The time Abraham Lincoln almost fought a broadsword duel for making up lies about a political opponent

The time Abraham Lincoln almost fought a duel of broadswords

The time Abraham Lincoln almost fought a broadsword duel for making up lies about a political opponent
(Image credit: National Archives)

This amazing anecdote comes from the New York Review of Books, in a piece about how political media was quite different back in Lincoln's day. Back then, newspapers wouldn't hesitate to print (or fabricate) damaging gossip about politicians, who in turn would often respond with violence:

On one occasion, in 1841, that happened — and it involved not only Lincoln but his fiancée Mary Todd. The two had collaborated on a series of scurrilous letters from a fictitious "Rebecca" that vilified James Shields, a rising candidate in the Democratic Party (he would later be elected a senator three times from three different states). The fake Rebecca, who claimed Shields was a former beau, mocked his Irish origin and declared him "a fool as well as a liar.... With him truth is out of the question."

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