Historical Figures® News: December 2010

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Civil War Historical Figures at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center

Following on the previous blog, we are pleased to describe The Civil War Era Historical Figures now on exhibit at the Clinton Library in Little Rock AR. The exhibit is timely in that 2011 will mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the great conflict. The exhibited is dominated by five Figures of Lincoln at different times of his life. Most of the Figures are on exhibit, but more can be seen on our Civil War Era page.

“This exhibit does a magnificent job of humanizing the people who have orchestrated and shaped our country,” said Terri Garner, director of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.  “The artifacts and documents that accompany these beautifully crafted figures help weave the stories together into one cohesive look at two major events.  As we approach the 150th anniversary of the onset of the United States Civil War, what better time to reflect on the wars, words and figures that changed the course of United States history?”

As in the Revolutionary Period, Great Britain leaders were in a position to affect the outcome.

 In 1861, Queen Victoria, and England in general, were very pro-Southern, in part as major importers of Southern cotton. When the Queen voiced her sympathies, Albert hushed her quickly. England did not need yet another major conflict. Victoria realized her gaffe and said no more. At the end of the year, Lincoln's navy boarded a British ship and captured two Confederate agents. A big outcry in England followed and Parliament called for war against the Lincoln government. Once more Albert induced a cooler approach and war with the United States was averted.

Lincoln liked ladies, even though he felt awkward with women in social settings. His supposed romance with Anne Rutledge, (not shown) during his New Salem years, became more legend than fact. Certainly she meant a great deal to him. Later, Mary Owens of Springfield rejected Lincoln’s halfhearted proposal. In 1839, he met and married Mary Todd of Lexington, Kentucky (above), after an on and off courtship. Their love for one another is well established, in spite of a marriage fraught with emotional upheavals. Mary was at the center of much of it.

Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas were both graduates of the Illinois Legislature. But Douglas went on to the U.S. Senate while Lincoln stayed a legislator. During a second election the two debated the main issue of the day - slavery. Lincoln lost, but was soon elected to Congress as a Whig. Northern Democrat Douglas attempted many failed compromises on slavery with Southern Democrats, and it all came to ruin in the War Between the States. The two foes were reconciled in 1861, when Lincoln was elected president. During the inauguration ceremony, Douglas held Lincoln's hat.

The Lincolns’ enthusiasm over his being elected President was short lived. After an awkward inauguration and saddled with a derelict White House, Mrs. Lincoln dedicated herself to making it the first home of the nation. Resulting expenses plagued the new administration. The war put a damper on the rest of their time in Washington. The death of Willie, their youngest son, was a nightmare for both of them. Mary never recovered. Regardless, when she was in charge and entertaining as First Lady, she was the personification of grace, charm and generosity. She could be the perfect hostess when things went her way.

Lincoln never recognized the existence of a 'State Of The Confederacy' and had only briefly met Jefferson Davis (R) 30 years earlier. Nevertheless, Lincoln attempted to treat the South with respect while firmly determined to preserve the Union. Long before 1861, Davis had a distinguished career in the U. S. military and government. Neither of the great leaders wasted energy exchanging charges and slanders. The leading generals who had all served under one flag just a few years before were just as respectful. Nevertheless, Grant and Lee were dogged and ruthless military campaigners. Both remain heroes of the War.

By early April 1865, the war was over and Lincoln's biggest task was to convince the Radicals in Congress to pass an Act of Reconstruction which would have brought the states together once more and would have been his greatest achievement. John Wilkes Booth had long harbored bitter resentment of the Federal Government and its leaders. Booth's partially successful plan to murder Lincoln and his cabinet eventually plunged the nation into a bitter racial conflict. We continue to deal with what has been the United States' greatest tragedy.

Please see the previous post for a description of the Revolutionary War Figures on display.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Clinton Presidential Library Hosts Historical Figures Exhibit

A selection of George Stuart’s American Historical Figures, as well as two original engravings of the Constitution are now showcased in the six-month exhibit “Revolution and Rebellion: Wars, Words and Figures” at the prestigious William J. Clinton Presidential Center Library in Little Rock, AR. In all, the display features thirty-five Figures from the Revolutionary and Civil War collections.

Northwest view of the Clinton Presidential Cen...Image via WikipediaA Message from the Exhibition Host

“The Clinton Library is very pleased to host some of the Historical Figures of George Stuart that represent important characters of the American Revolution, the American Civil War and several of their European counterparts. The Clinton Library is one of 13 Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Learn more visit the Clinton Library.”

This blog features the exhibited Figures of the Revolutionary War period. A future blog will feature exhibited Figures from the Civil War Era.

King George III was a dedicated, hardworking monarch. He took his role seriously, but was plagued by his wrong-headed policies. He was never a monster or a villain. Charlotte his queen birthed 16 children, among them the future George IV. It was from the armies of her family in Hesse, Germany that George obtained the mercenaries to support his very unpopular war in the colonies. In later years, he may have suffered from bouts of porphyria, a disease that earned him the epithet “Mad King George.”

Early political connections between colonies began with Sam Adams' Committees of Correspondence. Their correspondence fired agitation throughout most of the colonies, which led to forming a Continental Congress in 1774 for the purpose of confronting royal policies. The clash was carried forward by such radicals as Patrick Henry (R) in the Virginia colony and the movement was given focus by Thomas Paine (L) with his pamphlet Common Sense, containing its message of 'independence not reconciliation.'

George Washington gained support from several prominent foreigners in his desperate resistance to the Royal armies. The most colorful was the Marquis de Lafayette, whose main contribution was his work to obtain recognition of the young United States by the King of France in 1778. Washington and Lafayette became like father and son. Washington was also blessed with having a loving wife in Martha. Her patient support would go far in comforting him throughout the eight miserable years of the conflict.

Washington considered Benedict Arnold the ablest of his field generals. Arnold's historic defection was caused by his perception that Washington failed to support Arnold in battling corruption charges. His young society bride, Peggy Shippen had British Army ties and encouraged the defection.

Franklin’s endeavors to form a more perfect government made him the choice for the Republic’s first president, but for his great age and ill health. Like Franklin, Thomas Jefferson's constant public service and concepts of democracy, including his insistence on a Bill of Rights, was ahead of revolutionary contemporaries.

Adams was one of the most distinguished families in early United States history. Both John (R) and son served as presidents, but their early lives were spent in constant public service. Massachusetts has provided a vast number of outstanding citizens over the centuries, but few could eclipse the contribution of the Adams'. Mrs. Adams was not only a remarkably independent businesswoman, she also promoted women's rights. John Quincy Adams (L) gave most of his energy and political capital to anti-slavery efforts, two generations before the Civil War.

President Washington ended his second term as president by admonishing Americans not to let commerce and the military gain an undue influence in government. Then he and Martha dashed for Mount Vernon. They were so grateful to be 'home' at last! Love of his farm and his dreams of western settlement engrossed him to the end.

Dolley Paine Todd, a young widow with a son married James Madison, a middle aged bachelor. She was big and bucksome; he, short and thin. Dolley's talents as hostess were honed entertaining for President Jefferson and later as First Lady to her husband. During the War of 1812 her presence of mind saved some of the nation's most valuable treasures.

Jefferson is credited with seizing the opportunity to acquire the Louisiana territory. However, many maneuvers and much statecraft came into play before the deed was done. America's vital need for open access to the Mississippi River, which was controlled by Franco-Spanish governments, needed resolution. By good fortune, Napoleon wanted to unload the area, hoping the British would try to take it from the Americans. James Monroe loved the French and facilitated the purchase, whereby the nation was doubled in size for only $15 million, about 35 cents per acre!

Coming soon: The Civil War Figures
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