Today, the third Sunday of June, is Father’s Day. Established in honor of fathers and fatherhood, the day compliments Mother’s Day which is celebrated in May.
Father figures and their relationships with their children are prominent throughout history. One little-known yet poignant story in American history is the bond between President Abraham Lincoln and his youngest son, Tad.
Surrounded by war, desolation and insanity, and mourning the loss of a son, Lincoln found comfort in his free-spirited 12-year old, whom he could hardly control. The boy was notoriously known for his tricks and stubborness, but his father defended his actions, saying “Let him run.”
“There’s time enough yet for him to learn his letters and get pokey,” he would say. “It is my pleasure that my children are free – happy and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love is the chain whereby to lock a child to its parent.”
Lincoln was known to request small gifts for his son as well. The Shapell Manuscript Foundation has a handwritten note from the president asking Chief of Engineers General Delafield to present his son with a map or two, and several other exist that request a pistol, or a wagon, or various other items.
After Lincoln’s murder, Tad revealed a level of sentiment and depth when he asked a White House visitor if he thought his father had gone to heaven. When he received an affirmative answer he said:
“I’m glad he has gone there, for he was never happy after he came here. This was not a good place for him.” He also showed true self-awareness and understanding, adding, “I must learn to take care of myself now. Yes, Pa is dead, and I am only Tad Lincoln now, little Tad, like other little boys. I’m not a president’s son now. I won’t have many presents anymore.”