Sunday, April 10, 2016

I Would Still Be Drowned In Tears Reviewed

Historians often ignore the evidence for a connection between President Abraham Lincoln and Spiritualism, opting to claim that the only spiritualist ideas observed by the first family sat firmly in the mind of the President's wife Mary Todd.  A woman that many historians claim was mentally deranged.  In the skeptic's narrow belief system, only a mentally unstable person could believe in the tenants of the spiritualist tradition.
Sadly, such views are one sided and fail to account for the popularity of Spiritualism during the period of Lincoln's rise to the nation's highest office.

When the Civil War went into full swing, the idea of communicating with the deceased became even more appealing to those who had lost loved ones to the conflict.  Séances were all the rage and were being conducted around the country.  Washington D.C. was a hotbed of Spiritualism and members included those in high society.  Is it any wonder that the first family wouldn't have been well aware of this trend?  Furthermore, could there be any doubt that a man with a constantly inquisitive mind such has Lincoln, wouldn't at least investigate the popular craze that so many people were embracing?

While a lot has been written about Spiritualism of the period, a more in-depth study of Lincoln and his relationship to such beliefs is long overdue.
Author Michelle L. Hamilton has tried to fill some of the void with her recent work, "I Would Still Be Drowned In Tears."  Subtitled, "Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House," the book digs into historical documents to give us examples and evidence pointing to President Lincoln's interest in the Spiritualism of the day.

There's a great mention of Lincoln's encounter with a levitating piano at a séance conducted by medium Nettie Colburn.  According to accounts:

"The President, with a quaint smile, said, 'I think we can hold down that instrument.' Whereupon he climbed upon it, sitting with his legs dangling over the side, as also did Mr. Somes, S.P. Kase, and a soldier in the uniform of a major...from the Army of the Potomac.  The piano, notwithstanding the enormous added weight, continued to wabble about until the sitters were glad 'to vacate the premises'"

The book comes in at about 150 pages, so it just breaks the surface of a very deep subject.  It's a quick read, and there's a great bibliography of source material for those who wish to dig further into a fascinating aspect of history.

Check it out for a glimpse into an untapped and strange aspect of civil war history.

No comments:

Post a Comment