This past weekend we visited several Lincoln historical sites in Springfield, Illinois. We toured his home, office, and the Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library. There is never enough time to learn all that is to be known about the President.
One of the aspects I came to appreciate was the financial predicament Mary Lincoln found herself in after his death. Abraham Lincoln, the lawyer, who had worked on countless wills for others over the 23 years he spent practicing the law, never took the time to prepare a will for himself. He died intestate. How many of us are in the same condition?
The Lincoln’s had spent personal funds during the White House years as was normal at that time. So without his salary how was she to live?
Initially Congress appropriated one year of his salary for her care. Later she was granted a pension for life of $3000 per year. Benjamin B. Sherman, a New York grocer and stock broker, established The Lincoln Memorial Fund for Mrs. Lincoln and took in small contributions from across the country which were turned over to Mrs. Lincoln in the amount of $10,747.77 in May 1866. In today’s dollars that is about $400,000. Ultimately she was to be alright. But what of the rest of the country that could have a used a few more years of his gentle but determined leadership?
A close family friend, Supreme Court Justice David Davis, whom Lincoln had appointed, was designated as the executor of the estate. Davis had been Lincoln’s campaign manager for the 1860 presidential election. He and their son Robert looked after her as best they could.