Abraham Lincoln's Retirement Plans
By Mark Mancini
Had it not been for that deadly trip to Ford’s Theatre, how would Abraham Lincoln have spent his private life after leaving office?
According to his widow, Lincoln longed to visit Jerusalem, even spending some of his final moments pondering the journey. In fact, the words “There is no place I so much desire to see as Jerusalem”—uttered to his wife while watching Our American Cousin on April 14th, 1865—may have been his last.
This wasn’t the first time the pair had discussed their travel arrangements. Mary Todd Lincoln recalled in a subsequent letter that her husband had previously suggested trips to California and Europe, putting particular emphasis on stopping by Palestine and the storied city “where David and Solomon walked.” (Note that while the 16th president’s religious views were somewhat ambiguous, he did quote the Bible regularly and, hence, maintained at the very least a literary interest in its content.)
The idea was likely planted by secretary of state William Seward, who had himself visited Jerusalem in 1859. Since Lincoln spent a great deal of his down time relaxing at the Seward residence, it’s reasonable to deduce that the notion may have been inspired by his frequent confidant.
Outside of touring the globe, Lincoln also would have had plenty of interests to pursue during his retirement. Chief among these were feline-ownership: When asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Todd Lincoln simply said “Cats.” The first president to bring a cat into the White House, Lincoln was never one to shy away from spoiling “Tabby,” even allowing his pet to sit at the presidential dinner table. Additionally, Lincoln appears to have enjoyed watching baseball.