Breaking News:
Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds law that ended collective bargaining for public workers

The Sideshow

Mary Todd Lincoln to be retried for insanity

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

View photo

.

Former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln will get a new trial to decide whether she was actually insane. (Wikicommo …

One hundred and 30 years after her death, Mary Todd Lincoln will be retried for insanity.

The former first lady was declared insane 10 years after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, when her son Robert Todd Lincoln had her committed.

"Even today, historians disagree whether the evidence against the First Lady was 'trumped up,' whether the procedures used constituted due process, and what would occur if today's modernized health laws were applied to the same facts," reads a statement from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Lincoln's mental stability was called into question after she suffered from depression following the deaths of not only her husband but also two of her young children. She allegedly spent the years after President Lincoln's death attempting to communicate with him via seance.

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission and the Lincoln Museum are set to give Mary Todd Lincoln a new trial, starting in October.

The dueling legal teams will dress in period clothes from the era but will argue their case relying on current law. Actors will play the roles of Mary Todd Lincoln and Robert Todd Lincoln, but real-life judges will serve as lawyers for each side in the re-creation of the case. Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar will narrate the trial.

And adding more theatricality to the performance, members of the audience will reportedly serve as jury.

Mary Todd Lincoln spent about four months in the Bellevue Place sanitarium after being declared insane in 1875. However, after secretly communicating with her lawyer and writing a letter to the Chicago Times, she was eventually released. In a letter written in August 1875, Lincoln wondered why her son Robert had seemingly turned on her. She later came to believe that her son's actions were an attempt to take control of her finances:

"It does not appear that God is good, to have placed me here. I endeavor to read my Bible and offer up my petitions three times a day," Lincoln wrote. "But my afflicted heart fails me and my voice often falters in prayer. I have worshipped my son and no unpleasant word ever passed between us, yet I cannot understand why I should have been brought out here."

The letter is just one of 25 written by Mary Todd Lincoln during her "insanity period" and was believed to have been burned by Robert Todd Lincoln. However, the letters were discovered in 2006 in a steamer trunk owned by the children of Robert Todd Lincoln's attorney.

View Comments (4060)