The Lincoln Marriage under a Microscope

By Wendy Swanson

Washington D.C.

Thursday, May 27, 2021


Michael Burlingame will speak on his latest work, An American Marriage: The Untold Story of the Marriage of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd, at an upcoming online National Archives program. The broadcast will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on June 15, 2021.


Based on thirty years of research, An American Marriage (publication date: June 1, 2021), describes and analyzes why Lincoln had good reason to regret his marriage to Mary Todd. That the book does not look kindly upon Mary Lincoln is evident from the following Lincoln anecdote included as part of the pre-publication write-up for the work:


Abraham Lincoln was apparently one of those men who regarded “connubial bliss” as an untenable fantasy. During the Civil War, he pardoned a Union soldier who had deserted the army to return home to wed his sweetheart. As the president signed a document sparing the soldier's life, Lincoln said: “I want to punish the young man—probably in less than a year he will wish I had withheld the pardon.” Burlingame’s narrative is said to show that, as First Lady, Mary Lincoln accepted bribes and kickbacks, sold permits and pardons, engaged in extortion, and peddled influence; moreover, she was not profoundly opposed to slavery.


Burlingame has been a frequent speaker at Lincoln Group functions over the years and he does not shy away from addressing some of the more controversial topics from history. Most recently, he spoke at our annual February banquet on Lincoln’s meeting with black clergymen on the subject of colonization. Our own Lincoln Study Forum has chosen his works including Lincoln: A Life as the topic for discussion.


The Archives programs include a question and answer session after the speaker’s presentation. Most past talks are available at the organization’s You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/usnationalarchives/featured. See the Archives website https://museum.archives.gov/ for additional information.