MARCO ISLAND — Undaunted by the cries of civil war, President Abraham Lincoln faced implacably the life threats that haunted him. Not one or twice, but on many occasions Lincoln cheated death while others aimed to take him down. But who was killing Lincoln?
On Saturday, Feb. 25, one of the world’s most acknowledged authorities on Lincoln will transport listeners back to a troubled time in U.S. history. Historian Thomas Schwartz, who has a doctorate in history and international relations, will paint the bleak picture of civil unrest, unpopular politics and the need for America’s 16th president to preserve a nation, its laws and the fledgling Republican Party.
“Lincoln faced assassination attempts even before he left Springfield,” said Schwartz in an interview on Wednesday. “Southern ‘well-wishers’ sent him poisoned food. Death threats followed him as he traveled to take office.”
Trouble shook the presidency even before Lincoln could take his oath. Seven southern slave states broke from the Union to form the Confederacy. Lincoln started his first term boxed into promises he made concerning his anti-slavery position.
“It’s hard enough to deal with something new, but the Civil War kept raising issues that were unique,” Schwartz said.
Most men would have been flummoxed by the enormity of events in the early 1860s, but Lincoln was a lawyer first with an excellent legal mind.
“Lincoln is one of those people that once you start reading, you get hooked,” Schwartz said. “Even people who don’t like him, end up admiring him. He did a great job ending slavery and holding the country together.”
Schwartz said Lincoln led the country while juggling many responsibilities including making sure the Republican Party did not fail and could take control of the White House in future elections. Lincoln was not foolish about the threats he received, but he was not going to let them determine how he controlled his life.
“He governed with all these balls in the air throughout his entire time in office,” Schwartz said. “To be an effective president, he had to risk the chance of being killed.”
Schwartz was named “State Historian” of Illinois at the age of 38, the youngest person to serve in that position. He has written more than 100 articles, chapters, reviews and reference entries about Lincoln. He edited “For a Vast Future Also: Essays from the Journals of the Abraham Lincoln Association” and authored “Abraham Lincoln: An Illustrated Life and Legacy.”
He has been a historical consultant for numerous documentaries and is senior editor of the “Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.” He was the chief historian for exhibits and content in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and director of Research and Lincoln Collection in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
In 2011, Schwartz was appointed director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum in West Branch, Iowa. He also has served on advisory boards for state and federal Lincoln bicentennial celebrations.
To find out more about who might have wanted to assassinate Lincoln, join the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island and the Marco Island Historical Society for a Presidents’ Day Event: Life and Legacy of Abraham Lincoln.
The program begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, with a light dinner reception at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, 991 Winterberry Drive. The lecture will be given at 7:15 p.m. on the same evening in Rose History Auditorium of the Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 South Heathwood Drive.
Tickets to attend both events are $45 per person. The cost to attend the lecture only is $25. For more information contact Estie Karpman, 239-642-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, 642-0800.