Doris Kearns Goodwin – Team of Rivals Audiobook
“Aware of the sorrowful aspect of his features and the sadness attributed to him by his contemporaries, I had assumed that Lincoln suffered from chronic depression. Yet, with the exception of two despondent episodes in his early life that are described in this story, there is no evidence that he was immobilized by depression. On the contrary, even during the worst days of the war, he retained his ability to function at a very high level. Doris Kearns Goodwin – Team of Rivals Audiobook .
“To be sure, he had a melancholy temperament, most likely imprinted on him from birth. But melancholy differs from depression. It is not an illness; it does not proceed from a specific cause; it is an aspect of one’s nature. It has been recognized by artists and writers for centuries as a potential source of creativity and achievement.
“Moreover, Lincoln possessed an uncanny understanding of his shifting moods, a profound self-awareness that enabled him to find constructive ways to alleviate sadness and stress.”
‘During his stay in New York, Seward formed an intimate friendship with a bookish young man, David Berdan…Together, the two young men attended the theater, read poetry, discussed books, and chased after women…
“Such intimate male attachments, as Seward’s with Berdan, or, as we shall see, Lincoln’s with Joshua Speed and Chase’s with Edwin Stanton, were ‘a common feature of the social landscape’ of the nineteenth-century America, the historian E. Anthony Torundo points out The family-focused and community-centered life led by most men in the colonial era was transformed at the dawn of the new century into an individual and career-oriented existence. As the young men of Seward and Lincoln’s generation left the familiarity of their small communities and traveled to seek employment in fast-growing, anonymous cities or in distant territories, they often felt unbearably lonely. In the absence of parent and siblings, they turned to one another for support, sharing thoughts and emotions so completely that their intimate friendships developed the qualities of passionate romances. “
“When printing was first invented, Lincoln would later write, ‘the great mass of men…were utterly unconscious, that their conditions, or their minds were capable of improvement.’ to liberate ‘the mind from this false and under estimate of itself, is the great task which printing came into the world to perform.’” Doris Kearns Goodwin – Team of Rivals Audiobook .
“ ‘There is no frigate like a book,’ wrote Emily Dickinson, ‘to take us Lands away.’”
“Words thus became precious to him, never, as with Seward, to be lightly or indiscriminately used.”
“A lucid, inquisitive and extraordinarily dogged mind was Lincoln’s native endowment. Already he possessed a vivid sensibility for the beauty of the English language. Often reading aloud, he was attracted to the sound of language along with its meaning – its music and rhythms. He found this in poetry, and to the end of his life would recite poems, often lengthy passages, from memory. He seemed especially drawn to poetry that spoke of our doomed mortality and the transience of earthly achievements. For clearly Lincoln, this acolyte of pure reason and remorseless logic, was also a romantic.”
“The awkward dissolution of his engagement to Mary and the anticipated loss of his best friend combined with the collapse of the internal improvement projects and the consequent damage to his reputation to induce a state of mourning that deepened for weeks. He stopped attending the legislature and withdrew from the lively social life he had enjoyed. His friends worried that he was suicidal. According to Speed, ‘Lincoln went crazy – had to remove razors from his room – take away all knives and other such dangerous things – etc – it was terrible.’ He was ‘delirious to the extent of not knowing what he was doing, ‘ Orville Browning recalled, and for a period of time was incapable of talking coherently. ‘Poor L!,’ James Conkling wrote to his future wife, Mercy Ann Levering: ‘he is reduced and emaciated in appearance and seems scarcely to possess strength enough to speak above a whisper. His case at present is truly deplorable.’
“In Lincoln’s time, this combination fo symptoms – feelings of hopelessness and listlessness, thoughts of death and suicide – was called hypochondriasis (the ‘hypo’) or the ‘vapors.’ Its source was thought to be in the hypochondria, that portion of the abdomen which was then considered the seat of emotions, containing the liver, gallbladder, and spleen. …
“‘I have, within the last few days, been making a most discreditable exhibition of myself in the ay of hypochondriasm,’ Lincoln confessed to his law partner and friend John Stuart on January 20, 1841..
“Three days later, Lincoln wrote Stuart again. ‘I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.’
“Throughout the nadir of Lincoln’s depression, Speed stayed at his friend’s side. In a conversation both men would remember as long as they lived, Speed warned Lincoln that if he did not rally, he would most certainly die. Lincoln replied that he was more than willing to die, but that he has ‘done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived, and that to connect his name with the events transpiring in his day and generation and so impress himself upon them as to link his name with something that would redound to the interest of his fellow man was what he desired to live for.’
“Even in this moment of despair, the strength of Lincoln’s desire to engrave his name in history carried him forward…Fueled by his resilience, conviction, and strength of will, Lincoln gradually recovered from his depression. He understood, he told Speed later, that in times of anxiety it is critical to ‘avoid being idle,’ that ‘business and conversation of friends’ were necessary to give the mind ‘rest from that intensity of thought, which will some times wear the sweetest idea threadbare and turn it to the bitterness of death.’”
“Mental health, contemporary psychiatrists tell s, consists of the ability to adapt to the inevitable stresses and misfortunes of life. It does not mean freedom from anxiety or depression, but only the ability to cope with these afflictions in a healthy way. “An outstanding feature of successful adaptation,” writes George Vaillant, ‘ is that it leaves the way open for future growth.’ Abraham Lincoln’s capacity for growth would prove enormous.”
“Lincoln understood that the greatest challenge for a leader in a democratic society is to educate public opinion. ‘With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed,’ he said. ‘Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.’”
“Tell him my motto is: ‘Fairness to all, but commit me to nothing.’”
“As the bills came in, however, Mary discovered that she had overspent the $20,000 allowance by more than $6,800.00…At one point she asked John Hay to turnover the White House stationary fund for her use, and later to pay her as the White House steward. ‘I told her to kiss mine,’ Hay jokingly informed Nicolay.”
“Indeed, the luxury and vanity in which she had indulged herself now seemed to taunt her. She plunged deeper into guilt and grief, speculating that God had struck (son) Willie down as punishment for her overweening pride in her family’s exalted status. ‘I had become so wrapped up in the world, so devoted to our own political advancement, that I thought of little else,’ she acknowledged.”
[One doesn’t lose a child because of this, as Mary Todd Lincoln feared. But it is a very real evil to this day, in the sense less of ambition and more of rampant materialism run amuck to distract from other more substantive things lacking in a life, I am not unfamiliar, tho recovering. CCM]
“If the issue of ‘slavery and quiet’ as opposed to war and abolition had been placed before the American people in a vote at the time of Fort Sumter, Walt Whitman wrote, the former ‘would have triumphantly carried the day in a majority of the Northern States – in the large cities, leading off with New York and Philadelphia, by tremendous majorities.’ In other words, the north would not fight to end slavery, but it would and did fight to preserve the Union. Lincoln had known this and realized that any assault on slavery would have to await a change in public attitudes.”
Page 562 of Doris Kearns Goodwin – Team of Rivals Audiobook
“(Civil War War Secretary) Stanton found himself responsible for an army of more than two million men. ‘There could be no greater madness,’ he reasoned,’ than for a man to encounter what I do for anything less than motive that overleap time and look forward to eternity.’ Lincoln, too, found the horrific scope of the burden hard to fathom. ‘Doesn’t it strike you as queer that I, who couldn’t cut the head off a chicken, and who was sick at the sight of blood, should be cast into the middle of a great war, with blood flowing all around me?’”