John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln
John F. Kennedy: A Biography by Michael O'Brien (St. Martin's Press, NYC 2006) describes briefly an affair JFK had with Mary Pinchot Meyer, the former wife of CIA agent Cord Meyer and sister of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee's wife Tony. It says, "On the evening of July 16, 1962, according to [Washington Post executive] Jim Truitt, Kennedy and Mary Meyer smoked marijuana together. The White House was hosting a conference on narcotics in two months, and Kennedy joked about it to Mary. (Truitt claimed he himself provided Mary with the pot.) The president smoked three of the six joints Mary brought to him. At first he felt no effects. Then he closed his eyes and refused a fourth joint. 'Suppose the Russians did something now,' he said. Kennedy allegedly told Mary that the pot 'Isn't like cocaine,' and informed her that he would get her some cocaine."
O'Brien notes that during her affair with Kennedy, Meyer visited Timothy Leary, a fact confirmed in Robert Greenfield's book, Timothy Leary: A Biography (2006, Harcourt). Leary wrote in Flashbacks that Meyer told him she wanted to run an LSD session with a famous public figure, and after Meyer was found murdered in October 1964, Leary theorized it was JFK and that she'd recorded the event in her diary, which was never found.
As to the 100-years-preceding president whose name has the same number of letters as JFK, reports remain unconfirmed that Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to the Hohner harmonica museum stating that he liked to sit on his front porch, smoke his hemp pipe, and play his harmonica. However, Lincoln is known to have played the harmonica. According to the Hohner USA website (6/9/2006), "During the Lincoln-Douglas debates, when worried friends told President Abraham Lincoln that his opponent was bringing a brass band, Mr. Lincoln reached into his pocket, grinned and said, 'the harmonica will do it for me!'"
Lincoln's secretary VIP John Hay, a friend of Abe's son Robert Lincoln, wrote of taking hasheesh in college. Hay, who was known for his sense of humor, suggested an "Open Door" policy in China, writing, "This policy would guarantee equal trading rights for all and prevent one nation from discriminating against another within its sphere...." He wrote in 1872, "The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it."
Though Lincoln advocated and lived by a code of temperance, he rejected a request to establish a policy of dismissing military men who drank. He wrote, "I believe that every individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, so far as it in no way interferes with any other men's rights." He also said in his Temperance address in February 22, 1842, "Too much denunciation against dram-sellers and dram drinkers [has been] indulged in. This I think was both impolitic and unjust. It was impolitic, because it is not much in the nature of man to be driven to anything; still less to be driven about that which is exclusively his own business; and least of all where such driving is to be submitted to at the expense of pecuniary interest or burning appetite."
It has been reported that after the death of her husband and two of her three sons, Mary Todd Lincoln, whose own mother died when she was six, was institutionalized at a sanitarium where hashish was prescribed. Mary Todd was from a prominent, founding family of Lexington, Kentucky, the seat of Fayette county. According to the Kentucky Office in Lexington, "Hemp was introduced at an early date [in Fayette]. Nathan Burrowes, a county resident, invented a machine for cleaning it [in 1796]. The soil produced fine hemp and in 1870 the county grew 4.3 million pounds. The crop declined in the 1890s because of increased demand for tobacco and competition from imported hemp from the Philippines. In 1941, when the federal government saw a possible shortage of manila rope from the Philippines, farmers were encouraged to grow hemp once again for use in World War II. The crop declined again in 1945."
After their marriage in 1842, the Lincolns visited Lexington several times and stayed at the family home on Main street, which is open to the public today. Nearby is the Hunt-Morgan house, built in 1814 for the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies, a hemp merchant named John Wesley Hunt. Among Hunt’s descendants was Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, the flamboyant leader of the guerrilla fighters known as "Morgan’s Raiders." Morgan’s nephew, Thomas Hunt Morgan, born in Lexington in 1866, would become the first Kentuckian to win a Nobel Prize, for his work in genetics.
On November 5, 1849, President Lincoln wrote a letter to William B. Preston, Secretary of the Navy, recommending Mary Todd's uncle, Dr. John T. Parker, for the Hemp Agency of Kentucky. He wrote, "Dear Sir: Being here in Kentucky on private business, I have learned that the name of Dr. John T. Parker is before you as an applicant for the Hemp Agency of the State. I understand that his name has been presented in accordance with the wish of the hemp-growers, rather than his own. I personally know him to be a gentleman of high character, of excellent general information, and, withal, an experienced hemp grower himself. I disclaim all right of interference as to the offices out of my own state; still I suppose there is no impr[opr]iety in my stating the facts as above; and I will venture to add that I shall be much gratified, if Dr. Parker shall receive the appointment. Your Obt. Servt. A. LINCOLN"
On April 6, 1858, in his First Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions which begins, "All creation is a mine, and every man, a miner," Lincoln wrote, "Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. This improvement, he effects by Discoveries, and Inventions. His first important discovery was the fact that he was naked; and his first invention was the fig-leaf-apron. . . . Spinning and weaving brought into the department of clothing such abundance and variety of material. Wool, the hair of several species of animals, hemp, flax, cotten, silk, and perhaps other articles, were all suited to it, affording garments not only adapted to wet and dry, heat and cold, but also susceptable of high degrees of ornamental finish."
Addressing the labor issue, Lincoln wrote on September 17, circa 1859: "The slave whom you can not drive with the lash to break seventy-five pounds of hemp in a day, if you will task him to break a hundred, and promise him pay for all he does over, he will break you a hundred and fifty. You have substituted hope, for the rod. And yet perhaps it does not occur to you, that to the extent of your gain in the case, you have given up the slave system, and adopted the free system of labor."