the Lincoln Group of Boston
The very first meeting of the Lincoln Group of Boston occurred on February 12, 1938.
On Saturday, September 17, 2022, we will gather at Stonehill College in Easton, MA, for a talk by Lincoln Group of Boston vice-president Robert A. (Bob) Foster. Bob is also vice-president of the General Lander Civil War Round Table and the author of Blue is Just a Word: The Civil War Within. His address, which has been enthusiastically received in other forums, is entitled “Lincoln and the True Meaning of the Confederate Flag.” (Bob’s talk is rescheduled from a cancellation last year.)
On Saturday, February 11, 2023, we will meet at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. I will avail myself of the opportunity as newly installed president to speak on my book, Freedom’s Crescent: The Destruction of Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley, which is scheduled to be published by the time we meet. While the book is not on Lincoln per se, Lincoln figures prominently in it.
On Saturday, April 22, 2023, we will meet again at Bridgewater State University. We will hear from Megan Kate Nelson, an independent scholar and writer based in Cambridge who has previously taught at Harvard and other institutions. She is the author of several books, and she will be speaking on her book, The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West, which has received a number of awards and was named a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History. Here is her website: http://www.megankatenelson.com/
Saturday, April 13, 2019
James Conroy spoke about his 2014 book, Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865. The book records an attempt to end the Civil War in January 1865. A delegation that included President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward met Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens and others aboard a vessel docked at Hampton Roads, Virginia, to negotiate a peace in the civil war that had lasted almost four years. The negotiators discussed several issues that might end the conflict--the readmission into the Union of the rebellious southern states, charges that might be leveled against Confederate leaders, and the difficult issue that caused the war, slavery. The treaty was unsuccessful, and the war carried on for four more months.
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Prof. David Kelly of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI, spoke about the Trent Affair, a crisis on the high seas that occurred shortly after Abraham Lincoln took office as president in March 1861. A United States naval officer, Capt. Charles Wilkes, captured a British ship in the Caribbean Sea with British diplomats aboard who were planning to establish diplomatic relations with the Confederacy. The incident threatened to bring the British into the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. Careful negotiations with the British by Secretary of State William Seward resulted in the safe release of the British diplomats, keeping the British from joining the South in the war.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Bill Hanna, former president of the Lincoln Group of Boston, spoke about Abraham Lincoln's 1848 campaign tour of Massachusetts, his only visit to the Bay State. The purpose of the trip was to generate support for Whig candidate Zachary Taylor's presidential bid. Lincoln delivered twelve speeches in eleven days in nine towns and cities. Lincoln's speeches were not recorded, but newspaper accounts of his addresses attest to their positive reception. Mostly, Lincoln extolled the virtues of Taylor and downgraded his opponent, Martin Van Buren. Taylor carried Massachusetts and won the election, but served as president only two years. He died in 1850.
Saturday, April 21, 2018
Our speaker was, Bill Hanna, a past president of the Lincoln Group of Boston. His presentation was on the rare Lincoln topic that has not been extensively explored: Lincoln and science.
Saturday, February 10, 2018
James Tackach, President of the Lincoln Group of Boston, delivered a presentation on Lincoln and the 14th Amendment. Although the amendment was enacted three years after Lincoln's death, Lincoln laid the groundwork for the amendment with policies articulated during the last two years of his life. He opened the Union army and navy to African American recruits, paving the way for postwar citizenship. Lincoln worked to equalize the pay of white and black soldiers and to ensure that the wives of black soldiers who died in combat would receive widows pensions. During the final year of his life, Lincoln began to articulate in private letters and late in public public statements the need for equality under the law for all Americans.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
James Conroy discussed his book, Lincoln's White House: The People's House in Wartime, which won the 2017 Abraham Lincoln Institute Book Award and was a 2017 co-winner of the prestigious Lincoln Book Prize. Conroy began by showing a photograph of Lincoln just after his 1860 election victory and another of Lincoln in 1865, which revealed the stress of the job. Conroy described life in the Lincoln White house--its physical description and room layout, its landscaping, its open access to visitors, the three-man staff that ran it, the frequent receptions, the Lincoln family's occupation of it, and the personal tragedies that occurred there (the death of Lincoln's son Willie and the death of Lincoln just as the Civil War was ending). Conroy also revealed how the White House has changed since the Lincoln's lived there--the additions and renovations made during the century and a half since Lincoln served.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Lincoln Group of Boston member Al Smith used the 1906 novel The Perfect Tribute by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews to highlight Lincoln's personal attributes. Andrews' book presents an incident involving Lincoln and a dying Confederate soldier in a Washington hospital who needs a lawyer to create a will. According to Smith, the episode depicts Lincoln as a "beau ideal of a statesman" and a man "with malice toward none and charity for all." These qualities have kept Lincoln's memory alive for more than a century and a half and explain why he has been the topic of so many thousands of books.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Orson Kingsley, the Archivist at the Bridgewater State University (BSU) Library, provided members with an overview of the Lincoln Group of Boston collection at the BSU Library. During the past year, Orson has been sorting and labeling many boxes of materials holding documents dating back to the founding of the Lincoln Group of Boston in 1938.
The featured speaker, Judge Frank Williams, offered a talk titled "Collecting Lincoln." The Frank and Virginia Williams Lincoln Collection, housed in the Williams' Rhode Island home and in Judge Williams's office, holds 12,000 books, 40,000 articles and pamphlets, and 20,000 artworks, photographs, and other kinds of memorabilia. Judge Williams divided collectors into two groups: vacationers seeking souvenirs of their travels and dedicated collectors. Lincoln collectors include assassination buffs, photo collectors, book collectors, and others. Judge Williams showed slides of some of the materials in his own collections--buttons and badges, photos and artwork, dishes and glasses, jewelry, campaign materials, and other mementos. Judge Williams concluded that his collection is "an addiction that keeps us out of the tavern."
Saturday, September 24, 2016
We gathered at Stonehill College in Easton, MA. Paul Mellen, a collector of antique pocket watches, served as guest speaker. Mellen has acquired the gold pocket watch of Major Jonathan Ladd. Ladd was an attorney from Lowell, MA, who served as a Paymaster in the Lincoln administration. When Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater on the evening of April 14, 1865, Major Ladd was summoned to Lincoln’s deathbed. It was Ladd’s pocket watch that marked the time of Lincoln’s death. Mellen raised some conspiracy theories, including one suggesting that Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was not killed in a barn by federal troops but escaped from Washington and lived out his life under an assumed name in Texas.
April 16, 2016
John Stauffer, Professor of English and African American Studies at Harvard University, spoke about his 2013 book, The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On. Prof. Stauffer began by tracing the song’s origins: African American camp meeting songs and spirituals, hymnbooks, the Book of Revelations, and the abolitionist anthem “John Brown’s Body.” After hearing Union troops sing “John Brown’s Body” on a trip to Washington in 1861, Julia Ward Howe, a published poet and woman of letters, penned the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as a poem in the February issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine. The song caught on first in the North during the Civil War by Christians who saw the war as an Armageddon. After the war, the song, divorced from its abolitionist roots, was widely embraced in both the North and South, especially by evangelical Christians. Howe’s song almost became the U.S. National Anthem during the Teddy Roosevelt administration. It has become the University of Georgia fight song, played at sports events, as well as an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement. It inspired the union organizing song, “Solidarity Forever,” and it was sung at the funerals of Winston Churchill, John and Robert Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. It is sung at 9/11 memorials and Occupy Wall Street events. The song remains popular more than a century and a half after its composition because it speaks to traditional American themes.
February 13, 2016
The speaker for our February meeting was Todd Brewster, author of Lincoln's Gamble: The Tumultuous Six Months That Gave America the Emancipation Proclamation and Changed the Course of the Civil War. Todd suggested that Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is the third most important document in United States history - after the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He chronicled the origin of the document, a carriage ride that Lincoln took with cabinet members William Seward and Gideon Wells en route to Edwin Stanton's son's funeral. Lincoln articulated the idea of issuing an emancipation decree to Welles and Seward, but he had a number of concerns about issuing such a decree: As Commander in Chief, Lincoln believed that he could free the slaves as a war measure, to weaken the South, but the war was a rebellion, not a conflict waged against a foreign enemy. Could he free the slaves in states loyal to the Union? After the war ended, if the North won, could the freed slaves be re-enslaved by some Supreme Court order? Would issuing an Emancipation Proclamation result in a bloodbath, as slave owners slaughtered their slaves rather than see them become free? Would the freed slaves slaughter their former owners? Lincoln worked through these issues in late December of 1862 and decided to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It was his greatest gamble.
September 12, 2015
James Tackach, President of the Lincoln Group of Boston, offered a sesquicentennial assessment of Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address, which turned 150 years old on March 4, 2015. According to Tackach, the speech received little attention by Lincoln scholars during the 20th century, while more than a dozen books on the Gettysburg Address appeared during that time period. The 2nd Inaugural has received more attention during the 21st century, partly because, according to Tackach, Americans have begun to see the institution of slavery as Lincoln described in his address: a grave national sin. Through the first several decades of the 20th century, slavery was depicted, by both scholars in in the popular culture (in films like Gone with the Wind and Song of the South) as a rather tame institution, part of the nation’s growing page. The Civil War was labeled the South’s Lost Cause, and Robert E. Lee became a national hero. Since the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots and the birth of the Black Studies movement during the 1960s and 1970s, Americans have taken a more critical view of slavery - seen in both scholarship and in recent films such as Twelve Years a Slave -and, hence, have paid more attention to Lincoln’s strong condemnation of slavery in his 2nd Inaugural Address.
April 11th, 2015
At our April meeting, which took place a few days before the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Thomas Turner, retired Professor of History at Bridgewater State University and the author of The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, spoke about the Lincoln assassination. Dr. Turner examined how the event was interpreted immediately after it occurred and how the assassination has been viewed by historians and commentators over a 150 years. Immediately after the assassination, northerners called the act a last desperate act of the Confederacy, a conspiracy involving John Wilkes Booth, Mary and John Surratt, and members of the Confederate underground . Later, as Reconstruction ended, President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln in office, became a conspiracy target. In the 1930s, some historians argued that the Radical Republicans, who saw Lincoln as too moderate and conciliatory toward the South, were responsible for the assassination. A 1977 movie and book suggested that Booth survived and someone else died in his place. During the 1980s, the assassination was blamed on a Catholic conspiracy hatched in Rome. The Lincoln assassination continues to interest Americans. Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, published in 2011 was a big bestseller.
February 14th, 2015
Past Lincoln Group of Boston presidents Tom Turner and Bill Hanna offered a presentation on the first president of the Lincoln Group of Boston (established in 1938), F. Lauriston Bullard (1866-1952), who was recently profiled in Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association as a minister, Lincoln scholar, Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper editor - and a book thief. He stole books from Goodspeed’s bookstore in Boston, got caught, but had the charges dropped when he returned the stolen property. The profile in Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, written by Travis McDade of the University of Illinois College of Law, accused long-time member of the Lincoln Group of Boston Joseph George with ignoring Bullard’s thievery in his 1952 Ph.D. dissertation on Bullard, completed at Boston University. Turner and Hanna defended George, who died in 2013. Bullard’s 1952 obituary did not reveal his book thievery, and discovering newspaper articles about it would have been difficult for George in 1952, before scholars could simply “Google” a name and instantly come up with a list of references on the person. Turner read a long letter that he had written to the editors of Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association defending George’s integrity. The presentation highlighted how differently researchers today work as opposed to those several decades ago.
September 20th, 2014
Thomas A. Horrocks discussed his recent book, Lincoln's Campaign Biographies. During a time before television and radio advertising and active campaigning by presidential candidates, campaign biographies of presidential candidates provided American voters with important information about a presidential candidate: his background, education, religious beliefs, military and professional experiences. These biographies, which ranged in length from pamphlets of several pages to book-length studies, were distributed at campaign rallies and sold in stores. Campaign biographies of Lincoln in 1860 stressed his image as a rail-splitter to highlight his connection to the common person; Lincoln was a “man of the people.” Biographies written for the 1864 campaign stressed Lincoln’s record in office—commander in chief during the Civil War and emancipator of American slaves.
On Saturday, April 5, 2014 for our third meeting of the 2013 - 2014 season we met at Longfellow's Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA. Our featured speaker was opthalmologist, Dr. David Fleishman, the title of his talk was "Abraham Lincoln's Spectacles."
On Saturday, February 8, 2014 for our second meeting of the 2013 - 2014 season we met at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA for a presentation by member Dr. John Rodrigue, professor of history at Stonehill College, on his recent book, Lincoln and Reconstruction (Southern Illinois University Press).
On Saturday, September 21, 2013 our first meeting of the 2013 - 2014 season was held at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. Prof. Kevin Kenny of Boston College spoke on Abraham Lincoln’s view of immigration. According to Prof. Kenny, Lincoln openly embraced immigration, seeing immigrants as ideal Americans: hard-working, upwardly mobile seekers of freedom. From an economic perspective, Lincoln grasped the idea that the growing industrial economy in the North needed the labor that immigrants provided. When the Civil War began, immigrants joined the Union army in large numbers. When enlistments were highest during the middle of the war, about 25% of Union soldiers were immigrants, and many others were the sons of immigrants. Despite his pro-immigration stance, many immigrants opposed Lincoln because he turned the Civil War into a war to end slavery, and free black laborers, many immigrants feared, might compete with immigrants for industrial jobs and undercut the wage scales. Lincoln signed an important piece of immigration legislation into law on July 4, 1864.
On Saturday, April 27, 2013, our third and final meeting was held at Longfellow's Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Mass. Our guest speaker was Frank J. Williams.
The first meeting of our 2012 2013 was held on September 29, 2012, at Bridgewater State University. Thomas Mackie, Director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum at Lincoln Memorial University was the guest speaker. His lecture was titled Log Walls to Marble Halls: The American Lincoln Museum. Mr. Mackie identified two types of Lincoln memorials: the log cabin model, celebrating his frontier roots, and the marble temple, marking his noble career achievements. The marker at the Lincoln birthplace, the log cabin inside the temple, combines both. Mr. Mackie also discussed American's fondness for Lincoln memorabilia such as locks of Lincoln's hair, articles of clothing (like the famous top hats), signed documents. According to Mr. Mackie, this fascination with all things Lincoln is an attempt by Americans to connect to icons of the past, a trend first evident with the creation of the Washington Monument as the Union was splitting apart in the 1850s.
The third meeting of our 2011-2012 season was held in April at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA. James Tackach, President of The Lincoln Group of Boston and Professor of English at Roger Williams University, led a discussion of Eric Foner's Pulitzer Prize wining book, "The Fiery Trial, Abraham Lincoln and Slavery."
The first meeting of our 2011 - 2012 season was held on September 24, 2011. 25 members of the Lincoln Group of Boston gathered at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA, for a lunch and lecture by Michael McKinley titled The Appeal to Arms: Abraham Lincoln As a War President. Mr. McKinley asserted that Lincoln, during the Civil War, acted as a forceful commander in chief, but not as a dictator like Napoleon, Oliver Cromwell, or Adolf Hitler. Lincoln might have stretched, but did not reject, the U.S. Constitution. Congress remained effectively in place, and mid-war elections took place. Lincoln acted in response to popular demand and public necessity. Although he had little military experience before the war, Lincoln waged the first modern war mobilizing a large army outfitted with modern weaponry and modern communications networks augmented by the telegraph, an invention of the 1840s. At first, Lincoln waged a war for union. After the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, however, the conflict became a war to end American slavery. Lincoln had to shuffle generals before finding the right field commanders who understood that winning the war meant not occupying southern territory, but destroying the Confederate armies. In his lecture, Mr. McKinley devoted considerable attention to Lincoln four war-era texts: his First Inaugural, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural.
The third meeting of our 2010 - 2011 season was held on April 2, 2011. Thirty-three members and guests attended the Lincoln Group of Boston meeting held on April 2, 2011, at Stonehill College. Included in the attendees were three Stonehill College students; -- the next generation of Lincoln scholars. The guest speaker, David Prentiss, an adjunct faculty member in the Political Science Department at UMass Dartmouth (and the CEO of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra), spoke on "Abraham Lincoln and the Pursuit of Justice and Preservation of Democracy." According to Prentiss, Lincoln consistently turned to the truths articulated in the Declaration of Independence in forming his own democratic principles -- that all men are created equal; that citizens are endowed by their Creator with rights; that these rights include the rights to life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that governments are charged with protecting these rights; and that citizens have a right to alter or abolish government that do not protect the citizens rights. Prentiss frequently made references to statements about democracy and government in Lincoln's major speeches -- the Young Men's Lyceum speech of 1838, the "House Divided" address of 1858, the Gettysburg Address of 1863, and the Second Inaugural Address of 1865. In Prentiss's view, Lincoln was a great political thinker who saw democracy and justice as "problematic" concepts to which he brought to bear the full power of his intellectual creativity. A stimulating question-and-answer period followed the Prentiss presentation.
The second meeting of our 2010 - 2011 season was held on Abraham Lincoln s 202nd birthday. 43 members of the Lincoln Group of Boston gathered at the historic Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA, to hear a presentation by Mike Pride, retired editor of the Concord, NH, Monitor, on Abraham Lincoln in New Hampshire. Pride recently updated a book titled Lincoln in New Hampshire, by Elwin L. Page, a founding member of the Lincoln Group of Boston and its second president (1952-60). The program opened with a brief summary of Page's years with the Lincoln Group of Boston by the Group's senior member, Howard Oedel, who, like Page, was one of the organization's founding members. Pride spoke about Page's years as a judge in New Hampshire, then addressed Lincoln's speaking tour of New Hampshire during March, 1860. After delivering his Cooper Union Address on February 27, 1860, Lincoln had traveled to New Hampshire to see his son, Robert, at Phillips Academy in Exeter, NH. While in the Granite State, Lincoln delivered four speeches that, according to Pride, build on the themes that he had addressed in the Cooper Union Address. When his tour of New Hampshire was over, Lincoln made a few other speeches in New England, then returned to Illinois. His East Coast tour acquainted Lincoln with eastern Republicans and made him a serious presidential candidate in the upcoming 1860 election.
The first meeting of our 2010 - 2011 season was held September 25, 2010 at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI. It featured a triumvirate of speakers: Frank Williams, chair of the RI Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and Charles Hubbard and James Dawson of Lincoln Memorial University. All three spoke of how the events of the bicentennial have reshaped our view of Lincoln. Predictions notwithstanding, the "Lincoln theme" has not been exhausted. During the past three years almost 500 new Lincoln books have appeared in print, and Lincoln has emerged from the bicentennial as our "everlasting contemporary." Lincoln Memorial University stands as a monument to his memory.
This is a summary of our third and last luncheon meeting of the 2009 - 2010 year. On Saturday April 10, the Lincoln Group of Boston met at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI. About 28 members and guests attended the meeting, which commenced with lunch, followed by a presentation titled "Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?" deliverd by Dr. Michael Chesson, professor of history at University of Massachusetts Boston. A lively discussion followed Dr. Chesson's presentation as members questioned how we define the term Christian today and how it was defined in Lincoln's time. Did being a Christian require being baptized (there is no record of Lincoln being baptized)? Did one have to belong to a Christian church to be a Christian (Lincoln never joined a church but attended several churches during his lifetime)? Did one have to believe in the divinity of Christ and the Resurrection to be a Christian? Did one merely have to live according to Christian principles to be a Christian? The group did not arrive at a definitive answer to Dr. Chesson's question, but the discussion brought to life many interesting aspects of Lincoln's religious life.
James Tackach, President of the Lincoln Group of Boston, delivered a presentation on Lincoln and the 14th Amendment. Although the amendment was enacted three years after Lincoln's death, Lincoln laid the groundwork for the amendment with policies articulated during the last two years of his life. He opened the Union army and navy to African American recruits, paving the way for postwar citizenship. Lincoln worked to equalize the pay of white and black soldiers and to ensure that the wives of black soldiers who died in combat would receive widows pensions. During the final year of his life, Lincoln began to articulate in private letters and late in public statements the need for equality under the law for all Americans.