Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Lincolns

The Lincolns - A Scrapbook look at Abraham and Mary
by Candace Fleming

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Tired of all the election hoopla and tension? Want to learn more about a different political time and president, compare our electoral process historically speaking, and be thoroughly entertained by it all?

Then, I have a deal for you!

Over the last year or so, I have been privileged to receive many terrific previews of children's' books from Random House. The latest one in my mailbox is such a delight, I hesitate to quantify it as a "child's book".

Candace Fleming's newest offering is perfect for any age; my history "jones" is more than content with The Lincolns. Using memorabilia from various private and collegiate collections, Fleming has packed her book with rare photographs, newspaper clippings, hand-written letters and notes, as well as maps and interesting little factual tidbits about the public and personal lives of the Lincolns. There are even political cartoons of the day, with accompanying stories highlighting the historical event depicted in the various selections.

The scrapbook format is truly a terrific way to read about this famous president, his family, and his service to our country. Because nearly every page is broken up into small tasty bites, not only is it more palatable to young minds, it also keeps your interest and curiosity ready for more.

So many fascinating tales, some heartwarming, and not just a few less than flattering in regards to the precociousness of Mary Lincoln. Who knew that Mary once demanded Mrs. Horatio Taft relinquish her personal bonnet ribbons so that Mary's hat (which was made by the same hatmaker for both women for a evening event) more perfectly matched the First Lady's purple trimmings? (And speaking of the title of "First Lady" - did you know Mary Lincoln was the first presidential wife to be so anointed, courtesy of her elected spouse?)

Did you know that President Lincoln suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus (Section 9, Clause 2) repeatedly throughout the Civil War in certain places where secession talk was getting heated? And that he also suspended the writ twice throughout the entire country during the war resulting in approximately 10,000 to 20,000 citizens being imprisoned without proper trial? They were held for disloyal acts (or the suspicion of), spying, smuggling, blockade running and carrying contraband goods. Some 864 more were held prisoner for expressing their political beliefs. The US Constitution allows that it can only be suspended in dire emergencies - "in cases of rebellion or invasion (when) the public safety may require it."

Did you know that? (If I did, I must have forgotten my high school government class lessons.)

Quite a few of the pages are devoted to the Lincoln's family life, and the lives of their young sons; tragic as well as revealing of the depth of love both Mary and Abraham shared for their children. I vaguely knew that some of their sons did not make it to adulthood, but not much more about the young boys themselves. Wonderful and intimate photographs are included chronicling their childhood years.

It's great if you have young children in the family to share this book with, but if not, it is still a welcome and delightful addition to your own adult history shelves. I promise - you'll love it! (And it may be a while before I pass it along to my own grandchildren, I am still reading and discovering!)


joared said...

Wow! I didn't know most of those historical details. I don't think they taught them in history when I was in school. That's been one of my complaints about how history was taught in school -- the characters were almost always portrayed in a rather unreal manner. The facts you describe seem to bring these figures to life as real people. Sounds like an interesting book to read.

Whisky Prajer said...

I remember the Burns-Ward documentary mentioning some of these controversies, particularly when it came to populating the different prisoner camps during, and following, the Civil War.

Tangentially, our morning paper had a photo-spread of how presidents age when they take the White House. The argument was that the stress of public life and office ages a person more than might otherwise happen. In five short years Abe embodied that more than any other president before or since -- partially because his looks were prone to dramatic decline, but also, frankly, because he lived through exceedingly dramatic times.