The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Children in Wartime

Do the lives of Abraham and Mary Lincoln bear out the “truths” or concepts to which de Tocqueville pointed?

We have to admit that the Lincoln couple defied his reason, and the statistics, time and again. They started out at opposite ends of the pole, with Mary being the more self-confident and possessed of the two and Abraham being the awkward stumbler. Because of her social connections, Mary Todd Lincoln did not subordinate either her will or her dark sense of humor to her husband in the early years of their marriage; somewhere along the line, he gained the upper hand, however.

De Tocqueville usually portrayed the American wife as the person who sacrificed the most, grimly but gently holding on till better days might arrive. In the relationship between Abraham and Mary Lincoln, however, we usually see the husband as the person tied to the pole, figuratively speaking. Lincoln often expressed ambivalence about marriage in general; after learning that one young soldier was about to be married, he commented that he would probably wish he was back in the army before long.


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