I’m not sure it’s possible to answer this one. Unfortunately, we don’t know the extent of Lincoln’s sense of humor because we have no video or audio of him and there wasn’t a White House Correspondents Dinner or anything in the 1860s. We can guess about it since we know he enjoyed jokes and to tell his funny stories to folks (sometimes over-and-over-and-over again!), but it’s not like there is some sort of instrument to measure and compare the senses of humor of two people.
Plus — and we don’t know this for sure, either, so it’s just a wild guess — I think Lincoln and Obama are probably funny in different ways. Lincoln seemed to have a story for everything, loved to hear a good joke and was always ready to tell one of his own, was self-deprecating about his height and his looks, and enjoyed reading many of the comedic writers of his day. Obama’s humor is probably not as goofy or silly as Lincoln supposedly could be, but President Obama has great comedic timing. Those White House Correspondents Dinners can be awkward with Presidents who might have funny speeches written for them but lose a little on the presentation because they aren’t used to the rhythm of comedy (I’m looking at you, President Clinton!). Obama has a great delivery when he’s trying to be funny.
Let’s not forget that Reagan was a pretty funny guy, too. He and JFK had really quick wits and funny little quips. They also had good comedic timing and delivery, especially Reagan, although I guess being a professional actor helped with that. George W. Bush could be funny at times, too, but didn’t have too many opportunities to let loose during his Administration since the world happened to go to hell for eight years.
However, the film adaptation of the book is not good, to say the least. Sam Waterston (a real-life Lincoln history buff) isn’t terrible as Abraham Lincoln, but if you see Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and then go back and watch Waterston in the same role, it’s just not fair.
I can’t think of any others off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are a few other stinkers that my brain worked hard to forget about.
Well, the thing with Lincoln’s funeral is that it basically happened in 11 different major cities over 20 days, so it wasn’t like all of these past, present, or future Presidents gathered in the National Cathedral for one service like they did for the funerals of President Reagan and President Ford. For example, former President Buchanan paid his respects at the train depot in Lancaster, Pennsylvania as Lincoln’s funeral train passed through town, 6-year-old Theodore Roosevelt watched from his grandfather’s window in New York City, and former President Fillmore and 28-year-old future President Cleveland waited in line with everyone else and paid their respects in Buffalo.
I’ll work on getting an exact answer for when the most past, present, and future Presidents gathered at the same time in the same place, but it wasn’t Lincoln’s funeral.
NO! I’ve been waiting for a theater within 40 miles of me to actually show Lincoln, but that hasn’t happened and I haven’t wanted to drive to St. Louis just to see it. I think I’m finally going to go to see it tonight, though. I’m dying to catch the movie. If I don’t go tonight, I’ll go tomorrow, but I’ll be sure to let you guys know what I think.
Apparently, the April 19, 1865 edition of the New Hampshire Patriot, but I haven’t been able to track it down.
The most complete account of Pierce’s speech that I’ve been able to piece together over the years, mostly thanks to Dr. Wallner’s Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union and Roy Franklin Nichols’ Young Hickory of the Granite Hills is that several hundred residents of Concord, New Hampshire showed up on Pierce’s doorstep at about 9:00 PM the night following Lincoln’s death. When Pierce asked “What is your desire?”, the crowd told him, “We wish to hear some words from you on this sad occasion.”
Pierce: “I wish I could address to you words of solace. But that can hardly be done. The magnitude of the calamity, in all its aspects, is overwhelming. If your hearts are oppressed by events more calculated to awaken profound sorrow and regret than any which have hitherto occurred in our history, mine mingles its deepest regrets and sorrows with yours.”
Someone in the crowd accusingly asked “Where is your flag?” because Pierce’s home apparently had no American flag on display, and Pierce was visibly irritated by the demand.
Pierce: “It is not necessary for me to show my devotion for the Stars and Stripes by any special exhibition, or upon the demand of any man or body of men. My ancestors followed it through the Revolution…My brothers followed it in the War of 1812; and I left my family, in the Spring of 1847, among you, to follow its fortunes and maintain it upon a foreign soil [in the Mexican War]. But this you all know. If the period during which I have served our State and country in various situations, commencing more than thirty-five years ago, have left the question of my devotion to the flag, the Constitution, and the Union in doubt, it is too late now to remove it, by any such exhibition as the inquiry suggests. Besides to remove such doubts from minds where they may have been cultivated by a spirit of domination and partisan rancor, if such a thing were possible, would be of no consequence to you, and is certainly of none to me. The malicious questionings would return to reassert their supremacy and pursue the work of injustice…I have never found or felt that violence or passion was ultimately productive of beneficent results.”
With that, the crowd supposedly gave the former President three cheers and Pierce went back to bed. When I finally find the full transcript of Pierce’s speech from that night, I will be sure to share it.
I thought it was awesome. I’ll be giving it a full review sometime soon in AND Magazine, but you’re right about a lack of biographies on Seward, especially in-depth biographies of the magnitude of Walter Stahr’s Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man (BOOK•KINDLE).
The title is no exaggeration, either. Seward was an extremely important figure in American history in the 19th century because Lincoln truly did count on his counsel and rely on his diplomatic skills to keep foreign countries from undermining the war effort by recognizing the Confederate government. Without Seward in the State Department and Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War, Lincoln would have had a far more difficult time with the non-military affairs of his day-to-day government. Stahr also tells Seward’s story prior to the Civil War. Because of his role in Lincoln’s Cabinet, Seward’s earlier life and career tend to be overshadowed, but Seward had played a big role in American life for three decades prior to the war and had come very close to winning the Republican nomination for President in 1856 and 1860.
With his victory in 1860, Lincoln was the first successful Republican candidate for President. John C. Frémont was the first Presidential candidate nominated by the Republicans, but he lost the 1856 election to James Buchanan.
Prior to becoming a Republican, Lincoln was a Whig and that’s the party he was a member of during his one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lincoln’s ties to the Whig Party included major loyalty to Henry Clay and Zachary Taylor. In fact, two of Lincoln’s most well-received speeches prior to becoming a major national figure were eulogies to those two Whig leaders — a eulogy for President Taylor in Chicago two weeks after Taylor died in office, and a eulogy for Clay in Springfield, Illinois.