Lincoln the man is hard to separate from Lincoln the legend. But when the Director of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, resigned yesterday over the major breeches of the White House over this past month, I couldn’t help remembering this nifty story of a White House long ago.
The story is taken from the marvelous book, Iron Man, A Book About Men, by national treasure, poet and educator, Robert Bly. In his milestone book, Bly outlines the stages of men as red (savage youth), white (engagement), and black (growing wise – swallowing the ego, embracing mortality).
Here is the story Robert Bly tells:
“A mother once got into the White House and woke Lincoln up at five in the morning, saying that her son had been sent by train to Washington a few days before, had no sleep and now was going to be shot at eight that morning. If Lincoln had been in the red (younger) , he might have shouted to the guards, ‘Who let this woman in here? Get her out of here!’
If he were in the white (young adult) , he might have said, ‘Madam, we all have to obey rules. Your son didn’t obey the rules, and I feel as bad as you do about it, but I can’t intervene.’ He didn’t say either of these things (he was in the black stage of wisdom). He said, ‘Well, I guess shooting him wouldn’t help him much,’ and he signed a piece of paper.”
In Lincoln’s day, there was no Secret Service to protect the President. In fact, Lincoln’s assassination occurred on April 15, 1865. As a result of the tragedy of April, the Secret Service was installed several months later on July 6, 1865.
I have no idea whether Bly’s story about the female intruder is “real” or has become the “truth” of history.