Thanksgiving (United States)
Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, with a proclamation by George Washington after a request by Congress. Thomas Jefferson chose not to observe the holiday, its celebration was intermittent until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, when Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863, during the American Civil War. Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the date was changed to the fourth Thursday in November, an innovation that endures to this day. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader fall–winter holiday season in the U. S; the event that Americans call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621.
This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow—it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to celebrating "thanksgivings"—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought. Setting aside time to give thanks for one's blessings, along with holding feasts to celebrate a harvest, are both practices that long predate the European settlement of North America; the first documented thanksgiving services in territory belonging to the United States were conducted by Spaniards and the French in the 16th century. Wisdom practices such as expressing gratitude and giving away, are integral to many indigenous cultures and communities.. Thanksgiving services were routine in what became the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607, with the first permanent settlement of Jamestown, Virginia holding a thanksgiving in 1610. In 1619, 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred in Virginia.
The group's London Company charter required "that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned... in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God." Three years after the Indian massacre of 1622, the Berkeley Hundred site and other outlying locations were abandoned and colonists moved their celebration to Jamestown and other more secure spots. The most prominent historic thanksgiving event in American popular culture is the 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. Autumn or early winter feasts continued sporadically in years, first as an impromptu religious observance and as a civil tradition; the Plymouth settlers, known as Pilgrims, had settled in land abandoned when all but one of the Patuxet Indians died in a plague. After a harsh winter killed half of the Plymouth settlers, the last surviving Patuxet, came in at the request of Samoset, the first native American to encounter the Pilgrims.
Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them until he too succumbed to plague a year later. The Wampanoag leader Massasoit gave food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient; the Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth for three days after their first harvest in 1621. The exact time is unknown, but James Baker, the Plimoth Plantation vice president of research, stated in 1996, "The event occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11, 1621, with the most time being around Michaelmas, the traditional time." Seventeenth-century accounts do not identify this as a Thanksgiving observance, rather it followed the harvest. It included 50 people who were on 90 Native Americans; the feast was cooked by the four adult Pilgrim women who survived their first winter in the New World, along with young daughters and male and female servants. Two colonists gave personal accounts of the 1621 feast in Plymouth; the Pilgrims, most of whom were Separatists, are not to be confused with Puritans, who established their own Massachusetts Bay Colony on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630.
Both groups were strict Calvinists. Puritans wished to remain in the Anglican Church and reform it, while the Pilgrims wanted complete separation from the church. William Bradford, in Of Plymouth Plantation wrote: They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want, and besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion. Which made many afterwards write so of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports. Edward Winslow, in Mourt's Relation wrote: Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a specia
The Reconstruction era was the period from 1863 to 1877 in American history. It was a significant chapter in the history of American civil rights; the term has two applications: the first applies to the complete history of the entire country from 1865 to 1877 following the American Civil War. Reconstruction ended the remnants of Confederate secession and ended slavery, making the newly-free slaves citizens with civil rights ostensibly guaranteed by three new Constitutional amendments. Three visions of Civil War memory appeared during Reconstruction: the reconciliationist vision, rooted in coping with the death and devastation the war had brought. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson both took moderate positions designed to bring the South back into the Union as as possible, while Radical Republicans in Congress sought stronger measures to upgrade the rights of African Americans, including the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, while curtailing the rights of former Confederates, such as through the provisions of the Wade–Davis Bill.
Johnson, a former Tennessee Senator, former slave owner, the most prominent Southerner to oppose the Confederacy, followed a lenient policy toward ex-Confederates. Lincoln's last speeches show that he was leaning toward supporting the enfranchisement of all freedmen, whereas Johnson was opposed to this. Johnson's interpretations of Lincoln's policies prevailed until the Congressional elections of 1866; those elections followed outbreaks of violence against blacks in the former rebel states, including the Memphis riots of 1866 and the New Orleans riot that same year. The subsequent 1866 election gave Republicans a majority in Congress, enabling them to pass the 14th Amendment, take control of Reconstruction policy, remove former Confederates from power, enfranchise the freedmen. A Republican coalition came to power in nearly all the southern states and set out to transform the society by setting up a free labor economy, using the U. S. Army and the Freedmen's Bureau; the Bureau protected the legal rights of freedmen, negotiated labor contracts, set up schools and churches for them.
Thousands of Northerners came south as missionaries, teachers and politicians. Hostile whites began referring to these politicians as "carpetbaggers". In early 1866, Congress passed the Freedmen's Bureau and Civil Rights Bills and sent them to Johnson for his signature; the first bill extended the life of the bureau established as a temporary organization charged with assisting refugees and freed slaves, while the second defined all persons born in the United States as national citizens with equality before the law. After Johnson vetoed the bills, Congress overrode his vetos, making the Civil Rights Act the first major bill in the history of the United States to become law through an override of a presidential veto; the Radicals in the House of Representatives, frustrated by Johnson's opposition to Congressional Reconstruction, filed impeachment charges. The action failed by one vote in the Senate; the new national Reconstruction laws – in particular laws requiring suffrage for freedmen – incensed white supremacists in the South, giving rise to the Ku Klux Klan.
During 1867-69 the Klan murdered Republicans and outspoken freedmen in the South, including Arkansas Congressman James M. Hinds. Elected in 1868, Republican President Ulysses S. Grant supported Congressional Reconstruction and enforced the protection of African Americans in the South through the use of the Enforcement Acts passed by Congress. Grant used the Enforcement Acts to combat the Ku Klux Klan, wiped out, although a new incarnation of the Klan would again come to national prominence in the 1920s. President Grant was unable to resolve the escalating tensions inside the Republican Party between the Northerners on the one hand, those Republicans hailing from the South on the other. Meanwhile, "redeemers", self-styled conservatives in close cooperation with a faction of the Democratic Party opposed Reconstruction, they alleged widespread corruption by the "carpetbaggers", excessive state spending, ruinous taxes. Meanwhile, public support for Reconstruction policies, requiring continued supervision of the South, faded in the North after the Democrats, who opposed Reconstruction, regained control of the House of Representatives in 1874.
In 1877, as part of a Congressional bargain to elect Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as president following the disputed 1876 presidential election, U. S. Army troops were withdrawn from the three states; this marked the end of Reconstruction. Historian Eric Foner argues: What remains certain is that Reconstruction failed, that for blacks its failure was a disaster whose magnitude cannot be obscured by the genuine accomplishments that did endure. In different states Reconstruction ended at different times. In recent decades most historians follow Foner in dating the Reconstruction of the South as starting in 1863 rather than 1865; the usual ending for Reconstruction has always been 1877. Reconstruction policies were debated in the North when the
Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral and political crisis, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, modernized the U. S. economy. Born in Kentucky, Lincoln grew up on the frontier in a poor family. Self-educated, he became Whig Party leader, state legislator and Congressman, he left government to resume his law practice, but angered by the success of Democrats in opening the prairie lands to slavery, reentered politics in 1854. He became a leader in the new Republican Party and gained national attention in 1858 for debating and losing to national Democratic leader Stephen A. Douglas in a Senate campaign, he ran for President in 1860, sweeping the North and winning. Southern pro-slavery elements took his win as proof that the North was rejecting the Constitutional rights of Southern states to practice slavery.
They began the process of seceding from the union. To secure its independence, the new Confederate States of America fired on Fort Sumter, one of the few U. S. forts in the South. Lincoln called up volunteers and militia to restore the Union; as the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party, Lincoln confronted Radical Republicans, who demanded harsher treatment of the South. Lincoln fought the factions by pitting them against each other, by distributing political patronage, by appealing to the American people, his Gettysburg Address became an iconic call for nationalism, equal rights and democracy. He suspended habeas corpus, he averted British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair. Lincoln supervised the war effort, including the selection of generals and the naval blockade that shut down the South's trade; as the war progressed, he maneuvered to end slavery, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Lincoln managed his own re-election campaign, he sought to reconcile his damaged nation by avoiding retribution against the secessionists.
A few days after the Battle of Appomattox Court House, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, on April 14, 1865, died the following day. Abraham Lincoln is remembered as the United States' martyr hero, he is ranked both by scholars and the public as among the greatest U. S. presidents. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, as the second child of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, in a one-room log cabin on Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky, he was a descendant of Samuel Lincoln, an Englishman who migrated from Hingham, Norfolk, to its namesake Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1638. Samuel's grandson and great-grandson began the family's westward migration, passing through New Jersey and Virginia. Lincoln's paternal grandfather and namesake, Captain Abraham Lincoln, moved the family from Virginia to Jefferson County, Kentucky, in the 1780s. Captain Lincoln was killed in an Indian raid in 1786, his children, including eight-year-old Thomas, Abraham's father, witnessed the attack.
Thomas worked at odd jobs in Kentucky and in Tennessee, before settling with members of his family in Hardin County, Kentucky, in the early 1800s. Lincoln's mother, Nancy, is assumed to have been the daughter of Lucy Hanks, although no record documents this. Thomas and Nancy married on June 12, 1806, in Washington County, moved to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, they produced three children: Sarah, born on February 10, 1807. Thomas Lincoln leased farms in Kentucky. Thomas became embroiled in legal disputes, lost all but 200 acres of his land in court disputes over property titles. In 1816, the family moved to Indiana, where the survey process was more reliable and land titles were more secure. Indiana was a "free" territory, they settled in an "unbroken forest" in Hurricane Township, Perry County. In 1860, Lincoln noted that the family's move to Indiana was "partly on account of slavery", but due to land title difficulties. In Kentucky and Indiana, Thomas worked as a farmer and carpenter, he owned farms, town lots and livestock, paid taxes, sat on juries, appraised estates, served on country slave patrols, guarded prisoners.
Thomas and Nancy were members of a Separate Baptists church, which forbade alcohol and slavery. Overcoming financial challenges, Thomas obtained clear title to 80 acres of land in what became known as the Little Pigeon Creek Community. On October 5, 1818, Nancy Lincoln died of milk sickness, leaving 11-year-old Sarah in charge of a household that included her father, 9-year-old Abraham, Dennis Hanks, Nancy's 19-year-old orphaned cousin; those who knew Lincoln recalled that he was distraught over his sister's death on January 20, 1828, while giving birth to a stillborn son. On December 2, 1819, Thomas married Sarah "Sally" Bush Johnston, a widow from Elizabethtown, with three children of her own. Abraham became close to his stepmother, whom he referred t
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture known as the Agriculture Department, is the U. S. federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming and food. It aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger in the United States and internationally. 80% of the USDA's $141 billion budget goes to the Food and Nutrition Service program. The largest component of the FNS budget is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the cornerstone of USDA's nutrition assistance; the current Secretary of Agriculture is Sonny Perdue. Many of the programs concerned with the distribution of food and nutrition to people of America and providing nourishment as well as nutrition education to those in need are run and operated under the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Activities in this program include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides healthy food to over 40 million low-income and homeless people each month.
USDA is a member of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, where it is committed to working with other agencies to ensure these mainstream benefits are accessed by those experiencing homelessness. The USDA is concerned with assisting farmers and food producers with the sale of crops and food on both the domestic and world markets, it plays a role in overseas aid programs by providing surplus foods to developing countries. This aid can go through USAID, foreign governments, international bodies such as World Food Program, or approved nonprofits; the Agricultural Act of 1949, section 416 and Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 known as Food for Peace, provides the legal basis of such actions. The USDA is a partner of the World Cocoa Foundation. Early in its history, the economy of the United States was agrarian. Officials in the federal government had long sought new and improved varieties of seeds and animals for import into the United States. In 1837 Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, a Yale-educated attorney interested in improving agriculture, became Commissioner of Patents, a position within the Department of State.
He began collecting and distributing new varieties of seeds and plants through members of the Congress and agricultural societies. In 1839, Congress established the Agricultural Division within the Patent Office and allotted $1,000 for "the collection of agricultural statistics and other agricultural purposes." Ellsworth's interest in aiding agriculture was evident in his annual reports that called for a public depository to preserve and distribute the new seeds and plants, a clerk to collect agricultural statistics, statewide reports about crops in different regions, the application of chemistry to agriculture. Ellsworth was called the "Father of the Department of Agriculture."In 1849, the Patent Office was transferred to the newly created Department of the Interior. In the ensuing years, agitation for a separate bureau of agriculture within the department or a separate department devoted to agriculture kept recurring. On May 15, 1862, Abraham Lincoln established the independent Department of Agriculture to be headed by a commissioner without Cabinet status, the agriculturalist Isaac Newton was appointed to be the first such commissioner.
Lincoln called it the "people's department." In 1868, the Department moved into the new Department of Agriculture Building in Washington, D. C. designed by famed DC architect Adolf Cluss. Located on Reservation No.2 on the National Mall between 12th Street and 14th SW, the Department had offices for its staff and the entire width of the Mall up to B Street NW to plant and experiment with plants. In the 1880s, varied advocacy groups were lobbying for Cabinet representation. Business interests sought a Department of Commerce and Industry, farmers tried to raise the Department of Agriculture to Cabinet rank. In 1887, the House of Representatives and Senate passed bills giving Cabinet status to the Department of Agriculture and Labor, but the bill was defeated in conference committee after farm interests objected to the addition of labor. On February 9, 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law elevating the Department of Agriculture to Cabinet level. In 1887, the Hatch Act provided for the federal funding of agricultural experiment stations in each state.
The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 funded cooperative extension services in each state to teach agriculture, home economics, other subjects to the public. With these and similar provisions, the USDA reached out to every county of every state. During the Great Depression, farming remained a common way of life for millions of Americans; the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Home Economics, established in 1923, published shopping advice and recipes to stretch family budgets and make food go farther. USDA helped ensure that food continued to be produced and distributed to those who needed it, assisted with loans for small landowners, contributed to the education of the rural youth, it was revealed on August 27th, 2018 that the U. S. Department of Agriculture would be providing U. S. farmers with a farm aid package, which will total $4.7 billion in direct payments to American farmers. This package is meant to offset the losses farmers are expected to incur from retaliatory tariffs placed on American exports during the Trump tariffs.
The Department of Agriculture was authorized a budget for Fiscal Year 2015 of $139.7 billion. The budget authorization is broken down as follows: Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service Animal Damage Control (
The Bixby letter is a brief, consoling message sent by President Abraham Lincoln in November 1864 to Lydia Parker Bixby, a widow living in Boston, thought to have lost five sons in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Along with the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address, the letter has been praised as one of Lincoln's finest written works and is reproduced in memorials and print. Controversy surrounds the recipient, the fate of her sons, the authorship of the letter. Bixby's character has been questioned, at least two of her sons survived the war, the letter was written by Lincoln's assistant private secretary, John Hay. President Lincoln's letter of condolence was delivered to Lydia Bixby on November 25, 1864 and was printed in the Boston Evening Transcript and Boston Evening Traveller that afternoon; the following is the text of the letter as first published: Executive Mansion, Nov. 21, 1864. Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours sincerely and respectfully, A. Lincoln. Mrs. Bixby. Lydia Parker married shoemaker Cromwell Bixby on September 26, 1826, in Massachusetts; the couple had at least six sons and three daughters before Cromwell's death in 1854. Some time before the Civil War and her family settled in Boston. On September 24, 1864, Massachusetts Adjutant General William Schouler wrote to Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrew about a discharge request sent to the governor by Otis Newhall, the father of five Union soldiers.
In the letter, Schouler recalled how, two years prior, they had helped a poor widow named Lydia Bixby to visit a son, a patient at an Army hospital. About ten days earlier, Bixby had come to Schouler's office claiming that five of her sons had died fighting for the Union. Governor Andrew forwarded Newhall's request to the U. S. War Department with a note requesting that the president honor Bixby with a letter. In response to a War Department request of October 1, Schouler sent a messenger to Bixby's home six days asking for the names and units of her sons, he sent a report to the War Department on October 12, delivered to President Lincoln by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sometime after October 28. On November 21, both the Boston Evening Traveller and the Boston Evening Transcript published an appeal by Schouler for contributions to assist soldiers' families at Thanksgiving which mentioned a widow who had lost five sons in the war. Schouler had some of the donations given to Bixby and visited her home on Thanksgiving, November 24.
The letter from the President arrived at Schouler's office the next morning. At least two of Lydia Bixby's sons survived the war: Private Arthur Edward Bixby – Company C, 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. Deserted from Ft. Richardson, Virginia on May 28, 1862. Trying to secure a discharge for him, his mother filed an affidavit on October 17, 1862 which claimed Edward had enlisted underage without her permission. Born July 13, 1843 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Returned to Boston after the war. Sergeant Charles N. Bixby – Company D, 20th Massachusetts Infantry. Killed in action near Fredericksburg. Born c.1841 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Corporal Henry Cromwell Bixby – 1st enlistment, Company G, 20th Massachusetts Infantry. 2nd enlistment, Company K, 32nd Massachusetts Infantry. Captured at Gettysburg and sent to Richmond, Virginia. Paroled on March 7, 1864 at City Point, Virginia. Born March 30, 1830 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Died November 8, 1871 in Milford, from tuberculosis he contracted while a soldier.
Private Oliver Cromwell Bixby, Jr. – Company E, 58th Massachusetts Infantry. Wounded at Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864. Killed in action near Petersburg, Virginia. Born February 1, 1828 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Private George Way Bixby – Company B, 56th Massachusetts Infantry. Enlisted under the name "George Way," to conceal his enlistment from his wife. Captured at Petersburg on July 30, 1864. First held prisoner at Richmond but transferred to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina, arriving there on October 9, 1864, his fate after that remains uncertain. Military records report conflicting accounts of him either dying at Salisbury or deserting to the Confederate Army. Born June 22, 1836 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Schouler's report to the War Department erroneously listed Edward as a member of the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry who had died of his wounds at Folly Island, South Carolina. Bixby may have been trying to conceal—possibly from embarrassment or hope of further financial aid—Edward's 1862 desertion.
At the time of her September meeting with Schouler, Bixby's son George had been a prisoner of war for just over a month, Henry was still hospitalized following his exchange. The War Department failed to use its own records to correct er
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Ann Todd Lincoln was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, as such the First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865. She dropped the name Ann after her younger sister, Ann Todd, was born, did not use the name Todd after marrying. Mary was a member of a large, wealthy Kentucky family, was well educated. After finishing school during her teens, she moved to Springfield, where she lived with her married sister Elizabeth Edwards. Before she married Abraham Lincoln, Mary was courted by his long-time political opponent Stephen A. Douglas, she and Lincoln had four sons only one of whom outlived her. Their home of about 17 years still stands at Jackson Streets in Springfield, Illinois, she supported her husband throughout his presidency. She witnessed his fatal shooting when they were together in the President's Box at Ford's Theatre on Tenth Street in Washington. Mary was involuntarily institutionalized for psychiatric disease ten years after her husband's murder, but retired to the home of her sister.
She complained of many physical symptoms during her adult life. Mary was born in Lexington, Kentucky as the fourth of seven children of Robert Smith Todd, a banker, Elizabeth "Eliza" Todd, her family were slaveholders, Mary was raised in comfort and refinement. When Mary was six, her mother died in childbirth. Two years her father married Elizabeth "Betsy" Humphreys and they had nine children together. Mary had a difficult relationship with her stepmother. From 1832, Mary and her family lived in what is now known as the Mary Todd Lincoln House, an elegant 14-room residence at 578 West Main Street in Lexington, Kentucky. Mary's paternal great-grandfather, David Levi Todd, was born in County Longford and immigrated through Pennsylvania to Kentucky. Another great-grandfather, Andrew Porter, was the son of an Irish immigrant to New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, her great-great maternal grandfather Samuel McDowell was born in Scotland, emigrated to Pennsylvania. Other Todd ancestors came from England. At an early age Mary was sent to Madame Mantelle's finishing school, where the curriculum concentrated on French and literature.
She learned to speak French fluently and studied dance, drama and social graces. By age 20, she was regarded with a grasp of politics. Like her family, she was a Whig. Mary began living with her sister Elizabeth Porter Edwards in Springfield, Illinois in October 1839. Elizabeth, married to Ninian W. Edwards, son of a former governor, served as Mary's guardian. Mary was popular among the gentry of Springfield, though she was courted by the rising young lawyer and Democratic Party politician Stephen A. Douglas and others, she chose Abraham Lincoln, a fellow Whig. Mary Todd married Abraham Lincoln on November 4, 1842, at her sister Elizabeth's home in Springfield, Illinois, she was 23 years old and he was 33 years of age. Their four sons, all born in Springfield, were: Robert Todd Lincoln, diplomat, businessman Edward Baker Lincoln, known as "Eddie", tuberculosis William Wallace Lincoln, known as "Willie", died of typhoid fever while Lincoln was President Thomas Lincoln, known as "Tad", died at age 18 Robert and Tad survived to adulthood and the death of their father, only Robert outlived his mother.
Lincoln and Douglas became political rivals in the great Lincoln-Douglas debates for a seat representing Illinois in the United States Senate in 1858. Although Douglas secured the seat when elected by the Illinois legislature, Lincoln became famous for his position on slavery, which generated national support for him. While Lincoln pursued his successful career as a Springfield lawyer, Mary supervised their growing household, their house, where they resided from 1844 until 1861, still stands in Springfield, has been designated the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. During Lincoln's years as an Illinois circuit lawyer, Mary was left alone for months at a time to raise their children and run the household. Mary supported her husband and politically, not least when Lincoln was elected president in 1860. During her White House years, Mary Lincoln faced many personal difficulties generated by political divisions within the nation, her family was from a border state. Several of her half-brothers served in the Confederate Army and were killed in action, one brother served the Confederacy as a surgeon.
Mary staunchly supported her husband in his quest to save the Union and was loyal to his policies. Considered a "westerner" although she had grown up in the more refined Upper South city of Lexington, Mary worked hard to serve as her husband's First Lady in Washington, D. C. a political center dominated by eastern culture. Lincoln was regarded as the first "western" president, critics described Mary's manners as coarse and pretentious, she had difficulty negotiating White House social responsibilities and rivalries, spoils-seeking solicitors, baiting newspapers in a climate of high national intrigue in Civil War Washington. She refurbished the White House, which included extensive redecorating of all the public and private rooms as well as the purchase of new china, which led to extensive overspending; the president was angry over the cost though Congress passed two additional appropriations to cover these expenses. Mary was a frequent purchaser of fine jewelry and on many occasions bought jewelry on credit from the local Galt & Bro. jewelers.
Upon President Lincoln's death, she had a
Edward Baker Lincoln
Edward Baker Lincoln was the second son of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. He was named after Lincoln's friend Edward Dickinson Baker; the National Park Service uses "Eddie" as a nickname and the name is on his gravestone. Little is known about the Lincolns' second son. A surviving story says that one day during a visit to Mary's family, Eddie's older brother, Robert Todd Lincoln, found a kitten and brought it to the house. Despite Mary's stepmother's dislike of cats and order to throw it out, Eddie protested, he cared for the helpless kitten, which he loved. Eddie was described by his parents as a tender-hearted and loving child. Eddie died a month before his fourth birthday. Although census records list "chronic consumption" as the cause, it has been suggested that Eddie died of medullary thyroid cancer given that: "consumption" was a term applied to many wasting diseases, cancer is a wasting disease, his father and two of his brothers had several features compatible with the genetic cancer syndrome multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2b, Eddie's thick, asymmetric lower lip is a sign of MEN2B, 100% of persons with MEN2B develop medullary thyroid cancer, sometimes as early as the neonatal period.
Eddie's body was buried at Hutchinson's Cemetery in Illinois. Both parents were devastated. A week after Eddie's death, an unsigned poem entitled "Little Eddie" was printed in the Illinois Daily Journal. Authorship of the poem was long a mystery with some supposing that Abraham and Mary Lincoln wrote it. In 2012, the Abraham Lincoln Association published an article in their journal that concludes neither parent wrote the poem, that it was instead an early draft by a young poet from St. Louis; the final line is on the boy's tombstone. The next child of Abraham and Mary was born ten months after Eddie's death. After the death of President Lincoln, Eddie's remains were transferred to the Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. Lincoln family tree Edward Baker Lincoln biography with photo Edward "Eddie" Baker Lincoln via Lincoln Family Home National Historic Site Edward Baker Lincoln at Find a Grave