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From Wit & Humor Of Abraham Lincoln, Gathered from Authentic Sources by Carleton B., Case, Chicago: Shrewesbury Publishing Co., 1916; pp. 50-99.

By Carleton B. Case

Part II.




“Abe’s” nephew — or one of them — related a story in connection with Lincoln’s first love (Anne Rutledge), and his subsequent marriage to Miss Mary Todd. This nephew was a plain, every-day farmer, and thought everything of his uncle, whose greatness he quite thoroughly appreciated, although he did not pose to any extreme as the relative of a President of the United States.

Said he one day, in telling his story:

“Us child’en, w’en we heerd Uncle ‘Abe’ was a-goin’ to be married, axed Gran’ma ef Uncle ‘Abe’ ever hed hed a gal afore, an’ she says, sez she, ‘Well, “Abe” wuz never a han’ nohow to run ’round visitin’ much, or go with the gals, neither, but he did fall in love with a Anne Rutledge, who lived out near Springfield, an’ after she died he’d come home an’ ev’ry time he’d talk ’bout her, he cried dreadful. He never could talk of her nohow ’thout he’d jes’ cry an’ cry, like a young feller.’

“Onct he tol’ Gran’ma they wuz goin’ ter be hitched, they havin’ promised each other, an’ thet is 51 all we ever heered ’bout it. But, so it wuz, that arter Uncle ‘Abe’ hed got over his mournin’, he wuz married ter a woman w’ich hed lived down in Kentuck.

“Uncle ‘Abe’ hisself tol’ us he wuz married the nex’ time he come up ter our place, an’ w’en we ast him why he didn’t bring his wife up to see us, he said: ‘She’s very busy and can’t come.’

“But we knowed better’n that. He wuz too proud to bring her up, ’cause nothin’ would suit her, nohow. She wuzn’t raised the way we wuz, an’ wuz different from us, and we heerd, tu, she wuz as proud as cud be.

“No, an’ he never brought none uv the child’en, neither.

“But then, Uncle ‘Abe,’ he wuzn’t to blame. We never thought he wuz stuck up.”



When Mr. Lincoln was a candidate for the Legislature, it was the practice at that date in Illinois for two rival candidates to travel over the district together. The custom led to much good-natured raillery between them; and in such contests Lincoln was rarely, if ever, worsted. He could even turn the generosity of a rival to account by his whimsical treatment.

On one occasion, says Mr. Weir, a former resident of Sangamon county, he had driven out from Springfield in company with a political opponent to engage in joint debate. The carriage, it seems, belonged to his opponent. In addressing the gathering of farmers that met them, Lincoln was lavish in praise of the generosity of his friend.

“I am too poor to own a carriage,” he said, “but 52 my friend has generously invited me to ride with him. I want you to vote for me if you will; but if not then vote for my opponent, for he is a fine man.”

His extravagant and persistent praise of his opponent appealed to the sense of humor in his rural audience, to whom his inability to town a carriage was by no means a disqualification.



Lincoln’s great love for children easily won their confidence.

A little girl, who had been told that the President was very homely, was taken by her father to see the President at the White House.

Lincoln took her upon his knee and chatted with her for a moment in his merry way, when she turned to her father and exclaimed:

“Oh, Pa! he isn’t ugly at all; he’s just beautiful!”



Whenever the people of Lincoln’s neighborhood engaged in dispute; whenever a bet was to be decided; when they differed on points of religion or politics; when they wanted to get out of trouble, or desired advice regarding anything on the earth, below it, above it, or under the sea, they went to “Abe.”

Two fellows, after a hot dispute lasting some hours, over the problem as to how long a man’s legs should be in proportion to the size of his body, stamped into Lincoln’s office one day and put the question to him.

Lincoln listened gravely to the arguments advanced 53 by both contestants, spent some time in “reflecting” upon the matter, and then, turning around in his chair and facing the disputants, delivered his opinion with all the gravity of a judge sentencing a fellow-being to death.

“This question has been a source of controversy,” he said, slowly and deliberately, “for untold ages, and it is about time it should be definitely decided. It has led to bloodshed in the past, and there is no reason to suppose it will not lead to the same in the future.

“After much thought and consideration, not to mention mental worry and anxiety, it is my opinion, all side issues being swept aside, that a man’s lower limbs, in order to preserve harmony of proportion, should be at least long enough to reach from his body to the ground.”



Lincoln was appointed postmaster at New Salem by President Jackson. The office was given him because everybody liked him, and because he was the only man willing to take it who could make out the returns. Lincoln was pleased, because it gave him a chance to read every newspaper taken in the vicinity. He had never been able to get half the newspapers he wanted before.

Years after the postoffice had been discontinued and Lincoln had become a practicing lawyer at Springfield, an agent of the Postoffice Department entered his office and inquired if Abraham Lincoln was within. Lincoln responded to his name, and was informed that the agent had called to collect the balance due the Department 54 since the discontinuance of the New Salem office.

A shade of perplexity passed over Lincoln’s face, which did not escape the notice of friends present. One of them said at once:

“Lincoln, if you are in want of money, let us help you.”

He made no reply, but suddenly rose, and pulled out from a pile of books a little old trunk, and, returning to the table, asked the agent how much the amount of the debt was.

The sum was named, and then Lincoln opened the trunk, pulled out a little package of coin wrapped in a cotton rag, and counted out the exact sum, amounting to more than seventeen dollars.

After the agent had left the room, he remarked quietly that he had never used any man’s money but his own. Although this sum had been in his hands during all those years, he had never regarded it as available, even for any temporary use of his own.



Lincoln was once associate counsel for a defendant in a murder case. He listened to the testimony given by witness after witness against his client, until his honest heart could stand it no longer; then, turning to his associate, he said: “The man is guilty; you defend him — I can’t,” and when his associate secured a verdict of acquittal, Lincoln refused to share the fee to the extent of one cent.

Lincoln would never advise clients to enter into unwise or unjust lawsuits, always preferring to refuse 55 a retainer rather than be a party to a case which did not commend itself to his sense of justice.



“Abe” Lincoln’s father was never at loss for an answer. An old neighbor of Thomas Lincoln — “Abe’s” father — was passing the Lincoln farm one day, when he saw “Abe’s” father grubbing up some hazelnut bushes, and said to him: “Why, Grandpap, I thought you wanted to sell your farm?”

“And so I do,” he replied, “but I ain’t goin’ to let my farm know it.”

“ ‘Abe’s’ jes’ like his father,” the old ones would say.



During the year Lincoln was in Denton Offutt’s store at New Salem, that gentleman, whose business was somewhat widely and unwisely spread about the country, ceased to prosper in his finances and finally failed. The store was shut up, the mill was closed, and Abraham Lincoln was out of business.

The year had been one of great advance, in many respects. He had made new and valuable acquaintances, read many books, mastered the grammar of his own tongue, won multitudes of friends, and became ready for a step still further in advance.

Those who could appreciate brains respected him, and those whose ideas of a man related to his muscles were devoted to him. It was while he was performing the work of the store that he acquired the sobriquet 56 of “Honest Abe” — a characterization he never dishonored, and an abbreviation that he never outgrew.

He was judge, arbitrator, referee, umpire, authority, in all disputes, games and matches of man-flesh, horseflesh, a pacificator in all quarrels; everybody’s friend; the best-natured, the most sensible, the best-informed, the most modest and unassuming, the kindest, gentlest, roughest, strongest, best fellow in all New Salem and the region round about.



If all the days Lincoln attended school were added together, they would not make a single year’s time, and he never studied grammar or geography or any of the higher branches. His first teacher in Indiana was Hazel Dorsey, who opened a school in a log schoolhouse a mile an a half from the Lincoln cabin. The building had holes for windows, which were covered over with greased paper to admit light. The roof was just high enough for a man to stand erect. It did not take long to demonstrate that “Abe” was superior to any scholar in his class. His next teacher was Andrew Crawford, who taught in the winter of 1822-3, in the same little schoolhouse. “Abe” was an excellent speller, and it is said that he liked to show off his knowledge, especially if he could help out his less fortunate schoolmates. One day the teacher gave out the word “defied.” A large class was on the floor, but it seemed that no one would be able to spell it. The teacher declared he would keep the whole class in all day and night if “defied” was not spelled correctly.


When the word came around to Katy Roby, she was standing where she could see young “Abe.” She started, “d-e-f,” and while trying to decide whether to spell the word with an “i” or a “y,” she noticed that Abe had his finger on his eye and a smile on his face, and instantly took the hint. She spelled the word correctly and school was dismissed.



When Mr. Lincoln was quite a small boy he met with an accident that almost cost him his life. He was saved by Austin Gollaher, a young playmate. Mr. Gollaher lived to be more than ninety years of age, and to the day of his death related with great pride his boyhood association with Lincoln.

“Yes,” Mr. Gollaher once said, “the story that I once saved Abraham Lincoln’s life is true. He and I had been going to school together for a year or more, and had become greatly attached to each other. Then school disbanded on account of there being so few scholars, and we did not see each other much for a long while.

“One Sunday my mother visited the Lincolns, and I was taken along. ‘Abe’ and I played around all day. Finally, we concluded to cross the creek to hunt for some partridges young Lincoln had seen the day before. The creek was swollen by a recent rain, and, in crossing on the narrow footlog, ‘Abe’ fell in. Neither of us could swim. I got a long pole and held it out to ‘Abe,’ who grabbed it. Then I pulled him ashore.

“He was almost dead, and I was badly scared. I 58 rolled and pounded him in good earnest. Then I got him by the arms and shook him, the water meanwhile pouring out of his mouth. By this means I succeeded in bringing him to, and he was soon all right.

“Then a new difficulty confronted us. If our mothers discovered our wet clothes they would whip us. This we dreaded from experience, and determined to avoid. It was June, the sun was very warm, and we soon dried our clothing by spreading it on the rocks about us. We promised never to tell the story, and I never did until after Lincoln’s tragic end.”



Lincoln admitted that he was not particularly energetic when it came to real hard work.

“My father,” said he one day, “taught me how to work, but not to love it. I never did like to work, and I don’t deny it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh — anything but work.”



There was a “social” at Lincoln’s house in Springfield, and “Abe” introduced his wife to Ward Lamon, his law partner. Lamon tells the story in these words:

“After introducing me to Mrs. Lincoln, he left us in conversation. I remarked to her that her husband was a great favorite in the eastern part of the State, where I had been stopping.

“ ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘he is a great favorite everywhere. He is to be President of the United States 59 some day; if I had not thought so I never would have married him, for you see he is not pretty.

“ ‘But look at him, doesn’t he look as if he would make a magnificent President?’ ”



A certain rich man in Springfield, Illinois, sued a poor attorney for $2.50, and Lincoln was asked to prosecute the case. Lincoln urged the creditor to let the matter drop, adding, “You can make nothing out of him, and it will cost you a good deal more than the debt to bring suit.” The creditor was still determined to have his way, and threatened to seek some other attorney. Lincoln then said, “Well, if you are determined that suit should be brought, I will bring it, but my charge will be $10.”

The money was paid him, and peremptory orders were given that the suit be brought that day. After the client’s departure Lincoln went out of the office, returning in about an hour with an amused look on his face. Asked what pleased him, he replied, “I brought suit against ——, and then hunted him up, told him what I had done, handed him half of the $10, and we went over to the squire’s office. He confessed judgment and paid the bill.”

Lincoln added that he didn’t see any other way to make things satisfactory for his client as well as the other.



Judge H. W. Beckwith, of Danville, Ill., in his “Personal Recollections of Lincoln,” tells a story 60 which is a good example of Lincoln’s way of condensing the law and the facts of an issue in a story: “A man, by vile words, first provoked and then made a bodily attack upon another. The latter, in defending himself, gave the other much the worse of the encounter. The aggressor, to get even, had the one who thrashed him tried in our Circuit Court on a charge of an assault and battery. Mr. Lincoln defended, and told the jury that his client was in the fix of a man who, in going along the highway with a pitchfork on his shoulder, was attacked by a fierce dog that ran out at him from a farmer’s dooryard. In parrying off the brute with his fork, its prongs stuck into the brute and killed him.

“ ‘What made you kill my dog?’ said the farmer.

“ ‘What made him try to bite me?’

“ ‘But why did you not go at him with the other end of the pitchfork?’

“ ‘Why did he not come after me with his other end?’

“At this Mr. Lincoln whirled about in his long arms an imaginary dog, and pushed its tail end toward the jury. This was the defensive plea of ‘son assault demesne’ — loosely, that ‘the other fellow brought on the fight,’ — quickly told, and in a way the dullest mind would grasp and retain.”



When Attorney-General Bates was remonstrating apparently against the appointment of some indifferent lawyer to a place of judicial importance, the President interposed with: “Come now, Bates, he’s not 61 half as bad as you think. Besides that, I must tell you, he did me a good turn long ago. When I took to the law, I was going to court one morning, with some ten or twelve miles of bad road before me, and I had no horse.

“The Judge overtook me in his carriage.

“ ‘Hallo, Lincoln! are you not going to the courthouse? Come in and I will give you a seat!’

“Well, I got in, and the Judge went on reading his papers. Presently the carriage struck a stump on one side of the road, then it hopped off to the other. I looked out, and I saw the driver was jerking from side to side in his seat, so I says:

“ ‘Judge, I think your coachmen has been taking a little too much this morning.’

“ ‘Well, I declare, Lincoln,” said he, ‘I should not much wonder if you were right, for he has nearly upset me half a dozen times since starting.’

“So, putting his head out of the window, he shouted, ‘Why, you infernal scoundrel, you are drunk!’

“Upon which, pulling up his horses, and turning round with great gravity, the coachman said:

“ ‘Begorra! that’s the last rightful decision that you have given for the last twelvemonth.’ ”

While the company were laughing, the President beat a quiet retreat from the neighborhood.



An amusing incident occurred in connection with “riding the circuit,” which gives a pleasant glimpse into the good lawyer’s heart. He was riding by a deep 62 slough, in which, to his exceeding pain, he saw a pig struggling, and with such faint efforts that it was evident that he could not extricate himself from the mud. Mr. Lincoln looked at the pig and the mud which enveloped him, and then looked at some new clothes with which he had but a short time before enveloped himself. Deciding against the claims of the pig, he rode on, but he could not get rid of the vision of the poor brute, and, at last, after riding two miles, he turned back, determined to rescue the animal at the expense of his new clothes. Arrived at the spot, he tied his horse, and coolly went to work to build of old rails a passage to the bottom of the hole. Descending on these rails, he seized the pig and dragged him out, but not without serious damage to the clothes he wore. Washing his hands in the nearest brook, and wiping them on the grass, he mounted his gig and rode along. He then fell to examining the motive that sent him back to the release of the pig. At the first thought it seemed to be pure benevolence, but, at length, he came to the conclusion that it was selfishness, for he certainly went to the pig’s relief in order (as he said to the friend to whom he related the incident), “to take a pain out of his own mind.” This is certainly a new view of the nature sympathy; and one which it will be well for the casuist to examine.



Once, when Lincoln was pleading a case, the opposing lawyer had all the advantage of the law; the weather was warm, and his opponent, as was admissible 63 in frontier courts, pulled off his coat and vest as he grew warm in the argument.

At that time, shirts with buttons behind were unusual. Lincoln took in the situation at once. Knowing the prejudices of the primitive people against pretension of all sorts, or any affectation of superior social rank, arising, he said: “Gentlemen of the jury, having justice on my side, I don’t think you will be at all influenced by the gentleman’s pretended knowledge of the law, when you see he does not even know which side of his shirt should be in front.” There was a general laugh, and Lincoln’s case was won.



Lincoln was one of the attorneys in a case of considerable importance, court being held in a very small and dilapidated schoolhouse out in the country; Lincoln was compelled to stoop very much in order to enter the door, and the seats were so low that he doubled up his legs like a jackknife.

Lincoln was obliged to sit upon a school bench, and just in front of him was another, making the distance between him and the seat in front of him very narrow and uncomfortable.

His position was almost unbearable, and in order to carry out his preference which he secured as often as possible, and that was “to sit as near to the jury as convenient,” he took advantage of his discomfort and finally said to the Judge on the “bench”:

“Your Honor, with your permission, I’ll sit up nearer to the gentlemen of the jury, for it hurts my 64 legs less to rub my calves against the bench than it does to skin my shins.”



When Mr. Lincoln had prepared his brief letter accepting the Presidential nomination he took it to Dr. Newton Bateman, the State Superintendent of Education.

“Mr. Schoolmaster,” he said, “here is my letter of acceptance. I am not very strong on grammar and I wish you to see if it is all right. I wouldn’t like to have any mistakes in it.”

The doctor took the letter and after reading it, said:

“There is only one change I should suggest, Mr. Lincoln, you have written ‘It shall be my care to not violate or disregard it in any part,’ you should have written ‘not to violate.’ Never split an infinitive, is the rule.”

Mr. Lincoln took the manuscript, regarding it a moment with a puzzled air, “So you think I better put those two little fellows end to end, do you?” he said as he made the change.



Between the first election and inauguration of Mr. Lincoln the disunion sentiment grew rapidly in the South, and President Buchanan’s failure to stop the open acts of secession grieved Mr. Lincoln sorely. Mr. Lincoln had a long talk with his friend, Judge Gillespie, over the state of affairs. One incident of the conversation is thus narrated by the Judge:


“When I retired, it was the master of the house and chosen ruler of the country who saw me to my room. ‘Joe,’ he said, as he was about to leave me, ‘I am reminded and I suppose you will never forget that trial down in Montgomery county, where the lawyer associated with you gave away the whole case in his opening speech. I saw you signaling to him, but you couldn’t stop him.

“ ‘Now, that’s just the way with me and Buchanan. He is giving away the case, and I have nothing to say, and can’t stop him. Good-night.”



Mr. Leonard Volk, the artist, relates that, being in Springfield when Lincoln’s nomination for President was announced, he called upon Mr. Lincoln, whom he found looking smiling and happy. “I exclaimed, ‘I am the first man from Chicago, I believe, who has had the honor of congratulating you on your nomination for President.’ Then those two great hands took both of mine with a grasp never to be forgotten, and while shaking, I said, ‘Now that you will doubtless be the President of the United states, I want to make a statue of you, and shall try my best to do you justice.’

“Said he, ‘I don’t doubt it, for I have come to the conclusion that you are an honest man,’ and with that greeting, I thought my hands in a fair way of being crushed.

“On the Sunday following, by agreement, I called to make a cast of Mr. Lincoln’s hands. I asked him to hold something in his hands, and told him a stick would do. Thereupon he went to the woodshed, and I heard 66 the saw go, and he soon returned to the dining-room, whittling off the end of a piece of broom handle. I remarked to him that he need not whittle off the edges. ‘Oh, well,’ said he, ‘I thought I would like to have it nice.’ ”



The opening of the year 1860 found Mr. Lincoln’s name freely mentioned in connection with the Republican nomination for the Presidency. To be classed with Seward, Chase, McLean, and other celebrities was enough to stimulate any Illinois lawyer’s pride; but in Mr. Lincoln’s case, if it had any such effect, he was most artful in concealing it. Now and then, some ardent friend, an editor, for example, would run his name up to the masthead, but in all cases he discouraged the attempt.

“In regard to the matter you spoke of,” he answered one man who proposed his name, “I beg you will not give it a further mention. Seriously, I do not think I am fit for the Presidency.”



Tall Judge Kelly, of Pennsylvania, who was one of the committee to inform Mr. Lincoln of his nomination at Chicago Convention, had been eyeing Mr. Lincoln’s lofty form with a mixture of admiration, and very likely jealousy. This had not escaped Mr. Lincoln, and as he shook hands with the Judge he inquired: “What is your height?” “Six foot three; what is yours, Mr. Lincoln?” “Six foot four.” 67 “Then,” said the Judge, “Pennsylvania bows to Illinois. My dear sir, for years my heart has been aching for a President that I could look up to, and I’ve found him at last in the land where we thought there were none but little giants.”



At the time of Lincoln’s nomination, at Chicago, Mr. Newton Bateman, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Illinois, occupied a room adjoining and opening into the Executive Chamber at Springfield. Frequently this door was open during Mr. Lincoln’s receptions, and throughout the seven months or more of his occupation he saw him nearly every day. Often, when Mr. Lincoln was tired, he closed the door against all intruders, and called Mr. Bateman into his room for a quiet talk. On one of these occasions, Mr. Lincoln took up a book containing a canvass of the city of Springfield, in which he lived, showing the candidate for whom each citizen had declared it his intention to vote in the approaching election. Mr. Lincoln’s friends had, doubtless at his own request, placed the result of the canvass in his hands. This was towards the close of October, and only a few days before election. Calling Mr. Bateman to a seat by his side, having previously locked all the doors, he said:

“Let us look over this book; I wish particularly to see how the ministers of Springfield are going to vote.”

The leaves were turned, one by one, and as the names were examined Mr. Lincoln frequently asked if this one and that one was not a minister, or an elder, or a member of such and such a church, and sadly expressed 68 his surprise on receiving an affirmative answer. In that manner he went through the book, and then he closed it, and sat silently for some minutes regarding a memorandum in pencil which lay before him. At length he turned to Mr. Bateman, with a face full of sadness, and said:

“Here are twenty-three ministers of different denominations, and all of them are against me but three, and here are a great many prominent members of churches, a very large majority are against me. Mr. Bateman, I am not a Christian — God knows I would be one — but I have carefully read the Bible, and I do not so understand this book,” and he drew forth a pocket New Testament.

“These men well know,” he continued, “that I am for freedom in the Territories, freedom everywhere, as free as the Constitution and the laws will permit, and that my opponents are for slavery. They know this, and yet, with this book in their hands, in the light of which human bondage cannot live a moment, they are going to vote against me; I do not understand it at all.”

Here Mr. Lincoln paused — paused for long minutes, his features surcharged with emotion. Then he rose and walked up and down the reception-room in the effort to retain or regain his self-possession. Stopping at last, he said, with a trembling voice and cheeks wet with tears:

“I know there is a God, and that He hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that His hand is in it. If He has a place and work for me, and I think He has, I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but Truth is everything. I know I am right, 69 because I know that liberty is right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God. I have told them that a house divided against itself cannot stand; and Christ and Reason say the same, and they will find it so.

“Douglas doesn’t care whether slavery is voted up or down, but God cares, and humanity cares, and I care; and with God’s help I shall not fail. I may not see the end, but it will come, and I shall be vindicated; and these men will find they have not read their Bible right.”

Much of this was uttered as if he was speaking to himself, and with a sad, earnest solemnity of manner impossible to be described. After a pause he resumed:

“Doesn’t it seem strange that men can ignore the moral aspect of this contest? No revelation could make it plainer to me that slavery or the Government must be destroyed. The future would be something awful, as I look at it, but for this rock on which I stand,” (alluding to the Testament which he still held in his hand), “especially with the knowledge of how these ministers are going to vote. It seems as if God had borne with this thing (slavery) until the teachers of religion have come to defend it from the Bible, and to claim for it a divine character and sanction; and now the cup of iniquity is full, and the vials of wrath will be poured out.”

Everything he said was of a peculiarly deep, tender, and religious tone, and all was tinged with a touching melancholy. He repeatedly referred to his conviction that the day of wrath was at hand, and that he was to be an actor in the terrible struggle which would issue 70 in the overthrow of slavery, although he might not live to see the end.

After further reference to a belief in the Divine Providence and the fact of God in history, the conversation turned upon prayer. He freely stated his belief in the duty, privilege, and efficacy of prayer, and intimated, in no unmistakable terms, that he had sought in that way Divine guidance and favor. The effect of his conversation upon the mind of Mr. Bateman, a Christian gentleman whom Mr. Lincoln profoundly respected, was to convince him that Mr. Lincoln had, in a quiet way, found a path to the Christian standpoint — that he had found God, and rested on the eternal truth of God. As the two men were about to separate, Mr. Bateman remarked:

“I have not supposed that you were accustomed to think so much upon this class of subjects; certainly your friends generally are ignorant of the sentiments you have expressed to me.”

He replied quickly: “I know they are, but I think more on these subjects than upon all others, and I have done so for years; and I am willing you should know it.”



Lincoln’s reply to a Springfield (Illinois) clergyman, who asked him what was to be his policy on the slavery question was most apt:

“Well, your question is rather a cool one, but I will answer it by telling you a story:

“You know Father B., the old Methodist preacher? and you know Fox River and its freshets?


“Well, once in the presence of Father B., a young Methodist was worrying about Fox River, and expressing fears that he should be prevented from fulfilling some of his appointments by a freshet in the river.

“Father B. checked him in the gravest manner. Said he:

“ ‘Young man, I have always made it a rule in my life not to cross Fox River until I get to it.’

“And,” said the President, “I am not going to worry myself over the slavery question till I get to it.”

A few days afterward a Methodist minister called on the President, and on being presented to him, said, simply:

“Mr. President, I have come to tell you that I think we have got to Fox River!”

Lincoln thanked the clergyman, and laughed heartily.



Mr. Roland Diller, who was one of Mr. Lincoln’s neighbors in Springfield, tells the following:

“I was called to the door one day by the cries of children in the street, and there was Mr. Lincoln, striding by with two of his boys, both of whom were wailing aloud. ‘Why, Mr. Lincoln, what’s the matter with the boys?’ I asked.

“Just what’s the matter with the whole world,” Lincoln replied. ‘I’ve got three walnuts, and each wants two.’ ”



Speed, who was a prosperous young merchant of Springfield, reports that Lincoln’s personal effects consisted 72 of a pair of saddle-bags, containing two or three lawbooks, and a few pieces of clothing. Riding on a borrowed horse, he thus made his appearance in Springfield. When he discovered that a single bedstead would cost seventeen dollars he said, “It is probably cheap enough, but I have not enough money to pay for it. When Speed offered to trust him, he said: “If I fail here as a lawyer, I will probably never pay you at all.” Then Speed offered to share a large double bed with him.

“Where is your room?” Lincoln asked.

“Upstairs,” said Speed, pointing from the store leading to his room. Without saying a word, he took his saddle-bags on his arms, went upstairs, set them down on the floor, came down again, and with a face beaming with pleasure and smiles, exclaimed: “Well, Speed, I’m moved.”



President Lincoln, while entertaining a few friends, is said to have related the following anecdote of a man who knew too much:

During the administration of President Jackson there was a singular young gentleman employed in the Public Postoffice in Washington.

His name was G.; he was from Tennessee, the son of a widow, a neighbor of the President, on which account the old hero had a kind feeling for him, and always got him out of difficulties with some of the higher officials, to whom his singular interference was distasteful.

Among other things, it is said of him that while employed 73 in the General Postoffice, on one occasion he had to copy a letter to Major H., a high official, in answer to an application made by an old gentleman in Virginia or Pennsylvania, for the establishment of a new postoffice.

The writer of the letter said the application could not be granted, in consequence of the applicant’s “proximity” to another office.

When the letter came into G.’s hand to copy, being a great stickler for plainness, he altered “proximity” to “nearness to.”

Major H. observed it, and asked G. why he altered his letter.

“Why,” replied G., “because I don’t think the man would understand what you mean by proximity.”

“Well,” said Major H., “try him; put in the ‘proximity’ again.”

In a few days a letter was received from the applicant, in which he very indignantly said that his father had fought for liberty in the second war for independence, and he should like to have the name of the scoundrel who brought the charge of proximity or anything else wrong against him.

“There,” said G., “did I not say so?”

G. carried his improvements so far that Mr. Berry, the Postmaster-General, said to him: “I don’t want you any longer; you know too much.”

Poor G. went out, but his old friend got him another place.

This time G.’s ideas underwent a change. He was one day very busy writing, when a stranger called in and asked him where the Patent Office was.

“I don’t know,” said G.


“Can you tell me where the Treasury Department is?” said the stranger.

“No,” said G.

“Nor the President’s house?”


The stranger finally asked him if he knew where the Capitol was.

“No,” replied G.

“Do you live in Washington, sir?”

“Yes, sir,” said G.

“Good Lord! and don’t you know where the Patent Office, Treasury, President’s House and Capitol are?”

“Stranger,” said G., “I was turned out of the postoffice for knowing too much. I don’t mean to offend in that way again.”

“I am paid for keeping this book.

“I believe I know that much; but if you find me knowing anything more you may take my head.”

“Good morning,” said the stranger.



Lincoln loved anything that savored of wit or humor among the soldiers in their deprivations and sufferings. He used to relate these two stories often to show, he said, that neither death nor danger could quench the grim humor of the American soldier:

“A soldier of the Army of the Potomac was being carried to the rear of battle with both legs shot off, who, seeing a pie-woman hovering about, asked, ‘Say, old lady, are them pies sewed or pegged?’

“And there was another one of the soldiers at the battle of Chancellorsville, whose regiment, waiting to 75 be called into the fight, was taking coffee. The hero of the story put to his lips a crockery mug which he had carried, with infinite care, through several campaigns. A stray bullet, just missing the drinker’s head, dashed the mug into fragments and left only the handle on his finger. Turning his head in that direction, he scowled, ‘Johnny, you can’t do that again.’ ”



An officer, having had some trouble with General Sherman, being very angry, presented himself before Mr. Lincoln, who was visiting the camp, and said, “Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance. This morning I went to Colonel Sherman and he threatened to shoot me.” “Threatened to shoot you?” said Mr. Lincoln. “Well [in a stage whisper], if I were you and he threatens to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would do it.”



The terrible butchery at the battle of Fredericksburg, made Lincoln almost broken-hearted.

Governor Custer, of Pennsylvania, expressed his regrets that his description had so sadly affected the President. He remarked; “I would give all I possess to know how to rescue you from this terrible war.” Then Mr. Lincoln’s wonderful recuperative powers asserted themselves and this marvelous man was himself.

Lincoln’s whole aspect suddenly changed, and he relieved his mind by telling a story.


“This reminds me, Governor,” he said, “of an old farmer out in Illinois that I used to know.

“He took it into his head to go into hog-raising. He sent out to Europe and imported the finest breed of hogs he could buy.

“The prize hog was put in a pen, and the farmer’s two mischievous boys, James and John, were told to be sure not to let it out. But James, the worst of the two, let the brute out the next day. The hog went straight for the boys, and drove John up a tree, then the hog went for the seat of James’ trousers, and the only way the boy could save himself was by holding on to the hog’s tail.

“The hog would not give up his hunt, nor the boy his hold! After they had made a good many circles around the tree, the boy’s courage began to give out, and he shouted to his brother, ‘I say, John, come down, quick, and help me let go this hog!’

“Now, Governor, that is exactly my case. I wish someone would come and help me to let the hog go.”



The President had decided to select a new war minister, and the leading republican Senators thought the occasion was opportune to change the whole seven Cabinet ministers. They, therefore, earnestly advised him to make a clean sweep, and select seven new men, and so restore the waning confidence of the country. The President listened with patient courtesy, and when the Senators had concluded he said, with a characteristic gleam of humor in his eye:

“Gentlemen, your request for a change of the whole 77 Cabinet because I have made one change, reminds me of a story I once heard in Illinois, of a farmer who was much troubled by skunks. His wife insisted on his trying to get rid of them. He loaded his shotgun one moonlight night and awaited developments. After some time the wife heard the shotgun go off, and, in a few minutes, the farmer entered the house. ‘What luck have you?’ said she. ‘I hid myself behind the wood-pile,’ said the old man, ‘with the shotgun pointed towards the hen roost, and before long there appeared not one skunk, but seven. I took aim, blazed away, killed one, and he raised such a fearful smell that I concluded it was best to let the other six go.’ ”

The Senators laughed and retired.



A gentleman called upon President Lincoln before the fall of Richmond and solicited a pass for that place. “I should be very happy to oblige you,” said the President, “if my passes were respected; but the fact is, I have, within the past two years, given passes to two hundred and fifty thousand men to go to Richmond and not one has got there yet.”



Just previous to the fall of Vicksburg a self-constituted committee, solicitous for the morals of our armies, took it upon themselves to visit the President and urge the removal of General Grant.

In some surprise Mr. Lincoln inquired, “For what reason?”


“Why,” replied the spokesman, “he drinks too much whisky.”

“Ah!” rejoined Mr. Lincoln, dropping his lower lip, “by the way, gentlemen, can either of you tell me where General Grant procures his whisky? Because, if I can find out, I will send every general in the field a barrel of it!”



When Grant saw that Lee must soon capitulate, Grant asked the President whether he should try to capture Jeff. Davis, or let him escape from the country if he could. The President said:

“About that, I told him the story of an Irishman, who had the pledge of Father Matthew. He became terribly thirsty, and applied to the bartender for a lemonade, and while it was being prepared he whispered to him, ‘And couldn’t ye put a little brandy in it all unbeknown to myself?’ I told Grant if he could let Jeff. Davis escape all unbeknown to himself, to let him go, I didn’t want him.”



President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward met Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, on February 2d, 1865, on the River Queen, at Fortress Monroe. Stephens was enveloped in overcoats and shawls, and had the appearance of a fair-sized man. He began to take off one wrapping after another, until the small, shriveled old man stood before them.


Lincoln quietly said to Seward: “This is the largest shucking for so small a nubbin that I ever saw.”

President Lincoln had a friendly conference, but presented his ultimatum — that the one and only condition of peace was that the Confederates “must cease their resistance.”



Judge Thomas B. Bryan, of Chicago, a member of the Union Defense Committee during the War, related the following concerning the original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation:

“I asked Mr. Lincoln for the original draft of the Proclamation,” said Judge Bryan, “for the benefit of our Sanitary Fair, in 1865. He sent it and accompanied it with a note in which he said:

“I had intended to keep this paper, but if it will help the soldiers, I give it to you.”

“The paper was put up at auction and brought $3,000. The buyer afterward sold it again to friends of Mr. Lincoln at a greatly advanced price, and it was placed in the rooms of the Chicago Historical Society, where it was burned in the great fire of 1871.”



Early in the Presidential campaign of 1864, President Lincoln said one night to a late caller at the White House:

“We have met the enemy and they are ‘ourn’! I think the cabal of obstructionists ‘am busted.’ I feel 80 certain that, if I live, I am going to be reëected. Whether I deserve to be or not, it is not for me to say; but on the score even of remunerative chances for speculative service, I now am inspired with the hope that our disturbed country further requires the valuable services of your humble servant. ‘Jordan has been a hard road to travel,’ but I feel now that, notwithstanding the enemies I have made and the faults I have committed, I’ll be dumped on the right side of that stream.

“I hope, however, that I may never have another four years of such anxiety, tribulation and abuse. My only ambition is and has been to put down the rebellion and restore peace, after which I want to resign my office, go abroad, take some rest, study foreign governments, see something of foreign life, and in my old age die in peace with all of the good of God’s creatures.”



An old acquaintance of the President visited him in Washington. Lincoln desired to give him a place. Thus encouraged, the visitor was an honest man, but wholly inexperienced in public affairs or business, asked for a high office, Superintendent of the Mint.

The President was aghast, and said: “Good gracious! Why didn’t he ask to be Secretary of the Treasury, and have done with it?”

Afterward, he said: “Well, now, I never thought Mr. —— had anything more than average ability, when we were young men together. But, then, I suppose he thought the same thing about me, and — here I am!”




President Lincoln’s favorite son, Tad, having been sportively commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Army by Secretary Stanton, procured several muskets and drilled the men-servants of the house in the manual of arms without attracting the attention of his father. And one night, to his consternation, he put them all on duty, and relieved the regular sentries, who, seeing the lad in full uniform, or perhaps appreciating the joke, gladly went to their quarters. His brother objected; but Tad insisted upon his rights as an officer. The President laughed but declined to interfere, but when the lad had lost his little authority in his boyish sleep, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States went down and personally discharged the sentries his son had put on the post.



William B. Wilson, employed in the telegraph office at the War Department, ran over to the White House one day to summon Mr. Lincoln. He described the trip back to the War Department in this manner:

“Calling one of his two younger boys to join him, we then started from the White House, between stately trees, along a gravel path which led to the rear of the old War Department building. It was a warm day, and Mr. Lincoln wore as part of his costume a faded gray linen duster which hung loosely around his long gaunt frame; his kindly eye was beaming with good nature, and his ever-thoughtful brow was unruffled.

“We had barely reached the gravel walk before he 82 stooped over, picked up a round smooth pebble, and shooting it off his thumb, challenged us to a game of ‘followings,’ which we accepted. Each in turn tried to hit the outlying stone, which was being constantly projected onward by the President. The game was short, but exciting; the cheerfulness of childhood, the ambition of young manhood, and the gravity of the statesman were all injected into it.

“The game was not won until the steps of the War Department were reached. Every inch of progression was toughly contested, and when the President was declared victor, it was only by a hand span. He appeared to be as much pleased as if he had won a battle.”



When the Emancipation Proclamation was taken to Mr. Lincoln by Secretary Seward, for the President’s signature, Mr. Lincoln took a pen, dipped it in the ink, moved his hand to the place or the signature, held it a moment, then removed his hand and dropped the pen. After a little hesitation, he again took up the pen and went through the same movement as before. Mr. Lincoln then turned to Mr. Seward and said:

“I have been shaking hands since nine o’clock this morning, and my right arm is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, ‘He hesitated.’ ”

He then turned to the table, took up the pen again, 83 and slowly, firmly wrote “Abraham Lincoln,” with which the whole world is now familiar.

He then looked up, smiled, and said, “That will do.”



In one of his political speeches, Judge Douglas made use of the following figure of speech: “As between the crocodile and the negro, I take the side of the negro; but as between the negro and the white man — I would go for the white man every time.”

Lincoln, at home, noted that; and afterwards, when he had occasion to refer to the remark, he said: “I believe that this is a sort of proposition in proportion, which may be stated thus: ‘As the negro is to the white man, so is the crocodile to the negro; and as the negro may rightfully treat the crocodile as a beast or reptile, so the white man may rightfully treat the negro as a beast or reptile.’ ”



Mr. Lincoln was seen coming away from church, unusually early one Sunday morning. “The sermon could not have been more than half way through,” says Mr. Alcott. “ ‘Tad’ was slung across his left arm like a pair of saddle-bags, and Mr. Lincoln was striding along with long, deliberate steps toward his home. On one of the street corners he encountered a group of his fellow-townsmen. Mr. Lincoln anticipated the question which was about to be put by the group, and, taking his figure of speech from practices with which they were 84 only too familiar, said: ‘Gentlemen, I entered the colt, but he kicked around so I had to withdraw him.’ ”



No matter who was with the President, or how intently absorbed, his little son “Tad” was always welcome. He almost always accompanied his father.

Once, on the way to Fortress Monroe, he became very troublesome. The President was much engaged in conversation with the party who accompanied him, and he at length said:

“ ‘Tad,’ if you will be a good boy, and not disturb me any more until we get to Fortress Monroe, I will give you a dollar.”

The hope of reward was effectual for awhile in securing silence, but, boylike, “Tad” soon forgot his promise, and was as noisy as ever. Upon reaching their destination, however, he said, very promptly: “Father, I want my dollar.” Mr. Lincoln looked at him half-reproachfully for an instant, and then, taking from his pocketbook a dollar note, he said: “Well, my son, at any rate, I will keep my part of the bargain.”



“General Grant is a copious worker and fighter,” President Lincoln wrote to General Burnside n July, 1863, “but a meager writer or telegrapher.”

Grant never wrote a report until the battle was over.

President Lincoln wrote a letter to General Grant on July 13th, 1863, which indicated the strength of the hold the successful fighter had upon the man in the White House. 85

It ran as follows:

“I do not remember that you and I ever met personally.

“I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country.

“I write to say a word further.

“When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do what you finally did — march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope, that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed.

“When you got below and took Port Gibson, Grand Gulf and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join General Banks; and when you turned northward, east of Big Black, I feared it was a mistake.

I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right and I was wrong.”



Lincoln never used profanity, except when he quoted it to illustrate a point in a story. His favorite expressions when he spoke with emphasis were “By dear!” and “By jing!”

Just preceding the Civil War he sent Ward Lamon on a ticklish mission to South Carolina.

When the proposed trip was mentioned to Secretary Seward, he opposed it, saying, “Mr. President, I fear you are sending Lamon to his grave. I am afraid they will kill him in Charleston, where the people are excited 86 and desperate. We can’t spare Lamon, and I shall feel badly if anything happens to him.”

Mr. Lincoln said in reply: “I have known Lamon to be in many a close place, and he has never been in one that he didn’t get out of, somehow. By jing! I’ll risk him. Go ahead, Lamon, and God bless you! If you can’t bring back any good news, bring a palmetto.”

Lamon brought back a palmetto branch, but no promise of peace.



The President took a lively interest in all new firearm improvements and inventions, and it sometimes happened that, when an inventor could get nobody else in the Government to listen to him, the President would personally test his gun. A former clerk in the Navy Department tells an incident illustrative.

He had stayed late one night at his desk, when he heard someone striding up and down the hall muttering: “I do wonder if they have gone already and left the building all alone.” Looking out, the clerk was surprised to see the President.

“Good evening,” said Mr. Lincoln. “I was just looking for that man who goes shooting with me sometimes.”

The clerk knew Mr. Lincoln referred to a certain messenger of the Ordnance Department who had been accustomed to going with him to test weapons, but as this man had gone home, the clerk offered his services. Together they went to the lawn south of the White House, where Mr. Lincoln fixed up a target cut from a sheet of white congressional notepaper.


“Then pacing off a distance of about eighty or a hundred feet,” writes the clerk, “he raised the rifle to a level, took a quick aim, and drove the round of seven shots in quick succession, the bullets shooting all around the target like a Gatling gun and one striking near the center.

“ ’ I believe I can make this gun shoot better,’ said Mr. Lincoln, after we had looked at the result of the first fire. With this he took from his vest pocket a small wooden sight which he had whittled from a pine stick, and adjusted it over the sight of the carbine. He then shot two rounds, and of the fourteen bullets nearly a dozen hit the paper!”



The Governor-General, with some of his principal officers, visited Lincoln in the summer of 1864.

They had been very troublesome in harboring blockade runners, and they were said to have carried on a large trade from their ports with the Confederates.

Lincoln treated his guests with great courtesy. After a pleasant interview, the Governor, alluding to the coming Presidential election, said jokingly, but with a grain of sarcasm, “I understand, Mr. President, that everybody votes in this country. If we remain until November, can we vote?”

“You remind me,” replied the President, “of a countryman of yours, a green emigrant from Ireland. Pat arrived on election day, and perhaps was as eager as your Excellency to vote and to vote early, and late and often.

“So upon landing at Castle Garden, he hastened to 88 the nearest voting place, and, as he approached, the judge who received the ballots inquired, ‘Who do you want to vote for? On which side are you?’ Poor Pat was embarrassed, he did not know who were the candidates. He stopped, scratched his head, then, with the readiness of his countrymen, he said:

“ ‘I am forninst the government, any how. Tell me, if your Honor plases, which is the rebellion side, and I’ll tell you how I want to vote. In ould Ireland, I was always on the rebellion side, and, by Saint Patrick, I’ll do that same in America.’ Your Excellency,” said Mr. Lincoln, “would, I should think, not be at all at a loss on which side to vote!”



Nothing in Lincoln’s entire career better illustrated the surprising resources of his mind than his manner of dealing with “The Trent Affair.” The readiness and ability with which he met this perilous emergency, in a field entirely new to his experience, was worthy the most accomplished diplomat and statesman. Admirable, also, was his cool courage and self-reliance in following a course radically opposed to the prevailing sentiment throughout the country and in Congress, and contrary to the advice of his own Cabinet.

Secretary of the Navy Wells hastened to approve officially the act of Captain Wilkes in apprehending the Confederate Commissioners Mason and Slidell, Secretary Stanton publicly applauded, and even Secretary of State Seward, whose long public career had made him especially conservative, stated that he was opposed to any concession or surrender of Mason and Slidell.


But Lincoln, with great sagacity, simply said, “One war at a time.”



Secretary Stanton told the President the following that greatly amused him, as he was especially fond of a joke at the expense of some high military or civil dignitary.

When Stanton was making a trip up the Broad river in North Carolina, in a tub boat, a Federal picket yelled out, “What have you got on board of that tug?”

The severe and dignified answer was, “The Secretary of War and Major-General Foster.”

Instantly the picket roared back, “We’ve got Major-Generals enough up here. Why don’t you bring us up some hardtack?”



Mr. Lincoln being found fault with for making another, “call,” said that if the country required it, he would continue to do so until the matter stood as described by a Western provost marshal, who says:

“I listened a short time since to a butternut-clad individual, who succeeded in making good his escape, expatiate most eloquently on the rigidness with which the conscription was enforced south off the Tennessee River. His response to a question propounded by a citizen ran somewhat in this wise:

“ ‘Do they conscript close over the river?’

“ ‘Stranger, I should think they did! They take every man who hasn’t been dead more than two days!’


“If this is correct, the Confederacy has at least a ghost of a chance left.”

And of another, a Methodist minister in Kansas, living on a small salary, who was greatly troubled to get his quarterly installment. He at last told the nonpaying trustees that he must have his money, as he was suffering for the necessaries of life.

“Money!” replied the trustees; “you preach for money? We thought you preached for the good of souls!”

“Souls!” responded the reverend; “I can’t eat souls; and if I could it would take a thousand such as yours to make a meal!”

“That soul is the point, sir,” said the President.



“An old man hailing from Mississippi, dressed in plain homespun, came to our city Saturday. He mingled freely with the Republican Representatives, got their news, and seemed to think we are not quite so black as we are represented.

“He called on Mr. Lincoln, talked freely with him, and heard the President-elect express his sentiments and intentions. He learned that Mr. Lincoln entertained none but the kindest feelings towards the people of the South, and that he would protect the South in her just rights.

“He had a long conversation, and went away delighted. He left the office of Mr. Lincoln in company with a friend, who communicated this to us, and when outside the door he remarked, while the tears stole down his furrowed cheeks: ‘Oh! if the people of the South 91 could hear what I have heard, they would love and not hate Mr. Lincoln. I will tell my friends at home; but,’ he added sorrowfully, ‘they will not believe me.’ He said that he did wish that every man in the South could be personally acquainted wit Mr. Lincoln.”



On February 5th, 1865, President Lincoln formulated a message to Congress, proposing the payment of $400,000,000 to the south as compensation for slaves lost by emancipation, and submitted it to his Cabinet, only to be unanimously rejected.

Lincoln sadly accepted the decision, and filed away the manuscript message, together with this indorsement thereon, to which his signature was added: “February 5, 1865. To-day these papers, which explain themselves, were drawn up and submitted to the Cabinet and unanimously disapproved by them.”

When the proposed message was disapproved, Lincoln soberly asked: “How long will the war last?”

To this none could make answer, and he added: “We are spending now, in carrying on the war, $3,000,000 a day, which will amount to all this money, besides all the lives.”



The day of Lincoln’s second nomination for the Presidency he forgot all about the Republican National Convention, sitting at Baltimore, and wandered over to the War Department. While there, a telegram came, 92 announcing the nomination of Johnson as Vice-President.

“What,” said Lincoln to the operator, “do they nominate a Vice-President before they do a President?”

“Why,” replied the astonished official, “have you not heard of your own nomination? It was sent to the White House two hours ago.”

“It is all right,” replied the President; “I shall probably find it on my return.”



One day during the war an attractively and handsomely dressed woman called on President Lincoln to procure the release from prison of a relation in whom she professed the deepest interest.

She was a good talker, and her winning ways seemed to make a very deep impression on the President. After listening to her story, he wrote a few words on a card: “This woman, dear Stanton, is a little smarter than she looks to be,” enclosed it in an envelope and directed her to take it to the Secretary of War.

On the same day another woman called, more humble in appearance, more plainly clad. It was the old story.

Father and son both in the army, the former in prison. Could not the latter be discharged from the army and sent home to help his mother?

A few strokes of the pen, a gentle nod of the head, and the little woman, her eyes filling with tears and expressing a grateful acknowledgment her tongue could not utter, passed out.

A lady so thankful for the release of her husband was 93 in the act of kneeling in thankfulness. “Get up,” he said, “don’t kneel to me, but thank God and go.”

An old lady for the same reason came forward with tears in her eyes to express her gratitude. “Good-by, Mr. Lincoln,” said she; “I shall probably never see you again till we meet in heaven.” She had the President’s hand in hers, and he was deeply moved. He instantly took her right hand in both of his, and, following her to the door, said, “I am afraid with all my troubles I shall never get to the resting-place you speak of; but if I do, I am sure I shall find you. That you wish me to get there is, I believe, the best wish you could make for me. Good-by.”

Then the President remarked to a friend, “It is more than many can often say, that in doing right one has made two people happy in one day. Speed, die when I may, I want it said of me by those who know me best, that I have always plucked a thistle and planted a flower when I thought a flower would grow.”



President Lincoln, having arranged to go to New York, was late for his train, much to the disgust of those who were to accompany him, and all were compelled to wait several hours until the next train steamed out of the station. President Lincoln was much amused at the dissatisfaction displayed, and then ventured the remark that the situation reminded him of “a little story.” Said he:

“Out in Illinois, a convict who had murdered his cellmate was sentenced to be hanged. On the day set for the execution, crowds lined the roads leading to the spot 94 where the scaffold had been erected, and there was much jostling and excitement. The condemned man took matters coolly, and as one batch of perspiring, anxious men rushed past the cart in which he was riding, he called out, ‘Don’t be in a hurry, boys. You’ve got plenty of time. There won’t be any fun until I get there.’

“That’s the condition of things now,” concluded the President; “there won’t be any fun at New York until I get there.”



During the progress of a Cabinet meeting the subject of food for the men in the Army happened to come up. From that the conversation changed to the study of the Latin language.

“I studied Latin once,” said Mr. Lincoln, in a casual way.

“Were you interested in it?” asked Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State.

“Well, yes. I saw some very curious things,” was the President’s rejoinder.

“What?” asked Secretary Seward.

“Well, there’s the word hominy, for instance. We have just ordered a lot of that stuff for the troops. I see how the word originated. I notice it came from the Latin word homo — man.

“When we decline homo, it is:

“ ‘Homo — a man.

“ ‘Hominis — of man.

“ ‘Homini — for man.’

“So you see, hominy, being ‘for man,’ comes from 95 the Latin. I guess those soldiers who don’t know Latin will get along with it all right — though I won’t rest real easy until I hear from the Commissary Department on it.”



One day, while listening to one of the wise men who had called at the White House to unload a large cargo of advice, the President interjected a remark to the effect that he had a great reverence for learning.

“This is not,” President Lincoln explained, “because I am not an educated man. I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books.”

“Men of force,” the visitor answered, “can get on pretty well without books. They do their own thinking instead of adopting what other men think.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Lincoln, “but books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new, after all.”

This was a point the caller was not willing to debate, and so he cut his call short.



One of the droll stories brought into play by the President as an ally in support of his contention, proved most effective. Politics was rife among the generals of the Union Army, and there was more “wire-pulling” to prevent the advancement of fellow commanders than the laying of plans to defeat the Confederates in battle.

However, when it so happened that the name of a particularly 96 unpopular general was sent to the Senate for confirmation, the protest against his promotion was almost unanimous. The nomination didn’t seem to please anyone. Generals who were enemies before conferred together for the purpose of bringing every possible influence to bear upon the Senate and securing the rejection of the hated leader’s name. The President was surprised. He had never known such unanimity before.

“You remind me,” said the President to a delegation of officers which called upon him one day to present a fresh protest to him regarding the nomination, “of a visit a certain Governor paid to the Penitentiary of his State. It had been announced that the Governor would hear the story of every inmate of the institution, and was prepared to rectify, either by commutation or pardon, any wrongs that had been done to any prisoner.

“One by one the convicts appeared before His Excellency, and each one maintained that he was an innocent man, who had been sent to prison because the police didn’t like him, or his friends and relatives wanted his property, or he was not popular, etc., etc. The last prisoner to appear was an individual who was not at all prepossessing. His face was against him; his eyes were shifty; he didn’t have the appearance of an honest man, and he didn’t act like one.

“ ‘Well,’ asked the Governor, impatiently, ‘I suppose you’re innocent like the rest of these fellows?’

“ ‘No, Governor,’ was the unexpected answer; ‘I was guilty of the crime they charged against me, and I got just what I deserved.’

“When he had recovered from his astonishment, the Governor, looking the fellow square in the face, remarked 97 with emphasis; ‘I’ll have to pardon you, because I don’t want to leave so bad a man as you are in the company of such innocent sufferers as I have discovered your fellow-convicts to be. You might corrupt them and teach them wicked tricks. As soon as I get back to the capital, I’ll have the papers made out.’

“You gentlemen,” continued the President, “ought to be glad that so bad a man is going to have his promotion so you will not be contaminated by associating with him.”



A prominent volunteer officer who, early in the War, was on duty in Washington and often carried reports to Secretary Stanton at the War Department, told a characteristic story on President Lincoln. Said he:

“I was with several other young officers, also carrying reports to the War Department, and one morning we were late. In this instance we were in a desperate hurry to deliver the papers, in order to be able to catch the train returning to camp.

“On the winding, dark staircase of the old War Department, which many will remember, it was our misfortune, while taking about three stairs at a time, to run a certain head like a catapult into the body of the President, striking him in the region of the right lower vest pocket.

“The usual surprised and relaxed grunt of a man thus assailed came promptly.

“We quickly sent an apology in the direction of the dimly seen form, feeling that the ungracious shock was 97 expensive, even to the humblest clerk in the department.

“A second glance revealed to us the President as the victim of the collision. Then followed a special tender of ‘ten thousand pardons,’ and the President’s reply:

“ ‘One’s enough; I wish the whole army would charge like that.’ ”



John Morrissey, the noted prize fighter, was the “Boss” of Tammany Hall during the Civil War period. It pleased his fancy to go to Congress, and his obedient constituents sent him there. Morrissey was such an absolute despot that the New York City democracy could not make a move without his consent, and many of the Tammanyites were so afraid of him that they would not even enter into business ventures without consulting the autocrat.

President Lincoln had been seriously annoyed by some of his generals, who were afraid to make the slightest move before asking advice from Washington. One commander, in particular, was so cautious that he telegraphed the War Department upon the slightest pretext, the result being that his troops were lying in camp doing nothing, when they should have been in the field.

“This general reminds me,” the President said one day while talking to Secretary Stanton, at the War Department, “of a story I once heard about a Tammany man. He happened to meet a friend, also a member of Tammany, on the street, and in the course of the talk the friend, who was beaming with smiles and good nature, told the other Tammanyite that he was going to be married.


“This first Tammany man looked more serious than men usually do upon hearing of the impending happiness of a friend. In fact, his face seemed to take on a look of anxiety and worry.

“ ‘Ain’t you glad to know that I’m to get married?’ demanded the second Tammanyite, somewhat in a huff.

“ ‘Of course, I am,’ was the reply; ‘but,’ putting his mouth close to the ear of the other, ‘have you asked Morrissey yet?’

“Now, this general of whom we are speaking, wouldn’t dare order out the guard without asked Morrissey,” concluded the President.



The President noticed a small, pale, delicate looking boy, about thirteen years old, among the number in the ante-chamber. The President saw him standing there, looking so feeble and faint, and said: “Come here, my boy, and tell me what you want.” The boy advanced, placed his hand on the arm of the President’s chair, and with a bowed head and timid accents said: “Mr. President, I have been a drummer boy in a regiment for two years, and my colonel got angry with me and turned me off. I was taken sick and have been a long time in the hospital.” The President discovered that the boy had no home, no father — he had died in the army — no mother. “I have no father, no mother, no brothers, no sisters, and,” bursting into tears, “no friends — nobody cares for me.” Mr. Lincoln’s eyes filled with tears, and the boy’s heart was soon made glad by a request to certain officials “to care for this poor boy.”

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