writings

New book on Lincoln’s secretaries

In Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image, Joshua Zeitz examines Lincoln’s secretaries and their role in shaping his legacy.  The San Antonio Express-News published a review of the book a few days ago.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lincoln Historiography

Lincoln is unpopular in some Republican circles

From Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel:

In Wisconsin, the party of Abraham Lincoln will be deciding this weekend whether it favors not only the right to secession but also the right to nullify federal laws.

Delegates at the state Republican convention are set to vote Saturday on a proposed resolution that directs lawmakers to push through legislation nullifying Obamacare, Common Core educational standards and “drone usage in the state of Wisconsin.”

“Be it further resolved,” the proposal concludes, “that we strongly insist our state representatives work to uphold Wisconsin’s 10th Amendment rights, and our right to, under extreme circumstances, secede, passing legislation affirming this to the U.S. Federal Government.”

…The proposal — which has garnered national attention — was originally approved in March by the GOP’s 6th Congressional District caucus and forwarded to the state party’s resolution committee. The panel approved a slightly modified version of the suggested resolution and forwarded it to the full convention.

Rohn Bishop, treasurer of the Fond du Lac County Republican Party, said he was booed at the March caucus meeting when he brought up Lincoln’s name while arguing against the secession and nullification provisions. He said he also noted that the meeting took place two days after the 160th anniversary of the party’s founding in Ripon.

“I was completely blown away that at a Republican Party event, the presidency of Abraham Lincoln would be controversial,” Bishop said Wednesday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lincoln and Memory