Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln
Gerald J. Prokopowicz
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Over the course of nine years as scholar-in-residence at the Lincoln Museum, Gerald J. Prokopowicz answered thousands of questions about Abraham Lincoln. Reporters, researchers, students, and especially the 50,000 visitors who come to the museum every year all want to know about the nation's most famous president. Although there have been more books written about Lincoln than any other American, there has never been a single book that clearly answers the most important, most unusual, most provocative, and most frequently asked questions. Until now.
Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln draws on the questions that people actually ask. Some are personal: Did Lincoln keep any pets? Some are inspired by recent reinterpretations of Lincoln's actions: Was Lincoln a racist? Some are questions that previous generations of historians considered inappropriate: Was Lincoln gay? Whether drawn from today's headlines (Did Lincoln's presidential actions violate the Constitution?) or from today's tabloids (Did doctors really raise Lincoln from the dead?), the questions in Did Lincoln Own Slaves? illuminate what people really want to know about the past.
Prokopowicz has organized the questions along the time line of Lincoln's life to give us a portrait of the sixteenth president unlike any we have had before. His authoritative, often surprising responses illuminate facets of Lincoln's life, work, and legacy about which people remain endlessly curious.
Laughing: Humorous Anecdotes from Original Sources by and about Abraham Lincoln (1982), i–x. This anecdote is actually part of the foreword by Ray Allen Billington, who gives it as an example of a story that cannot be authentically traced to Lincoln, but does “have the ring of a perfect Abraham Lincoln story.” 26. Henry Dummer, a Springfield attorney, referred to Lincoln’s “insane” love of dirty stories in an interview with William Herndon in 1865 or 1866, but gave no examples. Wilson and Davis,
His Wife Before the Committee on the Conduct of the War,” Lincoln Lore, no. 1643 (January 1975). 36. Lincoln, when he was a Congressman, had vigorously opposed the war with Mexico. For the misquote story, see Mary Ann Akers, “Honest, It Wasn’t Abe’s Comment,” Washington Post, February 16, 2007, A21. The columnist who started it blamed his copyeditor—nothing is ever anyone’s own fault. 37. Elizabeth Smith Brownstein, Lincoln’s Other White House (2005), 54. 38. A popular story has Lincoln
argued that their stay in Illinois was only a temporary sojourn that did not invalidate the property rights of their owner, but the court ruled in favor of freedom. In another case, Bailey v. Cromwell (1841), Lincoln successfully defended a young woman against being sold into slavery. What’s his most famous case? The “almanac trial” … … although it was not particularly important at the time, except to those involved. In 1858, Lincoln defended Duff Armstrong, son of his old wrestling rival Jack
forward to many years of legal wrangling over its ownership.11 How was Lincoln’s health? Generally very good. The only time he was too ill to work in the White House was after his return from Gettysburg in 1863, when he came down with varioloid, a mild form of smallpox. He could not see visitors because the disease was contagious, but he was still well enough to joke that he could finally satisfy the usual horde of office seekers who came to the White House, because now he had something he
Lincoln (2001), is another strong contender. John Wilkes Booth explains what he was doing in his own words in John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper, eds., “Right or Wrong, God Judge Me”: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth (1997). Timothy S. Good, ed., We Saw Lincoln Shot: One Hundred Eyewitness Accounts (1995), puts you in the theater. James L. Swanson, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (2007), is a cinematic retelling of Booth’s flight. James L. Swanson and Daniel M. Weinberg, Lincoln’s