DL Fowler's Blog

Building Blocks of Abraham Lincoln’s Personality

 During a decade of research into the life of Abraham Lincoln, I’ve become convinced that history is not about events. It’s about people. People cause the events that we call history. They are its roots. As such, we must study people to understand our past and learn the lessons they can teach.

I’ve captured my understanding of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Raw—a biographical novel. It’s a journey into his heart and mind, beginning with his boyhood, based on stories told by his contemporaries as well as stories he told about himself.

Following is an outline of my discoveries about Abraham Lincoln and how his personality emerged and the force of his character impacted history. It addresses four areas of inquiry that are essential to understanding one of the most pivotal personalities to set foot on the world stage:

  • What was Lincoln like out of the womb?
  • What preferences grew out of Lincoln’s innate personality?
  • How did Lincoln’s early life influence to his personality development?
  • How did Lincoln’s personality influence his values?

I hope you find the information enlightening, and welcome any contributions or questions you might want to add.

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SYWS – Death Has it’s Upside

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, Lincoln, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Psychology, SYWS by DLFowler on October 16, 2011

You know you want to. But you just eat your words and let the moment pass. Maybe that’s because you don’t know how to say it, or you think showing self-restraint is polite. In either case, I’ll be devoting my Sunday morning blog post to Stuff You Want to Say (SYWS). Feel free to use my words. You can memorize them and play them back to end your weekend on a powerful note, or you can print them out and slip them onto a co-worker’s desk to show him/her you’re locked and loaded to survive the work week.

So here’s my next offering.

If you have any takes on this subject, feel free to share with a comment.

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Lincoln Trivia Question #19

Posted in Assassination, Lincoln Trivia, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Psychology, Plots, PTSD, Research by DLFowler on April 14, 2011

Yes, I know I’m skipping around. If you’re keeping score this is the third trivia question I’ve posted.  The complete list of 20 is on my website.  Okay, here it is:

Q: What deadly act did Lincoln offer to perform for his cabinet?

A: He offered to hang himself.

A pretty fitting question for the 146th anniversary of his assassination, don’t you think?

Well, there are a variety of explanations, but who knows what was actually going on in Lincoln’s head.  It’s true that he suffered from acute bouts of depression during most of his adult life. It’s also possible he was being melodramatic; it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Something else is worth considering. Have you ever dealt with someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Lincoln probably suffered from that, possibly a variation called Acute Traumatic Stress. He suffered sympthoms common to both disorders, including catalepsy. In those episodes, he would slip into a kind of catatonic state. His law partner William Herndon witnessed more than one such episode.

When PTSD sufferers commit suicide, it’s rarely out of despondency. More often it’s an attempt on their part to take control of a situation that seems out of hand. In that vein, Lincoln might have seriously consided martyring himself to turn public and political opinion in favor of his Reconstruction Plan which was on the cusp of failure. 

Of course that’s something we’ll never know. Not unless he confessed it in a diary that’s not turned up in the last 140+ years.

Just sayin.

Lincoln Trivia Question #1

As I travel the country in coming months, promoting my new book, Lincoln’s Diary – a novel, I’ll be engaging readers with some tidbits about the real Abraham Lincoln. Focusing on some thngs they never told us in school. There will even be prizes for people who invest in some research to answer the trivia questions on my website.

So here’s some help on your research, one of the questions – and the answer:

What was the name of the boy who saved Lincoln from drowning in Knob Creek when he was just 7 years old?

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Lincoln’s Psychology Behind the Emancipation Proclamation

Posted in Lincoln, Lincoln's Psychology, Research by DLFowler on February 8, 2011

Danny Jacobson from Vancouver, WA emailed me with a question about Lincoln’s motivation for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. He’s working on a documentary that argues that the purpose of the Proclamation was not to free slaves but to preserve the Union. 

The short answer is either both or neither, but not one or the other.

I haven’t read everything there is on the subject, but my sense is that Lincoln did not see a difference between preserving the Union and freeing slaves. The evidence for that lies in Lincoln’s psychology as well as the cultural/political realities of his time. In his mind, he had woven slavery and preservation of the Union into a single issue.

His psychology would not permit him to be at peace with the idea of slavery. Lincoln’s first encounter with slaves was when he was about 20 years old. He took a trip down the Mississippi River and observed African slaves being beaten by their overseers. He had immediate empathy for the slaves, because he was beaten frequently by his father in the fields of their Illinois farm. Lincoln hated labor, preferring reading instead, and when he was caught slacking, Tom Lincoln thrashed him severely. Lincoln perceived no difference between himself and the slaves.

Three bits of trivia from Lincoln’s life can help spotlight the effect his father’s beatings had on his psychology. The most poignant was his reaction to the news of his father’s death. He dismissed the messenger without comment and went right back to work. He did not attend the funeral. He and his father were estranged for the bulk of Lincoln’s adult life. 

Another insight comes from Lincoln’s declaration that he was a slave and the son of a slave. Though he never excused his father’s severity, he understood that Tom Lincoln was shackled to a life as a subsistence farmer, and that condition made Lincoln’s service in the fields a necessity. Lincoln berated Jeffersonian and Jacksonian ideals, claiming they had enslaved most Americans to a subsistence lifestyle. As a result, he fought to undo every political accomplishment of both men.

Furthermore, Lincoln made every effort to circumvent labor. He still holds the distinction as the only US President ever to hold a patent in his name. In addition, his political career was laced with efforts to promote technology and advances in transportation.

So the idea that his psychology was strongly anti-slavery is indisputable.

But what about his dedication to preserving the Union?

On that score his motivation was only partly about slavery. His personal psychology was steeped in a hell-fire of personal loss. From his mother’s death, to nearly starving, if not freezing, to death when his father left for months to court a new wife, to the loss of his first love, to his estrangement from his father, to his separation from his companion Joshua Speed, to a loveless marriage, to the loss of two of his four sons during his lifetime, Lincoln had a clear obsession with holding relationships together. That fact was reflected in his choices for key appointments. It was easier to get a job in the Lincoln administration if you were his enemy than it was if you were his friend.

 But preservation of the Union was also key to ending slavery in the civilized world. The United States was the last civilized country to end human slavery and our approach to slavery was thought to be one of the cruelest to that point in human history. If the country split up, Lincoln and his abolitionist supporters would have no influence over the Confederacy and their timeline for ending slavery.

Abolition played a central role in Lincoln’s political ambitions. He retired from politics in 1854, returning to law practice, because he was convinced that the Missouri Compromise was secure and he had reconciled himself to the idea that stopping the spread of slavery was all that would be accomplished in his lifetime.

 But by the end of the decade, Stephen Douglas led a coalition that successfully repealed the Missouri Compromise. An all out race was soon underway to spread slavery into Kansas, Nebraska and the West. Lincoln was livid and re-entered politics with a fury.

Lincoln’s passionate opposition to slavery spawned two of his cleverest legal arguments. The first was his insistence that the Declaration of Independence was the supreme law of the land. He declared that the Constitution was unenforceable where it contradicted the principles articulated by our founders in the 1776 document. Specifically, he objected to the principle of States Rights as set forth in the Tenth Amendment. According to Lincoln, the Tenth Amendment was an “invention of the devil” which “only existed to preserve the insidious institution of slavery.”

 His other legal argument came in defense of the Emancipation Proclamation and gives us an idea of what he intended for it to accomplish.

It’s important to note that the Proclamation only freed slaves in the secessionist states. That’s why it drew a great deal of criticism from abolitionists. Lincoln’s angle was that the Proclamation appropriated enemy property in furtherance of the war effort. When the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (his own appointee) complained the Proclamation was unconstitutional, Lincoln replied that the Constitution granted him the power as Commander-in-Chief to appropriate enemy property. However if the Court chose to take the position that the slaves weren’t property, then slavery was illegal and the war was moot.

Some Lincoln Trivia Fun

Posted in Lincoln, Lincoln Trivia, Lincoln's Diary, My Books, Research by DLFowler on December 31, 2010

While I was researcing LINCOLN’S DIARY – a novel, I came across some intriguing tidbits about Mr. Lincoln. Below are some questions I developed for a trivia contest that I posted on a previous blog.  No contest this time, but see how many you can answer:

  1. What was the name of the boy who saved Lincoln from drowning in Knob Creek when he was just 7 years old?
  2. What was Abraham Lincoln’s official position on US Patent #6469, and what was the patent for?
  3. On January 20, 1841, Lincoln completed an aggressive medical treatment for a severe bout of depression.  What was his doctor’s name?
  4. At what age did Lincoln go hunting for the last time, and what animal did he shoot?
  5. Who read the read the Declaration of
    Independence in public at the Portsmouth, MA town square on July 4, 1860?
  6. First Lady Mary Lincoln celebrated the New Year of 1863 at a seance in the Georgetown home of Cranstoun Laurie.  What was the name (first and last) of the friend who accompanied her?
  7. Even though Mary Lincoln promised a close friend that she wouldn’t leave her husband while he was president, rumor has it that she almost eloped from the White House with another man.  Who was the man she allegedly planned to elope with from the White House?
  8.  Who said the following – “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me, and causes me to tremble for the safety of our country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the republic is destroyed. “
  9. In March 1837 an acquaintance suggested to Lincoln that he become a lawyer.  What was the name of the person who urged Lincoln to become a lawyer?
  10. On June 8, 1864 Abraham Lincoln broke a 30 year tradition in American presidential politics.  What did he do?
  11. After Lincoln stopped riding the circuit in 1857, Metamora’s first resident lawyer moved to town. He lived in a two story colonial style house about a block from the town square. What was his name?