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"The Magnificent Mischief of Tad Lincoln": The Merciful Story Behind the First Turkey Pardon

In one of his latest books, EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo captures the story of Abraham Lincoln’s merciful heart through his love for his son, Tad Lincoln.

Tad suffered from a cleft palate, which resulted in speech problems. Children poked fun at him, so he stayed close to his family in the White House.

Alongside his brother, Willie, seven-year-old Tad stirred up trouble and brought childlike life to the White House. The boys even interrupted cabinet meetings to request “pardons” for their toys!

However, Willie died of typhoid fever at age 11.

Both overcome by terrible grief, Tad and Abe developed a close-knit relationship.

During the Civil War, Tad often lay near his father’s desk and listened to those seeking presidential pardons.

The First Turkey Pardon

After the White House was gifted with a Christmas turkey, Tad Lincoln befriended it.

According to Arroyo,

“He named his playmate Jack, like the toy soldier he and Willie used to play with.””Tad taught Jack to eat from his hand, to trot behind him, and took him out for walks on a leash.”

Tad was very upset upon learning his beloved friend was meant for Christmas dinner!

The president’s son cried and begged his father to save his pet turkey from its execution.

Then, Abe Lincoln, with his heart full of mercy and love for his son, “granted Jack the turkey a full reprieve of execution.”

The Turkey Pardon Now

While the Turkey Pardon began with Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy was the first to carry on the tradition. It did not occur consistently, however, until George H.W. Bush restarted it in 1989.

Check out Raymond Arroyo’s children’s book, “The Magnificent Mischief of Tad Lincoln” for purchase in the EWTN Religious Catalogue.

Also, watch Arroyo discuss the story on EWTN News Nightly:

Click here if you cannot see the video above.

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