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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  April 10, 2011 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT

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from the booktv archives, harold holzer chairman of the u.s. lincoln bicentennial commission and author of numerous books on abraham lincoln recalls the four months between president lincoln's election in november 1860 to his inauguration in march, 1861. during this time the president was pressured by republicans and democrats from throughout the country to maintain the union. he contends that president lincoln's resistance to heat the calls was due to his desire to stop the continuation of slavery and not from his misunderstanding of the seriousness of the session. this event hosted by the abraham lincoln bookshop in chicago is an hour. >> welcome to virtual book signing. we are at the abraham lincoln bookshop as always and i am daniel weinberg. i am pleased to have you here. ..
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>> well, we feature of course discussions and questions of the author and that's different for book signings. if you're watching live, we encourage you to email questions in, and we will try to get them on air and have them answered for you right now. if you're watching the archives, and many people do that afterward, you won't be able to email in questions but you will be able to obtain a signed first edition. we'll have signed books for and i hope you'll go to
6:02 pm to watch our archives over the 2.5 years in which we've been doing this. while you're there at our site, i hope you will leave your email so that you won't miss future programs. we want to have a special welcome today to c-span who is the proverbial fly on the wall today and we appreciate your being here as well, c-span. we're honored truly to have an old friend not that old but a long-standing friend, harold holzer, who is cochair of the u.s. bicentennial. and he's co-authored books on civil war. it seems like more. he has a nice artifact collection for that matter as well. he won the lincoln prize for lincoln at cooper union. and has also won an award four times, the neiman's freeman and three achievement awards from the lincoln group of new york.
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he is currently also the senior vice president for external affairs at the metropolitan museum in new york. he has a day job. [laughter] >> well, today's book that we're featured is his newest and latest called "abraham lincoln and the great secession winter." simon schuster publishes it and it's $30. james mcpherson rightly rights, this is bristling with new information and key insights, unquote and that's why it's the latest edition to the essential lincoln bookshelf which we have on our own website for the bookshop. now, the reason, harold, that you're signing alone is that one of the first times you came into my shop with two other authors, i found them in the back signing
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each other's name. so i thought i better have you alone. >> you have to explain that. first of all, it was 24 years ago we were crazy and young people and second of all, you served us a lot of wine before the book started. >> that's why we don't serve wine any longer. >> this is not vodka either. it's just water. >> as always we ask you to begin by explaining your book. telling us about how you got to the book, what it's about. and in general, why you wrote it, why you think it's important to have been written. >> excuse me. >> and in general, have lincoln's actions during secession crisis been misinterpreted or misunderstood by historians over the period we've been looking at it. >> i hope i don't struggle this. i was the wise guy with the water and now i took too big of a swig so i'm choking a little bit but i will get through it. >> all right. >> well, the book, you know, explores a period that americans
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are going to be going through in thee weeks, four weeks. whoever wins the presidency for those watching live, it will be a current event in 20 days or so. this strange american tradition like the british who transfers presidency who leaves 10 downing feet and it's clean, fast and efficient, we've had this tradition in the beginning it was actually -- in the beginning of the republic very brief. the most difficult transition before lincoln it was probably adams to jefferson and that was only three weeks because it was an electoral college decision in february and then our march 4th jefferson took over. in much bitterness. it would have been much more difficult if it was four months and then we started having popular elections, not just the electoral college. popular elections became a november tradition and we have
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this unexpected extra-tradition. where the political party, lincoln faced the most challenging and america faced the most challenging transition in history in 1860 to 1861. states refusing to accept the majority rule in the electorate and the electoral college. threatening to and ultimately seceding from the union before the president took over. northern democrats believing that republicans had chosen the wrong person. following a completely sectional election. calls on lincoln to either stand up to these people by saying we won't let you leave or suggestions that he left the states leave or suggestions from the south that he resigned, threats against his life as never seen before in this country. the highest expectations ever,
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the gravest crisis ever. so i thought since it's been about 55 years since this book was written -- or such a book was written, it was time to re-examine the secession winter which is henry adams' phrase, not mine. and you asked -- i'll answer just briefly about whether he's gotten a bad wrap for this -- for his, quote, leadership during this period and, of course, he wasn't constitutionally empowered to lead anything. he was powerless and the sitting president was paralyzed so it was not a good situation. but i think he's been criticized for dithering for not facing up to the crisis. i think rather than dither, he made a decision that he would not violate of the precepts of the national platform that he would not violate with the belief that slavery could not be extended and he could not accede to the demands of the southern
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states and that he relent on this issue and allow slavery to spread west all the way to california, along a new missouri compromise line. lincoln said no slavery extension. and i try to show in this book that over this period of four months, he actually hastend the course of freedom in this country, which was a priceless contribution that i don't think he's given enough credit for. >> he certainly was thinking that it would eventually die on the vine. and he had constitutional restraints. >> as long as there's no spread. if the compromisers have their way and there's a new missouri compromise line and you can spread into the southwest and all the way to california, then you increase slave representation in congress. and you can go on with slavery till the 20th. >> it's one of the reasons cuba was not purchased from spain who wished to sell it to us because it would have shifted some of the power to the south. >> absolutely. if you migrate west with slavery and then -- lincoln actually
quote quote
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thought cuba would be an inevitable follow-up. that there would be an annexation so slavery is perpetual just as he always feared steven douglas and some of the democrats wanted. so he drew a line in the sand and he said it in very raw terms. he told wavering senators in washington who were thinking of compromise, anything to avoid the crisis. he said hold fast as with chain of steel. and he told those much more experienced guys, much more seasoned politicians, i'm the boss and this is it. >> they have been worried of this in the '20s, '30s. like in south carolina with nullification. >> jackson -- ironically jackson, of course, is the guy lincoln loathed. the reason why he gets into the whig party is he hates jackson. and jackson became his role model he reads jackson's the
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nullification message. they compare him to jackson unfavorably. it's astonishing what a crisis can call you in terms of partisanship. the lincoln papers is still the most valuable resource and that's the connection in the commerce coming to lincoln that's housed to the library of congress. lincoln was not a great preserver of his own materials but right after his election, he hired a secretary. and he was a great clerk. is and a compulsive attendant to detail. from that moment until the end of his life, later with the help john hay, his sectorial partner, everything that comes in is
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endorsed, explained and kept so there's a great record of the correspondence also with lincoln's instructions on the back, sometimes with his fingerprints if you spend time with the original papers. that was the prime source. newspapers, some of them frequently consulted the essentials, the "new york tim " times," the "chicago tribune," but i wanted to get into the opinions expressed by other newspapers so i spent a lot of time in indianapolis getting both views, the cleveland newspapers, the newspapers along lincoln's route and, of course, the southern newspapers and diary entries that hadn't been consulted before and have been but not about this period. so i definitely used originally sources wherever i could. and they really illuminated the mer >> interesting. just as a footnote as a dealer in autographs and seeing lincoln
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come through my hands in the last 37 years he had large hands. he was signing his life away every morning, 25,000 plus military commissions alone and it's amazing how often one sees a smear or the whorls of his fingertips of endorsements and other things. >> we take for granted to use one of these things or, you know, a sharpie or something like that. but that was an arduous task to dip the pen in ink and not complete the phrase. my state, new york state's most cherished lincoln artifact is the first -- the preliminary emancipation proclamation. and my favorite thing about it is that the section of the federal confiscation act which lincoln pasted in rather than rewrite it as part of the document -- he obviously used the glue blot himself because his fingers are all over it when he pasted it down. i would love to do the forensics
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but i don't think -- we don't have one fingerprint. >> no, exactly. we need that. oh, well. but you don't -- when i wrote the cooper union, you know, the book was out and you found the korwin letter in this shop and let me hold it, a little baby like this in which lincoln says discussion of anything but slavery is idiotic. the only time he ever used it so i was so taken by that that i insisted that when the paperback came out that simon schuster let me write a brand-new introduction which was unheard of but was your fault. >> in that he said the republican party was put together to stop the spread of slavery. don't go into tariffs or other regional problems. >> and then he had some funny thing i don't remember what it
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was, a shade of trees or something. >> yeah. >> i've forgotten myself. >> to korwin again who's much more experienced and much more famous. the boy wonder. >> they knew each other in '48 in congress because they were both against the mexican war. so they had an allegiance back then. >> and the reason i went crazy about it is that they were both speakers of the cooper union series. >> yeah. >> so anyway -- the research is never over. >> i hope not. >> there's always something coming up. that's what i found here in the shop. people have asked me for years is there anything new in artifacts to come up? anything important? and i got to a point where i was starting to say, i don't think so. and then all of a sudden the korwin letter comes up and an oil painting that i've shown you in springfield that came up. and other pieces, the copy letter book, a little piece of a cope letter book when he was 15 or 16 has just surfaced.
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so there are things that still show the man that come up and we're both artifact people. >> absolutely. >> it brings you close to him. there are so many wonderful stories in here besides import of the story itself and secession and how he handled it and silences, et cetera, it's just a wonderful narrative story that really takes you along. and i'm going to have you sign some books at this moment while i at least read off a few of you that have asked for books. and by the way, while we're continuing on this hour, if you have an emailed question you'd like to send to harold, please feel free to do that and we'll try to get your question here and you in the audience, we'll get to you a little bit later on as well in the second half. jerry in clark summit, pennsylvania, thank you. dennis, in fleming ohio, richard in chicago, you're always here
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and we appreciate it and sometimes you're here. gerald in downers grove. teresa in germany you've been with us a long while now and we appreciate you watching us, if you're actually watching live at this moment. ron in greenville, texas, wall in wilmington, delaware. we started virtual book signing so that people can sit on their couches around the country and they can't come in here and be with you but they can get a signed book, hear you speak about this and get to know what's behind it a bit more. >> it's a great idea. >> frank in washington, helen in los angeles, steve, in sioux falls, south dakota, patsy in joliet, illinois. daniel in fayetteville, arkansas. bob woodbury, connecticut, gary -- i think you know gary in pennsylvania. jim in winnipeg, manitoba, brian in amityville, new york. rich in green bay, wisconsin, steven in rome, georgia.
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norville, thank you as always. it's a pleasure to have you in the shop not too long ago in lewisville and dave in brookfield we just got your book signed as well just before we got online here. we have many more books for harold to sign and many others that we're not speaking about here but we thank you all and appreciate you helping independent book dealers. there's so many things to go to and maybe in no particular order, i'm going to go into -- into lbj for a moment because you speak about his putting together during this period putting together his cabinet. i think there's a parallel with lbj who said, and you'll have to pardon me, this is a quote from the president, that why did he bring certain people who are not of his political persuasion into his cabinet? and you said, well, i'd rather have them in the tent kissing
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out than outside kissing in. [laughter] >> so do you think lincoln felt the same way when he's putting his cabinet together? >> i think he said that about hubert humphrey but it's a good lead-in. have hubert inside the tent. >> yeah. >> you know, i don't want to stir controversy too much. but i think we've made a little too much -- this idea that lincoln was brave for picking his convention rivals for the cabinet. you know, with all due respect to doris goodwin whom i adore and respect enormously, and boy, can that lady write a book balancing 17 characters in a book and making them all come to life. but, you know, i went back to re-examine this cabinet-making process very carefully. there's a lot of tradition of
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presidents in the mid-19th century appointing their, quote, rival to the cabinet, whether they were doing it to keep them from going in and out or whatever. it's the most accepted tradition and the most famous one william henry harrison. the original log cabin president. >> right. >> who was the surprise winner of the 1840 whig convention that henry clay believed he was going to win hands down just as william seward believed he was going to win in 1860, 20 years later. well, clay didn't win and wanted -- and he was very bitter and what did harrison do? he asked clay to be his secretary of state. it was done. fillmore appointed his convention rivals, pierce appointed a few enemies. >> obama has done it just now with biden. >> that's right, former rivals. it's a unifying thing. i don't think it's much on lincoln's mind, that part of it.
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what was on his mind in cabinet-building was regional representation, the west, the east, the north and as far south as he could set his sights. and i think political antecedents, the republican party was a brand-new coalition. it was made up of a strange group, antiforeigners, no-nologies, who promote slavery and former party whigs who had no playing to go. and i think that was his balancing act. and he believed that you do appoint the leaders of your party. and there was a lot of movement from the senate to the cabinet back to the senate in those days because legislatures appointed the most famous guy around as the senator. they don't think they would give up their senators if they went in the cabinet for a while. with all of it said, i think the cabinet selection was a far more complex process than we've given it credit for. lincoln flailed around a lot.
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he looked south and he had a lot of southern members to head off south carolina and virginia secession, for example, as long as he could. perhaps for forever. so it's a complex situation. in fact, harrison went to clay's mansion ashland to beg him to be secretary of state and then clay turned him down. seward, i believe, expected lincoln to be to auburn. and that's not an easy trip from springfield. lincoln didn't go to auburn. as gideon wells wrote, lincoln did not do a harrison. he's too dignified for that. too tough. >> you tell the story of lincoln using the media of his day. >> uh-huh >> there's no c-span. so he had to use something else to get his image across.
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of course, we know that grace bi-dell from pennsylvania -- >> no, from new york. >> i'm sorry, you're right. and had written to him. she had seen this wonderful broad side campaign broad side and the rails around lincoln and she loved how the rails looked. and so she said, though, in her lincoln aspresident elect, you look a little gaunt and you might want to grow a beard. and he wrote don't you think that would be a silly affectation to do it and he did it and this is the first with the full beard. >> and it's in springfield indeed. and the other one was a chicago one and it was half a goatee or something. >> half a goatee. >> and, of course, grace bidell met lincoln on the inaugural train and had even gotten a bust
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on the cheek and made a cottage industry. >> she lived to be an long life. >> can i say one more thing about picture. you mention lincoln is a master of the visual media he killed two birds with this stone with this picture. it was taken on january 13th, 1861. but ostensibly it was taken for a sculpture who was molding his bust which a copy you have in this shop, thomas jones' glorious sculpture and he needed a model because lincoln wasn't an easy subject to pose. he was always on the job. so lincoln -- the photograph got a picture that he could sell to his admirers. jones got a model to complete the bust. the bust was being mass produced. it was going to be the inspiration for a public statue in ohio. he's covering the bases. >> was he proactive in this media, his image -- >> yeah. it's a tough question 'cause i
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think he was proactive but quiet will he proactive. i think he -- >> like sculpting? >> yeah, all of the -- all of the recollections of the period that lincoln was urged into photography galleries impoor tuned. the gentleman didn't say i need to have a picture taken. but he managed to have a lot of pictures taken before the civil war, during the civil war. he knew the impact that those images, that they would be displayed on walls as they are in here >> didn't they say the cooper union pose was important. >> if we know brady and in this case it was a very early interview. brady said lincoln said the cooper union address and the photograph made that same day made me president, quote-unquote. and the -- but poor grace, she was so scared of the attention she got in westfield, new york, that day that she ran home and hid under a wagon and they couldn't find her for hours, 11
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years old. she got a kiss from the president elect. to show you it really influenced him, he got to town and he said in one of those speeches from the train, i believe there's a little girl here who wrote me a letter about my whiskers. i think her name is barley. and if she's here i would like to know if she's here. and they nudged her forward and he kissed her and so from that -- >> she changed the face of history, no? >> literally. she absolutely did. and lecture -- you asked me what sources i used. one of the sources i had to go to was grace bidell. she had at least 12 versions of the story that she wrote up until her -- through her 80s. and, you know, she was either on the platform or the tracks or he lifted her up or he bent down. it got a little hazy but we know the connection was made. >> it was a real story, nonetheless. >> yes.
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>> didn't lincoln ever waiver? did you find him wavering in the responsibility that had been placed upon him as president, wavering that, why did i do this? >> no. i think he wavered a little bit on compromise a little bit. i think he wavered interestingly on the danger of the inaugural journey and we know he wavered at the end of it by sneaking through baltimore and i say sneaking, yeah. but, you know, i found evidence that he considered for a while going to washington early. seward really wanted him to go in late january and >> report that he was going to be sworn in as president illinois, in springfield, presumably so he could have the benefit of army protection on the way to washington, which he rejected as well. he was a courageous man. >> he was a courageous man. >> and with all the threats and all the obscene drawings --
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chicago owns one of the -- chicago historical, i think, owns one of the vile of all the threats that came at this point. language we can't even use on c-span or on virtual book-signing. but he got some very frightening letters, poisoning letters. so it was a very difficult time. >> we're going to be going into a break for a very short time. just before we do, maybe briefly, in the epilogue you print the inaugural address, his first inaugural. complete with portions he deleted. >> uh-huh. >> is there anything in there of interest that you left out that you would like to speak about? >> yes, the most amazing excision was his original final words "shall it be peace or a sword." that's the way he wanted to end it. it's up to the south. your decision, shall it be peace or sword, and then he was going to take the oath. in those days the inaugural address came first -- actually
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the inaugural parade came first then the inaugural address then the swearing-in. so we've changed the order now. but readings of the speech by outside readers including william seward convinced him to tone it down, and he decided ultimately to just cross that out. he felt he had made his position clear and he didn't really have to do a dare at the end. >> uh-huh. well, we're going to go into a short break of how long? 2 minutes, 3 minutes? so here's a break and you come right back. we have much more to cover. do you want to go get your -- >> hello, everyone. thank you for being here. i appreciate that. when you could have been home as i said with a couch with a margarita. >> me too.
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>> we can start signing some when we come back in. >> don't sign until we start. >> oh, you can sign, i suppos. . [inaudible conversations] >> i'm going to come in -- bjorn, i'm going to come back first with the baltimore and the volk piece, okay, and then we'll have some questions and then we'll go back to the letters. >> okay. if you have any questions in the audience, please put your hand up later on, and we'll get to you positively.
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>> i had the january cover but in the end -- it's my gogglized look. >> i like this. >> he had lots of pictures taken around his birthday, february '64, february '61. nobody else is giving him a present. he's giving himself a present.
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>> will you be fine? c-span sees this as well that we're going to be talking about. >> let's do a close-up on the piece. i'm going to give you a cue here in -- no, five minutes. >> no, i forgot. >> you're going on milt's show. >> i don't have to -- i can take my pill. i remember when my dad got too old to do it.
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[inaudible conversations] >> well, we're back and thank you for joining us again. i'm showing you a cartoon on a rice paper that came from volck, confederate war etchings done in about the 1980s, the '90 is when it was first produced some of the political action that was going on during the time and what they thought about it. you speak in some length, in fact, about a possible plot that was going to be hatched in baltimore against the president elect. and that his advisors advised that he go through
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surreptitiously. you should tell the story and after we see how this is, how he's coming in with a scotch hat and some sort of an overcoat, the same things happens to jeff davis. but that's a different sort of story, a good parallel. tell us a bit about it. >> this image was made in baltimore. >> and not in philly. >> the original was. >> oh, the printing was in philadelphia. mr. volck was a dentist in baltimore so he was doing all his work here. so here is lincoln arriving in a freight car, that's his imaginings being scared by a cat with an arched back and that's how frightened he is by the plot. and you can see -- what's contained in the freight car is bones, that's abraham lincoln so a lot of nice touches and volck was a terrific artist. so what happened here is lincoln is told by two independent
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sources while he's in philadelphia to raise the flag at independence hall on washington's birthday that there is a serious plot, an assassination plot in baltimore. allen pinkerton who we all know as the most famous detective of the 19th century had been hired by the railroad because there were threats against the railroad lines and he uncovered his story with his operative. we know pinkerton was also an exaggerator but there was independent corroboration as we say now. william seward heard about the plot from the chief of the army in washington. he was so worried he sent hisson to philadelphia frederick to get to the night train and to warn him and bring this documents. so lincoln has a long talk with this stranger pinkerton and he goes back to the hotel room and it tells you about the security, or the absence of security,
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there's no security. he goes to his room and i guess you don't turn on the light in those days, whatever you do. there's a stranger in his room. it's frederick seward, who he doesn't know and seward says i have to tell but a plot. lincoln doesn't say, i just heard this story. that's amazing. he said, tell me about it. and they sit for an hour and seward tells the whole story. so lincoln is pretty convinced that it's real. he still hasn't completely decided. the next day is washington's birthday. he raises the flag at independence hall in full view of people, and that's where he makes his famous statement, i would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender that. everybody has quoted it. look what it was informed by. it was informed by an assassination threat so it was actually particularly brave. lincoln tells this group i'm going to harrisburg. i can't change this plan with a young republican governor. he expects me. i've been to every state capital
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along the route. albany, columbus, you know, indy, indianapolis. lincoln has one possible way out of this. he says why can't we rely on the police force of baltimore? they're going to protect us like every other police force and then he gets the news that i think is the real crusher. mr. lincoln, we can't be sure that when this attack happens -- and it was going to happen when they changed trains. in those days the trains didn't go straight through. you had to go from one station to another. mr. lincoln, we're not sure when push comes to shove, not the expression they used, the police force will probably take the side of the attackers. that's how bad things are in baltimore. you got no votes in maryland. you've got no votes in baltimore. it's hostile territory so lincoln reluctantly agrees. he puts on not a scotch hat but
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a soft hat that he got in new york. it's always our fault in the end. and he admitted he wasn't recognizable. i don't see how that's possible because he's bigger than everybody else but he leaves some of his guards behind. one of the generals who's with him is really furious, general hazard. isn't that a great name for a general, general hazard. all these people became famous in the civil war. bull head sum inner is because a bullet once bounced off his head. these are tough guys. he leaves them all behind and he goes after lavin and pinkerton, a stranger, just very strange. security is not what it is now. and he does go through baltimore at night. now, the thing i find really strange about this sorry, aside from the fact that it was catastrophic from his image when people found out about it and they mocked him as did volck is that mary lincoln, and hannibal
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hamlin and their children, not mary's children with hamlin, mary's children with lincoln, william and tad come through on the regularly scheduled train and their menaced by a crowd and lincoln didn't seem too concerned about it. he was worried about himself and he wanted mary to know he was safe. it was a very strange episode. i looked at it very carefully. i looked at the threat level. i spoke to assassination experts like ed steers, who i know you know, and they believe that the plot was real. that there was a man who was hired to stab him in the vestibule, a very narrow vestibule and they would create a commotion and the police were diverted. discretion was part of valor and he had to get to washington.
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>> even paranoids have real enemies and he was going to a cottage a few years later and a bullet goes through his hat. ultimately a plot got him. so it's not as if they were -- >> a plot hatched in baltimore. >> yes. >> and he's leaving town with a stack of threats, stabbings and a stack of offers of protections. my favorite is from a man whose name i've forgotten. it's in the book who said he wants to be secretary of state. and if he's secretary of state he'll live through the inaugural and he probably won't otherwise that he will bring 12 guns to protect lincoln at the assassination and lincoln will know him he will paint the eyebrow sky blue. it was a strange batch of correspondents. >> yeah, i bet. of course, we talked about -- i just mentioned jeff dais because
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he went through his own plaid hat and overcoat fleeing at the end of the war. >> and was mocked by -- >> and was mocked -- >> by wearing women's clothes, yeah. >> i love that. >> the worst thing in a victorian man could do is show cowardice. david was on the run alone from troops and lincoln had exposed himself to danger in philadelphia. so -- >> i'm going to ask you a question about lincoln and jeff davis. >> okay. >> what do you think is more difficult. i mean, we just mention them as my example. a military man entering the political arena or a politician having to become commander in chief? and here we had -- like year are we in 2008. >> and here we have lincoln and jeff davis and jeff davis had been secretary of war. he was also out here in the blackhawk war. >> and a hero of the mexican
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war. >> and so he had to become a politician in a way. not that humans are ex poe facto politicians. what do you think is more difficult? >> i think a really difficult question of which i had a tus terrific answer. >> yes, it was supposed to be. >> davis had trouble with the politics at the beginning of the war. he had trouble validating the idea that there was a constitution that was going to be very federal-oriented when the country was predicated on state rights. it was a conundrum. he struggled with the political role and it was devastating to the fortunes of the confederacy because he built up so many enemies in what was supposed to be a united front against lincoln and the union. but he was a darn good commander in chief at the beginning. he chose brilliant people. a lot of them were killed early in the war. maybe his mistake was leaving
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lee languishing in western virginia for too long. on the other hand, lincoln was always a brilliant politician and he defined the war brilliantly in an unprecedented situation. but i think he learned to be commander in chief on the job. it's a tough choice. >> it can be done, though. >> and davis never learned to be a great politician, better but both of them did on-the-job training for the weaknesses in their resumes. >> they come from different places. >> absolutely. >> that's what i think really happens. there was a question out here, i think, if we can give a focus question, i appreciate that. >> i'm looking to reading the book and one of the things i understand in the period before the inauguration lincoln was holding his cards close to his vest as to what he was actually going to do about this impending civil war. fdr did the same facing a major crisis in the economy before he was inaugurated and nobody knew what he was going to do. and people said they should have sent signals. it would have helped the country
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but, in fact, in both cases it seemed like it helped them do a better job once they got in by waiting. we have two candidates for president now. we have two -- a fiscal crisis and two wars going. and i'm wondering -- and everybody is wondering what's going to happen. what advice would you give to mccain or obama in terms of what they should do once they're elected or should they wait until they're inaugurated what they say they will do. >> the question is -- if i could just put the pieces to another excellent question. the parallels between lincoln and fdr not doing anything during those four months that they faced when there were real crises. as compared to the crisis the next president will inevitably face and whether he should be involved. i'll say quickly as dan weinberg knows, one of the inspirations for the book was jonathan alter's books on roosevelt's first 100 days which i think has
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a particularly strong section on the president election. and i still remember vividly which is always a great thing about a great book. you remember a great part, hoover begging roosevelt, you have to do something about the bank crisis. you got to sign this document and we've got to be together on this and roosevelt said you know those drapes are lovely. i think i may keep them in the white house. lincoln did the same thing. he would not change any -- he would not declare any policy about facing down secession, about any new aspect of a compromise. he secretly discussed with fellow republicans where -- how far he was willing to go on compromise and also drew a line in the sand. but that idea of profound silence and masterly inactivity i think is a great lesson. i was, frankly, shocked that senator obama and senator mccain
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went to a cabinet meeting with president bush to discuss an economic plan that a lame duck president in effect was instituting. yes, we can argue all night about whether it was -- whether it helped, whether it didn't happen, whether it was a loan program but i think a president elect really needs a clean slate. i think we'll get through to january 20th. we got through march 4th through the beginning of the depression and we got through to march 14th, 1861, when seven states had left the union and declared -- had taken over federal property. a new president has his own mandate, his own responsibilities. and while i believe that he should be extremely respectful to his predecessor, but that's crucial, i don't think that they should be hand-in-hand on policy especially if they're from different parties. it's not what the voters want. >> i have here a couple of letters. most signings cannot do, we can
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show original materials of the day and i happen to have two letters. one from john ellis who was a governor of north carolina written on january 21st of '61 and the other from robert tombs written from montgomery, alabama, on the day of the inauguration, march 4th. and tombs is asking, could secession -- well, i'm going to ask secession could have been prevented. he is really talking about the military occasions that happen but he feels uneasy about the constitution and some of the clauses in it. and he's already beginning to look at secession and john ellis certainly is january before
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lincoln is inaugurated. he says in his letter, i doubt not in a moral point of view that the importation of salvages from africa and making slaves of them would be the best we could do for them but i view the question in this bill bearings virginia and north carolina for slaves for the southern market and the value of their property and the northern confederacy were such importations are prohibited would be worth more than it would be in a southern confederacy which would admit of such competition. and so we have -- they are already plotting for secession even before he's there. >> you know, there you go again with the letters, by the way. a new letter. >> but i don't think secession could ever have been actually -- you're going to answer the question, too, but you're absolutely right. though i'm always stunned -- and i'm taken aback a bit but at least there's nothing that will change the what we agree on. and that is they would not have
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accepted anyone but a proslavery democrat at that moment. they didn't even accept a popular sovereignty democrat. steven douglas, who simply said you can vote in a to her to exclude slavery that was anathema to the south. they believed they had to spread their political control. and as that letter from north carolina shows, they were petrified of, quote, savages and they were quote until slaves outnumbered masters and black outnumbered whites in north carolina. they were economically fearful, physically fearful by an inhumane system they created themselves. and when lincoln said the time has come better now than in the future. it was their decision. and that's what he wanted -- zmru but also speaking about is that they think that they should not import slaves because then
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we will not be able to get certain southern states into our -- >> it's a lunatic -- it's a lunatic rationale. >> in both ways. >> but i was looking at a quote today that i use in the book, lincoln's best friend, oldest friend who voted for steven douglas in 1850 and sort of represented this prounion, proslavery kentucky. he said to lincoln in the next four months, all eyes will be on you, but only half the ears will listen to you. and that's really what this was all about. lincoln new that. he had to speak to his half of the years and reassure them more than he had to address the people who were tone deaf. >> and he was speaking about the south but he was really speaking about the north. >> absolutely. he won 40% of the popular vote in the north. remember, he got 2% in the south so he got nothing in the south. that was challenge number one is making sure he was viable in the
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north in order to sustain his surviving the interregular numb and becoming the president. >> do you think it was coming up from below to give him the spine as well and pushing forward that greeley and the press and some of the politicianses and others in the press were pushing for this and -- >> i don't actually. i read the greeley letters, the seward letters. chase was okay. these other guys were all over the place. and seward was a leading advocate for compromise in the senate. this man who was considered more radical than lincoln and couldn't be the nominee because he was so antislavery. he thought of telling lincoln, you know, give them all these concessions and lincoln won't do it. he had instruct seward to hold the line. and i just think it's remarkable that this guy would, you know, parallel -- make the parallels and the latter day judgments yourself but here's the guy with the least experience of anyone
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on the scene of that moment, the least military, the least political, the least executive, the least seward would have been a governor and he is right up there right after the election telling everybody, in essence, it's my political organization, it's my party, both ways, capital p, small p. i'm in control and here's the drill. the republican platform says no extension of slavery. i'm going to live and die by that platform. and so are you. as long as you control the bureaucracy and 1500 appointments right away, they did what they were told. that's what it was about. >> i think there was one question out here. focuses please. >> was lincoln for those who opposed secession and if he was did he have to worry about the confidentiality, would secession employees look at his mail and tell grams? and was president buchanan of any help during this period?
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>> there are two questions, the level of lincoln's communication to southerners and to prounion southerners during this period. and the security of that correspondence and then buchanan which we'll do second and whether he was helpful. he was in correspondence with people, with alexander hamilton stevens of georgia principally who he actually thought for a while might make a good cabinet appointee as he was, you know, i think dreaming that georgia could be held in the union if men like stevens had their way and if stevens maybe got a role in the government. he had known stevens in congress. they served together and they were fellow whigs. and he respected him. by the way, stevens -- you know, in one point writes to him, you know, the constitution -- you have to consider the apple of gold and the frame of silver. lincoln immediately co-ops that and starts writing it himself without any credit. good question about the security. lincoln had a habit of writing private and confidential on all of these letters that we've been
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talking about. and he expected that -- i guess he expected the gentlemen to keep his material out of the newspapers, but he never wrote anything that would get him into trouble because he did expect that men's like stevens would show his letters to fellow prounion southerners, him people like seward would show hess confidential letters he never -- he never let his guard down in his correspondence because i think he felt that there was a danger even when people adopted this gentlemen's code in terms of confidentiality. buchanan, lincoln thought buchanan hastend and worsened the crisis by not standing up to south carolina and louisiana when state militias and others confiscated federal property in
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those states. he had no respect for buchanan. but he got too angry at him too quickly and was overherd saying if he gives a piece of property away he ought to be hanged. and i think he moderated that buchanan not be his enemy and badmouthi badmouthing. >> lincoln got to washington, the first thing he did was knock on the white house door and say i'm here. what's new? the door keeper went up to the can't meeting and said to buchanan, mr. lincoln is here, buchanan came rushing down all in a dither and actually he took lincoln upstairs and had him sit on the cabinet meeting and that's the only experience he had on how to run a cabinet meeting which he did once or twice a week for the rest of his administration. and then a few days later, buchanan called on lincoln at the willard hotel and if there's one great favor buchanan did for lincoln is showing the arc of
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the presidency was a continuum regardless of party. that was a very valuable visit and i think lincoln was wise to pay the first courtesy call. and it's -- he met him without preconditions, what can i say. [laughter] >> and he got repaid in a nice way [laughter] >> many of you have books to sign and we'll get to that probably after our program but we thank you for having asked for signed book from harold holzer. how did he relax during this time. it was a tense time. did he relax? >> you know, he was a great outdoor -- he liked sports. he liked handball but, of course, it get cold in springfield so he can't do much beyond walking to -- between his house and the state capital every day and walking up the stairs. the only relaxation we know about is that he played chess. but he made a lot of choices apparently when he played chess. he talked to himself.
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he whistled. dixie was introduced. it's very ironically according to two witnesses he had heard dixie when it was introduced in dixie at a minstrel show, politically incorrect at a minstrel house and he had a habit of whistling dixie and he drove his opponents crazy and pretty soon nobody wanted to play chess with him. aside from that, no relaxation. he went home and let his kids, according to one person who went home to dinner with him, he let the boys climb all over him and pull his ears and stick their fingers in his nose and jump on him and i think that was a tonic for him. >> judge treat, who was a friend of his and in the lawns here in illinois and politically here and got assigned lincoln-douglas debates from abraham tells of his being at a chess game at the lincoln home and tad walks in and up-does the chessboard and
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he was kind of angry and lincoln just let it go. >> if there's one thing abraham and mary lincoln had in common was, aside from the chemical attraction -- their mystical attraction, they both believed and they both applied the theory that you don't reprimand or punish children. their children ran wild and it was their decision. they really believed in that. they let them run wild. >> we're getting close to the end of our virtual book signing here, harold. i do want to ask you this question, though. what do you think were the most important sources for lincoln's antislavery feelings? i myself go back a bit to thomas, his father, who split off a church in kentucky over slavery. >> uh-huh. >> and perhaps left kentucky for partially that reason. so there's certainly some antecedents back in kentucky but what else would you say? >> i do think you're right the
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baptist church discovered the little pigeon creek church. i think it was influential and i think the story was influential. and i think the story of exodus was influential. he loved the bible. and people distorted that first trip back to new orleans. did he really see a slave auction? did he really say, if i ever get a chance to hit that thing, i'll hit it hard? well, maybe not but when he saw human beings, as he said, chained together like fish on a trout line, i think it affected him deeply. slavery was more than a theory -- it was more than an institution that interfered with free white labor it was something of oppressed human beings and i think seeing it -- and seeing slaves marching across kentucky i think that made -- i think those -- the three sources, thomas the church
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and the bible and the personal upfront experience. >> as congressman, didn't he also in the boarding house have a -- there was a slave in there as well that he saw firsthand? >> yeah, but also i have to say abraham lincoln, when he was in his deepest funk about breaking up with mary lincoln, went to stay with josh speed at farmington and was served peaches and cream by slaves, lemonade by slaves and would lie on a hammock and brewed and i wonder he would say i could get used to this. i've got to get wages, so -- >> but when in rome, i suppose. >> yeah. when in lexington or louisville, yeah. so i don't want to paint him as a saint. >> no. i don't go he was that either. but actually being a human being makes him all the more remarkable. because overcame what we humans are t


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