Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln

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In the bicentennial year of Lincoln's birth, here is the one indispensable book that provides all you need to know about our most revered president in a lively and memorable question-and-answer format.You will learn whether Lincoln could dunk a basketball or tell a joke. Was he the great emancipator or a racist? If he were alive today, could he get elected? Did he die rich? Did scientists raise Lincoln from the dead? From the seemingly lighthearted to the most serious Gerald Prokopowicz tackles each question with balance and authority, and weaves a complete, satisfying biography that will engage young and old, scholars and armchair historians alike.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

East Carolina University history professor Prokopowicz has created a Lincoln trivia book, answering dozens of questions about the 16th president of the United States. Did he write his own speeches? (Yes, though sometimes he "borrowed" from other writers-the conclusion of the Gettysburg Address echoes abolitionist Theodore Parker.) Do we celebrate Thanksgiving because of Lincoln? (Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving on the urging of writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale.) Did Mary Lincoln hold séances in the White House? (Yes; she was trying to contact her dead son.) How tall was Abe? (Six feet and "nearly" four inches.) Prokopowicz addresses some trendy topics, such as the two depressive episodes Lincoln experienced in the 1830s and 1840s and the debate about Lincoln's sexual orientation. As for the titular question, Prokopowicz insists that people keep asking whether Lincoln owned slaves: he did not, but he "may have rented one." Although the irksome q&a format necessarily lends itself to a certain superficiality, Prokopowicz is learned, his tone is engaging and his suggestions for further reading at the end of each thematic chapter are also a helpful resource. (Jan. 22)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Although organized in a point-by-point, question-and-answer format, this unusual book works as a full narrative biography of Lincoln. Beginning with questions about Lincoln's genealogy and birth, historian Prokopowicz (All for the Regiment) covers Lincoln's entire life in chronological order, answering the kinds of questions visitors most often asked while he worked at the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, IN. The result is a surprisingly rich biography that never flinches from addressing uncomfortable issues while dispelling popular myths and misconceptions with solid scholarship in lucid and often witty prose. A remarkable book that makes delightful listening, thanks, also, to Norman Dietz's commanding but warm narration. Highly recommended.
—R. Kent Rasmussen

From the Publisher
"A remarkable book that makes delightful listening, thanks...to Norman Dietz's commanding but warm narration. Highly recommended." —-Library Journal Audio Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307279293
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Series: Vintage Civil War Library Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,341,956
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Norman Dietz, a writer, an actor, and a solo performer, has recorded over 150 audiobooks, many of which have earned him awards from AudioFile magazine, the ALA, and Publishers Weekly. Additionally, AudioFile named Norman one of the Best Voices of the Century.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Boy Lincoln

It is a great piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of my early life.
—Lincoln’s reply to journalist John L. Scripps, 1860,  when asked to provide information  for a campaign biography[1]

When and where was Lincoln born?

February 12, 1809, in a log cabin on the south fork of Nolin Creek, near Hodgenville, Kentucky.

Is the cabin still there?

Sort of.

The site is marked today by a curious memorial on the grounds of the original Lincoln farmstead. There, at the top of a wooded hill, stands what appears to be an old-fashioned bank building incongruously looming over an otherwise bucolic setting. A grand flight of fifty-six stone steps, one for each year of Lincoln’s life, leads the visitor to a pair of imposing bronze doors, hidden behind six massive Doric columns. Within this Greek temple on a Kentucky hillside, resting on the granite floor in the center of the room, is the cabin where Abe Lincoln was born.

Unfortunately, it’s not really Lincoln’s cabin. The National Park Service, which maintains the memorial, describes the crude wooden structure as the “traditional” Lincoln birthplace cabin, inventively using the word “traditional” in place of a more accurate adjective, such as “fake.”[2] The real cabin almost certainly fell down at some point in the decades after the Lincoln family moved away, there being no reason at the time to preserve it. A speculator named A. W. Dennett purchased the farm in 1894, hoping it would become a tourist attraction. He found a two-story cabin nearby that might have been standing when Lincoln was a boy, took it apart, transported it to the birthplace farm, and reassembled it into a smaller one-story cabin. When he found few customers willing to make the pilgrimage to his remote corner of central Kentucky, Dennett took the building apart again with the idea of moving it to places more frequented by potential viewers. For good measure, he bought and disassembled another cabin that supposedly was the birthplace of Jefferson Davis. The two cabins appeared side by side at fairs in Nashville, Buffalo, and other cities.

Eventually Dennett went bankrupt, and both cabins were taken apart (again) and put in storage. In 1906, the Lincoln Farm Association, a group formed to build a Lincoln birthplace memorial, found the pieces in a basement in New York. By that time the logs that formed the two already dubious cabins were hopelessly intermingled. The association sorted out the components and used some of them to make a one-story structure that resembled descriptions of the original Lincoln cabin. The LFA also constructed the present memorial building to house their prize, but when it was completed in 1911, it turned out that the reassembled cabin was too large to fit inside easily. To make room for visitors to walk around it, they sawed off about a quarter of its length, creating the “traditional” birthplace cabin that you can see today. It’s possible (if unlikely) that some tiny fraction of the wood really did once form part of a building that was associated with Lincoln; but it’s also possible that the exhibit now on display has as much to do with Jefferson Davis as it does with Lincoln.[3]

Haven’t I seen the cabin somewhere else?

You probably have.

There are several versions around the country, most of them replicas of the Park Service “birthplace cabin.” One is in Milton, Massachusetts, commissioned in 1923 by Mary Bowditch Forbes.[4] There’s another in Fort Wayne, Indiana, built by the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company in 1916, that at one time was carefully furnished with antiques to give a sense of what Lincoln’s childhood home might have looked like. Now, however, it sits neglected in a wooded corner of a public park, used by the maintenance staff as a storage shed for snowblowers.

About the original birthplace cabin—is it true that Lincoln helped his father build it with his own hands?

Next question, please.

Who were Lincoln’s parents?

Thomas Lincoln (1778?–1851) and Nancy Hanks Lincoln (1784?– 1818).

His father married Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln (1788–1869), in 1819.

Were Thomas and Nancy married to each other when Abraham was born? I heard that he was born out of wedlock.

Yes, they were married, and no, he was not illegitimate.

Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were married on June 12, 1806. Their first child, Sarah, was born the following year. Abraham was born in 1809. There is no reasonable doubt that Lincoln was conceived by and born to a lawfully wedded couple, but the question still pops up persistently, probably due to confusion between the matter of Lincoln’s legitimacy and that of his mother, which is indeed doubtful.

His mother was born out of wedlock?

Probably . . .

. . . but you can no longer get into a bar fight over the issue. The question today is forgotten by everyone but a handful of antiquarians who are determined to puzzle out the Lincoln-Hanks genealogy.

In the 1920s, however, this issue bitterly divided the field of Lincoln scholars. Museum director Louis Warren passionately defended the honor of Lincoln’s grandmother Lucey Hanks, while author William Barton and most others just as avidly insisted that her daughter Nancy was a child of sin. Barton’s eventually became the accepted view of the matter, in part because Lincoln himself had apparently shared it. He believed that his mother was born out of wedlock and that his real grandfather was a Virginia aristocrat who took advantage of a “poor and credulous” girl, if the recollections of Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon are accurate.[5]

Today, the very terms of the debate give off a musty odor of obsolescence. Defending her honor? Child of sin? Born out of wedlock? These phrases are rarely heard in connection with single parenting in the twenty-first century. But in the 1920s, unwed motherhood still carried much of the deep social stigma that it had in Lincoln’s day. Further, the 1920s were a decade of upheaval in social and sexual mores, as teenagers took advantage of the invention of the automobile to abandon traditional front-parlor courtship rituals in favor of the modern concept of dating. Contraception became a divisive topic, with Margaret Sanger and others fighting to legalize it, opposed by social conservatives who were horrified at the very idea of discussing the subject publicly. Like the issue of gay marriage eighty years later, the birth control debate exposed deep cultural fault lines.

In Indiana, where Louis Warren lived, many older people were upset by challenges to the society they had known. They were shocked by new ideas about sex and disturbed by the influx of immigrants from Europe speaking strange languages, as well as the growing number of dark-skinned domestic migrants from the Deep South. It is no coincidence that when the Ku Klux Klan was reborn around 1915, it soon had more members in Indiana than in any other state, including (at one point) the governor. It was in this reactionary climate that Warren, a preacher by trade, founded a “Lincoln Shrine and Museum” in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1928. To Warren, the idea that his hero’s mother might herself be a product of the same immorality and sexual promiscuity that seemed to be the hallmark of the modern age must have been anathema, and he spent years arguing that it could not be so.

The argument over Nancy Hanks’s birth was also fueled by public interest in the emerging science of eugenics. The idea that personality traits were inherited persuaded thirty-three states (starting with Indiana in 1907) to pass laws authorizing the sterilization of the feebleminded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf, deformed, and dependent, hoping to remove undesirable elements from the gene pool.[6] This line of thinking was eventually discredited by the monstrous eugenic experiments of the Nazi regime in the 1930s, but in the 1920s, when the Nancy Hanks paternity debate raged, it was still socially and scientifically acceptable to talk in terms of “purity of bloodline,” and to assume that Lincoln’s noble character meant that he could only have sprung from noble ancestors. There was no room for a tramp in the Lincoln family tree.

So was Lucey Hanks married when she gave birth to little Nancy? By the end of the twentieth century the consensus was clearly no, based in part on the extensive research of Paul Verduin. Nancy was born in 1783  or 1784, when her mother was still a teenager living in Virginia with her father, Joseph Hanks. The identity of the baby’s father (Abraham’s maternal grandfather) remains unknown, but he could have been any one of several wealthy young men of the neighborhood, including one who was a relation of the famous Lee family. Lucey later moved to Kentucky and married Henry Sparrow, but he refused to admit his bride’s illegitimate daughter to his household, and Nancy was raised by other relatives.[7]

Lincoln’s suspicions that he had a Virginia aristocrat among his ancestors, and that his grandfather never married his grandmother, were likely true. If so, Lucey was hardly alone in conceiving a child before marriage; based on marriage and birth records from the colonial era, some historians estimate that more than a quarter of all brides were already pregnant on their wedding day.[8]

Was Abraham’s last name really Lincoln?

Some relatives pronounced the name “Linkhorn” instead of “Link-un,” but it was still spelled the same way.[9]

No, I mean, was Thomas Lincoln really his father?

Yes, despite claims to the contrary on behalf of numerous others, including:

• Samuel Emory Davis (1755/58–1824), the father of Jefferson Davis, president of the so-called Confederate States of America[10]
• Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina (1782–1850)
• a wandering Virginia aristocrat who took a shine to Nancy Hanks Lincoln
• local farmer Abraham Enlow (or Enloe or Inlow), late of North Carolina (or Virginia)

As historian J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton observed, “Any male person in the United States who was, in 1808, within striking distance of puberty was likely to be saddled with the paternity of Abraham Lincoln.”[11] Of those listed, the last is the only one with even a shadow of an authentic claim. When Lincoln was a boy, rumors floated around the neighborhood that the mumps or some other misfortune had rendered Thomas incapable of fathering children, leading in turn to all kinds of improbable suggestions as to the identity of Abe’s real father. William Herndon collected a story from John B. Helm, according to which Enlow claimed Abraham as his son and challenged Thomas Lincoln to a fight, in which he lost both a piece of his nose and his claim to the boy. The Helm story is weakened by its implication that Nancy Hanks was pregnant with Abraham when she married Thomas Lincoln, which cannot be true since the marriage took place in 1806 and Abraham was not born until 1809.[12]

The real significance of the many rumors of Lincoln’s true paternity is that they show the power of genetic misconceptions in the public mind. To those who believe that biology is destiny, it’s inconceivable that someone as great as Lincoln could be the product of the humble genes of his pioneer parents.

So Lincoln’s greatness was due to his environment, not his genes?

His environment certainly shaped him, but it shaped a lot of people . . .

. . . and they didn’t all turn out like Lincoln. There was another fellow who was born in a log cabin, grew up on the frontier, moved west as a boy, lost a parent at an early age, lost a sibling, traveled to New Orleans, went off to war but didn’t see action, started life on his own in a small town, and got a minor government job while he looked for his way in life. All just like Lincoln, but his name was Nathan Bedford Forrest. He became a wealthy slave trader, then a Confederate cavalry general whose men massacred black Union soldiers after they surrendered at Fort Pillow in 1864, and finally the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee.[13] So perhaps it was neither genes nor environment alone that was responsible for Lincoln’s character.

Where did Lincoln’s ancestors come from?

On his father’s side, his great-great-great-great-grandfather Samuel migrated from Hingham, England, to Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1637.

From there, each succeeding generation of Lincolns moved west or south (or both), deeper into the country, migrating to Pennsylvania and then Virginia. Lincoln’s grandfather, also named Abraham, moved to Kentucky around 1781 with his three sons and was killed by Indians.

Was Lincoln’s father a good-for-nothing bum?

No . . .

. . . but neither was he the model for Lincoln’s restless ambition. There is a traditional belief that Thomas Lincoln was poor and shiftless, the better to exalt his son’s achievement in rising to greatness. Thomas’s stoutest defender, historian Louis Warren, overcompensated by portraying him as a successful farmer who possessed most of the virtues of the Victorian middle class. Perhaps the best pieces of evidence in favor of Thomas are the beautiful cabinets he crafted, which show more skill and aesthetic sensibility than one would expect from a drunken loser.

Thomas Lincoln was persistent but not particularly lucky in his pursuit of the agrarian version of the American dream. In Kentucky, he bought several farms in succession, but three times his ownership came into question due to legal issues involving property titles. This was not unusual, as Kentucky at the time used the “metes-and-bounds” system of recording land titles, in which a property line might be described as running along a particular creek to a certain boulder, and thence to a specific tree. Unfortunately, trees fall down, boulders can be moved, and streams change their courses. With thousands of settlers entering the state and squatting on whatever land seemed available, questions of who owned which patch of Kentucky were bound to arise, and not just for Thomas Lincoln. In the suit over title to the farm on Knob Creek, which he purchased (or thought he did) when Abraham was two years old, Thomas was one of ten farmers who were named as defendants. Eventually he would move his family north to Indiana and then west to Illinois, still pursuing the ideal of a secure, comfortable, self-sufficient agricultural life.

Why did Thomas and Nancy choose the name “Abraham”?

To honor Thomas’s father, who was also named Abraham Lincoln.

Although Lincoln never knew his grandfather Abraham, he certainly knew the dramatic story of his grandfather’s death, which he once described as “the legend more strongly than all others imprinted upon my mind and memory.”[14] The first Abraham Lincoln had been an officer in the Kentucky militia that battled the native inhabitants of the “Dark and Bloody Ground” in the late eighteenth century. One day in 1784, as he was tending to his fields, Captain Lincoln was ambushed and killed by an Indian, who then seized the captain’s little son Thomas. As he was about to return to the woods with the captive boy, a shot rang out from the doorway of the Lincolns’ cabin, and the attacker fell. Thomas’s older brother Mordecai had grabbed a musket and fired it just in time to save the life of the future president’s father.

While the battle line between Indians and settlers had moved west of Kentucky by the time young Abraham was born, accounts like these kept the memory of conflict fresh. The loss of an ancestor in the Indian wars was hardly unusual among the residents of the frontier, but it was remarkable that Lincoln did not seem to inherit any of the animosity of those days, and that in his own encounters with Indians he would display malice toward none.

What was Lincoln’s middle name?

He didn’t have one.

Did he have any brothers or sisters?

One of each.

He had an older sister, Sarah (born in 1807), and a younger brother, Thomas. He also had a stepbrother, John D. Johnston, and two stepsisters, Elizabeth and Matilda Johnston.

Not much is known of Sarah Lincoln. She was two years older than Abraham, married Aaron Grigsby in 1826, and died in childbirth in 1828. Abraham was apparently quite close to his sister and held a grudge against Grigsby for her death. Even less is known of Lincoln’s little brother, Thomas, who was born after the family moved to a farm near Knob Creek, in 1810 or 1811. He died “in infancy,” according to Lincoln, but his age at death remains unknown. Dennis Hanks (Nancy Hanks’s cousin) later said that the baby “did not live 3 days.” Baby Thomas’s grave, not far from the Knob Creek cabin site, remained undiscovered until 1933.[15]

[1] William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Herndon's Lincoln, ed. Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis (1889; new ed. 2006), 15.
[2] Perhaps this definition will one day enter common usage, as in "The wily coach called for a traditional field goal," or "Dear, for our anniversary I've bought you this traditional diamond." For the Park Service use of the term "traditional birthplace cabin" see, e.g. Robert W. Blythe, Maureen Caroll, and Steven Moffson, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historic Resource Study, revised by Brian F. Coffey (2001), ch. 3, fig. 51 caption.
[3] Blythe et al., Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historic Resource Study, ch. 2; Gloria Peterson, An Administrative History of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site (1968).
[4] Of the Boston Forbeses (distantly related to Massachusetts senator John Forbes Kerry), not the magazine Forbeses. The cabin is part of the Mary Bowditch Forbes Lincoln Collection, at the Captain Forbes House Museum in Milton.
[5] William H. Herndon to Ward Hill Lamon, March 6, 1870, in Emanuel Hertz, ed., The Hidden Lincoln: From the Letters and Papers of William H. Herndon (1938), 73-74; see also Herndon and Weik, Herndon's Lincoln, 16.
[6] Harry Laughlin, "Model Eugenical Sterilization Law," in Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (1922), 446. The issue returned to the public eye briefly in 2002-03, when the governors of Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina, and California issued apologies to the victims of their states' eugenics laws.
[7] Paul Verduin, "New Evidence Suggests Lincoln's Mother Born in Richmond County, Virginia," Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine 38, no. 1 (December 1988), 4354-89. But the debate continues; see Christopher Callender Child, "The Maternal Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln: The Origin of Nancy (Hanks) Lincoln, a Study in Appalachian Genealogy," New England Ancestors 4, no. 1 (winter 2003), 25-29, 55, which acknowledges that "Nancy Hanks's illegitimacy is not an outrageous idea," but concludes that it is not true.
[8] Statistics varied by region and over time; premarital pregnancy was more common in the Appalachian backcountry and the Chesapeake than in New England, but remained high throughout America at least until the nineteenth century. See D. H. Fischer, Albion's Seed (1989), 681; and John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (2nd ed., 1997), 22-23, 73. In place of statistical research, the study of sexual behavior in the colonial era has, like msot other fields of historical study, taken a turn for the theoretical. When the prestigious William & Mary Quarterly devoted its January 2003 issue to sexuality in early America, the papers it published had much to say about the social construction of sexual identity, but remarkably little about what kinds of sexual behavior were actually common among colonial Americans.
[9] Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews and Statements about Abraham Lincoln (1998), 84.
[10] Lincoln never recognized the Confederacy as a nation, or indeed as anything more than an illegal rebellion. Using the adjective "so-called" for the Confederate States of America is apparently much more effective than challenging the paternity of Nancy Hanks if you are interested in starting an angry history-related confrontation, especially when addressing a Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting. For this information I am indebted to my colleague Charles Calhoun at East Carolina University.
[11] J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, "The Many-Sired Lincoln," American Mercury 5, no. 18 (June 1925), 133.
[12] Wilson and Davis, Herndon's Informants, 82; Herndon and Weik, Herndon's Lincoln, 17. Everyone wants a piece of Lincoln; North Carolina's desperate bid for reflected Lincolnian glory, through the Enloe story, can be found in Jerry Goodnight and Richard Eller, The Tarheel Lincoln: North Carolina Origins of "Honest" Abe Lincoln (2003), published by the Tarheel Press of Hickory, N.C.
[13] Brian Steel Wills, The Confederacy's Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest (1998), is the standard modern bigraphy of Forrest, in which the author struggles bravely between his recognition that Forrest did terrible things and his fascination with Forrest's larger-than-life personality.
[14] Lincoln to Jesse Lincoln, Springfield, April 1, 1854, in Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), 2:217 (cited hereafter as CW).
[15] Wilson and Davis, Herndon's Informants, 27; R. Gerald McMurty, "Re-Discovering the Supposed Grave of Lincoln's Brother," Lincoln Lore, no. 1619 (January 1973), 1-3.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


When and where was Lincoln born?
Is the cabin still there?
Haven’t I seen the cabin somewhere else?
About the original birthplace cabin–is it true that Lincoln helped his father build it with his own hands?
Who were Lincoln’s parents?
Were Thomas and Nancy married to each other when Abraham was born?
His mother was born out of wedlock?
Was Abraham’s last name really Lincoln?
No, I mean,was Thomas Lincoln really his father?
So Lincoln’s greatness was due to his environment, not his genes?
Where did Lincoln’s ancestors come from?
Was Lincoln’s father a good-for-nothing bum?
Why did Thomas and Nancy choose the name Abraham?
What was Lincoln’s middle name?
Did he have any brothers or sisters?
Lincoln once said “All I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Did he mean his natural mother or his stepmother?
Lincoln didn’t go to his own father’s funeral?
Did Lincoln have a happy childhood?
If Lincoln was born in Kentucky, why do Illinois license plates say “Land of Lincoln”?
Did they really spend their first winter in Indiana living outdoors?
Why did the Lincolns move to Indiana?
What did slavery have to do with their move?
What did Abe do in Indiana?
How did his mother die?
Can people still get milk sickness?
Did Abraham show any signs of future greatness when he was a boy?
Did he hunt smaller animals?
How else was Abe different from other children?
Is it true that Lincoln was nearly killed when he was a boy?
Did this really happen three times?
What’s a paw paw?
How much schooling did he have?
Did he write his school lessons on the back of a shovel, using a piece of charcoal?
Who taught him?
What’s a “blab school”?
Did Lincoln ever go to college?
If his education was so limited, how did he get so smart?
Did he once accidentally ruin a book that he borrowed?


What’s a rail-splitter?
So Lincoln didn’t really split rails for a living. What did he do, before he became a lawyer and politician?
Was this the trip when Lincoln saw slave markets in New Orleans and decided he would dedicate himself to ending slavery?
What about his other jobs? Wasn’t he a storekeeper?
Did he really once walk two miles to return change to a customer?
What else did he do for a living?
If his partner drank up the store’s stock, are you saying that Lincoln kept a saloon?
When he got a job as a postmaster, did he really carry letters around in his hat?
What did Lincoln think about this? What was his religion?
Wasn’t he secretly baptized when he was older?
If Lincoln wasn’t a Christian, why are his speeches full of talk about God?
This religious conversion he went through–didn’t this happen at Gettysburg?
What did Lincoln do for fun as a young man? Did he play sports?
Could he dunk a basketball?
So, what sports did he play?
What else did he do for fun? Did he drink a lot when he was young?
Did he smoke or chew tobacco?
Did he gamble?
Did he swear or tell dirty jokes?
Was he lazy?
So did Lincoln have any bad habits?
How about good manners?
He probably didn’t need much in the way of manners for his first girlfriend, Ann Rutledge, did he?
Did he leave New Salem because of Ann Rutledge?


Why did he move to Springfield?
When a guy says to another guy, “It’s a good place to meet people,” he usually means “It’s a good place to meet girls.” Is that what really brought Lincoln to Springfield?
If he didn’t do so well with the ladies, is it possible–I mean, I once heard a story that he used to visit, you know, working girls . . . ?
Was Lincoln gay?
Why does anyone care?
What was it in his youth that made him great?
Lincoln never was much of a lawyer,was he?
Where did he go to law school?
How did Lincoln do on his bar exam?
What kind of law did he practice?
Runaway slaves? I assume he was helping them to get free . . .or did Lincoln represent slaveowners?
What’s his most famous case?
What was his most important case?
Did he make a lot of money as a lawyer?
Is it true that the real reason he spent so much time at the office and “riding the circuit”was to get away from Mary?
About Mary Todd Lincoln: Was she crazy?
How did Abe and Mary meet?
What did she see in him?
Who broke the engagement?
How did Abe and Mary get back together?
Lincoln fought a duel?
What did Lincoln write in those letters that was so bad it made Shields want to kill him?
Was Mary pregnant when she married him?


It’s amazing how Lincoln failed at everything he tried but kept on trying, until one day he was elected president. I read about this in “Dear Abby.”How did he do it?
So he considered himself a failure before he became president?
Is that why he went into politics in the first place? For attention and fame?
Wasn’t Mary Lincoln the real source of Lincoln’s ambition?
What did Lincoln do in the Illinois legislature, if he was so ambitious?
Didn’t he once jump out of a window or a trap door or something when he was a legislator?
Wait a minute–I’ve been to the Old State Capitol in Springfield, and the House chamber windows are at least twenty feet from the ground. How could he have survived that fall?
When did he become a Republican?
Was he the founder of the Republican Party?
What happened to the Whigs?
If he were alive today, what party would Lincoln belong to?
If Lincoln were running for office today, could he get elected?


Are there any recordings of Lincoln’s voice?
If they didn’t have sound equipment, like microphones, how were big audiences able to hear Lincoln’s speeches?
Was Lincoln a good public speaker?
How did he learn to speak so well?
Did he write his own speeches?
Didn’t Lincoln once make a speech that was so good nobody wrote it down?
In which speech did he say, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all the time”?
Are there other famous things that Lincoln didn’t really say?
Was Lincoln a good extemporaneous speaker?
What about his farewell to Springfield?
Did he ever make bad speeches?
What was his greatest speech?
Isn’t it too bad we don’t have politicians today who can debate issues like Lincoln and Douglas did?
You seem to be saying the debates contained nothing new. What about the “Freeport interrogatories”?
Why would he have settled for just the Senate? Didn’t he always want to be president?


How old was Lincoln when he became president?
If Lincoln’s whole political experience was in the Illinois state legislature, plus one term in Congress, how did he ever get elected president?
How did he win the election?
Did he make a whistle-stop campaign?
Is it true that Stephen Douglas held Lincoln’s hat during the inaugural ceremony?
What about his cabinet? Did Lincoln really fill it with his rivals?
Did the rest of the cabinet support Lincoln?
What’s a chin-fly?
So did Chase ever come to acknowledge Lincoln’s superiority the way Seward did? 108
Who was Lincoln’s vice president?
But Andrew Johnson became president after Lincoln was killed.Why the change? 109
Why did Lincoln start the Civil War?
Did Lincoln’s presidential actions violate the Constitution?
Still, arresting 13,535 political prisoners is outrageous, isn’t it?
What happened to those who did get arrested for opposing the war?
Is it true that Lincoln had an arrest warrant made out for the chief justice of the United States?
Was Lincoln responsible for the income tax?
Did Lincoln make Thanksgiving a national holiday?
Did Mary remodel the White House without telling him?
Did Lincoln appear before a Congressional committee to defend his wife’s loyalty to the Union?
Did the Lincolns have a secret summer home?
What was a typical day like for President Lincoln?
How big was his White House staff ?
How much mail did he get?
Did Lincoln answer his own mail?
Why didn’t Lincoln sign every letter himself ?
Did one of his secretaries write the Bixby letter?
What was the “Blind Memorandum” that Lincoln wrote?
What did it say?
Why not just postpone the election?


Before Lincoln became commander in chief, did he have any military experience?
Were Lincoln and his men sworn into service by Jefferson Davis?
Did he teach himself military strategy when he became president?
Was Lincoln a military genius?
You said Lincoln “eventually” found the right commanders–why did it take so long?
So why did he put up with McClellan?
How did he finally get rid of McClellan?
Did McClellan and Lincoln know each other before the war?
How about Confederate General George Pickett, of Pickett’s Charge fame–wasn’t he an old friend of Lincoln?
Didn’t he once ask General McClellan if he could borrow the army, since McClellan was not using it?
Was he serious?
Why not? Didn’t he understand military strategy at least as well as people like McClellan?
Did he ever see a battle?
For real? Lincoln was involved in a dangerous military operation?
Did Lincoln hire a substitute to fight for him?
Didn’t one of his generals plan to replace him and take over the government as a dictator?
Didn’t Lincoln offer to send a barrel of Grant’s whiskey to his other generals?
Did he pardon a soldier who was about to be executed for sleeping on duty?
Did Lincoln try to have Jeff Davis killed?
Did Lincoln have something to do with machine guns?
What did the soldiers think of Lincoln?


Did Lincoln really think the world would not remember what he said at Gettysburg?
Did Lincoln write the Gettysburg Address on the back on an envelope, on the train to Gettysburg?
So the train ride was too bumpy to write with a pen.
Could he have done it if he had a laptop computer? 147
Didn’t the Gettysburg dedication committee almost forget to invite Lincoln?
If everyone there knew that Lincoln’s presence was not just an afterthought but an appropriate part of the ceremony, how did this myth get started?
So Lincoln didn’t think the speech was a failure?
What did others think of it?
My kid’s textbook has the Gettysburg Address in it, and they took out the phrase “under God.” Can’t these revisionists leave Lincoln’s words alone?
Where are the copies now?
When I heard the actor Sam Waterston recite the address, he emphasized “people” in the last line: “of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE,” instead of “OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people,” the way it’s usually done. Why did he do that? Does he know something the rest of us don’t know?
What was he trying to do?


Washington owned slaves, right? Jefferson owned slaves, right? Did Lincoln own slaves?
Why doesn’t the question go away?
So consider it. What’s the reason for asking if Lincoln owned slaves?
But you already established that he didn’t. There must be some other justification for the question, no?
And what is the big question about Lincoln and slavery?
Which was he–the “Great Emancipator” or a clever, lying racist?
So, Lincoln was a racist. Everybody knows that now anyway. Why is he still called “the Great Emancipator”?
So Lincoln was not a racist?
Did Lincoln use the n–– word?
The Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t announced until September 1862. If Lincoln cared about the slaves, why didn’t he free them as soon as he became president?
What about the constitutional amendment Lincoln favored that would have protected slavery indefinitely?
Didn’t he once say that he wanted to win the war, whether or not he freed the slaves?
Isn’t it true that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t really free any slaves at all?
Did Lincoln write the Thirteenth Amendment?
Did Lincoln bribe Congressmen to get them to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment?
Did Lincoln make Nevada a state just so it could ratify the Thirteenth Amendment?
Why didn’t Lincoln offer to pay the slaveholders for their slaves? That would have been easier than fighting a war.
What about paying slaveholders not in the Confederacy, like the ones in Kentucky or Missouri?
How did he come up with the value? Did slaves really cost four hundred dollars?
Did Lincoln want to send blacks back to Africa?
Was he serious?
Did he know any African Americans personally?
What did Lincoln think about women’s rights?
Was Lincoln black?
What do you think Lincoln would have said about the idea of reparations for slavery?


How tall was he?
What was his shoe size?
Did people think he was ugly?
Why don’t any photographs of Lincoln show him smiling?
What’s the worst photograph of him?
What’s the first one?
What’s the last photograph of Lincoln?
What’s the best Lincoln photo?
Are there any photographs of Lincoln with his wife?
When did he decide to grow a beard?
How was Lincoln’s health?
Didn’t he have some kind of genetic disease that would have eventually killed him?
What about the one that makes people really tall?
Could his DNA be studied to find out if he had either of these conditions?
Was he manic-depressive?
If Lincoln went into a suicidal tailspin just because of bad weather in 1835, isn’t that pretty manic?
Was he depressed when he was president?
Did he take anything to treat his depression, like after Willie’s death?
Is it true that he once took mercury pills? Aren’t they dangerous?
Other than from mercury poisoning, did Lincoln ever lose his temper?
Did Lincoln hate anyone?
So Lincoln got along with everyone he met?
I heard that he wrote some poetry. Is it any good?
What about the “suicide poem”? Did he really write it?
What was his favorite poem?
Was this Knox his favorite poet?
Was Walt Whitman his favorite poet?
Then who was his favorite poet?
Was the Confederate anthem “Dixie” really his favorite song?
Everybody knows that Lincoln was a great joker. What’s the funniest Lincoln joke you know?
OK, then what’s the least funny Lincoln joke?
Why did he tell funny stories?
How many children did Lincoln have?
What kind of a father was he?
Did he have grandchildren?
Why isn’t Robert Todd Lincoln buried in the Lincoln family tomb?
Did the president’s children have pets?
Is that where the tradition of the president pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey comes from?
Speaking of signing pardons, did Lincoln have good handwriting?
What was his favorite food?
Was Lincoln a Mason?
Did Lincoln invent something?
Did he know that he would be considered by many people to be the greatest president ever?
You said that Lincoln wasn’t a Christian. Then why did he have “In God We Trust” put on our coins?
Didn’t he become more religious when he was president?
Did he believe in dreams?
What about Mary? Didn’t she hold a séance in the White House?
How did he stand it being married to her?
I read that she chased him with knives and broke his nose with a stick. Doesn’t that go beyond “emotional highs and lows”?
Everyone knows he was born poor, but didn’t Lincoln die rich?


Did Lincoln know John Wilkes Booth?
Did Lincoln have premonitions of death?
How did the assassination happen? Why didn’t the Secret Service stop Booth?
So there was nobody guarding the president?
Is it true that Booth drilled a hole in the door to the presidential box, so that he could see if anyone was looking before he entered?
Why were Rathbone and Harris invited? Were they special friends of the Lincolns?
Did Major Rathbone try to stop Booth?
What does Sic semper tyrannis mean?
Didn’t Booth say something else?
How did Booth get a horse to wait for him?
What happened to Major Rathbone?
Could modern medical techniques have saved Lincoln’s life after he was shot?
Where is the bullet now?
Why did Booth shoot Lincoln?
Did Booth act alone?
What happened to the doctor who helped Booth? Didn’t he get sent to jail and then pardoned?
But weren’t there also some secret conspirators? Wasn’t the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, really behind the plot?
Was the Confederate government involved in the plot to kill Lincoln?
Was Booth convicted of conspiring with anyone?
Where is he buried?
Are you sure?
What happened to the rest of the conspirators?
What about Mrs. Surratt’s son? Wasn’t he involved?
Did anyone else ever try to kill Lincoln?


Was Lincoln the greatest president?
Does anyone hate Lincoln?
What do you think would have happened if Lincoln had not been assassinated?
Would Lincoln have been able to prevent the Radical Republicans from inflicting Reconstruction on the South after the war?
So what would Lincoln have done?
You think he would have supported black voting? Didn’t he once say he was opposed to political rights for blacks?
Are there any direct descendants of Abraham Lincoln alive today?
Isn’t there another descendant, but they paid him to keep it quiet?
“Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”
What was it that Stanton said at the moment Lincoln died?
Where was Lincoln’s funeral?
Where is he buried?
Was Lincoln’s corpse ever stolen?
Is there a secret message in the hands of the Lincoln Memorial statue?
What’s the biggest memorial to Lincoln?
Who is the best Lincoln impersonator?
What is the Abraham Lincoln Association? Can I join?
Are there any Lincoln groups not based in Springfield?
What would Lincoln think of all the writers, professors, impersonators, museum guides, souvenir vendors, bicentennial administrators, and others, who make their living from his memory?
Is it true that Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day? If so, what does this mean?
What’s the best book about Lincoln?
What about the worst Lincoln book?
Are there any good children’s books about Lincoln?
Is it true that there are more books about Lincoln than any other historical figure?
What’s the best place to get Lincoln books?
All right, enough reading–what about movies and TV?
What’s the best and worst?
Did scientists raise Lincoln from the dead?
Speaking of JFK, what about the amazing coincidences between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations?
What do you make of them?
Are you concerned that by simply repeating stories such as this you will end up perpetuating them?
Let’s say that Lincoln really could be revived. What would he have to say about legalized abortion?
What museum has most of Lincoln’s things?
I have an artifact of the assassination. It’s a copy of the New York Herald from April 15, 1865. My grandfather passed it on to me, so I know it’s old.How much is it worth now?
What if I have an ordinary letter signed by Lincoln? What’s that worth?
How can you tell if a Lincoln document is authentic?
Which Lincoln museum is the best?
I know that Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, but why is there a Lincoln museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana? Did he ever live there?
So does that mean Lincoln Financial Field, where the Philadelphia Eagles play, is also named for Lincoln?
Is it true that Lincoln Logs are also named for Lincoln?
What about the Lincoln Town Car?
What was Lincoln’s greatest accomplishment as president, saving the Union or helping to end slavery?

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