Thanksgiving

In early October 1863, Seward drafted and Lincoln issued a proclamation, calling upon Americans to thank God for their blessings.  How much of the final proclamation is Seward and how much Lincoln we do not know, but even Gideon Welles, who did not much like Seward, praised Seward’s draft in this case.

I received a copy of the proclamation by email this morning from a friend in Hong Kong, who suggested, and I think he is right, that Lincoln speaks to our situation today, in which we find ourselves in a war of words with one another, simply over an election.  Lincoln’s proclamation reminds us that we are all Americans, and that we have so much to thank God for.

Election Results

After a long, bitter, divisive election, a Republican president candidate has prevailed.  The candidate’s partisans rejoice, but his opponents are outraged that such a narrow, prejudiced man will become president.  Some are so outraged that they are thinking about leaving the United States.  A Republican senior statesman is asked for his comments.

Smithsonian TV

Tonight, April 18, and probably again a few times in the next few days, I will appear on Smithsonian TV in a show about Lincoln’s death.  Show time tonight is 9pm east coast and west coast.

The producers did a good job of weaving together several interviews, including with people who know MUCH more about Booth and the assassins than I do, with actors portraying Lincoln, Seward, Booth, Powell, and others involved.  They filmed a crowd in a theater to give a great sense of how the crowd reacted to Lincoln’s death and Booth’s escape.  They showed some of the objects involved, including Booth’s pistol and the hoods placed on the defendants.  That “bordered on torture,” one of the experts says, and it is hard to disagree.

Seward House

I was interviewed yesterday by Andrew Roblee of the Seward House in Auburn NY.  Here is the link.

I have not, I think, talked in this blog about the Seward House, but it is an amazing place, “worth the detour” in the immortal phrase of the Michelin guide.  One feels as if Seward were still in the house, as if he was about to come round the corner, cigar in one hand, wine glass in the other, to ask whether you will not have just one more glass of this fine light wine.  It was really a visit to the Seward House, early in my research, that cemented my desire to research and write the Seward book.  We are a long way away now, but still supporters of the Seward House Museum.

 

Lincoln Forum

I am just back from an exciting weekend in Gettysburg, attending the Lincoln Forum.  It is a great event, which I commend to anyone interested in Lincoln or the Civil War.  Let me mention some of the high points.

John Stauffer spoke about the the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  I thought I knew about the Battle Hymn:  that it was based on a Union marching song, John Brown’s Body, that the new words were by Julia Ward Howe, who wrote them in a Washington hotel room by the early dawn light.  Battle Hymn of the Republic is, after all, what I sang to my children to put them to sleep at night.

Donald B. Cole

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for my history teacher and mentor, Donald Barnard Cole.  It was a wonderful service, filled with music and laughter, stories and tears.  I learned a great deal about Mr. Cole, and thought I would share here some of my own memories of him.

National Book Festival

I spoke yesterday to perhaps three or four hundred people at the National Book Festival on the mall in Washington.  Then signed books and posters and programs for perhaps a hundred people–including some old friends.

For those who were not there, and want to see what I said, CSPAN was there and taped it, and it appears that the video is already “up” in their video library.

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Sewar

I am wearing a purple shirt, which accidentally goes well with the colorful purple background.

On another front, my new review of Scott Berg’s biography of Woodrow Wilson is up.  Washington Independent Review, Stahr Wilson.

Goodbye Again

John Denver, in his song Goodbye Again, sings that “I have to go to see some friends of mine, some that I don’t know, some that aren’t familiar with my name.  It’s something that’s inside of me, not hard to understand, it’s anyone who’ll listen to me sing.”

Well, I am not that bad, but I am perhaps more willing than I should be to travel to speak to strangers.  I am off this morning for Washington, where I will speak about Seward this evening with a Lincoln book group, and then speak on Saturday at the National Book Festival.  In between, I hope to get in three full days of Stanton research at the Library of Congress.

End of Summer

Summer is coming to an end.  We are in southern California, starting tomorrow to drive back to New Hampshire, which we hope to reach in five days.

As you can see from the events list, I have a number of Seward events this fall:  in New England, New York, and Washington.  I did not really think that I would still be speaking about Seward at this point, but I get invitations that are hard to refuse.  In October, for example, I will be in New York to receive the Seward Prize.  Hard to refuse.

Nantucket Notes

I spent this past weekend on Nantucket, for the Nantucket Book Festival.  I flew with my parents from Los Angeles, and we were met and hosted by their old friends the Shacklefords, the best hosts possible.  We also saw our friend Jane Moore, another friend from my father’s law school days, and from my own prep and law school days.

Saturday was a busy day, because in the morning we started at 9:00 to hear my mother’s new favorite author, Will Schwalbe.  His wonderful book is The End of Your Life Book Club; it is about how, at the end of the author’s mother’s life, when she was dying of cancer, they formed a two-person book club, reading and talking about various books.  Schwalbe made a number of interesting points in his talk.