Dear Diary! Reports Claim That Mary Lincoln Took Bribes, Padded Expenses

Article excerpt

Newly released diary entries from a longtime associate of Abraham Lincoln accuse Lincoln's wife of padding White House bills and charging taxpayers for personal expenses.

The entries also accuse Mary Todd Lincoln of accepting bribes to secure lucrative government appointments and of leaking the president's private papers to a reporter.

The entries are from the diary of Orville Hickman Browning, a longtime associate of Abraham Lincoln's who served in the U.S. Senate during the Civil War.

When the Browning diary was sold to the Illinois State Historical Library in 1921, the owner, Eliza Miller, a niece of Browning, stipulated that a handful of entries never be made public. The diary was later published with the entries omitted.

Miller apparently was trying to spare the feelings of the Lincolns' son, Robert Todd Lincoln, who was still alive at the time. A millionaire corporate attorney and diplomat, he was known to be sensitive about his mother, whom he once had committed to a mental hospital.

Notes taken by a scholar who examined the entries more than 70 years ago were not discovered until last year by Lincoln expert Michael Burlingame, a professor of history at Connecticut College in New London, Conn.

The trustees of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency decided in March to release the restricted entries, said state historian Tom Schwartz, who is also curator of the library's Lincoln collection.

Burlingame was one of the first people to look at the newly released information. He said the material fits in quite credibly with other evidence of Mrs. Lincoln's questionable behavior.

The material includes a diary entry from March 3, 1862, that describes a conversation Browning had with Thomas Stackpole, a watchman and later steward of the White House, concerning the White House gardner, John Watt. …