Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mary Todd Lincoln

                    Mary Anne Todd Lincoln was born December 13, 1818, in Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of Robert Smith Todd (February 25, 1791-July 16, 1849) and Elizabeth Parker Todd (1794 or 1795-July 6, 1825/Lexington, Kentucky).  Robert and Elizabeth were parents of seven children, three boys and four girls, with Mary being their fourth child.  The other children were Elizabeth Todd Edwards (1813-1888), Frances "Fanny" Todd Wallace (1815-1899), Levi O. Todd (1817-1865), Robert P. Todd (1820-1822), Ann Todd Smith (1824-1891), and George Rogers Clark Todd (1825-1900).

Robert was a banker, merchant, lawyer, officer during the War of 1812, and member of the Kentucky legislature.  He died of cholera, which required immediate burial; due to his cause of death, there are questions about whether he was buried in Springfield, Illinois, or Lexington, Kentucky.  Robert and Elizabeth were married on November 26, 1812. 

                    Mary came from English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.  Her paternal great-grandfather was David Levi Todd:  born February 8, 17__, in Longford County, Ireland; immigrated to Pennsylvania and then moved to Kentucky.  Her maternal great-great-grandfather was Samuel McDowell:  born in Scotland and immigrated to Pennsylvania where he died.  Other Todd ancestors came from England.

                    When Mary was six years old, her mother died.  Her father married Elizabeth "Betsy" Humphreys Todd on November 1, 1826, and had seven more children.

                    Mary was reared in comfort and refinement, but she did not get along well with her step-mother.  Mary is described as being five feet two inches tall and having blue eyes and reddish-brown hair.  She left home early to attend finishing school; the school was owned by a French woman and its curriculum was based on French and dancing.  Mary learned to speak French fluently; she studied dance, drama, music and social graces.   Mary was thought to be "witty and gregarious, with a grasp of politics".

                    Mary began living with her sister Elizabeth Edwards in Springfield, Illinois, in October 1839, and Elizabeth became Mary's guardian while Mary lived with her.  Mary was popular in the social circles of Springfield and was courted by several promising young men, including Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln who were both rising young lawyers. 

Abraham, age 33, and Mary, age 23, were married on November 4, 1842, in the home of her sister Elizabeth in Springfield.  They became parents of four boys, all four born in Springfield:  Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926; lawyer, diplomat, businessman); Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-1850; known as "Eddie"); William Wallace Lincoln (1850-1862; known as "Willie"; died while Lincoln was President); Thomas Lincoln (1853-1871; known as "Tad").  Robert and Tad were the only sons to live to adulthood, and Robert was the only one to survive his mother.  

                    Lincoln became a successful Springfield attorney and spent years as an Illinois circuit lawyer.  Mary was often left alone to run the household and rear the children.  She supported her husband both socially and politically, particularly when he was elected President of the United States in 1860.  The Lincoln family home from 1844 until 1861 in Springfield, Illinois, is now the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

                    Abraham Lincoln became a political rival of Stephen A. Douglas for a seat representing Illinois in the United States Senate in 1858.  After the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the Illinois legislature chose Douglas to represent their state in the Senate, but Lincoln became famous and received national support for his position on slavery.

                    Mary Lincoln was the first presidential wife to be known as the "First Lady", and she faced numerous difficulties during her White House years.  As Lincoln was the first "western" president, the society in Washington, D.C. - dominated by eastern and southern culture - often criticized Mary's "western" manners as coarse and pretentious.  Mary had a difficult time dealing with White House social responsibilities, which were made worse due to the intrigue of the Civil War.
                    A devoted supporter of her husband, Mary was strictly loyal to his policies as he fought to save the Union.  She was in a very difficult position due to the fact that her home state of Kentucky was a border state where slavery was legal.  Several of Mary's half-brothers served in the Confederate Army and were killed in action; one of her brothers was a surgeon for the Confederacy.  The husband of one of her half-sisters was killed in action and several others supported the Confederate cause.  

In spite of the fact that she had family members fighting for the Confederacy, Mary often visited Union soldiers in Washington hospitals; there she distributed flowers and fruit to wounded soldiers and helped them prepare letters to send home.  Some times she accompanied President Lincoln when he made military visits to the field.  She also hosted many social functions.  She was severely criticized for spending too much on the White House but felt it was necessary to maintain the prestige of the Presidency and the Union.

                    Mary suffered severe headaches as an adult and had other mental and physical problems.  Her "behavior suggests severe depression, anxiety and paranoia, migraine headaches, even possibly diabetes.  Certainly all of her ills were exacerbated by a series of tragic circumstances during her White House tenure:  the trauma of Civil War, including the allegiance of much of her family to the Confederacy and their death or injury in battle; an 1863 accident which threw her from a carriage and knocked her unconscious; the accusations by northerners that she was sympathetic to the Confederacy and the ostracizing of her as a `traitor' by southerners; the sudden death of her son Willie in 1862; and, of course, the worst incident of all, the assassination of her husband asshe sat beside him in the Ford's Theater."   Some historians and psychologists speculate that Mary suffered from bipolardisorder.  

                    After the assassination of President Lincoln, Mary returned to Illinois.  The death of her son Thomas (Tad) in July 1871 plunged Mary into deeper grief and increasing paranoia.  Her son Robert was so concerned about her that he had her committed to a psychiatric hospital in Batavia, Illinois, in 1875.  She was so angry with the court order that she went to a pharmacy and ordered enough drugs to kill herself.  The pharmacist realized what she was planning and filled her order with a placebo.   Three months after being committed in a private sanitarium, Mary smuggled letters to her lawyer and the editor of the Chicago Times.  The ensuing publicity put Robert's character and motives in question and caused the sanitarium to publicly declare that Mary should be sent to Springfield to live with her sister.  In 1876 Mary was declared competent enough to manage her own affairs, but the estrangement between Mary and her only living son was never fully reconciled.

                    Mary traveled throughout Europe for the next four years, during which time she settled for a time in Pau, France.  Her declining health and severe cataracts affecting her eyesight made her more susceptible to falls.  In 1879 she fell from a step ladder and suffered spinal-cord injuries.  In the early 1880s Mary was confined to the residence of her sister Elizabeth Edwards in Springfield, Illinois.  There she died on July 16, 1882 at age 63.  She was interred beside her husband in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.   


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