Robert Todd Lincoln was an American statesman, diplomat, businessman, and lawyer who served briefly as a union captain during the American Civil War. He was the oldest son of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, and Mary Todd Lincoln. Raised in Illinois, he attended Harvard College before enlisting as a captain in the Union Army during the final days of the American Civil War. When his father was assassinated, Robert was in his early twenties, but he carried on his father’s incredible legacy for the rest of his life. Following in his father’s footsteps, he entered Republican politics and held the position of South Chicago town supervisor at one point. Later in his career, he served as Secretary of War in the administration of James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, and continued to do so under Chester A. Arthur. Lincoln was appointed US Ambassador to London during the administration of Benjamin Harrison. Lincoln, a well-known businessman, and lawyer served as general counsel for the Pullman Palace Car Company. Following the death of the company’s founder, George Pullman, in 1897, he was appointed president. While he stepped down from the job in 1911, he stayed on the board of directors until 1922.
Childhood and Adolescence
Robert Lincoln, the first of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln’s four sons, was born on August 1, 1843, in Springfield, Illinois. Edward Baker Lincoln, William Wallace Lincoln, and Thomas “Tad” Lincoln were his three younger brothers.
His father was becoming an important figure in national politics as he grew up. In 1859, he took the Harvard University entrance examination but failed in 15 of the 16 subjects. He then began attending Phillips Exeter Academy, which assisted him in preparing for college. He did eventually gain admission to Harvard and graduated in 1864.
Lincoln attended Harvard Law School from September 1864 to January 1865 but dropped out to join the Union Army. His mother, on the other hand, was adamant that her son should not fight in the war. She kept him from enlisting until just before the war was over, much to the embarrassment of the president.
After his father died, Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and younger brother, Tad, Lincoln. He graduated from Old University of Chicago Law School, his father’s alma mater, with a law degree. He was admitted to the bar in Chicago on February 22, 1867. He was admitted to the bar four days later. Soon after, I received my license to practice law.
Robert Todd Lincoln received his commission as an assistant adjutant with the rank of captain on February 11, 1865, and was active in the final weeks of the war. He was a member of General Ulysses S. Grant’s immediate staff.
He did not see any fighting, but he did witness Confederate States Army General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. On June 12, 1865, he quit the army. Later, he went back to normal life.
President Lincoln’s Assassination
Robert’s relationship with his father was, at best, strained. It was partly because Abraham Lincoln spent a lot of time on the judicial circuit when Robert was growing up. The relationship, however, was one of mutual respect. Abraham Lincoln was very proud of his first son, whom he thought was smart and competitive.
On the night of his father’s assassination, April 14, 1865, Robert was invited to see Tom Taylor’s three-act play ‘Our American Cousin’ at Ford’s Theatre, but he declined. President Lincoln was assassinated at 10:13 p.m. by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth and died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865. When Robert saw his father on his deathbed, he burst into tears.
Aside from the night of his father’s assassination, Lincoln attended or was scheduled to attend two events where a US president was shot. During President James A. Garfield’s presidency, he served as Secretary of War and was present, at the president’s invitation, at the Sixth Street Train Station in Washington, D.C., where Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, by American writer and lawyer Charles J. Guiteau.
On September 6, 1901, he attended the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, at the invitation of President William McKinley. At 4:07 p.m., an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz shot the president at point-blank range. However, Lincoln was not with the president at the time of the incident.
He was well aware of these strange and morbid synchronicities. When asked to attend a presidential event in his later years, he declined, saying, “No, I’m not going, and they’d better not ask me, because there is a certain fatality to presidential functions when I am present.”
Robert Todd Lincoln had significant political ambitions and had wanted to enter into Republican politics for a while. He began his political career in 1876 when he was elected town supervisor of South Chicago, a town that was later absorbed into the city of Chicago. Lincoln declined. Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States, asked Lincoln to serve as Assistant Secretary of State, but Lincoln declined.
He accepted President Garfield’s offer to serve as Secretary of War in 1881. His presidency would last from 1881 to 1885, encompassing one year under President Garfield and four years under President Chester A. Arthur.
Lincoln resigned from the presidency, along with the rest of President Arthur’s cabinet, in 1885. In 1887, he lent his support to Oscar Dudley’s endeavor to establish the Illinois Industrial Training School for Boys in Norwood Park. He took action after he saw “more homeless, neglected and abused boys on the city streets than dogs,” so he did something about it.
The school was relocated to Glenwood, Illinois in 1890 and was recently renamed Glenwood Academy. Since 2001, the school has also accepted female students.
Under President Benjamin Harrison, Lincoln was appointed as the United States minister to the United Kingdom, formally the Court of St. James’s. He held this position until 1893, when his only son, Abraham II, “Jack,” died in Europe.
Between 1884 and 1912, when his name was mentioned as a possible presidential or vice-presidential candidate, he refused to even think about it.
Lincoln resumed his legal practice after his return from Britain. While the Pullman Palace Car Company’s founder, George Pullman, was president, Lincoln served as the company’s general counsel. Pullman died in 1897, and Lincoln was named as his successor at Pullman Palace.
In his 1942 book, “The Pullman Strike,” American historian Almont Lindsey claimed that Lincoln ensured that.
Pullman purposefully avoided meeting with the deputy marshal who had come to his office to deliver the subpoena. Following the jury’s dismissal, he and Lincoln met with Judge Peter S. Grosscup.
Pullman Palace suffered additional setbacks as a result of the strike. President Grover Cleveland’s administration established a commission to investigate the cause of the strike, and they eventually concluded that Pullman’s paternalism party was to blame. Furthermore, they claimed that the operation of Pullman’s company town was “un-American.”
While Lincoln was president, the Supreme Court of Illinois ordered Pullman Palace to divest its ownership of the town, and because there was nothing in the company charter to that effect, the city of Chicago annexed the land.
Lincoln resigned from the board in 1911 and was named chairman of the board, a job he held until 1922.
The Cincinnati Riots of 1884 occurred during his administration. It erupted as a result of public outrage over the jury’s decision to return a manslaughter verdict in the case of William Kirk’s wrongful death. On December 24, 1883, two of Kirk’s employees, a white German named William Berner and Joe Palmer, who was of mixed African and European descent, were accused of murder.
Berner and Palmer were quickly apprehended. They were prosecuted separately. While Palmer was found guilty of murder and later executed, Berner was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury on March 26, 1884. The verdict was dubbed “a damned outrage” by the presiding judge.
The next day, riots erupted. The jurors were singled out, and several of them were beaten. In the following three days, 56 people were killed and over 300 were injured. Lincoln quickly dispatched US troops, and order was quickly restored.
Personal History, Death, and Legacy
Mary Eunice Harlan, Robert Todd Lincoln’s wife, was the daughter of US Senator James Harlan and his wife, Ann Eliza Peck. After returning from his military service, Lincoln met Mary in 1864 and began courting her soon after. His parents both approved of the match and assisted him with the courtship. They would have married sooner, but his father’s death forced them to wait until 1868.
In an era before air conditioners, the Lincolns spent their summers in the lovely and cool climate of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. The family began to stay at the Harlan home in the 1880s, which was later renamed the Harlan-Lincoln home. Mrs. Lincoln gave the house to Iowa Wesleyan College in 1907, and it has since been converted into a museum.
Lincoln’s marriage was far from ideal. Mary Todd Lincoln briefly lived with her son and his family before leaving because she and her daughter-in-law did not get along. According to some sources, Mary Harlan Lincoln was an alcoholic, which caused problems in her family life.
Lincoln’s relationship with his mother was fraught with difficulties as well. At the time, mental disorders were considered social taboos at the time, and families with relatives who had mental illnesses were frequently shunned.
It is now widely accepted that Mary Todd Lincoln was mentally ill, but this was not widely known when she was alive. On the other hand, Robert, on the other hand, recognized that his mother needed psychiatric assistance and involuntarily committed her to Bellevue Place in 1875. He was attempting to avoid public humiliation.
Despite his best efforts, Mary Todd managed to flee Bellevue Place. She wrote letters to the editor of the Chicago Times, which was known at the time for its sensationalist reporting. Because Robert was in charge of Mary Todd’s finances, his motivations for institutionalizing his mother were called into question.
The second sanity hearing, held in 1876, determined that Mary Todd was completely sane and free to live with whomever she chose. Because of the trial, the mother-son relationship was damaged for good. Before she died in 1882, she couldn’t get it back together with her son.
Lincoln died in his sleep on July 26, 1926, at the age of nearly 83, at his Vermont home of Hildene. His death was caused by a “cerebral hemorrhage caused by arteriosclerosis,” according to his doctor. He was buried in a sarcophagus alongside his wife, Mary, and son, Jack, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Robert was played by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Steven Spielberg’s 2012 Oscar-winning film, “Lincoln.”