Recently, during a trip to Vermont, I visited the home of Robert Lincoln, the only one of Abraham Lincoln’s children who survived to adulthood. After some dawdling around, a bit of government service, some brooding (which involved, among other things, committing his not-insane mother to an insane asylum), he moved to Chicago to run the Pullman company, which made fancy train cars, and which played a significant symbolic role in all three Watt O’Hugh books, although of course Robert Lincoln could not have known that. He had two daughters, who lived let’s say interesting lives, and one son, Abraham Lincoln the Second (who was to be known as “Jack” until such time as he could prove himself and “deserve” his given name), who was clearly designated to carry on the family tradition. But in France, the sixteen-year-old Jack scratched his arm, and he died of blood poisoning. Robert had one granddaughter, Peggy Beckwith, who died alone, a crazy old cat lady (and, actually, a crazy old raccoon lady as well), in the home Robert built in Vermont, and Abraham Lincoln’s family line died out. (I knew a guy named Beckwith once, back in junior high school. David Beckwith. Now I wonder if he was related in any way to Abraham Lincoln. He was a Republican, I recall.)
Just imagine how the world might be different today if Abraham Lincoln the Second had not scratched his arm in France and died. Imagine what the world might be like if Abraham Lincoln the Second had run for president. What if Abraham Lincoln the Fourth were around today. Imagine the moral authority he might exert in the name of all kinds of good causes. Alas, not to be.
Here is a picture of him. Poor old Jack.