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tv   American History TV  CSPAN  March 21, 2015 11:00am-11:11am EDT

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just plain different from other folks. incapable of registering an objective moral threat that others could readily perceive. a threat that he would have readily perceived if it had involve some other national leader. with mary, lincoln was promising to try and act differently in the future. with colfax, he promised no such thing. he was saying in effect that he had long ago decided to rub shoulders with ordinary people at every opportunity. as a social creature, that was as natural inclination. it was a decision he made consciously, too. he wanted to continue affirming why his body as well as his words that this was a republic a body politic in which there was no separation between the leaders in the lead -- leaders and the led. in monarchy, leaders held themselves aloof.
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in lincoln's republic, there was in principle no one but fellow citizens all the way up in all the way down. lincoln knew his physical egalitarianisnm, immersing himself in crowds in richmond put them at risk for being targeted by anyone willing to exchange is alive -- his own life for the presidents. that price he was glad to pay it made him unconcerned about the possible threats to his life. lincoln was thinking on april 14 then, according to schuyler colfax, was that he would continue embracing popular republicanism, as his chosen way of life. we have arrived at our third witness to what lincoln was thinking on april 14, secretary of the navy gideon welles. who attended the three-hour cabinet meeting on april 14 between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.. naturally, the president and his
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colleagues, including their special guest, general grant were all feeling chipper that day, still reveling over all of the good news received from virginia since the fall of richmond on april 3. those present remarked later just as mary had done on lincoln's unusually high spirits. the secretary of war found him more cheerful and happy that i had ever seen him. he said that during the deathwatch across the street. in a handwritten telegram to be sent to the american ambassador in england. lincoln took advantage of the relaxed atmosphere to tell the group of the cabinet meeting about a dream he had had the night before, and to disclose it had the same dream and many times before during the war. he had some never seen fit to mention it. within a few days, gideon welles
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recorded in his diary what he remembered lincoln saying about the dream of, he was riding along on a body of water in some singular indescribable vessel. and moving with great rapidity. that's it. that was all lincoln said, according to gideon welles . the indefinite sure came later. -- shore came later as americans in general worked on that report and embellished it as they needed it to be embellished. in addition to the singular indescribable vessel and moving with great rapidity, lincoln added the crucial detail about his -- about its frequency. this is crucial for understanding his thinking. every time you had the dream in the past, some great and important event of the war had taken place at about the same time. jonathan has already ridges the
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list of places, i will leave that out. usually the dream presaged some sort of victory for the union said lincoln, but not always come as the mentionable run for sumter revealed. in this case, he thought his stream indicated that the group would likely be getting good news from general william sherman, still locked in hostilities in north carolina with the outnumbered confederate general joe johnston. but good or bad, and from sherman or not, the news would surely come soon, it would qualify as great, that is, of major moment here in everyone of the earlier events following the dream had measured up to that high standard. the cabinet members bantered back and forth, caught up with a challenge of interpreting the dream, asking the secretary of state if his father was at home recovering from a carriage accident, later wrote that one listener scoffed at probing the
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dream for many it all. it was nothing he said with a string of coincidences. you can see the modern mentality at work in this individual. another man pooh-poohed lincoln's idea that with the war's outcome now decided, no dream could possibly presage victory or defeat. here's the real modern voice in the group, attempt to get psychological reading of the dream it based on its regularity. every time the dream had come to him, lincoln have been feeling of certainty in the face of great change or disaster. perhaps this underlying tension had provoked the dim vision and sleep during. undeterred, the president reaffirmed the premonitory value of the speeding vessel. assuring the group that some the momentous event would soon take place.
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on april 14, lincoln was again stepping back to examine himself. and in this case, semi-publicly commenting on the way his mind worked. he saw himself not as the analytical powerhouse of the hall of government, but as a man strangely in touch with some external force. a few men in the room were rolling their eyes his superstitious streak, as some had cringed ring his residency at his folksy stories and lowbrow humor. what i want to know, and i will never know because there is no evidence so far, is if anyone in the room found it strange that we get it never mention the dream before. he seems to have suddenly, on april 14, to come an ashamed of his belief in omens. he was pleased to announce that his dreams have proven they possessed predictive value.
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we can see him implicitly appealing his long list of examples to statistical counting to support his case. i think on april 14, from what little evidence we have, lincoln had moved his pre-modern practice of dream interpretation , emphasizing the predictive value, into the modern era by applying rudimentary statistical analysis to it. what lincoln was thinking on april 14 then, according to gideon welles was that the time it come to tell his colleagues the whole truth about his mind. he admitted denying them the story for years. denying them access to his way of thinking. yes, he owned up to being able to penetrating the veil separating humanity from an invisible realm of mental or spiritual reality. but not to worry.
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he would, as a modern man, he implied, lively surrender that belief if the statistics turned against him. the man we usually know as our exemplar of rational mastery as a man of reason who as early as 1838 asked americans to commit themselves it his great lyceum speech in springfield, to commit themselves to reason and to squash passion, which could lead to social disaster. this rational master had another side he showed us on april 14. for the entire war, he had been giving this series of dreams predictive value. late in life, according to
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phineas gurley, the minister at new york avenue presbyterian church in washington, certainly the minister of mary lincoln and abraham lincoln love to go listen to sermons said that lincoln had told him late in life, therefore during his presidency -- this is a quote from the unpublished manuscript that wasn't ever brought to light in publication until someone else published it in the early 20th century, according to gurley, late in life, lincoln said while others are asleep, i think. night is the only time i have to think. i want to just and with a brief reflection on that statement presumably lincoln would have made that statement, it makes sense. even if it was reported only much, much later. there would be no reason for
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phineas gurley to make that up. it's a wonderful idea for us, in thinking about how lincoln's mind works. and what he might have been thinking on april 14. he might've been thinking during his conscious hours, during the day on april 14 about what he was going to think about that night. he didn't have time to think things through in 30 seconds of talking about richmond was kyler colfax, or three minutes of chatting with mary about their future life together. but he knew this whole life awaited him, when he did most of his thinking. i go back to the hope that even in his unconscious state lincoln, lying on his deathbed, might have had i


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