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tv   Abraham Lincolns Friendships  CSPAN  January 15, 2018 12:35pm-1:36pm EST

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the c-span bus continues its 50 capitols tour this month with stops in raw lay, columbia, atlanta and montgomery. on each visit we'll speak with state officials. follow the tour and join us on wednesday at 9:30 a.m. eastern for our stop in raleigh, north carolina when our guest is north carolina attorney general josh stein. next, a panel of scholars talks about abraham lincoln's friendships both before and after he became president. this discussion was part of the symposium in gettysburg, pennsylvania. it's just under an hour. >> i'm herald holser. welcome to the lincoln forum and a special panel discussion on lincoln's friends. let's start, if we can, with a
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lincoln quote. because on today's topic as with most subjects, abraham lincoln expressed himself better than almost anyone. and as he said in 1849, the better part of one's life consists of his friendships. well, we want to look today as what, if anything, he meant by that, how sincere he was or how well he understood his own commitment to and concept of friendship. and i have a group of very accomplished friends to explore that topic with me. chuck strosier, who has spoken at the lincoln forum who brings his experience as a psychoanalyst, psychobiographer, a one-time resident of springfield. by which i mean he knows about
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springfield. and of course as an authority which is the subject of his latest book on the complex relationship between abraham lincoln and his only really close friend joshua speed. we'll hear more about that in the panel. ed edna green, who has written and lectured here on the subject of lincoln, emancipation, race, equality and african-american life and lives. we welcome her perspective as well. another experts on lincoln's years is a friend who has written writtena, and another expert who you're familiar with his expertise and republican
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politicians, particularly the war governors of the civil war era we plan to probe further, the new standard authority on lincoln and the war governors steven engels. so welcome to all of you [ applause ] so the subject is lincoln and his friends, lincoln and friendship. we just heard the quote, the better part of one's life consists of friendships. and yet over the years a good many of lincoln's friends successively, that is his earliest friends would complain when he moved onto another level of society, and it happened frequently, would complain that lincoln tended not to retain his old friends but actually tended to discard them. to springfield he moved as a
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young man, and one might say he shed the salem friends. and when he left springfield he left his springfield friends behind once he moved to washington. if you take the circuit writing lawyer, and i'll gile about this in a moment, his circuit writing chum, lincoln abandoned his most faithful friends even before he left springfield reluctant to give them jobs and spoils once he was elected president. let me quote the co-owner of the chicago tribune who expected more awards than he received and who blurted out after election when lincoln seemed less friendly than before, "we made abe and by god we can unmake him." so what do we make of this? one more quote. leonard sweat, another friend of
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lincoln's who wrote "some of mr. lincoln's friends insisted that he lacked the storing attributes of personal affection which he ought to have exhibited." what do we think? how good a friend was abraham lincoln, and what do we make of this testimony that he tended not to store long-standing friendships? and we should start with illinois years so let's start with chuck and guy if we can. >> interesting. is this on? it seems to be there's two questions of how good a friend was he and then the examples that you gave where friendships didn't last and sort of starts at the back of my story with speed, as lincoln would say ass backwards.
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but the way in which speed served such a crucial function for him was far and away his best friend and nurtured him through his deep struggles for nearly three and a half years when they slept together, and then speed got married and moved to kentucky, got married. and in the two months leading up to the actual wedding there's an extraordinary series of letters that some of you have heard me talk about. and culminating in the letter when speed actually consummated the marriage and roof didn't fall in and he writes lincoln two days before, and lincoln writes his hand is still shaking ten hours later, still trembling. well, what happened was the marriage was consummated, so he
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kind of vicariously worked things through. but it was the climax of the relationship between -- but they started quarreling over some cases in the 1840s that speed was handling for lincoln. and i think what he was able to work through with this friendship vicariously allowed for him to both return to marry, return to his path of love and marriage and eventually children and growth and healing his underlying depression. but also speed didn't matter anymore.
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so he moved beyond him and the close texture of their friendship ended at that point. >> yeah, i want to add to that, though. i think that this is rather harsh on lincoln, but i think the only friend that he had that was an unconditional friend that didn't have some ulterior motive for forming that friendship was speedy. it came at a time in his life where he needed a friend. there was no give-and-take. speed couldn't do anything particularly for him, so that makes him unique as far as i'm concerned. my affection for lincoln in writing my book which becomes very much on his relationships in the circuit, i find that i admire him more but i like him less. he was always, in my view, looking for a friend who could help him. and to start with the classic, his closest friend is david
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davis the judge. well davis was the judge, so you would be friends with him if you could be. and david himself very shortly after lincoln's death sent a letter saying lincoln was a peculiar man. he thought only of himself, he never confided. and all these circuit associates say the same thing. and mary's family says that he was a cold man, he showed nee emotion, he didn't care about anybody but himself. in all of that, though, i rationalize from his opening statement when he ran for the legislator in 1832, and he said -- i'm not quoting it precisely, but this is the gist, all men are said to have their own peculiar ambition. in my case i want to do everything i can do be so highly esteemed. i think he was on a mission from
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day one not to be president but to be somebody. and friendship can be a bit of baggage if you have relationships you have to tend to to the same extent they're tending to you. except you must consider that he saved our nation with this focus. and so perhaps it was worthwhile that he had that attitude. >> edna? >> i think it's problematic when we talk about lincoln's friendships without defining what friendship is and what it means in the 19th century and a complex person like lincoln. so he has many personal acquaintances, i think. some of them closer to hill than others and in various categories. i'm reminded of david donald's book. i think it was called we are lincoln's men or something like that. it was written many years ago. and he talks about the various
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categories that these people fit into. and so i think before we can even decide how friendly he was -- he was friendly to everyone, it seems. but clearly there are degrees of friendship that he expresses with people in washington. >> let me add to that. i think of all the governors who had any relationship beyond, you know, an acquaintance relationship would be richard yates. and i think yates, they went back a few years in their past. and i think when yates becomes governor the same year that lincoln becomes president it's interesting that yates reaches out to lincoln to read some of his, you know, attempts at writing an inaugural speech, and
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at one point he feared if he were being honest with yates, it probably wasn't a very good document and he would take offense. show he resisted that. but i think as the war went on, yates believed that he could use his relationship with lincoln, being from illinois, being a person who was perceived to have had perhaps more than acquaintance with lincoln. but i would agree that once lincoln leaves springfield among the 59 or at least the governors who make their way to washington, it's really nothing more than acquaintance that they really share. and even john andrew, i'm working on a biography right now and john andrew is among those that make repeated trips to washington. and he's probably among the three or four that see lincoln the most during the civil war. and even though they're very different political leaders, i think they had a tremendous respect for one another. but -- and i don't think it's
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extended beyond anything more than just an acquaintance. >> let me flip the question for everyone to have a go at. so i'm accepting all the different things that you've said, which almost add up to the same thing, there were degrees of friendship. they were degrees of acquaintanceship and political alliance. he was not -- on the circuit as a younger man he was seeking friendships that would benefit him politically. the great exception is josh speed, but even that fated by geographical separation, opinions over slavery or maturing and other things that may have divided them. so my question is what was there about lincoln that so magically and so continuously attracted
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men as friends, acolytes, admirers of -- he was never short of circles of people who, you know, moth to flame, admirers. so what do you think? chuck, we can start with you again. >> first of all, there's a context, which is that the separate fears, and i think women moved in the females sphere and the men moved in the male sphere. and that was a very important difference. and in that male sphere lincoln was a man's man, and he was greatly admired, real tall, greatly athletic, incredibly strong. spieth's description of him was almost gushing. he used to ride and also judge gander pulling, which is just this outrageous sport where you
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string a goose on a rope and then you goose his neck and the horse would ride at full speed and try to rip the neck off. and spieth felt that was great, it was a real manly thing to be very good horse back rider so i think what brought respect from other men was this physical respect. he had a real presence and that comes across indirectly. there's a curious thing about people's -- men's -- he was not friends with women, he tended to have some friends that -- this is browning, for example, who were older married matronly figures and after he married mary and they started having children he treated her like an older married matronly figure but they were the exceptions.
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he moved in a male world which was characteristic of the time but men who were friends with lincoln tended to experience him as their best friend. he had a way of drawing people into his orbit that made them feel special in that context even if it didn't really last, if it didn't -- even if the friendships didn't necessarily have legs and they might be not exploitative but manipulative. >> i would go so far as to call him a jock. he was a great athlete. you see the things he could do. there's an account of a foot race he ran in front of the courthouse in urbana the diary entry of the relatively illiterate carpenter wrote this said a beat. so he her runs a foot race down main street in urbana.
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his wrestling is well known. there's an event that occurred in monticello, illinois, where they had a butcher's ax which was a relatively small instrument he and this other's lawyer had a gentleman's bet let's see if we can do warmups. the other lawyer winds up and throws this thing and it goes a fair distance so lincolns throws it the same distance and lincoln throws the thing, you can tell how far because he throws it into a creek at the bottom of the courthouse. i've measured. it's like 100 yards and i can't imagine anybody being able to do that but these are accounts that he did this so that's an example
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and these things go -- there's constant references to his athletic skills. the long jmp, there is a half african-american half native american in clinton, illinois that was the champ and everybody -- nobody could touch this guy in the long jump. he did beat lincoln but just barely. so these accounts are repeated. he had such tremendous charisma as a person and such warmth as a persona that people overlonged this detachment of his that they all talk about but oh, that's lincoln, let him go so i think that had a lot to do with it. >> we could all buy it if it wasn't for the greased goose story. [ laughter ] gander pulling.
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>> he was self-effacing. he was not a threat to men. he was not the most attractive person in the world. he was folksy. i think they looked at him and saw him as someone he didn't have to compete with but i don't thinkeer men felt they had to compete with him and so as guy indicated he was able to make people feel at home so if you have an athlete it's easy to be accepted by the average man. >> the interesting thing about lincoln, i got to see him throw all of the governors who would come to washington and see him for the first time and even the secretaries who would join and
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i'll give you one. john andrew frequented washington and he would always take the same secretary and the secretary would come back and tell the other secretaries about lincoln's rugged features. he just looked immense, he's tall, he looks just fierce. and they were always impressed by his disarming, effacing sort of, you know, attitude towards andrew and then towards the end of the year andrew brings on board a new secretary and he's anxious to go to washington in the summer of 1864 and they spend probably about an hour with lynch con which was rather unique and within the first few minutes the secretary wrote -- this is a great story. he was struck number one by the physical appearance of lincoln how he looked which contrasted sharply with how he acted and he would say in andrew's presence -- and you have to remember andrew is probably less than 5'9", 5'1" and lincoln is
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6'4" and the one thing that struck this secretary is he says lincoln looks like a bean pole and i was so amazed at how far under the chib of lincoln andrew came up to. he looked like a little orange compared to lincoln yet lincoln understood the difference in their physical appearances and managed to arrive at a conversation that was in no way demeaning or disrespectful to someone who were was more portly, shorter and a person who struggled with his appearance and the secretary was struck by lincoln's manner, his charisma and so for me it was the perceptions of lincoln through the eyes of governors and their secretaries who would log in those experiences. >> one thing i would add is i've
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known politicians and elected officials and there is an increased yearning to be their friends or to be in their glow when they achieve power and lincoln was pretty grand and self-confident as president and maybe even in his final days in illinois he was quite a presence and people wanted to be part of the political march as well. >> no great man was ever more humble. i want to say something and one of the things i stumbled on, it's not as no one ever noticed it but no one ever did anything with this, lincoln and spieth moved in together on april 15, 1837, the day he moved from new salem to springfield and this wonderful story of arriving on the store and he wants to buy a bed for $17 and spieth says
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well, i have a big bed upstairs and a lot of room, stay with me and he drops this back down and he says well, i'm moved. and he stayed there -- they slept together for the next three and a half years in the same bed which was another question we can get to but he became undoubtedly his closest friend but the openness took from mid-april in 1837 until some time in the fall of '39 that their closeness plower ed both spieth and lincoln opened up to the male community and started what is a salon and it
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started in the late fall of 1839 and later in writing letters to herndon said every night the young lights of springfield would come and they all came only because of lincoln but they were steven. a douglas and speed would make the fire in the back of the store and the end of the day and the -- the leading sbi intellectuals in illinois if not the country were of different political persuasions would gather and come because of lincoln you couldn't talk politics. can you imagine abraham lincoln and steven douglas sitting in the back of a store and not
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talking politics? well, they did. so they agreed to hold an eight day debate in the local presbyterian and speed remembereder have by a team. so what's so interesting in this context is that people were so drawn to lincoln. he would endlessly tell stories, he was funny, he could listen to people, he could talk and this orbit, this incredibly male orbit that gathered in the back of speed's store. it was a group of the leading young men in springfield meeting in the back of speed's store while the coterie, the high faluting coterie med in the
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edwards' home and played violins and dance and edwards greeted their guests in french. that was a few blocks away in the edwards' home so you had this contrast between the femme in the culture coterie versus the salon that's meeting in the back of speed's store because of lincoln. >> and yet mary calls it a coterie at one point. she says in our little coterie in springfield my giant stood heads above the little giant or something derogatory. one thing chuck and guy i have to ask you and anybody else who wants to weigh in. there's a lot of mythology about lincoln's relationship with steven douglas. they were friends but different politically. they had great respect for each other even though they were separated by different view points on slavery extension. i happen to think they weren't friends but i'd love to see what
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you think. >> i would say not. i think lincoln had great contempt for douglas. douglas wanted to find a way to rationalize not offending the south. he -- i wish i could quote the letter, there's a letter he writes, i can't remember to whom he lwrote it but it was like hee i am not doing very much and here's douglas in the united states senate, he's one of the leading politicians and goes on and on expressing envy of douglas so -- it's like the old without judas would there have been a jesus? would douglas, would there have been a lincoln? i think not. not because of friendship but because a fair amount of contempt lincoln had for him. >> i want to -- we've touched on lincoln's friend shship or lack
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friendships with women. i want to talk to edna about the -- his ability or inclination to have relationships with people of color. we all know the extraordinary quote that frederick douglass remembers after practically having to push his way into the white house for the post-second inaugural reception lincoln sees him in the distance and says "there is my friend douglass, there's no one whose opinion i value more than yours which douglass thought of as a great moment in social history. but was it bluser? was it real -- tell us what you make of the friendship or the relationship between frederick douglass and abraham lincoln. >> first of all, the men only met three times and only
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briefly. i don't see how that develops into a friendship but they were personally acquainted. there's a difference there and when lincoln refers to douglass as "my friend" he refers to a lot of people as "my friend." douglass thought a great deal of it but we have to remember who douglass was. douglass was a formerly enslaved man who was self-made. who was able to free himself from slavery, came to the north and made something of himself. a grand something of himself. he was the leader of black america during most of the 19th century so he thought very highly of himself as well. so to be in the presence of someone like lincoln who is treating him like a man is a big deal for him and i don't think it's at all unusual for lincoln to treat him that way.
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i think that's the way lincoln would have treated anyone who he felt had made something of himself. it's talked about lincoln's belief in the right to rise. douglas is one of these people who is the epitome of that theory of the ability of an african-american to rise lincoln would have had respect to him. i also want to mention when sojourner truth comes to the white house, lincoln does not treat her the same way he treats douglas. he calls her anti-sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle freddy.-sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle fredd-sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle fredd-sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle freddu-sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle freddn-sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle freddt-sojourner.
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he never calls douglas uncle freddi-sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle fredde-sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle fredd -sojourner. he never calls douglas uncle freddsojourner. he never calls douglas uncle freddy. [ laughter ] but it's because he's male and has a great deal of respect for him but i think you can have respect for someone, you can have respect for their opinions without being a true friend of theirs. >> it's interesting, his promiscuous use of the word "friends." you can see in the his letters, "my good friend, my deep friend, my intimate friend" is perhaps masking a uniform distance that he maintains. by the way, i'm going to hold out for four meetings with frederick douglass. i still think that -- i take douglas at his word that he met with him once at the soldier's home so i'm going to think four. doesn't a deep friendship make, but one more occasion. [ laughter ] >> and he certainly does miss the visit to the soldier's home when lincoln invites him for tea. >> exactly. and i think he makes great deal of there is no one whose
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opinions i value more than yours. and i think he's saying it to his crowd, lincoln is. so steve, i want to ask you a governor's question because i've always been intrigued by the serpentine way lincoln arrived in washington, d.c. i'm getting to something i want to turn to about. philadelphia, the eve of washington's birthday he finds out he might be assassinated if he goes through baltimore. he speaks at independence hall on washington's birthday and says famously "i would rather be assassinated on the spot than to surrender" which i think is the result of being told by two credible sources that he is facing danger. he won't do it. because he's promised the new governor of pennsylvania, andrew curtain who is certainly the governor that we should be
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discussing in part. because he promised he is going to go to dinner at the statehouse in harrisburg and he does so what is the curtain relationship with lincoln and he does so much for him. risks his own life and makes his schedule torturous. what develops from there? >> you wrote a great book about lincoln's journey to washington. >> we didn't arrange this. >> and it helped me flesh out a lot of this trip and these early relationships. but curtain was in a position of incredible influence early on because of the nature of pennsylvania politics and the cabinet appointments and one of the things i came to figure
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object this trip in general that is reflected the most accurately is that lincoln wanted to be seen. i think he felt like the people wanted to see his mannerisms and what he thought might be the embodiment that they thought of the republic itself and i think curtain recognized that pennsylvanians were very important in the recent political context and as a border state would be more important and i think lincoln believed he owed this to curtain and because curtain was in washington as well, he was sick throughout most of the war and was not there as frequently as a few others, he made a lot of trips after battles to visit the soldiers and he and lincoln do
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develop a friendship -- i won't say friendship but more of an ajahn answer the than a lot of governors and it starts with those circumstances at the end of the inaugural journey to washington. >> so i'm going to go back to the illinois end of the table, not that you're -- you need to focus only on that for sure but i'm glad the book was brought up "we are lincoln's men" because it suggest these progression of lincoln's views on friendship as he got to be older and more famous, he preferred the company of young admiring guys to his peers. there was always room for ellsworth and hey. brilliant accomplish guyed but i want to hear this
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psychoanalytical talk about this. did he need basket in their admiration rather than speaking to peers? >> yes but there's also seward. stewart talked to him most days so that that would be in another category. yes he likes to have people admire him. i want to add one thing about -- the wonderful story about sojourner truth. lincoln didn't do very well with women and i would suspect that wouldn't be a racist comment as much as a sexist comment. he couldn't deal with sojourner truth as a strong woman. he was drawn to men, men liked him for all the reasons we were talking about earlier if you look at his relationships -- his mother and sister died, there's
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nothing concrete -- but certainly with anne rutledge who he was close to and loved and she suddenly died, we have very indirect kind of evidence but elizabeth edwards, whose hom where the coterie met and she greeted her guests in french at the door, in springfield, illinois, can you imagine? i know springfield. nobody speaks french in springfield. in the 18 to 30s she would greet her guests in french. she called lincoln peculiar. she loved speed. he came from a slave family, a large plantation in louisville so he was at ease in all the kinds of situations that existed. he could dance, he could banter and once he started living with lincoln he dragged him to the
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coterie. but this business, when mary came into his line of vision, she was the first person -- first woman he felt comfortable with and elizabeth edwards, who i think is the best witness, said he used to sit under the veranda in the shade and it is in rapt attention as she would talk she was vibrant and interesting as a young woman and could quote poetry and was very political and had grown up in lexington and knew henry clay and intensely interested in politics. i think that was the only woman he really could deal with in his life and i think that's partly why he nell love with her and there's really nobody after that. there's no woman in his life that plays any kind of role like that. it's all men. his friendships, his life revolved around men in a male world. >> before guy comments i want to invite you to start coming to the microphone if you have
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questions because we want to give you a chance to weigh in here and ask our experts. >> there's a couple of women he had relatively intimate -- not in the sense we think of it -- relationships. orville brownings wife, he wrote letters to her, very candid, about who he was and what he was and his relationship with mary owens that it was amazingly blunt and unkind and r and then there's a lawyer's wife in danville named elizabeth harmon who was this beautiful woman and lincoln instead of staying at the mccormack house where the lawyers were he stayed with the harmons and there was nothing there -- i don't mean in the the usual sense that we now think of those things but her husband oscar harmon was not as close to lincoln as was elizabeth and she
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and lincoln got going on the loss of willie one night and he sat up all night with her. that's very unusual for him and harmon was a legislator he would write back "mr. lincoln asks about you." and that relationship maintai d ed. she came down to see him off when the train left illinois. i talked to michael burlingame about it. some of these relationships are inconsistent. he was comfortable with married women because they were no threat and they didn't have to worry about impressing him. >> older as chuck said. older matrons. >> and there's evidence beyond the racial divide -- the sojoew sojourner truth meeting was so interesting. she was not happy when he called
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her auntie. she told him right then and there that isn't what she likes to be called but he had the same reaction with mrs. free month. she was pushy and saucy and the pamphleteer, who wrote that pamphlet, anna dickinson didn't like her when she sent a bill for her services. so he has something of a problem with strong women. although mary in her way was strong but limited by the divides of the spheres so let's begin and see what's on your mind. >> your description of lincoln reminds me of a frequent description of george washington and franklin d. roosevelt that they had relatively few real friends but both have good relationships with women.
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i was wondering if there may be something about being the leader of an entire nation in time of crisis that brings out that kind of person. this may also be a good description -- i don't know about him as much but winston churchill as well i don't think had many male friends although many, many, many male admirers and the like. and washington had -- lafayette and hamilton very young talented people that he treated as sons. >> that's a really good question. although washington and fdr were much more at ease with women which i think you eluded to. who would like to do the comparison? >> i talked this way about lincoln once at a presentation i made in lincoln, illinois and jim edgar, who was a very popular governor of illinois, his top assistance was in the audience, he said "frank, do you want to get a beer?" which i'd always say yes to
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that. [ laughter ] he said i want to talk to you about jim edgar -- i shouldn't rat out my friend jim edgar. he said everybody thinks he's a wonderful warm person but around us he's demanding and not in the same way and our congress, ed mat b madigan because secretary under bush until clinton beat him. but ed was friendly and nice but you never know what he was thinking. he didn't come to you in the same way friends do so in answer to that question i think maybe public figures have to be more guarded in their relationships. >> i think now that i'm a roosevelt person, part of the time, the comment one hears most about fdr in our circle of roosevelt historians at hunter college is that roosevelt's magic was agreeing with
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everybody and making everyone feel that his or her opinion was the most important and the last word and never disagreeing and never saying no. no one ever heard him say no to any request or suggestion. he didn't pay attention to them when they had gone but he didn't say no. [ laughter ] >> the great line about -- i can't remember who said it but my old friend jeffrey ward told me this. the great line about roosevelt was that he had a thickly forested interior. [ laughter ] and i would say that that applies to lincoln as well. thickly forested interior. >> and about both men people thought perhaps they were shallow because they didn't give of themselves too much and i would suggest that they both had a great deal of depth people prefer to ignore. >> catherine harris from springfield, illinois. from what you've said, how then
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would you define on your degrees of friendship the relationship that mr. lincoln had with william florville. >> billy the barber, very interesting character. >> are you directing that to me? >> to anyone who cares to answer but always you, fracker. [ laughter ] >> believe it or not, we do sort of get along. >> that's a good example. he -- floorville was an african-american basher. >> -- barber. >> pardon me, haitian. and he contracted to sell some people in bloomington contracted to sell him land and then they reneged so he goes to length con and these are prominent men in bloomington and he went to lincoln and lincoln drafted up a
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complaint for specific performance of the contract and sent it to him and said, look, either you do this or else we're filing this suit and they followed through with the deal. they were close in springfield. i think it was a relationship of equality. i don't see any discriminatory behavior in that relationship. do you? >> no, i was asking you, fraker. [ laughter ] >> i think that's a good ed of his color blindness. >> edna, would you agree? >> i don't know that we can say that there's equality there because in 19th century america even in illinois there is inequality. and the fact floorville is known as "billy the barber" is the first thing we should jump off from. >> kind of like auntie sojourner. >> yes, absolutely. and my definition of friendship is somebody i'm going to invite over for sunday dinner or i can
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be invited to sunday dinner and i doubt seriously if william floorville was invited to the lincoln household. he was his barber for 24 years and absolutely they had a very close relationship but i don't think it was a friendship in the way that joshua speed was his friend. i don't think it could ever be that because of the nature of the times. not because of lincoln but because of the times. >> i would agree and i think it's worth remembering that his best and -- the only really intimate friend was speed who had come from a slave-owning family and john speed the father, farmington had at its height in 1862 as many as 62 slaves. this was a big plantation. it's been preserved. it's a very interesting place to see and this was the context in which -- this is what speed came
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out of and when he was in springfield even as late as 1841 he was in correspondence with somebody who was buying a live is for him in -- somewhere south. i can't remember. i'm blocking on exactly where but at a time when he's very intimate with lincoln and then, of course, lincoln goes in the midst of this emotional turmoil in late august and for 20 days into september, 1840 goes to visit farmington and stay there is and has a boy assigned to him and that's really -- people make a lot about his trips down to new orleans in 1828 and the flat boat trips but his most extended and direct experience of slave i have that three-week visit to farmington in the late summer of 1840 and he never addresses
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the -- and john speed used to trace down escapees and -- you know, he was a classic sort of southern relatively enlightened kentucky slave owner but was -- had all the brutalities of slavery and that was -- this was lincoln's best friend. he never questioned that about him. they didn't talk about those kinds of issues and yet it had to -- in fact in the letters, the crucial letters in early 1842 he talks about how he euphemistically calls the plantation a farm. he said "well, one thing i never want to get into is farming like you do." farming, running a plantation is not running a farm. >> i would add to that that certainly another formative experience for him must have been his visits to his father-in-law's house in lexington. his father-in-law may have been a whig but lexington was a slave
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city and the todd home is a block and a half from the whipping posts. that's there in his life. >> so the woman he loved and had his children by and his best male friend were raised in slavery. >> let me just point out. when he went to visit speed he saw some slaves on a boat. >> that's the same trip, right. >> that same trip, right. >> that's when he's coming back. >> and he says "fish on a trot line." and ten years later he wrote a letter to i believe speed's sister still saying that image burned in his mind and he could never get it out of his mind. >> he wrote when he left -- he came back to springfield in his thank you letter for the visit was written to mary speed, who was the older half sister of speed and that's where he used the image on the boat which is an objectifying image. >> but he didn't have to leave springfield to encounter slavery, slavery existed in
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illinois. servitude, endentured, existed in illinois. if hi had gone to the edwards household he would have encounter indenture. if he had gone to other households he would have -- people who were enslaved would have served him right there in springfield even though we don't think of illinois as a slave-holding state, it did have enslaved people there when lincoln was there not many but they were there and he would have encountered them. >> and it had a six-month rule. >> exactly. >> let me end this part with my favorite william floorville story because when i did 100 years ago a book called "dear mr. lincoln" i searched in vain for letters to lincoln from his hometown once he reached washington with anything other than requests for money, complaints about how the todd family and others were turning against him and embarrassing him
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in politics in springfield, think the only un'm coupler bed letter i found was from floorville to lincoln in which he said something like -- it's a long one-page letter. he said "i just thought you and the boys might like to know that fido the dog is all right." he's the only one that ever thought to tell lincoln the pet they left behind survived? >> in that one letter he also mentioned his gratitude or whatever the word is for him issuing the proclamation. >> right. >> hi, i'm from temecula, california. i read your book on speed, their friendship and i have a couple of questions. how equal was that friendship? i remember you talking in the book about speed would follow lincoln on the circuit if he had free time just to see and watch
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what lincoln was doing. on the other hand i noticed that one of lincoln's female friends or that he could confide in one speed's mother once he was down in speed's father's plantation and the other question is do you think lincoln would have come out of his melancholy periods if it wasn't for speed? >> the equal relationship -- it was a very -- you know, lincoln was tall, exaggerated -- tallness exaggerated by his top hat, he was athletic, very male presence, right? speed was much -- 5'8", ordinary height. he was softer, he kept his hair long. he looked kind of like -- the comparison has been made he looked like the poet byron and five years younger, totally idolized lincoln so it wasn't
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unequal. they complimented each other so there was something about the presence of speed that attracted lincoln and allowed him to let his guard down and for speed it meant he could find a source of idealization that helped him find meaning in his life and he came out of -- i won't go into the relationship with his father but there was something there as well. now your second question? >> could he have gotten over the depression without speed? >> oh, no, that's the whole point of my book. [ laughter ] absolutely not. and this was somebody who had come out of a really serious suicidal depression. they took a suicide watch in january 41, they took his knives out of his room and someone was
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asked me during lunch about how remarkable it is to have had such serious -- in his late 20s and early 30s -- to have had such serious experiences with depression and to come out of it. and there's no question, i think, that really in the texture and the meaning and the significance of that friendship where he finally -- it took a couple years -- but he finally totally opened up. they were -- they were so -- it was the first american his life and the last, male, who he was open and available to and could share experience and intimacy. that's what you ultimately want in a friendship, that's what friendship is about, right? to be vulnerable, to be open, to be trusting and get something back from the other and he had that with speed but they were both also deeply troubled and confused about sexuality which is not unimportant. they were both very naive. i think lincoln may have been a virgin by the time he was 33
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which is a long time. if he wasn't a virgin he was certainly inexperienced, he was certainly naive, he was certainly innocent and he was very troubled by sexuality and the letter in february 25, 1842 where speed basically said he got married and the sky didn't fall in, he's holding the letter and he begins by saying "i'm still shaking ten hours later." this is a 33-year-old man and so he could vicariously work through these issues and confusions very deep and abiding in that friendship and then be able to grow and flower and move on to love and marriage and become the man whom -- and leader whom we know. >> i know that because speed was there he was the one that brought him out of it, but say there was no speed in his life, was lincoln strong enough to come out of that by himself. >> very quickly. >> well, counterfactual history is probably not the -- >> we don't know.
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>> there was speed. let's say that. >> final question? >> apart from john wilkes booth -- >> lift the microphone. >> oh, sorry. apart from the obvious, john wilkes booth and the military and confederacy, could you think of his enemies politically, socially. >> we'll have another panel on enemies. >> i'm sorry? >> we can't possibly breach the enemy subject with this panel. that's a subject of another panel. >> he didn't have any, is that the snans. >> i think that should be our answer for this one. let me end with two quotes i think are interesting. one, he told -- he related to william seward who we've identified as a close friend at the end of his life when seward said "a lot of confederates have been killed on the peninsula on
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a particularly bloody day in 1862 lincoln said -- and this might represent a feeling that he had through his life, the loss of enemies does not compensate for the loss of friends. but then he had lost speed in some ways as a friend and yet his resilience is remarkable, too and this is another quote from 1861. i don't know if it plays into the theme that we began with which is the ability lincoln had to lose friends and then make other friends. he said "i have learned the value of old friends by making many new ones, so take that as you will, join us at the book signing tables and thank you for your attention. [ applause ] here's a tweet from mad man
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across the water asking about an issue that still resounds today and his question is about how many people were fathered by g.i.s, u.s. g.i.s in vietnam and how are they treated 45 years after the u.s. departure. >> you could be featured during our next live program. join the conversation on facebook at and on twitter @c-span history. >> in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's table television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> the c-span bus continues its 50 capitals tour this month with stops in raleigh, columbia, atlanta and montgomery. on each visit we'll speak with
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state officials during our live washington journal program. follow the tour and join us on wednesday at 9:30 a.m. eastern for our stop at rally, north carolina, when our guest is attorney general josh stein. >> each week american history tv's reel america brings you archival film there is provide context for today's public affairs issues. ♪ ♪ i work in fields ♪ ♪ all i had was


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