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Robert Todd Lincoln was an American lawyer and secretary of war best known as the first-born son of President Abraham Lincoln.
A short biography of Mary Todd Lincoln, a Southern aristocrat who married Abraham Lincoln. A fervent Unionist, she supported her husband through many hardships and fell into a deep depression after his assassination.
Abraham Lincoln grew up in a log cabin in rural Kentucky and went on to become the 16th President of the United States. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery. He was assassinated on April 15, 1865.
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Born on August 1, 1843, in Springfield, Illinois, Robert Todd Lincoln was the first-born son of President Abraham Lincoln, and the only one of Lincoln’s four children to live to adulthood. Following his father’s assassination, Lincoln worked as a lawyer, secretary of war and minister to Great Britain. He died on June 26, 1926, in Manchester, Vermont.
"During my childhood and early youth, [my father] was almost constantly away from home, attending courts or making political speeches ... I scarcely even had 10 minutes quiet talk with him during his presidency, on account of his constant devotion to business."
"No one wanted me for secretary of war, they wanted Abraham Lincoln's son. No one wanted me for minister to England, they wanted Abraham Lincoln's son. No one wanted me for president of the Pullman Company, they wanted Abraham Lincoln's son."
Robert Todd Lincoln was the first-born son of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. Born on August 1, 1843, in Springfield, Illinois, he was the only one of the Lincoln's four children to live to adulthood. Siblings Edward, Willie and Thomas passed away due to illnesses.
Though his younger brothers enjoyed a warm relationship with their father, Robert’s experience was the opposite. Later in life he wrote, "During my childhood and early youth he was almost constantly away from home, attending courts or making political speeches. In 1859, when I was 16 ... I went to New Hampshire to school and afterward to Harvard College, and he became president. Henceforth any great intimacy between us became impossible. I scarcely even had 10 minutes quiet talk with him during his presidency, on account of his constant devotion to business."
After completing his undergraduate studies in 1864, Robert entered Harvard Law School. The following year, he interrupted his studies to briefly serve as a captain in General Ulysses S. Grant's army. Robert entered the Union army late in the Civil War, a move much criticized by both his father’s political foes and his allies. Many blamed his mother, who some say pushed to keep him in school as long as possible, thus decreasing his likelihood of facing combat.
President Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, after being shot by secessionist John Wilkes Booth. The next month, Robert Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and lived with her for two years. During this time he took law classes at the University of Chicago and passed the bar to become a lawyer.
In a strange coincidence shortly before President Lincoln’s assassination, Robert was saved from a serious potential train platform injury by Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth.
Robert Lincoln was a charter member of the Chicago Bar Association and opened his own law firm. He gained clients in the railroad and corporate sectors, and by the 1870s had established himself as a successful lawyer.
President Rutherford B. Hayes offered Lincoln the position of assistant secretary of state in 1877, but Lincoln rejected it. Nevertheless, he remained close to politics and acted as a delegate to the Republican Convention in 1880.
In 1881 President James Garfield approached him to be his secretary of war; Lincoln accepted, and served until 1885. During this time he supported Indian lands by recommending legislation to cease white Americans’ intrusion. He also suggested the separation between the Weather Bureau and the Army, urged a pay increase for soldiers to reduce the risk of desertion, and recommended liberal appropriations to states to support the launch of volunteer militia organizations.
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