American Presidents CHAT

Chat Transcript from June 28th 1999

C-SPANModerator Welcome to the chat room with Tom Schwartz, the Illinois State Historian.

C-SPANModerator Tom, please tell us about specific work you have done with Abraham Lincoln

TomSchwartz I worked for two years in a special collection at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign dealing with Abraham Lincoln. When the curator position was opened at the Illinois State Historical Library in 1985, I applied not thinking that I would get the job . But they hired me. That began fourteen years of involvement with Abraham Lincoln, his times and the wonderful artifacts, manuscripts, prints, oil paintings and all of the others things that comprise Lincolniana.

PresidentOne Tom, what did Abraham Lincoln sound like? Any accents?

TomSchwartz He had a high pitched voice. His formative years were in Kentucky and Southern Indiana so he was around people with a Southern accent. The Library of Congress has audio tapes of the Southern Indiana accent that both Sam Waterson and Hal Holbrook based their accents upon.

Douglas Brady Where was President Lincoln born?

TomSchwartz Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, Kentucky in a crude cabin, February 12, 1809.

guest1 What is Lincoln's ethnic background? Where did his parents or grandparents come from?

TomSchwartz The Lincoln's came from Higham England and settled in Higham, Massachusetts. The family then migrated to various states of Pennsylvania, the Carolina's, and Kentucky. The family further moved to Missouri, Indiana, Illinois an later branches went west.

PresidentOne Did the beard ever come off during the presidency?

TomSchwartz No.

mmurphy Did President Lincoln have any siblings?

TomSchwartz Abraham Lincoln had a younger brother who died at child birth and a sister who died while giving birth. He also had step brothers and sisters.

C-SPANModerator The issue of slavery has been a consistent one throughout the American Presidents series. What would Lincoln think of this continued debate that we're having today?

TomSchwartz Like most people of his day, Lincoln accepted the existence of slavery. While morally opposed to the concept of slavery, Lincoln also accepted the political necessity of maintaining slavery in the Southern States. It was not until the war began that Lincoln pondered what would have to change in American society and customs to provide an environment allowing for economic equality for blacks. He soon realized the difficulties of providing for political and social equality for blacks. Lincoln liked to leave solutions to great questions for future generations to handle. And the legacy of slavery is one which we continue to address.

descendent What can you tell me about the Lincoln's Globe Tavern days? Do you have any information about his neighbor Stephen Green Eubank?

TomSchwartz The Lincoln's spent their honeymoon at the Globe Tavern which was one of the finest boarding houses in Springfield in the 1840s. When Mary Lincoln gave birth to Robert in 1843, his crying distracted the other boarders forcing the Lincolns torent a cottage until they purchased the home at 8th and Jackson in may 1844

EdXeno Beyond slavery, can you tell us some of the other political stances the Republican Party had during Lincoln's time?

TomSchwartz The Republican Party supported the Homestead Act, making land available to settlers in the Western territories. They supported extending the railroad system from coast to coast and also supporting the building of canals and roads. They were for a strong banking system and a system of land grant colleges. In short, they supported policies that advanced the abilities of individuals to succeed.

AJ_Franklin Is the glass in the windows of the Lincoln Home similar to the glass originally in use at that time?

TomSchwartz I believe that the glass is original. Glass panes were even used in the cabins at New Salem in Lincoln's day since it was readily available in Springfield.

wjmcclain What were the circumstances regarding the attempt to steal Lincoln's body from the tomb? Or from the tomb?

TomSchwartz There were two plots to steal Lincoln's body. The first never amounted to anything but was discussed in Lincoln, Illinois. The second was an attempt in 1876 to free an engraver from Joliet Prison so that counterfeit money could flood the mid-West. The scheme was to steal the body, hold it for ransomed as well as the freedom of the engraver. The Secret Service found out about the plot and foiled it but failed to capture the persons involved until weeks later. Grave robbing was not an offense in Illinois but after this incident, it became punishable for up to ten years in prison.

lee Where could I find out about the Honor Guard at funeral?

TomSchwartz There were several. The one that accompanied the body throughout the trip is described in John C. Power The Lincoln Funeral... Each major city along the funeral route also had observances with their own Honor Guard comprised of local people. These are also listed in Power. Keep in mind, the Lincoln funeral compirsed twenty days of activities involving tens of thousands of people.

Doyobo66 Did Lincoln write the Gettysburg Address himself and how long did it take?

TomSchwartz Lincoln began composition of the address in advance of his trip to Gettysburg. There are two drafts in the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division illustrating how Lincoln labored over his remarks. When he arrived at Gettysburg, Lincoln stayed with David Wills, a local attorney and chair of the Ceremonial Committee. Lincoln requested some paper from Wills and probably revised some of his address. Lincoln later wrote out the address for sanitary fairs. All totaled, there are five complete copies in Lincoln's hand.

DEE When will the revised edition of Lincoln Day by Day be issued.

TomSchwartz Lincoln Day By Day will be availabe on-line by February 12, 2000 through the Abraham Lincoln Association web site This version will use the 1930s format with the 1960 content. A revision will appear in 2009 to include all the new information discovered by the Lincoln Legal Papers as well as scholars who are currently working in the Lincoln field.

jjr Re: The Bixby letter controversy, Did Lincoln or Hey compose it?

TomSchwartz Traditionally, scholars assumed Lincoln wrote it. But there were always rumors that Hay had a hand in the composition. Michael Burlingame has argued that Lincoln never used certain words in the letter such as beguile whereas Hay frequent ly used such phraseology in his own writings. Many scholars are now willing to consider Hay's authorship or at least joint authorship. It was not uncommon for Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln's private secretaries, to write out responses for Lincoln which he corrected and had sent.

Kellogg Who presents the best understanding of the Lincoln/Grant relationship?

TomSchwartz T. Harry Williams provides the classic treatment in Lincoln's Generals. John Y. Simon, editor of the Grant Papers, has offered several modifications of Williams in various published papers. Peter Parret has the most recent biography. And Brooks D. Simpson has a mutli-volume biography coming out with the volume one to be released this year.

nibur what about black friends of Abe in Springfield

TomSchwartz Richard E. Hart has an article about Lincoln and blacks in Springfield in the Winter 1999 issue of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Lincoln had interactions with many blacks before becoming president. He handled the legal affairs of William Fleurville, his barber, and Fleurville even writes to Lincoln as President to tell him about the local gossip of Springfield.

cspanjunkie Why is the Civil War called the War of Northern Aggression by the south? I live in NC now and this is how one refers to it. I also assume it is taught in the schools this way and wonder what is an accurate portrayal?

TomSchwartz Tony Horowitz's Confederates in the Attic is the best summary of the continuing Civil War. In short, many Southerns believed that the war was an attack on their way of life and placed states rights above federal rights.

Christopher Eger what were Lincoln's policies towards the Native American population?

TomSchwartz David Nichol's book on Lincoln and the Indians covers the Lincoln Administration policies in some detail. Because of the Civil War, not much attention was given to Native Americans. The uprising in Minnesota provided the most attention Lincoln gave to Native American issues. He pardoned many of the Indians but allow others to be executed.

Kellogg Who is John Simon? Does he know anything about Lincoln that has escaped the rest of us?

TomSchwartz John Y. Simon is the editor of the U. S. Grant Papers out of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. It was Simon who reexamined the Ann Rutledge myth and found that the evidence supported the romance rather than dismissing it as myth.

mmurphy Did President Lincoln suffer from depression?

TomSchwartz Yes.

PresidentOne What were the relations between Lincoln and Hamlin?

TomSchwartz Cordial. Lincoln confered with Hamlin regarding the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation since Hamlin was more openly an abolitionist.

Doyobo66 why do they say that negroes wouldn't have chosen Lincoln for President and what changed during the presidency?

TomSchwartz Lincoln did not favor the immediate abolition of slavery as candidate in 1860 nor did he support giving blacks the right to vote or any equality other than economic. With the advent of the war the issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, Linc oln realized th at the world had changed. He no longer needed to assuage Southern fears on slavery and could take steps toward realizing his own views on the meaning of all men are created equal. Of course, Lincoln only began to make known how he would have extended equality to blacks after the war.

guest1 What was the motive behind Lincoln's assassination? Who was John Wilkes Boothe?

TomSchwartz Booth was an actor from a famous acting family. The Players Club in New York was established by J.W. Booth's brother Edmund. John Wilkes Booth was a racist who believe in the superiority of the white race. He supported the Confederate cause throughout the war and even became involved in a plot to kidnap Lincoln. This fell a part. When Booth heard of Lincoln's plan to extend sufferage to blacks who had served in the Union forces and those who were educated, Booth became angered at the thought of black citizenship. Lincoln's assassination was out of rage but it also extended to include other members of his Cabinet. The current debate is whether Booth was part of a larger scheme by the Confederate Government or merely an act by Booth.

C-SPANModerator Our time with Tom Schwartz is up. Tom, do you have any closing thoughts for the room? How can participants contact you with follow-up questions?

TomSchwartz People can call me at 217/782-2118 or e-mail me at Thanks, I enjoyed this.

C-SPANModerator Tom, thank you for joining us. And thanks to all those in the room for visiting

Created by America's Cable Companies.