The learning and festivities begin on Sunday, 19 February 2023 with the Benjamin P. Thomas Symposium at 10:00 a.m. in Springfield. Coffee and registration at 9:30 a.m. The Annual Birthday Banquet with journalist, historian and political insider Sidney Blumenthal as keynote speaker begins with a reception at 6:00 p.m. followed by the Banquet at 7:00 p.m. Both the Symposium and the Banquet will be held at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel in downtown Springfield.
Journalist and political insider, Sidney Blumenthal
Mr. Blumenthal has been at work for more than a decade on a monumental 5-volume biography The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln. He will address us on key themes to come in his final two volumes-in-progress, which cover the years 1860-1865.
The first three books are A Self-Made Man, 1809-1849 (2016); Wrestling with His Angel, 1849-1856 (2017); and All the Powers of Earth, 1856-1860 (2019).
Mr. Blumenthal has been highly active in politics and journalism. He was an assistant and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. He has been a national staff reporter for The Washington Post and Washington editor and writer for The New Yorker. Among his other acclaimed books are the bestselling The Clinton Wars (2003), The Rise of the Counter-Establishment (1986; 2008), and The Permanent Campaign: Inside the World of Elite Political Operatives (1980).
Mr. Blumenthal was born and raised in Illinois, and received his bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. With his wife he has two grown sons, and now lives in Washington, D.C. The Guardian (London) called his work on Lincoln “the summit of his career.”
A sampling of his prose, from volume 3: “[In Washington] Sumner was more than a bit awkward in a society where Southern women exercised their wiles. Handsome and genteel, Sumner strangely lacked the basic elements of attraction. His manner [was] rehearsed and pedagogical. . . . Varina Davis, Jefferson Davis’s wife, recalled, ‘His conversation was studied but brilliant … he once gave me quite an interesting resume of the history of dancing.’” (pp. 56-57)
“Bitter about Crittenden’s intervention against him in the Senate race, Lincoln had not the slightest intention of suddenly abandoning everything he had done to create the Republican Party for his betrayer’s new mock party. He had never been so explicit about the uselessness of the Old Whig position.” (p. 439)
“Three days after the Democratic convention at Charleston adjourned in shambles, on May 7, Jefferson Davis resumed the battle on the floor of the Senate by reintroducing his national slave code…. It took the ill and rankled Douglas a week to reply.” (p. 599)
Lincoln Symposium Speakers: Sunday, February 19, 2023
- Edward Achorn: 10:00 a.m.
- Michael Green: 10:45 a.m.
- 11:30 lunch served
- 12:15 luncheon speaker Terry Alford
- Jonathan W. White: 1:15
- Roundtable, with Prof. Michael Burlingame moderating, 2:15-3
All five will sign books, 3 to 4 p.m.
Terry Alford, lunch speaker — author of a widely known biography of John Wilkes Booth, he returns to Springfield from his home in Virginia. “Terry Alford’s absorbing book In the Houses of Their Dead (Sept. 2022) describes the engagement with spiritualism of the Lincolns and of the family of John Wilkes Booth, the president’s assassin. Alford … shows that both families had histories of belief in omens and superstitions that led to experimentation with spiritualism.” — David Reynolds, N.Y. Review of Books