From Wit & Humor Of Abraham Lincoln, Gathered from Authentic Sources by Carleton B., Case, Chicago: Shrewesbury Publishing Co., 1916; pp. 7-50.
LINCOLN’S LOVE OF HUMOR
It was once said of Shakespeare that the great mind that conceived the tragedies of “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” etc., would have lost its reason if it had not found vent in the sparkling humor of such comedies as “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “The Comedy of Errors.”
The great strain on the mind of Abraham Lincoln produced by four years of civil war might likewise have overcome his reason had it not found vent in the yarns and stories he constantly told. No more fun-loving or humor-loving man than Abraham Lincoln ever lived. He enjoyed a joke even when it was on himself, and probably, while he got his greatest enjoyment from telling 8 stories, he had a keen appreciation of the humor in those that were told him.
His favorite humorous writer was David R. Locke, better known as “Petroleum V. Nasby,” whose political satires were quite famous in their day. Nearly every prominent man who has written his recollections of Lincoln has told how the President, in the middle of a conversation on some serious subject, would suddenly stop and ask his hearer if he ever read the Nasby letters.
Then he would take from his desk a pamphlet containing the letters and proceed to read them, laughing heartily at all the good points they contained. There is probably no better evidence of Mr. Lincoln’s love of humor and appreciation of it than his letter to Nasby, in which he said: “For the ability to write these things I would gladly trade places with you.”
LINCOLN’S LOVE AFFAIRS
Previous to his marriage Mr. Lincoln had two love affairs, one of them so serious that it left an impression upon his whole future life. One of the objects of his affection was Miss Mary Owen, of Green county, Kentucky, who decided that Mr. Lincoln “was deficient in those little links which make up the chain of woman’s happiness.” The affair ended without any damage to Mr. Lincoln’s heart or the heart of the lady.
Story of Anne Rutledge
Lincoln’s first love, however, had a sad termination. The object of his affections at that time was Anne Rutledge, whose father was one of the founders 9 of New Salem. Like Miss Owen, Miss Rutledge was also born in Kentucky, and was gifted with the beauty and graces that distinguish many southern women. At the time that Mr. Lincoln and Anne Rutledge were engaged to be married, he thought himself too poor to properly support a wife, and they decided to wait until such time as he could better his financial condition. A short time thereafter Miss Rutledge was attacked with a fatal illness, and her death was such a blow to her intended husband that for a long time his friends feared that he would lose his mind.
MARRIES A SPRINGFIELD BELLE
Among the social belles of Springfield was Mary Todd, a handsome and cultivated girl of illustrious descent which could be traced back to the sixth century, to whom Mr. Lincoln was married in 1842. Stephen A. Douglas was his competitor in love as well as in politics. He courted Mary Todd until it became evident that she preferred Mr. Lincoln.
Mrs. Lincoln was of the average height, weighing about a hundred and thirty pounds. She was rather compactly built, had a well rounded face, rich dark-brown hair, and bluish-gray eyes. In her bearing she was proud, but handsome and vivacious; she was a good conversationalist, using with equal fluency the French and English languages.
When she used a pen, its point was sure to be sharp, and she wrote with wit and ability. She not only had a quick intellect but an intuitive judgment of men and their motives. Ordinarily she was affable and even 10 charming in her manners; but when offended or antagonized she could be very bitter and sarcastic.
In her figure and physical proportions, in education, bearing, temperament, history — in everything she was the exact reverse of Lincoln.
That Mrs. Lincoln was very proud of her husband there is no doubt; and it is probable that she married him largely from motives of ambition. She knew Lincoln better than he knew himself; she instinctively felt that he would occupy a proud position some day, and it is a matter of record that she told Ward Lamon, her husband’s law partner, that “Mr. Lincoln will yet be President of the United States.”
Mrs. Lincoln was decidedly pro-slavery in her views, but this never disturbed Lincoln. In various ways they were unlike. Her fearless, witty, and austere nature had nothing in common with the calm, imperturbable, and simple ways of her thoughtful and absent-minded husband. She was bright and sparkling in conversation, and fit to grace any drawing-room. She well knew that to marry Lincoln meant not a life of luxury and ease, for Lincoln was not a man to accumulate wealth; but in him she saw position in society, prominence in the world, and the grandest social distinction. By that means her ambition was certainly satisfied, for nineteen years after her marriage she was “the first lady of the land,” and the mistress of the White House.
After his marriage, by dint of untiring efforts and the recognition of influential friends, the couple managed through rare frugality to move along. In Lincoln’s struggles, both in the law and for political advancement, his wife shared his sacrifices. She was a plucky little woman, and in fact endowed with a more restless ambition 11 than he. She was gifted with a rare insight into the motives that actuate mankind, and there is no doubt that much of Lincoln’s success was in a measure attributable to her acuteness and the stimulus of her influence.
His election to Congress within four years after their marriage afforded her extreme gratification. She loved power and prominence, and was inordinately proud of her tall and ungainly husband. She saw in him bright prospects ahead, and his every move was watched by her with the closest interest. It to other persons he seemed homely, to her he was the embodiment of noble manhood, and each succeeding day impressed upon her the wisdom of her choice of Lincoln over Douglas — if in reality she ever seriously accepted the latter’s attentions.
“Mr. Lincoln may not be as handsome a figure,” she said one day in Lincoln’s law office during her husband’s absence, when the conversation turned on Douglas, “but the people are perhaps not aware that his heart is as large as his arms are long.”
TELLING STORIES ON THE CIRCUIT
The court circuit in those days was the scene of many a story-telling joust, in which Lincoln was always the chief. Frequently he would sit up until after midnight reeling off story after story, each one followed by roars of laughter that could be heard all over the country tavern, in which the story-telling group was gathered. Every type of character would be represented in these groups, from the learned judge on the bench down to the village loafer.12
Lincoln’s favorite attitude was to sit with his long legs propped up on the rail of the stove, or with his feet against the wall, and thus he would sit for hours entertaining a crowd, or being entertained.
One circuit judge was so fond of Lincoln’s stories that he often would sit up until midnight listening to them, and then declare that he had laughed so much he believed his ribs were shaken loose.
GAINS FAME AS A STORY-TELLER
It was about this time, too, that Lincoln’s fame as a story-teller began to spread far and wide. His sayings and his jokes were repeated throughout that section of the country, and he was famous as a story-teller before anyone every heard of him as a lawyer or a politician.
“CAPTAIN LINCOLN” PLEASED HIM
When the Black Hawk War broke out, Lincoln was one of the first to respond to Governor Reynolds’ call for a thousand mounted volunteers to assist the United States troops in driving Black Hawk back across the Mississippi. Lincoln enlisted in the company from Sangamon county and was elected captain. He often remarked that this gave him greater pleasure than anything that had happened in his life up to this time. He had, however, no opportunities in this war to perform any distinguished service.
Upon his return from the Black Hawk War, in which, as he said afterward, in a humorous speech, when in Congress, that he “fought, bled and came away,” he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Legislature. This 13 was the only time in his life, as he himself has said, that he was ever beaten by the people. Although defeated, in his own town of New Salem he received all of the two hundred and eight votes cast except three.
FAILURE AS A BUSINESS MAN
One of Lincoln’s business ventures was with William Berry in a general store, under the firm name of Lincoln & Berry, but it did not take long to show that he was not adapted for a business career. The firm failed, Berry died and the debts of the firm fell entirely upon Lincoln. Many of these debts he might have escaped legally, but he assumed them all and it was not until fifteen years later that the last indebtedness of Lincoln & Berry was discharged. During his membership in this firm he had applied himself to the study of law, beginning at the beginning, that is with Blackstone. Now that he had nothing to do he spent much of his time lying under the shade of a tree poring over law books, borrowed from a comrade in the Black Hawk War, who was then a practicing lawyer at Springfield.
HIS POOR RELATIONS
One of the most beautiful traits of Mr. Lincoln’s character was his considerate regard for the poor and obscure relatives he had left, plodding along in their humble ways of life. Wherever upon his circuit he found them, he always went to their dwellings, ate with them, and, when convenient, made their houses his home. He never assumed in their presence the slightest superiority to them. He gave them money when 14 they needed it and he had it. Countless times he was known to leave his companions at the village hotel, after a hard day’s work in the court-room, and spend the evening with these old friends and companions of his humbler days. On one occasion, when urged not to go, he replied, “Why, Aunt’s heart would be broken if I should leave town without calling upon her;” yet, he was obliged to walk several miles to make the call.
DESERTER’S SINS WASHED OUT IN BLOOD
This was the reply made by Lincoln to an application for the pardon of a soldier who had shown himself brave in war, had been severely wounded, but afterward deserted:
“Did you say he was once badly wounded?
“Then, as the Scriptures say that in the shedding of blood is the remission of sins, I guess we’ll have to let him off this time.”
BOOKS READ BY LINCOLN IN HIS EARLY LIFE
The books which Abraham had the early privilege of reading were the Bible, much of which he could repeat, “Æsop’s Fables,” all of which he could repeat, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Weem’s “Life of Washington,” and a “Life of Henry Clay,” which his mother had managed to purchase for him. Subsequently he read the “Life of Franklin” and Ramsay’s “Life of Washington.” In these books, read and re-read, he found 15 meat for his hungry mind. The Holy bible, Æsop and John Bunyan — could three better books have been chosen for him from the richest library?
For those who have witnessed the dissipating effects of many books upon the minds of modern children, it is not hard to believe that Abraham’s poverty of books was the wealth of his life. These three books did much to perfect that which his mother’s teaching had begun, and to form a character which, for quaint simplicity, earnestness, truthfulness and purity, has never been surpassed among the historic personages of the world. The “Life of Washington,” while it gave him a lofty example of patriotism, incidentally conveyed to his mind a general knowledge o American history; and the “Life of Henry Clay” spoke to him of a living man who had risen to political and professional eminence from circumstances almost as humble as his own.
The latter book undoubtedly did much to excite his taste for politics, to kindle his ambition, and to make him a warm admirer and partisan of Henry Clay.
LINCOLN‘S FIRST SPEECH
Lincoln made his first speech when he was a mere boy, going barefoot, his trousers held up by one suspender, and his shock of hair sticking through a hole in the crown of his cheap straw hat.
“Abe,” in company with Dennis Hanks, attended a political meeting, which was addressed by a typical stump speaker — one of those loud-voiced fellows who shouted at the top of his voice and waved his arms wildly.16
At the conclusion of the speech, which did not meet the views either of “Abe” or Dennis, the latter declared that “Abe” could make a better speech than that. Whereupon he got a dry-goods box and called on “Abe” to reply to the campaign orator.
Lincoln threw his old straw hat on the ground, and, mounting the dry-goods box, delivered a speech which held the attention of the crowd and won him considerable applause. Even the campaign orator admitted that it was a fine speech and answered every point in his own “oration.”
LINCOLN AS A LAWYER
Two things were essential to his success in managing a case. One was time; the other was a feeling of confidence in the justice of the cause he represented.
He used to say: “If I can free this case from technicalities and get it properly swung to the jury, I’ll win it.”
The following reply was overheard in Lincoln’s law-office, where he was in conversation with a man who appeared to have a case that Lincoln did not desire: ‘Yes,” he said, “we can doubtless gain your case for you; we can set a whole neighborhood at loggerheads; we can distress a widowed mother and her six fatherless children, and thereby get for you six hundred dollars to which you seem to have a legal claim, but which rightfully belongs, it appears to me, as much to the woman and children as it does to you. You must remember that some things legally right are not morally right. We shall not take your case, but will give you a little advice for which we will charge 17 you nothing. You seem to be a sprightly, energetic man; we would advise you to try your hand at making six hundred dollars in some other way.”
LINCOLN AND THE BRAGGART
James Larkins was a great hand to brag on anything he owned. This time it was his horse. He stepped up before Abe, who was in a crowd, and commenced talking to him, boasting all the while of his animal.
“I have got the best horse in the country,” he shouted to his young listener. “I ran him nine miles in exactly three minutes, and he never fetched a long breath.”
“I presume,” said Abe, rather dryly, “he fetched a good many short ones though.”
INCIDENT IN THE BLACK HAWK WAR
An old Indian strayed, hungry and helpless, into the camp one day. The soldiers were conspiring to kill him as a spy.
A letter from General Cass, recommending him, for his past kind and faithful service to the whites, the trembling old savage drew from beneath the folds of his blankets; but failed in any degree to appease the wrath of the men who confronted him. “Make an example of him,” they exclaimed; “the letter is a forgery, and he is a spy.”
They might have put their threats into execution had not the tall form of their captain, his face swarthy 18 with resolution and rage, interposed itself between them and their defenseless victim.
Lincoln’s determined look and demand that it must not be done were enough. They sullenly desisted, and the Indian, unmolested, continued on his way.
KICKED OUT OF BED
Dr. C. S. Richardson, now a resident of Indianapolis, met Lincoln at Charleston when the doctor was engaged in dentistry in the early 50’s.
“Mr. Lincoln came to my boarding-house,” writes Dr. Richardson, “and our acquaintance soon became close and friendly. Mr. Lincoln made Charleston his headquarters during important court sessions. When the city was very crowded Mr. Lincoln and I bunked together to accommodate our landlady.
“On one such occasion ‘Abe’ partook too much of extra strong corn beef and fricasseed honey cakes and other rambunctious dainties with inclinations toward nightmare. Suddenly he planted his No. 10’s square in the middle of my back and knocked me out of the four-poster to the center of the dingy bedroom.
“Not to be outdone, I tiptoed downstairs, drew a bucketful of water and dashed the water square in the snoring countenance of Abraham Lincoln. He slammed the door in my face and left me to sleep on the rug just outside the door.”
WELL WORTH THE MONEY
During the early years of his career as a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln traveled the old Eighth Circuit in central Illinois. Lincoln and Judge David Davis were 19 fast friends from the beginning, and the judge always showed a keen appreciation of Lincoln’s stories.
“I was never fined but once for contempt of court,” says a man who was a clerk of court in Lincoln’s day. “Davis fined me five dollars. Mr. Lincoln had just come in, and leaning over my desk, had told me a story so irresistibly funny that I broke out in a loud laugh. The judge called me to order, saying, ‘This must be stopped. Mr. Lincoln, you are constantly disturbing this court with your stories.’
“Then he said to me, ‘You may fine yourself five dollars.’ I apologized to the court, but told the judge that the story was worth the money. In a few minutes the judge called me to him. ‘What was that story Lincoln told you?’ he asked. I told him, and he laughed aloud in spite of himself. ‘Remit your fine,’ he ordered.”
A NOTED HORSE TRADE IN WHICH LINCOLN CONFESSED HE GOT THE WORST OF IT
When Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer in Illinois, he and a certain judge once got to bantering one another about trading horses; and it was agreed that the next morning at nine o’clock they should make a trade, the horses to be unseen up to that hour, and no backing out, under a forfeiture of $25.
At the hour appointed, the Judge came up, leading the sorriest-looking specimen of a horse ever seen in those parts. In a few minutes Mr. Lincoln was seen approaching with a wooden saw-horse upon his shoulders. Great were the shouts and laughter of the crowd, and 20 both were greatly increased when Mr. Lincoln, on surveying the Judge’s animal, set down his saw-horse, and exclaimed: “Well, Judge, this is the first time I ever got the worst of it in a horse trade.”
THE UGLIEST MAN
Mr. Lincoln enjoyed a joke at his own expense. Said he: “In the days when I used to be in the circuit, I was accosted in the cars by a stranger, who said, ‘Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which belongs to you.’ ‘How is that?’ I asked, considerably astonished.
“The stranger took a jackknife from his pocket. ‘This knife,’ said he, ‘was placed in my hands some years ago, with the injunction that I was to keep it until I had found a man uglier than myself. I have carried it from that time to this. Allow me to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the property.’ ”
NO VICES — FEW VIRTUES
Riding at one time in the stage, with an old Kentuckian who was returning from Missouri, Lincoln excited the old gentleman’s surprise by refusing to accept either of tobacco or French brandy.
When they separated that afternoon, the Kentuckian to take another stage bound for Louisville, he shook hands warmly with Lincoln, and said good-humoredly, “See here, stranger, you’re a clever but strange companion. I may never see you again, and I don’t want to offend you, but I want to say this: My experience 21 has taught me that a man who has no vices has d——d few virtues. Good-day.”
Lincoln enjoyed this reminiscence of his journey, and took great pleasure in relating it.
An old copy-book of Lincoln’s has the following written when he was fourteen years old.
“’Tis Abraham Lincoln holds the pen,
He will be good, but God knows when!”
“DONE WITH THE BIBLE”
Lincoln never told a better story than this:
A country meeting-house, that was used once a month, was quite a distance from any other house.
The preacher, an old-line Baptist, was dressed in coarse linen pantaloons, and shirt of the same material. The pants, manufactured after the old fashion, with baggy legs, and a flap in the front, were made to attach to his frame without the aid of suspenders.
A single button held his shirt in position, and that was at the collar. He rose up in the pulpit, and with a loud voice announced his text thus: “I am the Christ whom I shall represent to-day.”
About this time a little blue lizard ran up his roomy pantaloons. The old preacher, not wishing to interrupt the steady flow of his sermon, slapped away on his leg, expecting to arrest the intruder, but his efforts were unavailing, and the little fellow kept on ascending higher and higher.
Continuing the sermon, the preacher loosened the 22 central button which graced the waistband of his pantaloons, and with a kick off came that easy-fitting garment.
But, meanwhile, Mr. Lizard had passed the equatorial line of the waistband, and was calmly exploring that part of the preacher’s anatomy which lay underneath the back of his shirt.
Things were now growing interesting, but the sermon was still grinding on. The next movement on the preacher’s part was for the collar button, and with one sweep of his arm off came the tow linen shirt.
The congregation sat for an instant as if dazed; at length one old lady in the rear part of the room rose up, and, glancing at the excited object in the pulpit, shouted at the top of her voice: “If you represent Christ, then I’m done with the Bible.”
“ADAM’S ALE,” LINCOLN’S ONLY BEVERAGE
Immediately after Mr. Lincoln’s nomination for President at the Chicago Convention, a committee, of which Governor Morgan, of New York, was Chairman, visited him in Springfield, Ill., where he was officially informed of his nomination.
After this ceremony had passed, Mr. Lincoln remarked to the company that as an appropriate conclusion to an interview so important and interesting as that which has just transpired, he supposed good manners would require that he should treat the committee with something to drink; and opening the door that led into the rear, he called out, “Mary! Mary!” A girl responded to the call, to whom Mr. Lincoln spoke 23 a few words in an undertone, and, closing the door, returned again and conversed with his guests. In a few minutes the maiden entered, bearing a large waiter, containing several glass tumblers, and a large pitcher in the midst, and placed it upon the center-table. Mr. Lincoln arose, and gravely addressing the company, said; “Gentlemen, we must pledge our mutual health in the most healthy beverage that God has given to man — it is the only beverage I have ever used or allowed my family to use, and I cannot conscientiously depart from it on the present occasion. It is pure Adam’s ale from the spring;” and, taking the tumbler, he touched it to his lips, and pledged them his highest respects in a cup of cold water. Of course, all his guests were constrained to admire his consistency, and to join in his example.
COLONEL BAKER DEFENDED BY LINCOLN
On one occasion, Colonel Baker was speaking in a courthouse, which had been a storehouse, and, on making some remarks that were offensive to certain political rowdies in the crowd, they cried: “Take him off the stand!” Immediate confusion ensued, and there was an attempt to carry the demand into execution. Directly over the speaker’s head was an old scuttle, at which it appeared Mr. Lincoln had been listening to the speech. In an instant, Mr. Lincoln’s feet came through the scuttle, followed by his tall and sinewy frame, and he was standing by Colonel Baker’s side. He raised his hand, and the assembly subsided into silence.24
“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Lincoln, “let us not disgrace the age and country in which we live. This is a land where freedom of speech is guaranteed. Mr. Baker has a right to speak, and ought to be permitted to do so. I am here to protect him, and no man shall take him from this stand if I can prevent it.”
The suddenness of his appearance, his perfect calmness and fairness, and the knowledge that he would do what he had promised to do, quieted all disturbance, and the speaker concluded his remarks without difficulty.
LINCOLN DEFENDS THE SON OF AN OLD FRIEND, INDICTED FOR MURDER
Jack Armstrong, the leader of the “Clary Grove Boys,” with whom Lincoln early in life had a scuffle which “Jack” agreed to call “a drawn battle,” in consequence of his own foul play, afterward became a life-long, warm friend of Mr. Lincoln. Later in life the rising lawyer would stop at Jack’s cabin home, and here Mrs. Armstrong, a most womanly person, learned to respect Mr. Lincoln. There was no service to which she did not make her guest abundantly welcome, and he never ceased to feel the tenderest gratitude for her kindness.
At length her husband died, and she became dependent upon her sons. The oldest of these, while in attendance upon a camp meeting, found himself involved in a mêlée, which resulted in the death of a young man, and young Armstrong was charged by one of his associates with striking the fatal blow. He was examined, and imprisoned to await his trial. The public 25 mind was in a blaze of excitement, and interested parties fed the flame.
Mr. Lincoln knew nothing of the merits of this case, that is certain. He only knew that his old friend, Mrs. Armstrong, was in sore trouble; and he sat down at once, and volunteered by letter to defend her son. His first act was to secure the postponement, and a change of the place of trial. There was too much fever in the minds of the immediate public to permit of fair treatment. When the trial came on, the case looked very hopeless to all but Mr. Lincoln, who had assured himself that the young man was not guilty. The evidence on behalf of the State being all in, and looking like a solid and consistent mass of testimony against the prisoner, Mr. Lincoln undertook the task of analyzing it, and destroying it, which he did in a manner that surprised every one. The principal witness testified that “by the aid of the brightly shining moon he saw the prisoner inflict the death blow with a slung shot.” Mr. Lincoln proved by the almanac that there was no moon shining at that time. The mass of testimony against the prisoner melted away, until “not guilty” was the verdict of every man present in the crowded court-room.
There is, of course, no record of the plea made on this occasion, but it is remembered as one in which Mr. Lincoln made an appeal to the sympathies of the jury, which quite surpassed his usual efforts of the kind, and melted all to tears. The jury were out but half an hour, when they returned their verdict of “not guilty.” The widow fainted in the arms of her son, who divided his attention between his services to her and his thanks to his deliverer. And thus the kind 26 woman who cared for the poor young man, and showed herself a mother to him in his need, received the life of a son, saved from a cruel conspiracy, as her reward, from the hands of her grateful beneficiary.
A WRESTLING MATCH
There lived, at the time young Lincoln resided at New Salem, Ill., in and around the village, a band of rollicking fellows, or, more properly, roistering rowdies, known as the “Clary’s Grove Boys.” The special tie that united them was physical courage and prowess. These fellows, although they embraced in their number many men who have since become respectable and influential, were wild and rough beyond toleration in any community not made up like that which produced them. They pretended to be “regulators,” and were the terror of all who did not acknowledge their rule; and their mode of securing allegiance was by flogging every man who failed to acknowledge it.
They took it upon themselves to try the mettle of every new-comer, and to learn the sort of stuff he was made of.
Some of their number were appointed to fight, wrestle, or run a foot-race with each incoming stranger. Of course, Abraham Lincoln was obliged to pass the ordeal.
Perceiving that he was a man who would not easily be floored, they selected their champion, Jack Armstrong, and imposed upon him the task of laying Lincoln upon his back.
There is no evidence that Lincoln was an unwilling party to the sport, for it was what he had always been 27 accustomed to. The bout was entered upon, but Armstrong soon discovered that he had met more than his match.
The boys were looking on, and seeing that their champion was likely to get the worse of it, did after the manner of such irresponsible bands. They gathered around Lincoln, struck and disabled him, and then Armstrong, by “legging” him, got him down.
Most men would have been indignant, not to say furiously angry, under such foul treatment as this; but if Lincoln was either, he did not show it. Getting up in perfect good humor, he fell to laughing over his discomfiture, and joking about it. They had all calculated on making him angry, and they intended, with the amiable spirit which characterized the “Clary’s Grove Boys,” to give him a terrible drubbing. They were disappointed, and, in their admiration of him immediately invited him to become one of the company.
LINCOLN APPLIES FOR A PATENT
That he had enough mechanical genius to make him a good mechanic there is no doubt. With such rude tools as were at his command he had made cabins and flatboats; and after his mind had become absorbed in public and professional affairs, he often recurred to his mechanical dreams for amusement. One of his dreams took form, and he endeavored to make a practical matter of it. He had had experience in the early navigation of the Western rivers. One of the most serious hindrances to this navigation was low water, and the lodgment of the various craft on the shifting shoals and bars with which these rivers abound. He 28 undertook to contrive an apparatus which, folded to the hull of the boat like a bellows, might be inflated on occasions, and, by its levity, lifted over any obstruction upon which it might rest. On this contrivance, illustrated by a model whittled out by himself, and now preserved in the Patent Office in Washington, he secured letters patent; but it is certain that the navigation of the Western rivers was not revolutionized by it.
“HONEST ABE” AS A COUNTRY STORE-KEEPER
Lincoln could not rest for an instant under the consciousness that he had, even unwittingly, defrauded anybody. On one occasion, while clerking in Offutt’s store, at New Salem, Ill., he sold a woman a little bale of goods, amounting in value by the reckoning to two dollars and twenty cents. He received the money, and the woman went away. On adding the items of the bill again to make himself sure of correctness, he found that he had taken six and a quarter cents too much. It was night, and, closing and locking the store, he started out on foot, a distance of two or three miles, for the house of his defrauded customer, and, delivering over to her the sum whose possession had so much troubled him, went home satisfied.
On another occasion, just as he was closing the store for the night, a woman entered, and asked for a half pound of tea. The tea was weighed out and paid for, and the store was left for the night. The next morning Lincoln entered to begin the duties of the day, when he discovered a four-ounce weight on the scales. He saw at once that he had made a mistake, and, 29 shutting the store, he took a long walk before breakfast to deliver the remainder of the tea. These are very humble incidents, but they illustrate the man’s perfect conscientiousness — his sensitive honesty — better, perhaps, than they would if they were of greater moment.
HOW LINCOLN EARNED HIS FIRST DOLLAR
The following interesting story was told by Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Seward and a few friends one evening in the Executive Mansion at Washington. The President said: “Seward, you never heard, did you, how I earned my first dollar?”
“No,” rejoined Mr. Seward.
“Well,” continued Mr. Lincoln, “I belonged, you know, to what they called down South the ‘scrubs.’ We had succeeded in raising, chiefly by my labor, sufficient produce, as I thought, to justify me in taking it down the river to sell.
“After much persuasion, I got the consent of mother to go, and constructed a little flatboat, large enough to take a barrel or two of things that we had gathered, with myself and little bundle, down to the Southern market. A steamer was coming down the river. We have, you know, no wharves on the Western streams; and the custom was, if passengers were at any of the landings, for them to go out in a boat, the steamer stopping and taking them on board.
“I was contemplating my new flatboat, and wondering whether I could make it stronger or improve it in any particular, when two men came down to the shore 30 in carriages with trunks, and looking at the different boats singled out mine, and asked, ‘Who owns this?’ I answered, somewhat modestly, ‘I do.’ ‘Will you,’ said one of them, ‘take us and our trunks out to the steamer?’ ‘Certainly,’ said I. I was very glad to have the chance of earning something. I supposed that each of them would give me one or two or three bits. The trunks were put on my flatboat, the passengers seated themselves on the trunks, and I sculled them out to the steamboat.
“They got on board, and I lifted up their heavy trunks, and put them on deck. The steamer was about to put on steam again, when I called out that they had forgotten to pay me. Each of them took from his pocket a silver half-dollar, and threw it on the floor of my boat. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I picked up the money. Gentlemen, you may think it was a very little thing, and in these days it seems to me a trifle; but it was a most important incident in my life. I could scarcely credit, that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar. The world seemed wider and fairer before me. I was a more hopeful and confident being from that time.”
LINCOLN THE TALLEST OF THE “LONG NINE”
The Sangamon County delegation to the Illinois Legislature, in 1834, of which Lincoln was a member, consisting of nine representatives, was so remarkable for the physical latitude of its members that they were known as “The Long Nine.” Not a member of the number was less than six feet high, and Lincoln was 31 the tallest of the nine, as he was the leading man intellectually in and out of the House.
Among those who composed the House were Gen. John A. McClernand, afterwards a member of Congress; Jesse K. Dubois, afterwards Auditor of the State; James Semple, afterwards twice the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and subsequently United States Senator; Robert Smith, afterwards member of Congress; John Hogan, afterwards a member of Congress from St. Louis; Gen. James Shields, afterwards United States Senator (who died recently); John Dement, who has since been Treasurer of the State; Stephen A. Douglas, whose subsequent career is familiar to all; Newton Cloud, President of the Convention which framed the present State Constitution of Illinois; John J. Hardin, who fell at Buena Vista; John Moore, afterward Lieutenant-Governor of the State; William A. Richardson, subsequently united States Senator, and William McMurtry, who has since been Lieutenant-Governor of the State.
This list does not embrace all who had then, or who have since been distinguished, but it is large enough to show that Lincoln was, during the term of this Legislature, thrown into association and often into antagonism, with the brightest men of the new State.
HARK FROM THE TOMBS
“Fellow-citizens: My friend, Mr. Douglas, made the startling announcement to-day that the Whigs are all dead.
“If that be so, fellow citizens, you will now experience the novelty of hearing a speech from a dead man; 32 and I suppose you might properly say, in the language of the old hymn:
“ ‘Hark! From the tombs a doleful sound.’ ”
TRUSTED TILL THE “BRITCHEN” BROKE
In the campaign of 1852, Lincoln, in reply to Douglas’ speech, wherein he speaks of confidence in Providence, replied: “Let us stand by our candidate (General Scott) as faithfully as he has always stood by our country, and I much doubt if we do not perceive a slight abatement of Judge Douglas’s confidence in Providence as well as the people. I suspect that confidence is not more firmly fixed with the Judge than it was with the old woman whose horse ran away with her in a buggy. She said she ‘trusted in Providence till the britchen broke,’ and then she ‘didn’t know what in airth to do.’
“The chance is, the Judge will see the britchen broke, and then he can, at his leisure, bewail the fate of Locofocism as the victim of misplaced confidence.”
HE’D SEE IT AGAIN
About two years before Lincoln was nominated for the Presidency he went to Bloomington, Illinois, to try a case of some importance. His opponent — who afterward reached a high place in his profession — was a young man of ability, sensible but sensitive, and one to whom the loss of a case was a great blow. He therefore studied hard and made much preparation.
This particular case was submitted to the jury late 3 at night, and, although anticipating a favorable verdict, the young attorney spent a sleepless night in anxiety. Early next morning he learned, to his great chagrin, that he had lost the case.
Lincoln met him at the court-house some time after the jury had come in, and asked him what had become of his case.
With lugubrious countenance and in a melancholy tone the young man replied, “It’s gone to hell.”
“Oh, well,” replied Lincoln, “then you will see it again.”
BOAT HAD TO STOP
Lincoln never failed to take part in all political campaigns in Illinois, as his reputation as a speaker caused his services to be in great demand. As was natural, he was often the target at which many of the “Smart Alecks” of that period shot their feeble bolts, but Lincoln was so ready with his answers that few of them cared to engage him a second time.
In one campaign Lincoln was frequently annoyed by a young man who entertained the idea that he was a born orator. He had a loud voice, was full of language, and so conceited that he could not understand why the people did not recognize and appreciate his abilities.
This callow politician delighted in interrupting public speakers, and at last Lincoln determined to squelch him. One night while addressing a large meeting at Springfield, the fellow became so offensive that “Abe” dropped the threads of his speech and turned his attention to the tormentor.34
“I don’t object,” said Lincoln, “to being interrupted with sensible questions, but I must say that my boisterous friend does not always make inquires which properly come under that head. He says he is afflicted with headaches, at which I don’t wonder, as it is a well-known fact that nature abhors a vacuum, and takes her own way of demonstrating it.
“This noisy friend reminds me of a certain steamboat that used to run on the Illinois river. It was an energetic boat, was always busy. When they built it, however, they made one serious mistake, this error being in the relative sizes of the boiler and the whistle. The latter was usually busy, too, and people were aware that it was in existence.
“This particular boiler to which I have reference was a six-foot one, and did all that was required of it in the way of pushing the boat along; but as the builders of the vessel had made the whistle a six-foot one, the consequence was that every time the whistle blew the boat had to stop.”
LINCOLN’S NAME FOR “WEEPING WATER”
“I was speaking one time to Mr. Lincoln,” said Governor Saunders, of Nebraska, “of a little Nebraskan settlement on the Weeping Water, a stream in our State.”
“ ‘Weeping Water!’ said he.
“Then with a twinkle in his eye, he continued.
“ ‘I suppose the Indians out there call it Minneboo-hoo don’t they? They ought to, if Laughing Water is Minnehaha in their language.’ ”35
HE “SKEWED” THE LINE
When a surveyor, Mr. Lincoln first platted the town of Petersburg, Ill. Some twenty or thirty years afterward the property-owners along one of the outlying streets had trouble in fixing their boundaries. They consulted the official plat and got no relief. A committee was sent to Springfield to consult the distinguished surveyor, but he failed to recall anything that would give them aid, and could only refer them to the record. The dispute therefore went into the courts. While the trial was pending, an old Irishman named McGuire, who had worked for some farmer during the summer, returned to town for the winter. The case being mentioned in his presence, he promptly said: “I can tell you all about it. I helped carry the chain when Abe Lincoln laid out this town. Over there where they are quarreling about the lines, when he was locating the street, he straightened up from his instrument and said: ‘If I run that street right through, it will cut three or four feet off the end of ——’s house. It’s all he’s got in the world and he never could get another. I reckon it won’t hurt anything out here if I skew the line a little and miss him.’ ”
The line was “skewed,” and hence the trouble, and more testimony furnished as to Lincoln’s abounding kindness of heart.
DIGNIFYING THE STATUTE
Lincoln was married — he balked at the first date set for the ceremony and did not show up at all — November 4, 1842, under most happy auspices. The officiating clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Dresser, used the 36 Episcopal church service for marriage. Lincoln placed the ring upon the bride’s finger, and said, “With this ring I now thee wed, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.”
Judge Thomas C. Browne, who was present, exclaimed, “Good gracious, Lincoln! the statute fixes all that!”
“Oh, well,” drawled Lincoln, “I just thought I’d add a little dignity to the statute.”
“GET THERE, ELI”
Lincoln could be arbitrary when occasion required. This is the letter he wrote to one of the Department heads:
“You must make a job of it, and provide a place for the bearer of this, Elias Wampole. Make a job of it with the collector and have it done. You can do it for me, and you must.”
There was no delay in taking action in his matter. Mr. Wampole, or “Eli,” as he was thereafter known, “got there.”
“WEBSTER COULDN’T HAVE DONE MORE”
Lincoln “got even” with the Illinois Central Railroad Company, in 1855, in a most substantial way, and at the same time secured sweet revenge for an insult, unwarranted in every way, put upon him by one of the officials of that corporation.
Lincoln and Herndon defended the Illinois Central Railroad in an action brought by McLean County, Illinois, 37 in August, 1853, to recover taxes alleged to be due the county from the road. The Legislature had granted the road immunity from taxation, and this was a case intended to test the constitutionality of the law. The road sent a retainer fee of $250.
In the lower court the case was decided in favor of the railroad. An appeal to the Supreme Court followed, was argued twice, and finally decided in favor of the road. This last decision was rendered some time in 1855. Lincoln then went to Chicago and presented the bill for legal services. Lincoln and Herndon only asked for $2,000 more.
The official to whom he was referred, after looking at the bill, expressed great surprise.
“Why, sir,” he exclaimed, “this is as much as Daniel Webster himself would have charged. We cannot allow such a claim.”
“Why not?” asked Lincoln.
“We could have hired first-class lawyers at that figure,” was the response.
“We won the case, didn’t we?” queried Lincoln.
“Certainly,” replied the official.
“Daniel Webster, then,” retorted Lincoln in no amiable tone, “couldn’t have done more,” and “Abe” walked out of the official’s office.
Lincoln withdrew the bill, and started for home. On the way he stopped at Bloomington, where he met Grant Goodrich, Archibald Williams, Norman B. Judd, O. H. Browning, and other attorneys, who, on learning of his modest charge for the valuable services rendered the railroad, induced him to increase the demand to $5,000, and to bring suit for that sum.
This was done at once. On the trial six lawyers 38 certified that the bill was reasonable, and judgment for that sum went by default; the judgment was promptly paid, and, of course, his partner, Herndon, got “your half, Billy,” without delay.
“ABE” RECITES A SONG
Lincoln couldn’t sing, and he also lacked the faculty of musical adaptation. He had a liking for certain ballads and songs, and while he memorized and recited their lines, someone else did the singing. Lincoln often recited for the delectation of his friends, the following, the authorship of which is unknown:
The first factional fight in old Ireland, they say,
Was all on account of St. Patrick’s birthday;
It was somewhere about midnight without any doubt,
And certain it is, it made a great rout.
On the eighth day of March, as some people say,
St. Patrick at midnight he first saw the day;
While others assert ’twas the ninth he was born —
’Twas all a mistake — between midnight and morn.
Some blamed the baby, some blamed the clock;
Some blamed the doctor, some the crowing cock.
With all these close questions sure no one could know,
Whether the babe was too fast or the clock was too slow.
Some fought for the eighth, for the ninth some would die;
He who wouldn’t see right would have a black eye.
At length these two factions so positive grew,
They each had a birthday, and Pat he had two.
Till Father Mulcahay who showed them their sins,
He said none could have two birthdays but as twins.
“Now, boys, don’t be fighting for the eight or the nine;
Don’t quarrel so always, now why not combine.”
Combine eight with nine. It is the mark;
Let that be the birthday. Amen! said the clerk.
So all got blind drunk, which completed their bliss,
And they’ve kept up the practice from that day to this.
LINCOLN ASKED TO BE SHOT
Lincoln was, naturally enough, much surprised one day, when a man of rather forbidding countenance drew a revolver and thrust the weapon almost into his face. In such circumstances “Abe” at once concluded that any attempt at debate or argument was a waste of time and words.
“What seems to be the matter?” inquired Lincoln with all the calmness and self-possession he could muster.
“Well,” replied the stranger, who did not appear at all excited, “some years ago I swore an oath that if I ever came across an uglier man than myself I’d shoot him on the spot.”
A feeling of relief evidently took possession of Lincoln at this rejoinder, as the expression upon his countenance lost all suggestion of anxiety.
“Shoot me,” he said to the stranger; “for if I am an uglier man than you I don’t want to live.”
STRETCHED THE TRUTH
George B. Lincoln, a prominent merchant of Brooklyn, was traveling through the West in 1855-56, and found himself one night in a town on the Illinois River, by the name of Naples. The only tavern of the place had evidently been constructed with reference to business on a small scale. Poor as the prospect seemed, 40 Mr. Lincoln had no alternative but to put up at the place.
The supper-room was also used as a lodging-room. Mr. Lincoln told his host that he thought he would “go to bed.”
“Bed!” echoed the landlord. “There is no bed for you in this house unless you sleep with that man yonder. He has the only one we have to spare.”
“Well,” returned Mr. Lincoln, “the gentleman has possession, and perhaps would not like a bed-fellow.”
Upon this a grizzly head appeared out of the pillows, and said:
“What is your name?”
“They call me Lincoln at home,” was the reply.
“Lincoln!” repeated the stranger; “any connection of our Illinois Abraham?”
“No,” replied Mr. Lincoln. “I fear not.”
“Well,” said the old gentleman, “I will let any man by the name of ‘Lincoln’ sleep with me, just for the sake of the name. You have heard of Abe?” he inquired.
“Oh, yes, very often,” replied Mr. Lincoln. “No man could travel far in this State without hearing of him, and I would be very glad to claim connection if I could do so honestly.”
“Well,” said the old gentleman, “my name is Simmons. ‘Abe’ and I used to live and work together when young men. Many a job of wood-cutting and rail-splitting have I done up with him. Abe Lincoln was the likeliest boy in God’s world. He would work all day as hard as any of us — and study by firelight in the log-house half the night; and in this way he made himself a thorough, practical surveyor. Once, during 41 those days, I was in the upper part of the State, and I met General Ewing, whom President Jackson had sent to the Northwest to make surveys. I told him about Abe Lincoln, what a student he was, and that I wanted he should give him a job. He looked over his memorandum, and, holding out a paper, said:
“ ‘There is —— County must be surveyed; if your friend can do the work properly, I shall be glad to have him undertake it — the compensation will be six hundred dollars.’
“Pleased as I could be, I hastened to Abe, after I got home, with an account of what I had secured for him. He was sitting before the fire in the log-cabin when I told him; and what do you think was his answer? When I finished, he looked up very quietly, and said:
“ ‘Mr. Simmons, I thank you very sincerely for your kindness, but I don’t think I will undertake the job.’
“ ‘In the name of wonder,’ said I, ‘why? Six hundred does not grow upon every bush out here in Illinois.’
“ ‘I know that,’ said Abe, ‘and I need the money bad enough, Simmons, as you know; but I have never been under obligation to a Democratic Administration, and I never intend to be so long as I can get my living another way. General Ewing must find another man to do his work.’ ”
Mr. Carpenter related this story to the President one day, and asked him if it were true.
“Pollard Simmons!” said Lincoln. “Well do I remember him. It is correct about our working together, but the old man must have stretched the facts somewhat about the survey of the County. I think I 42 should have been very glad of the job at the time, no matter what Administration was in power.”
ABE IN THE PULLMAN
George M. Pullman, the great sleeping car builder, once told a joke in which Lincoln was the prominent figure. In fact, there wouldn’t have been any joke had it not been for “Long Abe.” At the time of the occurrence, which was the foundation for the joke — and Pullman admitted that the latter was on him — Pullman was the conductor of his only sleeping-car. The latter was an experiment, and Pullman was doing everything possible to get the railroads to take hold of it.
“One night,” said Pullman in telling the story, “as we were about going out of Chicago — this was long before Lincoln was what you might call a renowned man — a long, lean, ugly man, with a wart on his cheek, came into the depot. He paid me fifty cents, and half a berth was assigned him. Then he took off his coat and vest and hung them up, and they fitted the peg about as well as they fitted him. Then he kicked off his boots, which were of surprising length, turned into the berth, and, undoubtedly having an easy conscience, was sleeping like a healthy baby before the car left the depot.
“Pretty soon along came another passenger and paid his fifty cents. In two minutes he was back at me, angry as a wet hen.
“ ‘There’s a man in that berth of mine,’ said he, hotly, ‘and he’s about ten feet high. How am I going to sleep there, I’d like to know? Go and look at him.’
“In I went — mad, too. The tall, lank man’s knees 43 were under his chin, his arms were stretched across the bed and his feet were stored comfortably — for him. I shook him until he awoke, and then told him if he wanted the whole berth he would have to pay $1.
“ ‘My dear sir,’ said the tall man, ‘a contract is a contract. I have paid you fifty cents for half this berth, and, as you see, I’m occupying it. There’s the other half,’ pointing to a strip about six inches wide. ‘Sell that and don’t disturb me again.’
“And so saying, the man with a wart on his face went to sleep again. He was Abraham Lincoln, and he never grew any shorter afterward. We became great friends, and often laughed over the incident.”
TOOK PART OF THE BLAME
Among the lawyers who traveled the circuit with Lincoln was Usher F. Linder, whose daughter, Rose Linder Wilkinson, has left many Lincoln reminiscences.
“One case in which Mr. Lincoln was interested concerned a member of my own family,” said Mrs. Wilkinson. “My brother, Dan, in the heat of a quarrel, shot a young man named Ben Boyle and was arrested. My father was seriously ill with inflammatory rheumatism at the time, and could scarcely move hand or foot. He certainly could not defend Dan. I was his secretary, and I remember it was but a day or so after the shooting till letters of sympathy began to pour in. In the first bundle which I picked up there was a big letter, the handwriting on which I recognized as that of Mr. Lincoln. The letter was very sympathetic.
“ ‘I know how you feel, Linder,’ it said. ‘I can 44 understand your anger as a father, added to all the other sentiments. But may we not be in a measure to blame? We have talked about the defense of criminals before our children; about our success in defending them; have left the impression that the greater the crime, the greater the triumph of securing an acquittal. Dan knows your success as a criminal lawyer, and he depends on you, little knowing that of all cases you would be of least value in this.’
“He concluded by offering his services, an offer which touched my father to tears.
“Mr. Lincoln tried to have Dan released on bail, but Ben Boyle’s family and friends declared the wounded man would die, and feeling had grown so bitter that the judge would not grant any bail. So the case was changed to Marshall county, but as Ben finally recovered it was dismissed.”
NO HALF-WAY BUSINESS
Soon after Mr. Lincoln began to practice law at Springfield, he was engaged in a criminal case in which it was thought there was little chance of success. Throwing all his powers into it, he came off victorious, and promptly received for his services five hundred dollars. A legal friend, calling upon him the next morning, found him sitting before a table, upon which his money was spread out, counting it over and over.
“Look here, Judge,” said he. “See what a heap of money I’ve got from this case. Did you ever see anything like it? Why, I never had so much money in my life before, put it all together.” Then, crossing his arms upon the table, his manner sobering down, he 45 added: “I have got just five hundred dollars; if it were only seven hundred and fifty, I would go directly and purchase a quarter section of land, and settle it upon my old step-mother.”
His friend said that if the deficiency was all he needed, he would loan him the amount, taking his note, to which Mr. Lincoln instantly acceded.
His friend then said:
“Lincoln, I would do just what you have indicated. Your step-mother is getting old, and will not probably live many years. I would settle the property upon her for her use during her lifetime, to revert to you upon her death.”
With much feeling, Mr. Lincoln replied:
“I shall do no such thing. It is a poor return at best for all the good woman’s devotion and fidelity to me, and there is not going to be any halfway business about it.” And so saying, he gathered up his money and proceeded forthwith to carry his long-cherished purpose into execution.
“FIND OUT FOR YOURSELVES”
“Several of us lawyers,” remarked one of his colleagues, “in the eastern end of the circuit, annoyed Lincoln once while he was holding court for Davis by attempting to defend against a note to which there were many makers. We had no legal, but a good moral defense, but what we wanted most of all was to stave it off till the next term of court by one expedient or another.
“We bothered ‘the court’ about it till late on Saturday, the day of adjournment. He adjourned for supper 46 with nothing left but this case to dispose of. After supper he heard our twaddle for nearly an hour, and then made this odd entry.
“ ‘L. D. Chaddon vs. J. D. Beasley et al. April Term, 1856 Champaign County Court. Plea in abatement by B. Z. Green, a defendant not served, filed Saturday at 11 o’clock a. m., April 24, 1856, stricken from the files by order of court. Demurrer to declaration, if there ever was one, overruled. Defendants who are served now, at 8 o’clock p. m., of the last day of the term, ask to plead to the merits, which is denied by the court on the ground that the offer comes too late, and therefore, as by nil dicet, judgment is rendered for Pl’ff. Clerk assess damages. A. Lincoln, Judge pro tem.’
“The lawyer who reads his singular entry will appreciate its oddity if no one else does. After making it, one of the lawyers, on recovering from his astonishment, ventured to enquire: ‘Well, Lincoln, how can we get this case up again?’
“Lincoln eyed him quizzically for a moment, and then answered, ‘You have all been so mighty smart about this case, you find out how to take it up again yourselves.’ ”
Lincoln believed in preventing unnecessary litigation, and carried out this in his practice. “Who was your guardian?” he asked a young man who came to him to complain that a part of the property left him had been withheld. “Enoch Kingsbury,” replied the young man. 47
“I know Mr. Kingsbury,” said Lincoln, “and he is not the man to have cheated you out of a cent, and I can’t take the case, and advise you to drop the subject.”
And it was dropped.
HIS FINANCIAL STANDING
A New York firm applied to Abraham Lincoln, some years before he became President, for information as to the financial standing of one of his neighbors. Mr. Lincoln replied:
“I am well acquainted with Mr. ——, and know his circumstances. First of all, he has a wife and baby; together they ought to be worth $50,000 to any man. Secondly, he has an office in which there is a table worth $1.50 and three chairs worth, say $1. Last of all, there is in one corner a large rat hole, which will bear looking into. Respectfully, A. Lincoln.”
THE DANDY AND THE BOYS
President Lincoln appointed as consul to a South American country a young man from Ohio who was a dandy. A wag met the new appointee on his way to the White House to thank the President. He was dressed in the most extravagant style. The wag horrified him by telling him that the country to which he was assigned was noted chiefly for the bugs that abounded there and made life unbearable.
“They’ll bore a hole clean through you before a week has passed,” was the comforting assurance of the wag as they parted at the White House steps. The new consul approached Lincoln with disappointment 48 clearly written all over his face. Instead of joyously thanking the President, he told him the wag’s story of the bugs. “I am informed, Mr. President,” he said, “that the place is full of vermin and that they could eat me up in a week’s time.” “Well, young man,” replied Lincoln, “if that’s true, all I’ve got to say is that if such a thing happened they would leave a mighty good suit of clothes behind.”
LINCOLN AS A DANCER
Lincoln made his first appearance in society when he was first sent to Springfield, Ill., as a member of the State Legislature. It was not an imposing figure which he cut in a ballroom, but still he was occasionally to be found there. Miss Mary Todd, who afterward became his wife, was the magnet which drew the tall, awkward young man from his den. One evening Lincoln approached Miss Todd, and said, in his peculiar idiom:
“Miss Todd, I should like to dance with you the worst way.”
After they danced, one of her companions asked mischievously:
“Well, Mary, did he dance with you the worst way?”
“Yes,” she answered, “the very worst.”
“RATHER STARVE THAN SWINDLE”
Ward Lamon, once Lincoln’s law partner, relates a story which places Lincoln’s high sense of honor in a prominent light. In a certain case, Lincoln and 49 Lamon being retained by a gentleman named Scott, Lamon put the fee at $250, and Scott agreed to pay it. Says Lamon:
“Scott expected a contest, but, to his surprise, the case was tried inside of twenty minutes; our success was complete. Scott was satisfied, and cheerfully paid over the money to me inside the bar, Lincoln looking on. Scott then went out, and Lincoln asked, ‘What did you charge that man?’
“I told him $250. Said he: ‘Lamon, that is all wrong. The service was not worth that sum. Give him back at least half of it.’
“I protested that the fee was fixed in advance; that Scott was perfectly satisfied, and had so expressed himself. ‘That may be,’ retorted Lincoln, with a look of distress and of undisguised displeasure, ‘but I am not satisfied. This is positively wrong. Go, call him back and return half the money at least, or I will not receive one cent of it for my share.’
“I did go, and Scott was astonished when I handed back half the fee.
“This conversation had attracted the attention of the lawyers and the court. Judge David Davis, then on our circuit bench (afterwards Associate Justice on the United States Supreme bench), called Lincoln to him. The judge never could whisper, but in this instance he probably did his best. At all events, in attempting to whisper to Lincoln he trumpeted his rebuke in about these words, and in rasping tones that could be heard all over the court-room: ‘Lincoln, I have been watching you and Lamon. You are impoverishing this bar by your picayune charges of fees, and the lawyers have reason to complain of you. 50 You are now almost as poor as Lazarus, and if you don’t make people pay you more for your services you will die as poor as Job’s turkey!’
“Judge O. L. Davis, the leading lawyer in that part of the state, promptly applauded this malediction from the bench; but Lincoln was immovable.
“ ‘That money,’ said he, ‘comes out of the pocket of a poor, demented girl, and I would rather starve than swindle her in this manner.’ ”