An American Marriage

An American Marriage

by Michael Burlingame
An American Marriage

An American Marriage

by Michael Burlingame


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An enlightening narrative exploring an oft-overlooked aspect of the sixteenth president's life, An American Marriage reveals the tragic story of Abraham Lincoln’s marriage to Mary Todd.

Abraham Lincoln was apparently one of those men who regarded “connubial bliss” as an untenable fantasy. During the Civil War, he pardoned a Union soldier who had deserted the army to return home to wed his sweetheart. As the president signed a document sparing the soldier's life, Lincoln said: “I want to punish the young man—probably in less than a year he will wish I had withheld the pardon.”

Based on thirty years of research, An American Marriage describes and analyzes why Lincoln had good reason to regret his marriage to Mary Todd. This revealing narrative shows that, as First Lady, Mary Lincoln accepted bribes and kickbacks, sold permits and pardons, engaged in extortion, and peddled influence. The reader comes to learn that Lincoln wed Mary Todd because, in all likelihood, she seduced him and then insisted that he protect her honor. Perhaps surprisingly, the 5’2” Mrs. Lincoln often physically abused her 6’4” husband, as well as her children and servants; she humiliated her husband in public; she caused him, as president, to fear that she would disgrace him publicly.

Unlike her husband, she was not profoundly opposed to slavery and hardly qualifies as the “ardent abolitionist” that some historians have portrayed. While she provided a useful stimulus to his ambition, she often “crushed his spirit,” as his law partner put it. In the end, Lincoln may not have had as successful a presidency as he did—where he showed a preternatural ability to deal with difficult people—if he had not had so much practice at home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781643137346
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 06/01/2021
Pages: 310
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Michael Burlingame holds the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield. He is the author or editor of several books about Lincoln, including An American Marriage; Lincoln Observed; The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln; and the two-volume critical masterpiece Abraham Lincoln: A Life. Michael lives in Springfield, Illinois.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

Part I The Courtship, 1839-1842 1

1 Girl Meets Boy, 1839-1840 3

2 Girl Loses Boy, 1840-1841 19

3 Girl Gets Boy, 1842 31

Part II The Springfield Years, 1842-1861 47

4 A Rocky Stan In Temporary Quarters, 1842-1844 49

5 Settling In At Eighth and Jackson Streets, 1844-1849 56

6 Political Pause, 1849-1854 87

7 Political Success at Last, 1855-1861 103

Part III The White House Years, 1861-1865 117

8 The "Female President" Sticks Her Finger in the Government Pie 119

9 Honest Abe, Dishonest Mary: "A Natural Born Thief" 150

10 Lonely First Lady: Her Coterie, Shopping, and Debts 162

11 Unpopular First Lady 196

12 The First Lady and African Americans 232

13 The First Lady Humiliates Lincoln 242

Conclusion 261

Appendix: An Appraisal of the Literature on the Lincolns' Marriage 265

Acknowledgments 285

Index 287

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