tv Abraham Lincolns Friendships CSPAN January 26, 2018 8:00pm-9:02pm EST
here on c-span 3, it's "american history tv" coming up next with a focus on abraham lincoln. first, we'll look at lincoln's friendships and then hear about those who disliked or opposed him during our presidency. later, our lectures in history series looks at the portrayal of lincoln in art and photography.
next, the panel of scholars talks about abraham lincoln's friendships both before and after he became president. this was part of the annual lincoln symposium in gettysburg, pennsylvania. it's just under an hour. >> welcome to the lincoln forum and to a special panel discussion on lincoln's friends. let's start, if we can, with a 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 at 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 strozier who has spoken at the lincoln forum. who brings his experience as a psycho analyst, a psychobiographer, a one time resident of springfield. which i moon he knows about lincoln springfield, not one must be a psychoanalyst to live in springfield. although,. 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. a member of the executive committee of the lincoln forum and has written and lectured here at the forum at on the subject of lincoln, emancipation, race, equality and
african-american life and lives. we welcome her perspective as well. another expert on lincoln's illinois years is another forum friend who has written authoritatively about lincoln and the eighth judicial circuit in illinois, our friend guy fraker. and finally, another expert you're all familiar with and whose expertise on lincoln and his fellow union politicians, republican 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, stephen engel. 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 a good number of years, a good number of lincoln's friends successively, his earliest friends would complain when he moved on to another level of society and it happened frequently, would complain that lincoln tended the not to retain his old friends but actually tended to discard them. so springfield he moved as a young man and one might say he shed his new salem friends. when he left springfield, he left his springfield friends behind once he moved to washington. if you take the circuit riding lawyer, and i'll ask guy about this in a moment, his circuit riding chum, david davis, at his word, lincoln abandoned his most faithful illinois friends even before he left springfield, reluctant to give them jobs and
spoils once he was elected president. let me quote joseph madille, co-owner of "the chicago tribune," who expected more rewards than he received and who blurted out after the 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 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 longstanding friendships? we should start in the illinois years. so let's start with chuck and guy, if we can.
>> interesting question. is this on? >> yes. now it's not. it seems to me there are two questions 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, 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 3 1/2 years when they slept together, speed got married, moved to kentucky, got married and then in the two months leading up to the actual wedding, there is an extraordinary series of letters that some of you have heard me talk about, and culminating in the letter on february 25th,
1842, when speed actually consummated the marriage and the roof didn't fall in and he writes lincoln two days before and lincoln writes that his hand is still shaking ten hours later. still trembling. well, what happened was the marriage was consummated. so he kind of vicariously worked things through. it was the climax of the relationship between lincoln and speed. the emotional turning point in the life of abraham lincoln. but two things happened after that. one is that he after a couple of months in that summer, he returns again to courting mary, who had graciously waited for him as he wrestled his demons to the ground after the broken engagement of january of 1841. and speed becomes less significant as a friend. they never become enemies. speed later, of course, played an important role in kentucky, keeping kentucky in the union. he visited, often during the white house years, but they
started quarrelling over some cases in the 1840s that speed was handling for lincoln and i think it -- what he was able to work through in this friendship vicariously allowed for him to both return to mary, return to his path of love and eventually children and growth and healing his underlying depression, but also speed was no longer -- didn't matter anymore. and so he moved beyond him in the close next, the close texture of their friendship ended at that point. >> i want to add to that, though. i think that this is rather harsh on lincoln, but i think the only friend he had that was an unconditional friend that didn't have soma some ulterior e was speed. 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 becomes very much about his relationships on 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 you start with the classic, his closest friend is david davis, the judge. davis was the judge. so he would be friends with him in you could be. davis himself, very shortly after lincoln's death did a letter that said lincoln was a peculiar man. he had no affection for anybody. he thought only of himself. he never confided. and all these circuit associates say the same thing. mary's family said he was a cold
man. he showed no emotion. he didn't care about anybody but himself. all of that i rationalized from his opening statement when he ran for the legislature in 1832, and he said, all men are said to have -- i'm not quoting it precisely, but this is the gist. all men are said to have their own peculiar ambition, in my case it's to be highly esteemed by my fellow man and i want to do everything i can to be so highly esteemed. i think he was on a mission from day one not to be president, but to be somebody. friendship can be a bit of baggage if you have relationships you have to tend to to the same extent that they're attending to you. so i think that of him, which is a fairly harsh judgement, except you must consider that he saved our nation with this focus. 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 or what it means in the 19th century and what it means to a complex person like lincoln. and so he has many personal acquaintances, i think. >> right. >> some of them closer to him 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 that was written many years ago, and he talks about the various categories that these people fit into. 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 and in springfield. >> yeah. and let me add to that, i think of all the governors who really had any, you know, relationship beyond, you know, an
acquaintance relationship would be richard yates. 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 lincoln's very honest with him, and, in fact, at one point would refuse to do it for fear it might jeopardize the relationship between the two men, also he feared if he were being honest with yates it probably wasn't a very good document and he would take offense. so he resisted that. i think as the war went on, yates believed that he could use his relationship with lincoln being from illinois, being a person who is perceived to have had perhaps more than an acquaintance with lincoln. i would agree once lincoln leaves springfield, among the 59, at least the governors who
make their way to washington, it's really nothing more than an acquaintance that they really share. and even, you know, john andrew, i'm working on a biography right now and john andrew is among those who make repeated trips to washington. he's probably among the three or four who see lincoln the most during the american civil war, and even though they're very different, you know, very different political leaders, i think they had a tremendous respect for one another, but -- and i don't think it 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 are degrees are friendship. there are degrees of acquaintanceship and political alliance. he was not on the circuit as a younger man. he was seeking acquaintanceships
or friendships that would benefit him, both legally and politically, and as chuck pointed out, the great exception is josh speed, but even that faded by geographical separation, opinions over slavery and other things that -- or maturing. other things that may have divided them. so my question is, what was there about lincoln that so magically and so continuously attracted men as friends, acolytes, admirers? 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. >> so, first of all, there is a context, which is that the fears, and i think women moved in the female sphere and man moved in the male sphere.
that was a very important difference. in that male sphere, lincoln was a man's man and he was greatly admired. real tall, very athletic, incredibly strong, you know, speed's descriptions of him are almost gushing of how strong and powerful he was. he wrestled the mcclancy boys when he first arrived in new salem. he used to ride and judge gander pulling, this outrageous sport where you string a goose on a rope and grease his neck and the horse arrived at full speed and try to rip the neck off. so this was -- speed thought that was great. a real manly thing to be doing. [ laughter ] and he loved horses. he was a very good horseback rider. so i think that part of what brought respect for -- from other men was this sense of just physical respect for him. he had a real presence. i think that comes across, you
know, indirectly. and there is a curious thing about people's -- men's -- he was not friends with women. he tended to have some friends, mrs. browning, for example, mrs. abel in new salem who were older, married matronly figures. after he married mary, he treated her like an older, matronly figure. basically 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 their -- into his orbit that made them feel special in that context, even if, i agree with guy, even if it didn't really last, even if the friendships didn't necessarily have legs and there might in certain circumstances be somewhat not exploitive but
manipulative. >> just to add to that, i think we can go so far as to call him a jock. he was a great athlete. you see all the things he can do. there is an account of a foot race he ran in front of the courthouse in urbana, for example, and the diary entry of the relatively illiterate carpenter said abe beat. he runs a foot race during court session down a main street in urbana. his wrestling is well-known. there is an event that occurred in monticello, illinois, where between court sessions they had a butcher's ax, which is a relatively small instrument. i had to find out what that is because the account is so remarkable, it seemed impossible. he and this other lawyer sort of had a gentleman's bet, let's see who can throw this butcher's ax further. so they do warm-ups and the
other lawyer winds up and throws this thing. and it goes a fair distance. lincoln sort of warms up and throws it the same distance. they go, okay, this one counts. this guy goes first and his goes a little farther than his warm-up toss. you can tell how far it went because he threw it into the creek at the bottom of the courthouse hill. it's like 100 yards, and i can't imagine anybody being able to do this. these are accounts he did this. that's an example. there is constant references to his athletic skills. the long jump. there was a native american, 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. he outjumped everybody in the contest. sop these accounts are constantly repeated of this
athletic ability. plus, real quick, just to summarize it all, i think he had such tremendous charisma as a person and such warmth as a persona, that people overlooked this detachment of his that they all talk about. that's lincoln, let him go. so i think that had a lot to do with it. >> i think we can all buy it if it wasn't for the greased goose story. [ laughter ] >> gander pulling. >> i don't want to -- >> do you want to add to that, edna? >> i think 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 that they didn't have to compete with in that way. we know that he was very ambitious politically, but i don't think other men felt they had to compete with him for the attention of the ladies, certainly not. and as guy indicated, he was
able to make people feel at home, at least men feel at home, so if you have a situation like that and you have an athlete as well, then it's very easy, i think, to be accepted by the average man. >> yeah, the interesting thing about lincoln is i got to see lincoln through all of the governors who would come to washington and see him for the first time. and even the secretaries who would join the governors who would come to washington. and i'm struck by a couple of incidents. i'll give you one. john andrew frequented washington and he would always take essentially the same secretary, and this secretary would come back and tell the other secretaries about lincoln's rugged features. he's immense, he's tall, he looks just, you know, fierce. they were always impressed by his disarming, you know, effacing attitude towards andrew. towards the end of the year, andrew brings on a new secretary
and anxious to go to washington. they go to washington the summer of i think it's 1864. they spend probably about an hour with lincoln, which is rather unique. within the first few minutes, this secretary -- i just found this this spring, so it's a great, 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, you have to remember, andrew's probably less than 5'9", 5'10" and lincoln is, of course, 6'4". and the one thing that struck this secretary, lincoln looks like this bean pole and i was so amazed at how far under the chin of lincoln andrew came up to. he looked like a little orange compared to lincoln, and yet lincoln understood the difference in their physical appearances and managed to arrive at a discussion and a conversation that in no way was demeaning or, you know, disrespectful to someone who was obviously a little more portly,
a little shorter and a person who really struggled with his self- -- his appearance. and the secretary was struck by lincoln's, you know, just his manner, his charisma, and so -- but for me, it was the perceptions of lincoln through the eyes of governors and their secretary who's would then log in those experiences. >> i mean, one thing i would add is, you know, i've 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, for all of his modesty and all of his self-effacement, was pretty grand and self-confident as president and maybe even, you know, 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 is ever humble.
i want to just say something that guy mentioned the charisma. and one of the things that i sort of stumbled on and make a lot of in my book, it's not as though no one ever noticed it but no one ever did anything with this. lincoln and speed moved in together on april 15th, 1857 when he moved from new salem to springfield. this wonderful story of arriving in the store and wants to buy a bed for $17. speed says, well, i have a big bed upstairs and a lot of room. why don't you stay with me. he goes upstairs and drops his saddle bags and says, well, speed, i'm moved. they slept together for the next 3 1/2 years in the bed. which is another question we can get to, what it meant, but he became undoubtedly his closest friend. but the intimacy and the openness didn't really -- it took from mid-april 1837 until
some time in the fall, can't date this thing exactly, but sometime in the fall of '39 that really their closeness flowers. the man who became his best friend, it took him a couple of years to fully open up. once it did open up, a kind of dynamic developed that was very unusual and unlike any relationship in lincoln's life, where both speed and lynn continue sort of opened up to the male community and they started what really is a kind of a salon. and it started in the late fall of 1839. and speed later in writing letters said that, you know, every night the young lights of springfield would come and they all came only because of lincoln. speed is very clear about that. but the people who came included all -- john j. harden, many others, butler, and also stephen a. douglas, and they would go and speed would make the fire in the back of the store at the --
at the end of the day and these, you know, the leaning lights really in some ways, the leading intellectuals certainly in illinois if not the country were -- and of different political persuasions would gather there and they would come because of lincoln. now, they started talking for a few weeks and the one topic off the table, you couldn't talk politics. well, can you imagine abraham lincoln and stephen douglas sitting in the back of a store and not talking politics? well, they did. so finally they started -- somebody said we have to talk about this in a different context. so then they agreed in january of 1840 to hold an eight-day debate in the local presbyterian church. each person had a day. there were eight of them. they gave their talks. and steve remembered everywhere baeverywhere -- verbatim the speech that he
gave. people were so drawn to lincoln, he would endlessly tell stories. he was funny. he could listen to people. he could talk. this orbit, this incredibly male orbit that gathered in the back of speed's store, it wasn't only to see him, it was a group of the leading young men in spring feel meeting in the back of speed's store. while the coterie, the coterie met in the edwards' home and they played vie lines and the edwards' greeted their guests in french. that was a few blocks away in the edwards' home. this contrast between the afilm knit, cultured -- versus the salon, male salon that is 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 some derogatory thing. one quick thing, chuck, i have to ask you, and, guy, and anybody else who wants to weigh in. there is a lot of mythology about lincoln's relationship with stephen douglas, they were friends but differed politically. they had great respect for each other, even though they were separated by their differing viewpoints on slavery, et cetera. i happen to think they weren't friends but i'd love to hear what you think. >> i would say not. i think lincoln, in fact, had great contempt for douglas. douglas' fundamental position popular sovereignty was a way to rational not offending the south. >> i think even before, don't you? >> before that. i wish i could quote the letter, but there is a letter he writes, i can't remember to whom he wrote it, here i am, i'm not getting anywhere, i'm not doing very much and douglas is out here in the united states senate, he's one of the leading politicians and goes on and on
expressing envy of douglas. so to that extent, it was a very motivating factor. it's the old without judas would there have been a jesus? without douglas, would there have been a lincoln? i think not. douglas was a major -- not because of friendship but because of a fair amount of contempt lincoln had for him. >> i want to -- we've touched on lincoln's friendship or lack of friendships with women. i want to talk and turn to edna first on this. about his ability or his inclination to have relationships with people of color. we all know the extraordinary quote that frederick douglas remembers after practically having to push his way into the white house for the post-second inaugural reception, where lincoln sees him in the distance and says, there is my friend
douglas. there is no one whose opinion i value more than yours. which douglas thought of as a great moment in social history, i think. but was it bluster? was it real -- tell us what you make of the friendship or the relationship between frederick douglas and abraham lincoln. >> first of all, the men only met three times. and so -- and fairly briefly. i don't see how that develops into a friendship. but they were personally acquainted, okay? there is a difference there. and when lincoln refers to douglas as my friend, he refers to a lot of people as my friend, so that's not that unusual. douglas thought a great deal of it, but we have to remember who douglas was. douglas was a formerly enslaved man who was self-made. who was able to free himself
from slavery. he ran away 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. and 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 to him. and i don't think it's at all unusual for lincoln to treat him that way. i think that's the way lincoln would have treated anyone who he felt had made something of himself. talks 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. and lincoln certainly would have had respect for him in that regard. also, i want to mention that
when truth comes to the white house, although she's made something of herself as well, lincoln doesn't treat her the same way he treats douglas. he never calls douglas uncle freddy. so there is a difference there, okay? but it's because he's male and because he 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. >> yeah. so it's interesting, his somewhat promiscuous use of the word friend, my good friend, my intimate friend, my close friend is perhaps masking a uniform distance that he maintains. by the way, i'm going to hold
out for four meetings with frederick douglas. i take douglas at his word that he met with him once at the soldier's home. i'm going to hold out four. doesn't a deep friendship make, but one more occasion. >> when lincoln -- >> i agree that douglas makes a great deal of that there is no one's opinion i value more than yours. i think he's saying it to his crowd as well, lincoln is. steve, i want to ask you a governor's question because i've always been intrigued by the serpentine way that lincoln arrived in washington, d.c. i'm getting to something that i want to turn to you about. >> okay. >> 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. he says famously, i would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender, which i think is a direct result of his being told by two credible sources that he faces danger. so there is a plan afoot to whisk him to washington. but 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 discussing in part here at gettysburg because he's promised curtain that he is going to go to dinner at the statehouse in harrisburg. he does. he delivers in the middle of it and no one where he's gone. he goes back to washington. what is the curtain relationship with lincoln? he does so much for him. he certainly risks his own life and makes his schedule torturous. what develops from there? >> it's a great question.
and the good news is, you wrote a very great book about lincoln's journey to washington. >> we didn't arrange this. >> and it helped me, you know, flesh out a lot of these -- this trip and these early relationships. but, you know, curtain was in a position of, you know, incredible influence early on because of the nature of pennsylvania politics and the cabinet appointments and so forth, and i think, you know, one of the things that i came to figure out about this trip in general that i think is reflected the most accurately by pennsylvanian, in particular the statehouse dinner, is that lincoln wanted to be seen and not in an arrogant way, but i think he felt like the people wanted to see who he was, what he looked like, his mannerisms, who he physically was and what he represented might be the embodiment of what they thought of as the republic itself. and i think curtain recognized that pennsylvanians were very
important in the recent political contests and in going forward as a border state would be even more important. and i think lincoln believed he owed this to curtain, and a good relationship developed from this. and because curtain was frequently in washington as well, i mean, curtain was sick throughout most of the war, and was not there as frequently as a few others, he did make a lot of trips after battles to visit the soldiers. he and lincoln do develop quite a -- i won't say friendship, but at least more of an acquaintance than a lot of governors, so -- 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 edna brought up david donald's book, "we are lincoln
men," because it suggested this interesting progressives of lincoln's views on friendship as he got to be older, more successful, more famous, that is that lincoln preferred the company of young admiring guys to his peers. that is, there was always room for elseworth and hay, brilliant accomplished guys but i want to hear the psychoanalytical answer to this. did he need to bask in their admiration rather than speaking to peers? >> yes, but there was also seward, probably his closest friends who he talked to him most days. that would certainly be in another category. yes, he liked to have people admire him. i just want to add one thing about the wonderful story about truth. lincoln didn't do very well with women, basically, and i think
that's less -- i would suspect that wouldn't be a racist comment as much as a sixist comment. he just couldn't deal with truth as a strong woman. and i think that is a long history. he was drawn to men. men liked him for all the reasons we were talking about earlier. if you look at his relationships, you can only guess about the mother and the sister because they both, you know, died -- there is just nothing concrete. but certainly with ann rutledge, whom he was very close to and loved and she suddenly died. we have very indirect kind of evidence. elizabeth edwards, whose home 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, 1830s she would greet her guests in french.
she called lincoln peculiar. that was her description. he was very uneasy. he didn't dance well. he couldn't make easy conversation. where speed, she loved speed. everybody loved speed. you know, he was to the manner born. he came from a slave family, a large plantation in louisville. he was at ease in all of the kinds of situations that existed -- he could dance, he could banter. he was the one that dragged once he started living with lincoln, he was the one who dragged him to the coterie, but this business i think when mary came into his line of vision, she was the first person -- first woman he felt really comfortable with. and he -- and elizabeth edwards, who i think is the best witness, says that he used to sit under the veranda in the shade and sit in wrapped attention as she would talk. you know, she was vibrant and interesting as a young woman and could quote poetry and was very political. you know, had grown up in
lexington and new henry clay and intensely interested in politics. but i think that was -- that was the only woman he really could deal with in his life and partly why he fell in love with her. there is really nobody after that. there is 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 do want to invite you to start coming to the microphone if you have questions because we want to give you a chance to weigh in here and ask our experts. guy, did you want to -- >> yeah, there are a couple of women that he had relatively intimate, not in the sense we now think of it, but relationships. orville browning's wife. he wrote a letter to her, very candid about who he was and what he was and about his relationship with mar and owens that was amazingly blunt and unkind, by the way. >> yeah, exactly.
>> but and then there is a woman, a lawyer's wife in danville named elizabeth aharma, this absolutely gorgeous woman. there was nothing there, i don't mean in the usual sense that we now think of those things, her husband, oscar harman, was not as close to lincoln as was elizabeth. she 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 harman was a legislator, he would write back, mr. lincoln asked about you and so forth. and that relationship maintained. she came down to see him often. the train left illinois for the last time. so he, i think -- i've talked about it because it's inconsistent, some of these relationships are inconsistent with his awkwardness around
women. and michael, it makes sense to me, thinks that he was comfortable with married women because they were no threat at all. he didn't have to worry about impressing them in the same way. >> older, as chuck said. older, matrons. >> in this case, elizabeth was not. >> there is plenty of evidence that beyond the racial divide, the truth meeting was so interesting because she was not happy when he called her auntie. she told him right then and there that's not what she likes to be called. he had the same reaction with mrs. fremont. he thought she was pushy and saucy and the pamphleteer who i'm forgetting, wrote the fam threat about war powers. anna dickinson, did not like her
when she sent a bill for her services. he has something of a problem with strong women. mary is strong in her way but, again, limited by the divides of the spheres. so let's begin and see what's on your mind. >> hi. i'm from baltimore. your description of lincoln reminds me of a frequent descriptions of george washington and franklin d. roosevelt, that they had relatively few real friends, although both of them from what i gather had very good relationships with women. but i was wondering if there may be something about being the leader of an entire nation in a 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 but many, many male admirers and the like. washington had real -- lafayette and hamilton, both young
admirers. 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, that you alluded to. who would like to do the comparison? >> i talked about lincoln this way at a presentation i made in illinois. edward, who was a popular governor of illinois. his top instant was in the audience. he said, frank, you want to get a beer. i always say yes to that. i want it to talk to you -- i shouldn't be ratting out my friend jim edgar, everyone thinks he's a wonderful, warm person. for us, he's hard to get along with -- not hard to get along with but demanding and not in the same way. and then our congressman ed madigan was a good friend who ultimately became secretary of agriculture under father bush until clinton beat him and therefore his tenure at ag as
short. he didn't come to you in the same way that friends do. to answer that question, 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 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 ] >> you know, the great line about, and 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, and i would say that applies to lincoln as well. >> by the way -- >> thickly forested interior. >> about both men, people thought they were shallow because they didn't give too much of themselves. i would suggest they have a great deal of depth that people tend to ignore. katherine harris. >> katherine harris from springfield, illinois. from what you said, how then would you define on your degrees of friendship the relationship that mr. lincoln had with william floorville. >> with whom? >> willie floorville. billy the barber. very interesting character. >> are you directing that to me? >> to anyone who cares to answer, but always to you, frager. >> believe it or not, we do sort of get along. no, that's a good example.
he -- floorville was an african-american barber -- >> he was a haitian. >> pardon me. haitian. in springfield who also bought property in bloomington and he contracted to sell some -- people in bloomington contracted to sell him land and then they reneged. he went to lincoln and lincoln drafted up a 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. 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? >> i was asking you. >> i think that's good evidence
of his colorblindness. >> edna, would you agree? >> i don't know that we can say that there is equality there because in 19th century america, even in illinois -- >> correct. >> there is inequality. and the fact that floorville is none as billy the barber, you know, is the first thing we should jump off from. >> kind of like auntie jerner. >> my definition of friendship is somebody i'm going to invite over for sunday dinner or i can be invited to sunday dinner. and i doubt seriously if he 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. >> can i just say -- >> 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. >> no, i would agree.
and i think it's worth remembering that his best and really most -- the only intimate friend was speed who had come from a slave-owning family. and, you know, john speed, the father, in farmington had at its height in 1842 as many as 62 slaves. this was a big plantation. it was like a little village. it's actually been preserved. it's a very interesting place to see. this was the context in -- this is what speed came out of. and when he was in springfield, even as late as 1841, he was in correspondence with somebody buying a slave for him in -- somewhere south. [ laughter ] i'm blocking on exactly where. at a time when he's very intimate with lincoln. then, of course, lincoln goes in the midst of his emotional turmoil in late august and for
20 days into september, 1840, goes to visit farmington and has a boy assigned to him. that's really -- people make a lot about his, you know, his trips down to new orleans in 1828 and the flat boat trips, but, really, his most extended and direct experience of slavery is that three-week visit to farmington in the late summer of 1840. and he never addresses the -- john speed used to trace down escapees, you know, he was a classic sort of southern -- relatively enlightened kentucky slave owner. but was -- it had all the brutalities of slavery, and that was, you know, 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 --
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 neve never want to get into is farming, like you do. farming? running a plantation is not a farm. >> 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 is a slave city and the todd home is a block and a half from the whipping post. that's there in his life. >> the woman he loved and had his children by and his best female friend were raised in slavery. >> let me point out, when we went to visit speed he saw some slaves on a boat. >> that's the same trip, right? >> that same trip. >> that's when he's coming back. >> he said like fish on a trout
line. then he wrote that about ten years later he wrote a letter to, i believe the speed sister, saying he could never get that image out of his mind. >> when he came back to springfield, and his thank you letter for the visit was written to mary speed, who's the older sister, half-sister of speed. that's where he used that image on the boat, which is an objectifying image. >> but he didn't have to leave springfield to encounter slavery. slavery existed in illinois, servitude, indentured existed in illinois. if he had gone to the edwards household, he would have encountered indenture. if he'd gone to some 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 there were some there.
he would have encountered them. >> and had a six-month rule for -- >> yeah, exactly. let me end this part with my favorite william floor will story. when i did 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 in politics in springfield. i think the only unencumbered letter i found was from william floorville to lincoln in which he said, something like, among other -- it's a long one-page letter. in addition, he said i just thought you and the boys might like to know that fido is all right. the only one to tell lincoln the pet had survived. >> in that one letter he also mentioned his gratitude, or
whatever the word is, for him issuing the proclamation. >> right. >> thanks. >> yes. >> i'm bonnie martland from at the -- temecula, california. i have a couple questions. how equal was that friendship? you talked about how speed would follow lincoln on the circuit if he had free time to see and watch what lincoln was doing. on the other hand, i noticed that one of lincoln's female friends, or that he could confide in was 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, his tallness exaggerated by his top hat, athletic, a very male presence. speed was much -- 5'8", ordinary. he was softer. he kept his hair long. he looked kind of like the comparison would have been made like the poet byron. so he was -- five years younger, totally id totally idea lyzed lincoln. they complimented each other. there was something about the presence of speed that enormously attracted lincoln and allowed him to let his guard down, letting him into that thickly forged interior. of course for speed it meant he could find a source of idealiization. there was something with his
father. your second question? >> could he have gotten over the depression without speed? >> that's the whole point of my book. absolutely not. and he -- you know, as i said this morning, this was somebody who had come out of a serious suicidal depression. they took a suicide watch in january '41. they took his knives out of his room. this was the second -- someone was asking me during lunch how remarkable it is to have had such serious experiences with depression, and to come out of it. i think there's no question that -- i think, that really in the texture and the meaning and the significance of that friendship, where he finally took a couple years, but he finally totally opened up. they were -- they were so -- it was the first person in his life, and the last, male, whom
he was open and available to, and could share experience and intimacy. which is -- that's what you ultimately want in a friendship. that's what friendship is all about, to be vulnerable, open and trusting, to get something back from the other. and he had that with speed. but they were both also deeply troubled and confused about sexuality. not unimportant. they were both very naive. i think lincoln may have been a virgin by the time he was 33. a long time. if he wasn't a virgin, he was inexperienced, and very troubled by sexuality. that letter on february 25th, 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 va cariously
work through these confusions 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. say there was no speed in his live, was lincoln strong enough to come out of that by himself? >> counterfactual history is probably not. there was speed. >> the final question. >> apart from john wilkes booth, apart from the obvious of booth, and the military and the confederacy, could you think of some of his enemies politically, socially -- >> we'll have another panel on enemies. we can't possibly breach the
enemies subject with this panel. that's a subject of another panel. >> he didn't have any. is that the answer? >> 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 willi william seward who we've identified as a close friend at the end of his life. when seward a lot of confederates were killed in 1862, lincoln said, and this might represent a feeling he had through his life "the loss of enemies does not compensate for the loss of friends." by 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." take that as you will. join us at the book signing tables and thank you for your attention. [ applause ] >> this weekend, american history tv on c-span3. saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on real america, the film saigon target zero. >> one of the bloodiest fire fights occurred at the binwa highway. here the army succeeded in denying the communists a chance to use the women and children of the area as human shields. >> then on sunday, 10:00 a.m. eastern, interviews from the west point center for oral history, with west point
graduate and vietnam war helicopter pilot stephen darrah. >> that was a major, big deal effort. we lost 24 aircraft the first day, 24 helicopters. and the distinct memories that i have of that is a ch-47 chinook flaying down the valley with fire coming out the back of his aircraft. >> and at 6:00 p.m. eastern on american artifacts, wake forest university professor david luben shares images from his book "grand illusions, american art and the first world war." watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. >> for nearly 20 years in depth on book tv has featured the nation's best known non-fiction
writers. for live conversations about their books. this year as a special project we're featuring best-selling fiction writers for our monthly program "in depth fiction edition." join us live next sunday at february 4th at noon eastern. with colson whitehead. his book was awarded the pulitzer prize. our special series, "in depth fiction edition" with author colson whitehead sunday february 4, live noon to 3:00 p.m. eastern. next, a panel of scholars talks about people who disliked and opposed abraham lincoln during his presidency, including members of his own cabinet. this was part of the lincoln symposium. it's an hour and 15 minutes.
IN COLLECTIONSCSPAN3 Television Archive Television Archive News Search Service
Uploaded by TV Archive on