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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – A bucket brigade of public officials has transferred Mary Todd Lincoln’s insanity hearing record from court vaults to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.
Next will come a public re-examination of her hearing to see if she should have been committed to a psychiatric hospital in 1885.
As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, a state commission sought use the 135-year-old records as background for the mock retrial. That meant a court order to Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who transferred the age yellowed papers to Illinois Secretary of State and State Archivist Jesse White, who delivered them to the custody of Lincoln Library director Eileen Mackevich.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody Reports
At the Daley Center courthouse, Brown displayed the documents, which are protected by chemically inert plastic sleeves.
There are 16 court pleadings and 39 expense vouchers, including a petition by Mary’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, asking to have his mother declared insane. There’s also a verdict form signed by artistic handwriting by the 12 jurors who decided she should be committed.
Mackevich said there’s serious question whether Marty Todd Lincoln should have been committed. She’d lose three children to disease and her husband to assassination.
Mackevich said Mrs. Lincoln was a very strong-willed woman, who contributed significantly to her husband’s drive to become president. She also said Mrs. Lincoln heeded her husband’s directive to maintain appearances, lest the Civil War be seen to have unduly affected Union finances. To this end, she refurnished the White House and spent $1,000 on ball gowns when $1,000 was a lot of money.
Mackevich suggested Robert Lincoln may well have tried to have his mother committed to gain control over family finances, but historians noted Robert was concerned about his mother’s increasingly erratic behavior: wandering Washington with government bonds sewn in her clothes.
She spent about a year in the mental hospital in west suburban Batavia before regaining her freedom.
The Illinois Supreme Court historical commission is organizing the rehearing of the Mary Todd Lincoln insanity hearing, which will be held sometime next year.