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The Last Lincolns: The Rise & Fall of a…

The Last Lincolns: The Rise & Fall of a Great American Family (2008)

by Charles Lachman

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I enjoyed reading this book. It is sad that the family ended in such a way. Abraham Lincoln was a great man. He thought of others. His family thought abouy themselves. Sad. ( )
  DaleVanWyhe | Nov 1, 2010 |
A fascinating book. The first half deals primarily with Mary and her relationship (or lack thereof) with her eldest son. Robert himself also gets several chapters. The last chapters deal with the last two generations. It is anticlimactic that the direct family line ended with such ordinary and sadly inept people. Not only inferior to their illustrious ancestor, but uncaring and dismissive of the connection.

I have a personal connection, albeit distant. My paternal grandmother was a Lincoln - descended from one of Abraham's cousins. I have more pride in the connection than the president's own great-grandchildren had. ( )
  MerryMary | Aug 20, 2009 |
If you are interested strictly in historically significant figures, you may not like this book. If, however, like me, you actually like going to the doctor’s office so you can read People in the waiting room, I think you will find this book interesting. Charles Lachman tells the story of Lincoln’s family and descendants after his death.

It is not a happy story. It starts with the reluctance of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln to discipline their children. Their youngest, Tad, never even had to go to school until he was fourteen and still could not read at the age of twelve! (Thereafter, Mary started teaching him so he could start classes.) The oldest, and only son to survive into old age, Robert, was a distant, cold, priggish person who, however, prospered largely because of his name.

The bulk of the book tells about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln after the assassination of her husband. In spite of presenting a plethora of examples of very bad behavior on Mary’s part, the author is quite an advocate for her, claiming she was misunderstood, badly treated, and unjustly depicted as insane. I would suggest that the author read his own book however, because one definitely gets the impression the charges were not unfounded.

Robert Lincoln is the one who had his mother committed, afraid that she was a danger to herself if left unsupervised. Robert’s wife, also named Mary, could not stand her mother-in-law, refused to go to her funeral, and even moved Robert’s body out of the family tomb after his death so they could be buried apart from the rest of the Lincoln family. They had three children. The youngest, Abraham Lincoln II, looked remarkably like Tad Lincoln, and also shared his fate, both of the boys dying in their late teens. (They were also the only two children who favored Abraham Lincoln rather than Mary Todd Lincoln in temperament and looks.)

As a bachelor, Robert had been known in the press as "The Prince of Rails," a joke referring both to his father, the Rail Splitter, and to the Prince of Wales, the popular playboy son of Queen Victoria. This sense of Robert as "heir apparent" helped him attain important political positions. Robert served as Secretary of War and also as Minister to Great Britain. He was often proposed as a candidate for the presidency. He did not acquit himself well in the positions he served, having picked up his mother’s tendency to engage in spiteful vendettas. He does have the unique distinction of having been the only person in history to have been at the bedside of three assassinated presidents – Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, which earned him the sobriquet of the Presidential Angel of Death.

The two surviving daughters of Robert and Mary Lincoln had children, but none of these great-grandchildren managed to reproduce. The last descendant, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, died in 1985.

After President Lincoln’s death, the family was marked by “scandal and a sense of entitlement…” and became “a symbol for dishonor and decadence in the upper class.” It’s not only a sad story because of what became of the family, but also because of the description of the effects on the nation. The country knew what it had lost (as is often the case, after it was too late), and yearned for another man of Lincoln’s character, putting its last best hope, fruitlessly, in his genetic descendants.

I enjoyed reading this book, but I’m something of a crazed Lincoln groupie. I guess I have something of that yearning myself. ( )
  nbmars | Jun 3, 2009 |
The greatness of Abraham Lincoln, not just as a public man but also as a private man, exudes out of every biography written about him. It begs the question. Where are his heirs, those who were blessed by his genes and kindness? Surely, they must have also shone. This book answers this question and the answer is not pretty. Sadly, the son most distant from his father is the only one who survived. Mary Todd Lincoln who collapsed into at least dysfunction if not lunacy upon the death of two sons and her husband, had the most lasting influence on her remaining son, Robert. Robert married a woman like his mother and amassed a fortune. His two daughters married to give birth to a total of three great grandchildren, all "spoiled brats" embarrassed by their relationship with Abraham. Gladly none of them had heirs since each generation was more despicable than the previous.

The book was extremely well written and well researched but the pleasure of reading it ebbed as the characters became less likable. ( )
1 vote snash | Jun 2, 2009 |
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To my wife, Nancy Glass, and our children, Max, Pamela, and Sloane. And to my parents.
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The maids and housekeepers at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Chicago trod warily in her presence, for Mary Todd Lincoln, the most detested First Lady in American history, was notorious for her short fuse and shrewish ways.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Most books about Abraham Lincoln end with his assassination--but that event takes place near the beginning of this singular title. This American tragedy tells the story of the acrimony that consumed the Lincolns after the president's murder. In 1875, Robert, the handsome but resentful eldest Lincoln child, engineered Mary Todd Lincoln's forcible commitment to an insane asylum. In each succeeding generation, the Lincolns' misfortunes multiplied in a litany of alcohol abuse, squandered fortunes, and burned family papers. Author Lachman traces the story to the last generation: great-grandson Bob Lincoln Beckwith, sterile according to medical evidence, believes the son who bears the Lincoln name was the product of an adulterous affair. There's even evidence--uncovered by Lachman for the first time--that a scheme to obtain possession of the Lincoln fortune was orchestrated by Beckwith's chauffeur, who may have been the notorious skyjacker, D.B. Cooper. An unforgettable glimpse into the legacy of the man who could unite a nation--but not his own family.--From publisher description.… (more)

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