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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  January 10, 2015 6:53pm-8:01pm EST

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showing of his photographs at carnegie hall. brady was going to introduce them, and he had worked on kind of extended captions for each one, picked the order of them. i guess he died with little hope that his career was going to be revived in that way. >> thank you. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] >> the civil war air's here every saturday at 6:00 and 10:00 pm eastern time. too much more of our civil war programming any time, visit you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> a story and catherine clinton talks about what she calls quote parlor politics in washington during the civil war.
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women such as mary lincoln and kate chase daughter of salmon p chase, it carried out their own social battles through gossip, spending wars, and hosting parties. according to ms. clinton, meri lincoln often drew criticism for attempting to keep up appearances through lavish diplomatic interest despite the ongoing civil war. this hour-long event was part of the lincoln form's symposium in gettysburg, pennsylvania. >> it's my pleasure to introduce your second speaker this morning, dr. catherine clinton. dr. clinton earned her bachelor's degree at harvard and ph.d. at princeton where she studied under dr. james mcpherson. she taught at the citadel, wesleyan wesleyan, brandeis, and queens university in belfast northern ireland. since august of 2014, she's been the denman endowed professor at american history at the university of texas at san antonio. so from northern ireland to texas, that's quite a journey. and 2016 she'll assume the
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presidency of the southern historical association. her prestigious post recognizing her standing in the field. she's the author or editor of two dozen books, many focusing on family, gender, or women's issues in the 19th century. i suspect many people in this room have read her 2009 biography of mary todd lincoln. her talk today is titled "teeming with rivals: women's parlor politics during the civil war." please help me welcome dr. clinton. [applause] >> well, thank you. it's so lovely to be here in gettysburg, and, yes, indeed the journey from northern ireland to texas, what would draw me into these arctic temperatures? but i want to credit certainly the quartet of very kind scholars in the field.
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i was first brought her by gabor and then thanks to harold holzer and chief frank, i have been back again and again, but thank you, jim, of course, for helping this needy student on her journey toward civil war history. a powerful woman was at the center of swirling political debates during a re-election campaign of the president. her influence over him, did she or did she not sway him? was a source of parlor games in that most murky of fir bowls washington, d.c. gossip and gender create puerful sparks and reverberations and for those who think such issues don't matter, recall the presidential ambitions of ed muskie, dissolved in the melting snow versus tears debate in february 1972. a well educated woman with a track record of speaking her mind, a woman who did not mind bumping against the young, shiny palace guard at the white house.
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the capital remained agog anticipating her every misstep speculating on her motives with intensifying speculation as reporters tracked her every move. could it be 2012? or is it 1864? as i suggest in my recent biography of mrs. lincoln, a life, the storm enveloping lincoln's wife could not be matched until we had hillary clinton in the white house as the president's wife, and it was mrs. lincoln who first carvinged out a distinctive role for herself during her white house years. as much by necessity as by choice. several of mary lincoln's immediate family were engaged in military rebellion dedicated to the overthrow of her husband's government. she remained completely loyal to the union and went well beyond what was required having her mail incoming and outgoing read for her. lincoln's wife had perhaps the
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most challenging time as first lady, a term that was coined before she assumed the role, but became a label embraced by the press to designate the president's wife. due to mary's visibility and profile, she took advantage of this new role. as mary lincoln, the todd was only added later by descendants who actually wanted to link mary to her birth family, the todds and also to another president, and that is dolly todd madison was married to a todd, but in her own lifetime, the two-named mary lincoln felt herself at the center of a converging disaster inform 1864. for three long years she had weathered the political storms. she'd endured fearful threats against her husband in 1861, suffered the loss of a child in 1862, and she nearly died herself of an injury following
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the sabotage of the president's carriage in june 1863 which resulted in an accident intended to have a fatal effect on the president rather than the very severe head trauma it caused his wife. in the year 1864 it proved a severely challenged siege for the much maligned mrs. lincoln. rather than serenely reigning, she found her parlor teeming with rivals. mary had worked hard during her husband's first presidential campaign in the summer 1860. she made a favorable impression on john scripps, editor of the chicago tribune who suggested that the lincolns were not the country bump kins the eastern establishment might expect especially as lincoln's wife was educated, french speaking, an aristocratic daughter of the bluegrass. a new york herald reporter suggested lincoln's springfield resident resembled longfellow he
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's abode in cambridge. another credited lincoln's wife who was an amiable and accomplished lady. these reports were meant to reassure voters along the eastern seaboard that they hadn't really had a wild westerner for a candidate. after lincoln's victory at the ballot box, he had an uphill battle when he arrived in washington, d.c. while the president-elect worked to organize his government, mary launched her own campaigns hosting family and friends greeting diplomats and statesmen, anticipating her new set of duties, and she sought to maneuver the treacherous shoals of secession. the coldness and snobbery of easterners was wearing her down. she confronted one of the most idiosyncratic of american institutions, washington society. at the heart of the city's bow monday, the toughened core of social arbiters were known as cave dwellers.
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their tenure and tenacity gave them influence over the parade of newcomers who straggled into the city at irregular but certainly every four-year intervals. the inner city of d.c. society was surrounded by the money bags whose rung on the ladder was bought, and then there were the high brows, whose station was secured by talent regardless of wealth although it was considered felicitous when the two went together. three outer rings applied steady social pressure jockeying for improved position, the diplomats, the army and navy crowd, and the politicos, but clearly it is the cave dwellers, particularly women like mary clemor and laura holloway who influenced the pecking order among the capital's society. fanny, mrs. charles, maintained an eclectic sunday salon at her 14th and 8th street salon while her sister marion campbell was embedded
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within several knickerbocker circles. mrs. eames in d.c. and she would later befriend mary lincoln. the physical attributes of the district did not recommend it. noah brooks described the streets as canals of liquid mud. it would be difficult to could be receive of a meaner street in architectural adornments than pennsylvania avenue, and as we just heard maybe the architect architectureal recommendations of real estate on pennsylvania avenue remain there. there were, of course, areas of the city which boasted palatial homes, the finest aide of stephen douglass near i street and jersey avenue where his wife adelle a legendary beauty, nearly 25 years his junior held court. equally sumptuous was the mansion built by senator william
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gwynn from california who spent $75,000 to furnish his home. gwen harbor was arrested on charges of disloyalty when the war began, was imprisoned until 1863. then he went off to paris and became involved in a scheme for the colonization of southerners of the state of son nora in mexico. in consequence, he was sometimes called the duke of sonora. the retiring president james buchanan supplemented his white house entertainment budget with personal funds as he needed more than his salary to keep up with demands. the buchanan white house had undergone extensive renovations and run with great efficiencies. ten servants took care of the household needs. the butler was belgium but all other servants were irish or british because buchanan believed that british-trained servants were preferable. by the way, he was an ulsterman. you can go to belfast and find the only i believe james
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buchanan mural in the world. harriet lane, buchanan's niece , who assumed the role of white house hostess, left the lincolns a very detailed list on how to manage the executive mansion. she met with mrs. lincoln in advance and arranged a meal for the newcomers on inaugural day. but she was not impressed, and she wrote cattily that lincoln resembled the irish door keeper while mrs. lincoln is awfully western and loud and unrefined. arriving into town with such rigid social snobbery, mrs. lincoln immediately placed a dressmaking order with mrs. keckley. elizabeth keckley was a prominent mixed race seamstress favored by the washington elite. it was perhaps no accident that one of her former clients was varina davis. assuming the role herself soon of first lady of the confederacy. however, mary lincoln's first battleground would be the
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inaugural ball. this invitational ball was held in a large tent dubbed the white muslin palace of aladdin where 5,000 would be on hand to rub shoulders and inspect the lincoln entourage. mrs. lincoln glided into view wearing silk bedecked with gold and diamonds and pearls while lincoln left at midnight his wife stayed on dancing into the night. she surprised the washington snobs. they commented on her exquisite toilette. the new york herald weighed in again, that's the newspaper, not our harold, she is more self-possessed than lincoln and is accommodated more readily than her taller half to the exalted station to which she has so strangely advanced from the simple social life of the little inland capital of illinois.
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she wore the pearls that her husband had bought her at tiffany's that night and shortly thereafter we find copies being made by washington jewelers for the hoi polloi. like the proverbial cinderella after the ball she had wicked step sisters with whom she had to contend, sometimes literally with confederate kin. the republicans were flocking into town in droves, but they were slow to roll out the welcome wagon. elizabeth blair lee, daughter of frances presson blair suggested the women kind are giving mrs. lincoln the cold shoulder and the republicans ought to rally. developments in southern states created department rifts. washingtonians had weathered many crises, particularly during the 1850s, who could forget
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bully brooks and sumner's empty seat in the senate well. however, by april 1861, the atmosphere was intense and in the extreme. one society lady said, i went to early service at st. john's to avoid my many friends who do not think as i do about states' rights so church going even became a divided enterprise. lincoln's election, like andrew jackson's decades before represented a seismic social shift in the district of columbia. mainline washington elites treated the lincolns like pariahs and one observer complained both the president and his wife were mercilessly lampooned, yet mrs. lincoln was the peer of any woman in washington in education and character. mary might have likened herself to a bird in a gilded cage denied the social butterfly role that she had long aspired to
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but the cage was not exactly guilded. visitors were quite shocked by the shabby, run down condition of the president's residence. the furnishings in the red room which the lincolns claims for private callers had pieces left over from the madison era. there were only ten matching place settings in the white house china collection. springfield friends commented that the executive mansion really resembled a second rate hotel with its threadbare carpets and chopped up drapes. mary was determined to set a very high standard and prove her refinement to the washington social arbiters. her increasing isolation might have hastened her plans. london journalist william howard russell discovered that even after a month, the washington ladies had not yet made up their minds that mrs. lincoln is the fashion. they missed their southern friends and constantly draw comparisons between them and the vulgar yankee women who are now in power. mary decided she would have to make a splash to prove herself
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and was looking forward to the summer when she might regroup and redecorate hoping once congress recessed, the crowd will be gradually leaving the city and we may hope for more leisure. but events intervened. and following the attack on ft. sumter and lincoln's call to arm, her new home became the nerve center of the divided nation. white house drawing rooms were open to soldiers who marched into the east room where, quote, under the gorgeous gas chandeliers, they disposed themselves in picturesque biv ouaks on the brilliant patterned velvet carpet. a remarkable vortex of events kept the lincoln white house under the microscope and within crosshairs. mary wanted to serve her husband's cause by allowing the white house to maintain business as usual. in the past, especially during the buchanan administration, the white house offered weekly dinners with 40 or more guests
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which forced lincoln's pred eccesor to dip into his own pocket. once mrs. lincoln saw what the cost would be to maintain the elegant style to which she aspired, she decided to revise protocol. she suggested they stop the customary state dinners. she suggested they substitute large receptions because it would be more in keeping with the institutions of our country. when she first broached the subject, her husband was skeptical, but her arguments and i'm sure her persuasive nagging won out. one of lincoln's secretaries, john nicolet, proclaimed le wren has determined to abrogate dinners and she got her way. while sher husband concentrated on holding the union together, mary lincoln demonstrated that the united states remained open for business despite the rebellion. she would continue her own at homes on saturday afternoons and the newspapers announced levees
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will be held in the mansion every tuesday evening during the remainder of the session of congress. they were obligatory and staff found them wearying. nicolet confided they are both novel and pleasant to the hundreds of mere passersby who linger a day or two to, quote, do washington, but for us who have to surf the infliction once a week, they get to be intolerable bores. a congressional wife complained to the president looking more and more gaunt and care worn. to relieve the tedium, mrs. lincoln introduced the program of bringing artists and performers into the executive mansion. lincoln's favorite singers actors, and others might be singled out for recognition when one of p.t. barnum's most famous acts colonel tom thumb would be extended an invitation as mrs. lincoln recognized the power of a white house request. first lady decided to throw a very large ball in february of 1862 and was in the thick of her
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plans by the end of january. her lavish gestures and grand manners invited criticism. mary decided to issue 700 invitations and planned to funnel all these guests into the east room, not only the labor required for such an event, but the worries associated with such an enterprise became immediate and acute to the lincoln secretaries who by now had nicknamed her hell cat. while the president they dubbed the tycoon. mary was firmly convinced that diversion was an absolute necessity. she ignored senator benjamin wade who wrote indignantly, are the president and mrs. lincoln aware that there is a civil war? if they are not, mr. and mrs. wade are and for that reason decline to participate in dancing and feasting. but feast they did. as heaping plates of partridge quail, duck, turkey, foie gras beef, and the president's
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favorite, oysters, greeted guests as well as an elegantly appointed abraham lincoln with his wife mary at his side. a cake in the shape of a fort as well as elegant spun sugar desserts amused the throng. the marine band played mary lincoln's polka and the washington star pronounced it the most superb affair of its kind ever seen. mary had taken nearly a year hoping to banish the memory of her predecessors reign in the white house. lane had been both a popular socialite and an impeccable style setter. mary clemor, one of the dragon ladies of d.c., gave lane very high marks and remarked her superb physique gave the impression of intense, harmonious vitality. her eyes of deep violet shed a constant steady light as they could flash with rebuke, kindle with humor, or soften with tenderness.
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her classic head was crowned with masses of golden hair. mary's goal when she took over the executive mansion focused on erasure of memories of when this blond younger model made washington society dance to her tune. clemor suggested that mary had an impossible task to fulfill and further she was doomed at the outset. in reviewing the character of presidents' wives, we shall see that there was never one who entered the white house with such a feeling of self-satisfaction. to her it was the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition and mary lincoln made her jurn why i to -- her journey to washington a triumphant passage. with all of mary's faults as margaret leech has argued, in her first years in the white house, mrs. lincoln received more personal publicity in the northern press than the president. and most of it was unfavorable.
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mary's poor relations with the press form a mainstay of my by graphical treatment. she and her husband were unforgiving of what they felt was an abusive fourth estate. lincoln had his battles with journalists and these contests considerably cooled white house press relations. william howard russell of "the times" recalled running into the couple while on a carriage ride and the president was not so good humored nor mrs. lincoln affable. my unpopularity is spreading because i will not bow my knee to the degraded creatures who have made the very name of a free press odious to honorable men. mrs. lincoln claimed to be immune to newspaper attacks but she was acutely aware of the power of political gossip, and the washington pecking order. she longed to rule uncontested and win over the public. her social ambitions were at best extravagant, at worst ludicrous.
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but she carried on her parlor campaign and fervently as a statesman wheeling in and out of her husband's office. she felt frustrated when harriet lane's vacuum was filled by kate chase, the devoted daughter of lincoln's republican rival. the senator from ohio was appointed secretary of the treasury, yet his daughter continued to harbor presidential ambitions for her father. she set up a rival court just ten blocks from the white house in the chase home at 6th and e. quite a good place this clara barton, mathew brady nexus. this contest began even before lincoln's assumption of office and the two women sparred dramatically throughout wartime washington. more of kate's story can be gleaned from john aller's new book, american queen, the rise and fall of kate chase sprague
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which tells us as much about society in 19th century america as it does about this woman's fascinating life. rumors in washington suggest that the chase/lincoln feud had its roots in the earliest days of the lincoln administration. the lincolns made their way slowly to washington via train in the early weeks of 1861. the couple visited at the home of governor william dennison of ohio on february 13th, the day after lincoln's 52nd birthday. the president-elect enjoyed a speech at the capitol and then they spent the eke being entertained, including a military ball. some have suggested the ohio stopover initiated this battle between the women as rumors circulated that mrs. lincoln was angered by her husband's dancing with a beguiling 20-year-old beauty that night, which, of course was impossible because she wasn't in town. and so the counter story was
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that mary lincoln was angry that the chases were not in attendance, but both fanciful tales seem manufactured, lylely -- likely in retrospect and for effect. chase certainly played on mary lincoln's vindictiveness in her rendition of the rivalry in later years particularly when mrs. lincoln's unpopularity peaked in the post-war years. kate chase and mary lincoln were introduced at the first white house levee in 1861. kate was escorted by charles sumner who later became a favorite and a confidant of mrs. lincoln. this young, eligible daughter of a wealthy cabinet member enjoyed a wide circle of admirers. anne richardson french, wife of sculptor daniel chester french described kate as a professional beauty. she was tall and slim with an unusually long white neck and a slow, dibeliberate way of
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turning it when she glanced about. french concluded both chase's striking appearance and her distinctive manner demanded that when she appeared, people drop back in order to watch her. when she returned to the white house for the lincolns first state dinner on march 28th battle lines were clearly being drawn as the story is repeated that mrs. lincoln said to her as she left, i shall be glad to see you anytime, miss chase, and chase allegedly replied, mrs. lincoln, i shall be glad to have you call on me anytime. this might be mistaken as a polite or genteel interaction, but i think we know that both parties were giving thinly veiled signals of the rough seas ahead. mrs. lincoln knew that the gauntlet had been thrown down. her white house receptions and levees were by tradition open to the public. meanwhile kate chase hosted exclusive breakfasts four or five times a week to lure a
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coterie of power brokers to keep her father's reputation in the forefront. mr. lincoln may have won in 1960 -- 1860, but kate was looking ahead to '64. jay cook was a frequent visitor and many other wealthy financier financiers financiers. she held receptions every wednesday afternoon. afternoon gathers would drift in evening meals and entertainments to lure and lull the wheeler dealers who might advance her father's career. kate chase's charm offensive targeted several eligible bachelors as she flirted with the unattached ambassador from england apparently leading him on a very merry chase. and she was not shy about worming her way into lincoln's inner circle attending the theater with john hey and extending him invitations to pry out of him lincoln office gossip, and he could report back all the lavish parties going on at the chases.
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he stayed in the picture and was manipulated by kate after her marriage to the political wunder kind william sprague who was by all accounts a bounder when he clamped his eyes on kate. but as one of the richest men in america, the youngest man elected at 26 to lead a state, sprague cut a dashing figure and these were his credentials before his house was -- his horse was shot out from under him at bull run and he became a war hero. sprague was a favorite of lincoln's and lincoln surmised kate chase was a worthy challenger to his wife's title as most likely to commit mayhem to ruthlessly advance her true love's career. trying to keep the peace in the parlor politics of washington, the president was
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extraordinarily kind, even solicitous of kate. this was to acknowledge her influence as chase's daughter or perhaps as sprague's future wife, but in any case she remained a force with which to contend. lincoln would demonstrate his spy glass to her during washington receptions. he even invited her to meet with the delegation of american indians coming to the white house. mrs. lincoln was so irritated by these attentions that elizabeth keckley repeated in her memoir that mary forbade her husband to speak to kate at a white house reception, something to which he did not accede her wishes. as the reigning belle of d.c. society, kate indulged in her passion for finery, accepting perhaps inappropriate gifts from jay cook, including a handsome coach which set the tongues wagging. when she was romanced by william sprague, salmon p. chase at first disapproved as sprague was rumored to be a libertine with a well-known weakness for alcohol. chase did not care that sprague had more money than sense and
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was pleased when the courtship cooled after many months of speculation. when chase's protege james garfield came to washington from ohio in the autumn of 1862, he stayed with the chases and became a stimulating companion for kate. he escorted her everywhere, so much so that back in ohio lucretia crete garfield his wife wrote. you and miss kate are taking dinners out. is miss kate a very charming interesting young lady? i may be jealous if she is. garfield's wife was right to be suspicious because whether or not he crossed the line with kate chase during this period we have evidence he was involved in an extramarital affair with a new york tribune reporter, lucia gilbert calhoun, a widow one year kate chase's junior and a decade younger than garfield. as for kate, perhaps being scire
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-- squired in public was meant to spark jealousy in sprague which seemed to work because thereafter they became involved and eventually engaged. sprague paid close attention to the extravagance his fiancee craved and overspent to satisfy her girlish gluttony. kate's campaign to advance her father's career never wavered but once lincoln trumped with the emancipation proclamation it was hard for kate to use the abolitionist card within washington political circles. at the same time the rivalry between chase and lincoln became notorious. one ohio paper lampooned, the lincoln/chase contest has extended into the women's department. mrs. lincoln has a new french rig with all the posies costing $4,000. miss kate chase sees her and goes her one better by ordering her a nice little $6,000 arrangement, including a $3,000
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shawl. go to it green banks while it is yet today. who knew carriage wars were all the rage. if you read a washington paper of the era, sarah austin chanced to drive alongside a carriage which had two professional rivals. one called out the austin equipage contained a tub of guts. they were fined $2.50 each. newspapers might treat female rivalry satirically while in reality chase and lincoln worked with deadly dedication whether high brow or low brow, hi jinxes or low blows, all part of the washington merry go round. in 1864 kate chase feverishly hoped her father's talents could replace lincoln at the helm of the party. her marriage to sprague on the
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12th of november, 1863, had been hailed as the social event of the eason. the bride was replen accident in -- resplendent in a white velvet wedding dress sporting a beautiful diamond solitaire, part of the steady stream of wedding gifts estimated to be worth anywhere between $60,000 and $100,000. the president arrived alone at the chase/sprague reception and presented the bride with a small fan as his wife refused to attend. lincoln's spent over two hours to, quote, take the cuss off the meagerness of the presidential party as he put it. mrs. sprague, however, after her marriage did not diminish her political ambitions. indeed, within a month the chase for president committee had been formed. mary lincoln was so infuriated she crossed chase off the list for the state dinner in january 1864, although chase and his daughter were both brought back
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by lincoln himself. nevertheless, when the party nominated lincoln and lincoln refused to make a patronage appointment on chase's behalf the secretary of the treasury who regularly submitted his letter of resignation this time it was accepted and he found himself out of a job. chase's resignation and kate sprague's pained response to her father's being put out to pasture were two very bright spots during a very bleak summer for mary lincoln. she was beset by worries by her creditors having run up her debts to nearly $25,000. her husband's entire annual salary. her greatest fear was that lincoln might lose and she'd have to reveal her financial embarrassment. but she went to new york and knew it was a city ripe for patronage and corrupt bargains and she waded into the muck suggesting, quote, i will be clever to them until after the
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election, and then if we remain in the white house, i will drop every one of them and let them know very plainly i only made tools of them. they are an unprincipled set and i don't mind doing a little double dealing with them. unfortunately, she would also endulge in her shopping mania and the new york herald reported she reason sacked the treasures of dry good stores. clemor complained while sher sisters scraped lint the wife of the president spent her time rolling to and fro between washington and new york. intent on extravagant purchases for herself and the white house. an election year revved up her critics, and mrs. lincoln's relationship with credit and spending contributed to her notorious downfall. ironically, kate sprague's lavish spending was just tabloid fodder and was given a pass as a millionaire's wife, but we do know that, indeed, even after
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mrs. lincoln avoided the embarrassment of having to reveal her debts to her husband, she continued throughout the rest of her white house days and her life to suffer from what my good friend and colleague steven barry has called financial bulimia. by 1864 both the chases and the lincolns were disgusted with general george mcclellan. kate and mary shared an enemy in mcclellan although they were no united front but had very different reasons. mcclellan had been the subject of intense scrutiny from the day he showed up with his wife for the white house ball in february 1862. during the festivities, the servant had accidentally lock ed the door to the dining room and there was a search for the key. some politicians began to lampoon a speech made by mcclellan which found the union
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general forced into laughing at himself. over the next two years he was dubbed the american napoleon and he found criticism no laughing matter. he wrote to his wife ellen when he received his first military promotion, i find myself at a new and strange position her e, president, cabinet, general scott, and all deferring to me. by some strange operation of magic, i seem to have become the power of the land. i almost think if i were to win some small success now, i could become dictator or anything else that might please me. but nothing of that kind would please me. therefore, i won't be dictator. admirable self denial, and you can read the letters as he wrote to ellen almost daily when they were apart to find out more about his fascinating inner world. the mcclellans clearly had a loving relationship but their courtship was protracted and it was stymied by ellen's lack of enthusiasm.
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in 1854 mcclellan fell head over heels in love with the daughter of his former army commander randolph marcy. her father encouraged this young soldier who had prospects and mcclellan wrote to ellen's mother he was determined to win her if i can. however, ellen was in love with another army officer, lieutenant ambrose powell hill. because hill had no financial prospects outside the military ellen's father threatened if she did not break off with him, i fear my ardent affections will turn to hate. ellen did eventually abandon hill who would later as we know serve the rebel cause and often faced mcclellan on the battlefield. general a.p. hill would die in battle shortly before appomattox but ellen's break with hill did not advance the courtship with mcclellan as we find mcclellan nearly a decade older and a few inches shorter was actually one
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of nine suitors ellen turned down during the 1850s. george left the army and worked his way up as head of the ohio and mississippi railroad. when the mclelens were on a visit to chicago and she was 25, mcclellan asked ellen for her hand and was accepted. they were married in may 1860 and by all accounts remained devoted. however, ellen's temperament did not include the need to advertise and promote her husband's talents. she knew he was quite a self promoter on his own achieving the rank of major general by the age of 34, consolidating power by becoming the first commander of the army of the potomac in july 1861. when winfield scott retired in november 1861, mcclenen insisted to lincoln i can do it all. within months it became clear that he could not, and his contempt for lincoln became exaggerated as in private he berated his commander in chief
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as nothing more than a well-meaning baboon. which very much reminds us of how political campaigns in the 19th century are perhaps not so different from the 21st. open mic time. by july of 1862, salmon chase and his daughter were campaigning actively to have mcclellan removed, yet lincoln offered the general yet another chance to prove himself. while the rivers ran red with blood and lincoln grew darker each day at the failure to pursue and crush the enemy. lincoln took the opportunity to claim victory. the purpose of his claim was to revolutionize the war by releasing the preliminary emancipation proclamation. mcclellan claimed military success to continue his climb up the ladder. ellen may have believed her husband's claim, i have fought
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the battle splendidly. one of these days history will i trust do me justice. lincoln replaced mcclellan with burnside. mcclellan's version of the facts notwithstanding, he deflected blame and vaingloriously accepted the nomination of the democratic party and held onto his military commission until election day november 8th. following his decisive defeat, mcclellan wrote to lincoln as he sailed off to europe, it would have been gratifying to me to have retired from the service with the knowledge that i still retained the approbation of your excellency. mcclellan failed to carry even a majority of the soldiers' vote and forfeited the confidence and kind feeling of his former commander in chief. even if lincoln had hoped to maintain charity toward all, the parlor politics of washington would not allow mcclellan's rehabilitation. ellen marcie mcclellan did not exactly retreat from the field.
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she never even took up arms. she was outperformed, outplayed by old hands at the washington party politics game. mary lincoln's sad fate will doubtless be a part of the lincoln forum's commemorations next year as her widowhood in 1865 was as defining of her life as her marriage in 1842. but what about her younger blonder rivals? harriet lane had heeded her uncle's advice to not rush were into matrimony and only married at the age of 36 in 1866. her union was a happy one although she lost her uncle, her husband, and both of her children, two sons, before she reached the age of 60. she died in her early 70s donating her considerable art collection to the smithsonian and endowing a home for children at the johns hopkins hospital where the harriet lane pediatric
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facilities continue to serve the clinical needs of children today. according to her white house biography. poor kate chase sprague never got a white house biography as mary lincoln and harriet lane did, even though she spent most of her adulthood discouraging her father from any remarriage and encouraging him to run for president. kate and her sister were two of the seven women and the many hundred men who attended lincoln's white house funeral while mary lincoln pleaded she was too ill to attend. later that year kate gave birth to her first child, a son, and she and sprague had three additional children, three daughters over the next ten years. she revived her father's hopes for the presidency as he campaigned from the bench of the supreme court, an appointment lincoln had graciously granted him in december of '64. the chases switched parties with kate working the democratic
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convention of 1872 trying to secure her father's candidacy, another failed campaign. things went downhill for kate when her father died in may 1873. four months later the sprague fortune was wiped out by black friday. after years of living apart with kate enduring williams philandering and alcoholism she sued her husband for divorce. it was supremely difficult as kate's own infidelity, her involvement with new york 12340r senator roscoe conklin had become public knowledge which weakened her custody bid and any hopes for alimony. after months of wrangling, the marriage was dissolved in 1882. sprague kept custody of his 16-year-old son but relinquished the three daughters to his ex-wife. she settled in the washington home her father left her caring for her three daughters, particularly her second daughter, kitty, who was more -- was born mentally challenged.
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in 1890 her 25-year-old son took his own life, which plunged kate chase, impoverished, reclusive into further isolation. she buried her son next to her father and lived out a relatively meager existence until her death at 59 in 1899. rather than being labeled a woman ruled by passion, she might be regarded as a woman supremely committed to politics. her tragic life was, like her great rival mary lincoln suffused with personal loss. but much like the first lady she so desperately hoped to dethrone, she was a worthy opponent. women in washington ruled not by proxy but by proximity. they did not win elections no matter how hard they worked to secure their own candidates' victory. instead, they were crowned and indeed shackled by convention rather than being able to take their place on a convention floor. chase did actually challenge the world order and tried to be a
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part of her father's political strategies, perhaps even marrying like a royal princess in order to advance his future. the female domain remained a fiercely competitive space in washington in 1864, and one which just like today is ruled by social media. just as generals petraeus and politicians remembering representative weiner to make bipartisan selections have been so painfully taught. never underestimate what can happen when gossip, sex, and media mix in washington. thank you. [applause]
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>> if there are any questions we have 10 minutes before we need to move on to the next session. >> i would love it if you would identify yourself. >> i'm norm, from akron, ohio. i will try to get down to a level. i asked this question of jean baker when she was here. i will ask this question of you. i'm not going to give you her response until you answer the question. i don't -- do you think mary was bipolar? >> i halved often said, and i will repeat, my doctorates in history, not in medicine, and i
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would suggest even if we brought mary onstage today, and she were examined, they would have divided views. i don't diagnose. i tried to lay out patterns of behavior. i very much respect my colleagues, jean baker has written about her narcissism, jason emerson has written about his diagnosis. and we have some new work about concussions and what head trauma can do. so i very much welcome that speculation, but i myself try to contextualize and i believe i was most moved to believe she was not bipolar, but had medication problems and psychological problems. especially when i read the wonderful letters jason emerson dug up written while she was incarcerated, confined by her son to an asylum during that
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very difficult period following the 10th anniversary of her husband's death. >> absolutely not. [laughter] >> would you like to ask a question? >> mel. >> don't forget us over here. >> i'm sorry. i must go to the left first. yes, sir. >> i'm from buffalo, new york. grover cleveland territory. >> quite a bit of gossip around grover cleveland. >> anyway, my question, mary todd lincoln did not like grant too much. she liked his wife last, julia. my question, she called grant a butcher.
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in the 1870's, when grant becomes president, he secures some type of presidential pension for mary todd lincoln when she is struggling a little bit. >> you think grant was the one to secure her pension? >> that is what i found in the reading. >> i would check my last chapter. i believe it was a campaign on her part. there were congressional persons pushing it. it may have been granted, but i don't think he would be someone i would line up as advancing that cause dramatically. >> that is what i heard. i wonder if she ever thanked him for that. >> did marry ever think grant for advancing her political fortune? no. no.
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they had an interesting incident she was living abroad. it is a very small town, very springfield to like. a little capital in the south of france. you would go there for your health. british doctors would come. and the grants were visiting while she was in residence. i came across an exchange, a correspondence, which was very sincere, we are sorry, we had no idea you were here and now our schedule does not allow us to visit. i think they maintained polite, but his popularity was something that deeply disturbed marry because her campaign from the moment she recovered from the immediate effects of his death she never recovered from the long-term effect, was to
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campaign for her husband. he was the writer of the emancipation proclamation. she gave a cane to frederick douglass, she very much championed her husband as someone who had very much and himself for a cause. so she and grant and julia grant, they were never going to really become, you know, but some buddies. >> where would you rank or on the list of great american first lady's? >> what about mel? what if that was his question? >> i don't care. [laughter] >> you get one. >> thank you. after the deaths mary lincoln experience. >> one died in the white house. >> what was the worker social
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rivals able to empathize and ease the sting of what was going on in their relationships, or did they empathize with lincoln and ignore her? >> after her child's death. that is what i was struck by in my biography. when i got to the 61, 62 period of her life, i was struck by how carping her critics were. she went through an amazing year of press surveillance, presses trying to send spies into the white house to find out what was going on. she was under attack everywhere she went followed time reporters, and doris goodwin put me onto the notion if you want to attack the house, you set
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fire to the thatch. she was often scorched, burned, and i think the death of her son caused her to turn inward somewhat. the whole notion of social rivals is something i did not really find, but she does get herself revved up again although she can dissolve, losing control of herself in front of reporters, friends, over this question. she is angry no one recognizes the one-year anniversary of the death of her son, except for neptune. i am blanking. his wife who had lost so many children, she wrote a note. so i do find some people coming
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in. many people rose to the occasion and wanted to publish good works about her. she was going to hospitals. they were trying to start press camping. she said she refused. she was a very victorian woman and did not want her name to the paper, which is why the scandal after she left the white house was a painful episode for her and her son. >> i'm dr. john will, i am a medical doctor. i'm an infectious disease specialist. i always thought she was bipolar. some of her behavior, her shopping and so forth. you may know this, the reason that ap hill broke up is because he had gonorrhea, which he had contracted at west point in new
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york. so he knew he had gonorrhea. he informed the family of the condition. >> thank you for that. [laughter] i do not do military history. [laughter] i'm very pleased to be filled in this way. thank you so much. >> good morning. i'm from chicago. in the last year, published in the journal of the abraham lincoln association, there has been speculation on mary lincoln's purchasing penny royal in springfield when she was pregnant. penny royal is used to rid dogs of fleas or induce an abortion. i was wondering if you had insights on this scholarship. >> i'm sorry.
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i can't comment on the scholarship. i have not read it. i recent move has meant moving a household from ireland was difficult. i have not looked at that. i would say from my readings, i would have no evidence from her letters or otherwise there would be any way i could comment or believe she was trying to not have a child. the lincolns were besoughted by their children, proud and devoted, that when she's suffered family tragedies, she became president -- became pregnant within the month. the idea of having two sons, and robert gone to school, was
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something that was in the minds of the lincolns. i look forward to it. >> i wish they would leave the poor woman alone. >> well, well. applaud for raising these controversial questions and keeping it up. i think it is good. i did take umbrage at the book that came out that proclaim she had syphilis. that was one of the ones, medically, i'm sure people can speculate, that was an interesting take. >> i mean bradner from washington d.c., the land of the president. you hinted at this a moment ago. can you talk about mary lincoln's work with the soldiers? she had empathy for the mothers and wives having had the loss of these children. it is my understanding she spent a lot of time in the hospitals writing letters home for the
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soldiers. and it seems to me all of these vicious attacks against her could have been blunted if she had allowed the reporters to write about that. why did she not want that? was it a secret? did people not understand? >> i do not think she advertised it on purpose. she was someone who went into pendants when her son died. one of the things, i told you about the grand all, her aspirations that was nice her son's illness became evident and she and the president kept checking in the bedroom. the lincoln library is a moving exhibit they have of going into the room. here was her social triumph, and
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within days, her beloved was dead. and i think, if you contrast her next trip to new york with 1864 you find she was trying to find her way back to being the social creature she was, and writing letters and taking care of the bonds between families during the wartime dislocation was something she very much did dedicate herself to. she took flowers from the white house, she was indeed serving the role, which she thought was political. lincoln did it as well. they made their way and when people came to her to try to publicize it, when people did mention it, she said don't. so we do know she was trying to keep that side of her charity.
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she wanted to be an anonymous donor to the soldiers' cause. that is her interest. >> hi. i appreciate the opportunity to ask a question. >> the last question. >> i'm thinking about the conversation we had last night about lincoln on film and i'm wondering what you think about the trail of mary lincoln on film. related to spielberg, anything else. >> i do have weaknesses because i do think, i have strong feelings about ann rutledge on film. nevertheless, mary on film is an interesting phenomenon and i do believe, for example, you can see in the portrait with sam waterston, the miniseries, mary tyler moore trying to show a
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woman with clear disturbances. that was powerful. i also felt the recent portrait by sally fields, which i regret, did not earn her an oscar, was nevertheless such an amazing inhabiting of that role. people can have differences of opinion about her problems, her flaws. that particular portrait captured her as a flawed, dynamic, intense character and she actually contributed to that in a way that i found amazing. i'm very regretful i can't name the actress who portrayed her in "lincoln the vampire slayer." however, you have to understand any scholar who has written a biography of harriet tubman that finds these characters taking
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guns to gettysburg to save the union is going to welcome this kind of pop cultural fantabulation. thank you very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> on c-span2 on book tvs afterwards, the pitfalls on group decision-making and what to do to avoid them and sunday afternoon, we talk with professors at john hopkins university on the influence on hip-hop on politics and the efforts to cur malariae. and on c-span3 on lectures in history, anderson university professor uses abraham lincoln
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to understand the views of white americans on race and slavery before and during the civil war and sunday afternoon, it is fresh and on birth control movement. find our complete schedule at and let us know what you think. call us, e-mail us, or send us a tweet. join the conversation. like a son facebook. -- like us on facebook. >> real america brings you films from the 20th century. nine from -- "nine from little rock" is a film narrated by jefferson thomas, one of the nine african-american students who enrolled in the all-white central high school.
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the governor prevented the students from attending class until eisenhower sent army troops and federalized the arkansas national guard to restore order and enforce desegregation. in the film, mr. thomas and several others reflect on their experience and hopes for the future. the film won an academy award for documentary short subject. >> hatred is easier to organize. they brought hate to little rock in 1957. while we watched, the white children went to school, and we stood outside.
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we had been taught we were a nation under law, and the law of segregation was wrong. now we waited to see if this had meaning. or were just words in a book idle talk in a classroom. on september 27, 1950 seven, president eisenhower sent 1000 men of the army to kerry out the law. the supreme court of the united states had said the entire strength of the nation may be used to enforce the security of all rights and trusted by the constitution and that included my right and the rights of eight other negro americans who wanted to go to central high school in
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little rock, arkansas. we were terrence thelma, elizabeth, ernest greene carlotta and gloria ray. and we were going to school again. >> each week american history tv sits in on a lecture with one of the nation's college professors. you can watch the classes here every saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern. next, anderson university professor brian dirck talks about abraham lincoln's life as a method of understanding white american's views on race and slavery both before and during the civil war.


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