Monday, February 20, 2006

Rehabilitating Mary Todd Lincoln

The conventional historic wisdom has been that Abraham Lincoln was trapped in a bitterly unhappy marriage with his wife, MaryTodd, who also happened to be out of her tree. After all, she was declared insane by a jury and sent to an asylum, right?

Not so fast there, says scholar Samuel A. Schreiner Jr. in a myth-debunking op-ed piece in today's President's Day edition of the New York Times.

Here's a taste:

Creator of the miserable marriage myth was Lincoln's longtime law partner in Springfield, Ill., William Herndon. In a lecture he gave shortly after the president's death, Herndon said that Lincoln had never loved his wife because his heart belonged to Ann Rutledge, a neighbor who died at the age of 22 and whom some historians believe was courted by Lincoln. To claim, however, that her death would have rendered a man of Lincoln's will and intelligence unable to have a loving relationship with another person is absurd. The untimely loss of loved ones was such a common fact of life in the 1800's that people simply had to learn how to cope with it to carry on.

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