See 600 Lincoln Stories!
Treasury Secretary Hugh McCullough wrote:
I then perceived that my estimate of him before his election was well grounded, and
LINCOLN AND THE MINISTERS. (WHAT Lincoln Believed and WHY! -AMONG THE BEST of ALL LINCOLN STORIES)
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 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 if 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 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.
"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:
Much of this was uttered as if he were speaking to himself, and with a sad, earnest solemnity of manner impossible to be described. After a pause he resumed:
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 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.
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."
President Lincoln 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."
BELIEVED HE WAS A CHRISTIAN. (LINCOLN PROFESSED NEW BIRTH!)
Mr. Lincoln was much impressed with the devotion and earnestness of purpose manifested by a certain lady of the "Christian Commission" during the War, and on one occasion, after she had discharged the object of her visit, said to her:
The lady replied at some length, stating that, in her judgment, it consisted of a conviction of one's own sinfulness and weakness, and a personal need of the Saviour for strength and support; that views of mere doctrine might and would differ, but when one was really brought to feel his need of divine help, and to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance, it was satisfactory evidence of his having been born again.
This was the substance of her reply.
When she had, concluded Mr. Lincoln was very thoughtful for a few moments. He at length said, very earnestly:
NIAGARA FALLS, CHRIST SUFFERING, CREATOR GOD, MOSES and RED SEA
(Written By Abraham Lincoln.)
The following article on Niagara Falls, in Mr. Lincoln's handwriting, was found among his papers after his death:
By what mysterious power is it that millions and millions are drawn from all parts of the world to gaze upon Niagara Falls? There is no mystery about the thing itself. Every effect is just as any intelligent man, knowing the causes, would anticipate without seeing it. If the water moving onward in a great river reaches a point where there is a perpendicular jog of a hundred feet in descent in the bottom of the river, it is plain the water will have a violent and continuous plunge at that point.
It is also plain, the water, thus plunging, will foam and roar, and send up a mist continuously, in which last, during sunshine, there will be perpetual rainbows. The mere physical of Niagara Falls is only this. Yet this is really a very small part of that world's wonder. Its power to excite reflection and emotion is its great charm.
The geologist will demonstrate that the plunge, or fall, was once at Lake Ontario, and has worn its way back to its present position; he will ascertain how fast it is wearing now, and so get a basis for determining how long it has been wearing back from Lake Ontario, and finally demonstrate by it that this world is at least fourteen thousand years old.
A philosopher of a slightly different turn will say, 'Niagara Falls is only the lip of the basin out of which pours all the surplus water which rains down on two or three hundred thousand square miles of the earth's surface.'
He will estimate with approximate accuracy that five hundred thousand tons of water fall with their full weight a distance of a hundred feet each minute—thus exerting a force equal to the lifting of the same weight, through the same space, in the same time.
Then, as now, Niagara was roaring here. The eyes of that species of extinct giants whose bones fill the mounds of America have gazed on Niagara, as ours do now. Contemporary with the first race of men, and older than the first man, Niagara is strong and fresh to-day as ten thousand years ago.
The Mammoth and Mastodon, so long dead that fragments of their monstrous bones alone testify that they ever lived, have gazed on Niagara—in that long, long time never still for a single moment (never dried), never froze, never slept, never rested."
"DONE WITH THE BIBLE." (JOKE!)
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 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."
WANTED TO BURN HIM DOWN TO THE STUMP. (CHRISTIAN HUMOR)
Preston King once introduced A. J. Bleeker to the President, and the latter, being an applicant for office, was about to hand Mr. Lincoln his vouchers, when he was asked to read them.
Bleeker had not read very far when the President disconcerted him by the exclamation, "Stop a minute! You remind me exactly of the man who killed the dog; in fact, you are just like him."
"In what respect?" asked Bleeker, not feeling he had received a compliment.
"Well," replied the President, "this man had made up his mind to kill his dog, an ugly brute, and proceeded to knock out his brains with a club. He continued striking the dog after the latter was dead until a friend protested, exclaiming, 'You needn't strike him any more; the dog is dead; you killed him at the first blow.'
"'Oh, yes,' said he, 'I know that; but I believe in punishment after death.' So, I see, you do."
Bleeker acknowledged it was possible to overdo a good thing, . . .
. . . and then came back at the President with an anecdote of:
WE HAVE LIBERTY OF ALL KINDS.
(CHRIST'S CHURCH THAN the USA!)
Lincoln delivered a remarkable speech at Springfield, Illinois, when but twenty-eight years of age, upon the liberty possessed by the people of the United States.
In part, he said:
"In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era.
"We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate.
"We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which history of former times tells us.
"We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings.
"We toiled not in the acquisition or establishment of them; they are a legacy bequeathed to us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors.
"Theirs was the task (and nobly did they perform it) to possess themselves, us, of this goodly land, to uprear upon its hills and valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours to transmit these—the former unprofaned by the foot of an intruder, the latter undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation—to the generation that fate shall permit the world to know.
"This task, gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity—all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.
"How, then, shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?
"Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow?
"Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa, combined, with all the treasures of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
"At what point, then, is this approach of danger to be expected?
"I answer, if ever it reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad.
"If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.
"As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time or die by suicide.
"I hope I am not over-wary; but, if I am not, there is even now something of ill-omen amongst us.
"I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country, the disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober judgment of courts, and the worse than savage mobs for the executive ministers of justice.
"This disposition is awfully fearful in any community, and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit it, it would be a violation of truth and an insult to deny.
"Accounts of outrages committed by mobs form the every-day news of the times.
"They have pervaded the country from New England to Louisiana; they are neither peculiar to the eternal snows of the former, nor the burning sun of the latter.
"They are not the creatures of climate, neither are they confined to the slave-holding or non-slave-holding States.
"Alike they spring up among the pleasure-hunting Southerners and the order-loving citizens of the land of steady habits.
"Whatever, then, their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.
"Many great and good men, sufficiently qualified for any task they may undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or Presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle.
"What! Think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? Never!
"Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.
"It seeks no distinction in adding story to story upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others.
"It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief.
"It scorns to tread in the footpaths of any predecessor, however illustrious.
"It thirsts and burns for distinction, and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating the slaves or enslaving freemen.
"Another reason which once was, but which to the same extent is now no more, has done much in maintaining our institutions thus far.
"I mean the powerful influence which the interesting scenes of the Revolution had upon the passions of the people, as distinguished from their judgment.
"But these histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength.
"But what the invading foeman could never do, the silent artillery of time has done, the levelling of the walls.
"They were a forest of giant oaks, but the all-resisting hurricane swept over them and left only here and there a lone trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage, unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more gentle breezes and to combat with its mutilated limbs a few more rude storms, then to sink and be no more.
"They were the pillars of the temple of liberty, and now that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, the descendants, supply the places with pillars hewn from the same solid quarry of sober reason.
"Passion has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy.
"Reason—cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason—must furnish all the materials for our support and defense.
"Let those materials be molded into general intelligence, sound morality, and, in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and the laws; and then our country shall continue to improve, and our nation, revering his name, and permitting no hostile foot to pass or desecrate his resting-place, shall be the first to hear the last trump that shall awaken our Washington.
"Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest as the rock of its basis, and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'"
OLD MAN GLENN'S RELIGION.
Mr. Lincoln once remarked to a friend that his religion was like that of an old man named Glenn, in Indiana, whom he heard speak at a church meeting, and who said:
Mrs. Lincoln herself has said that Mr. Lincoln had no faith—no faith, in the usual acceptance of those words. "He never joined a church; but still, as I believe, he was a religious man by nature.
He first seemed to think about the subject when our boy Willie died, and then more than ever about the time he went to Gettysburg..."
Abe Needs His Hair Combed
President Lincoln had the ability to laugh at himself and he greatly enjoyed telling stories in which he was the object of the joke. He especially liked this one: “When I was nominated at Chicago, I had never before sat for a photograph. One fellow thought that many people might like to see what I looked like, so he immediately bought the negative and began selling photographs of me all over the country. I happened to be in Springfield when I heard a boy selling them on the streets. 'Here's your likeness of "Abe" Lincoln !' he shouted. “Only two shillings! He’ll look a lot better once he gets his hair combed !'"
Some of Lincoln's friends once warned him that a particular member of his Cabinet was working behind the President’s back in hopes of gathering support for a presidential bid of his own, even though he knew that Lincoln was to be a candidate for re-election. The friends believed that the Cabinet officer should either be called upon to refrain from such underhanded tactics or be removed from office. Lincoln mulled their suggestion over, then used this story to explain why he wouldn’t take any action:
"One day my brother and I were plowing. I was driving the horse and my brother was holding onto the plow. The horse was usually lazy, but all of a sudden he ran across the field so fast that even I, with my long legs, had trouble keeping pace with him. When we got to the end of the furrow, I found that an enormous chin-fly had fastened upon him, causing him to bolt. I knocked the fly off. My brother asked me what I did that for, and I told him I didn't want to see the old horse bitten like that. My brother protested, 'that's the only thing that made him go.'
Lincoln gazed at his friends before continuing, "If (the cabinet officer) has a Presidential chin-fly biting him, I'm not going to knock it off, if it will only make his department go."
The Problem with the World
One of Lincoln’s neighbors told how he went to his door one day to determine why some children in the street were shouting. He saw Lincoln walking past with two young boys in tow. "What’s the matter, Mr. Lincoln?” the neighbor asked. "The same thing that’s the matter with the whole world," Lincoln answered. "I have three walnuts, and each one of them wants two of them."
Nobody Ever Died in Here!
A man was complaining to the President that a friend of his had been expelled from New Orleans because he was a Union sympathizer. When the man asked to see the writ by which he was expelled, he was summarliy told that the Confederate Government would do nothing illegal, and so they had issued no writs. They were simply hoping to make him go of his own free will. Naturally, that reminded Lincoln of a story, and he remarked that he had known of a hotel keeper in St. Louis who boasted that nobody ever died in his hotel. “Of course,” Lincoln said with a twinkle in his eye, “Anytime a guest appeared to be in danger of dying he was carried out to die in the gutter."
Let the Elephant Run
Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana had learned that a man named Jacob Thompson, who had been causing the government many problems, was about to escape to Liverpool. Dana approached Lincoln with the news. Lincoln asked Dana what Secretary of War Edwin Stanton thought about it. Dana answered, “He thinks we should arrest him.”
Lincoln replied, ”I disagree. If you have an elephant on your hands that wants to run away, you better let him run."We Need Hardtack
Secretary of War Stanton told the President this story, which Lincoln truly enjoyed. Lincoln particularly enjoyed stories at the expense of those in positions of authority, especially if they had no sense of humor themselves, which pretty well described Stanton.
Stanton had been travelling by boat up the Broad River in North Carolina, and a Federal picket yelled out, "What are you carrying on that tug?"
The answer came back, "The Secretary of War and Major General Foster."
The picket replied, "We've got enough Major-Generals here. How about bringing us some hardtack?"Who Cares Who Started It?
Lincoln was addressing some visitors, and he said, "Some Union supporters oppose any accommodation or yielding to the South in any manner because the Confederates began the war and should be held responsible. Now this reminds me of a good story I heard once, when I lived in Illinois”.
"A farmer had a vicious bull that took after anybody who tried to cross the field. One day a neighbor climbed the fence and was soon running for his life. This man was fast, though, and he got to a tree with the bull close behind. There was no time to climb the tree, so he led the bull in a chase around the tree. He finally was able to grab the bull by the tail. The bull was now at a disadvantage. He couldn’t catch the man and he couldn’t shake him from his tail. The more they ran the madder the bull got. He pawed up the earth and bellowed until you could hear him miles away. Finally, he broke into a dead run, the man still hanging onto his tail.
"The neighbor, now dragging along behind, shouted at the bull, 'Darn you, who commenced this fuss?'
"That’s our situation here,” summarized Lincoln. “It's our duty to settle this fuss at the earliest possible moment, no matter who commenced it”.Lost Time
Lincoln told the story of a witness in court. When he was asked how old he was he answered, "Sixty." It was apparent that the witness was much older, so he was asked the same question again. His answer was the same.
At that point the judge chastised the witness, saying, "The court knows you to be much older than sixty."
The witness thought quickly, realizing he’d been had, and answered, "You're probably thinking of those ten years I spent in Maryland. That was so much time lost, I don’t count it."The Road to Hell
A friend visited President Lincoln and found him to be in a foul mood. "I’m afraid I have made Senator Wade of Ohio, my enemy for life," Lincoln said. "Wade was here just now trying to convince me that I should dismiss Grant, and, in response to something he said, I remarked that that reminded me of a story."
"What did Wade say?" the friend asked.
"He wasn’t happy," Lincoln answered. ‘Everything with you is story, story, story!’ Senator Wade said. He said I was the father of every military blunder that we’ve made, and that I am on the road to hell and I am not a mile off this minute."
"What did you say to that?" the friend asked.
"I just said to him," the President chuckled, "Senator, that is just about the distance from here to the Capitol, is it not?"Lincoln’s Thoughts on Bragging Generals
Lincoln had a low tolerance for Union generals who puffed up their accomplishments and bragged about what they would do to the enemy next time they met. One of these very generals had just been badly defeated by the Confederates, and Lincoln related this story to those who were present:
"He (the general) reminds me of the fellow who owned a dog which, he claimed, loved to fight wolves. The dog’s owner said that his animal spent its entire day tracking down and killing wolves.
"One day a group of the dog-owner's friends organized a hunting party and invited the dog-owner and the dog to go with them. They soon noticed that the dog-owner was not excited about joining them. He said he had a business engagement, which greatly amused the others, who all knew that the man was so lazy that he would never have any reason to have a 'business engagement'. They ridiculed him to a point where he had no choice but to go along.
"The dog, on the other hand, was excited to be going out into the woods, and the hunting party was soon on its way. Wolves were in abundance, and it wasn’t long before a pack was discovered. The dog saw the ferocious animals about the same time the wolves spotted him, and the chase was on. The hunting party followed on horseback.
"The wolves and dog soon were out of sight, but the party followed the sounds of the chase. Soon they arrived at a farmhouse, where a farmer stood leaning against his gate.
"’Did you see anything of a wolf-dog and a pack of wolves around here?’ he was asked.
"’Yep,’ he replied.
"’How were they going?’ came the next question.
"’Purty fast,’ he answered.
"’What was their position when you last saw them?’
"’Well,' replied the farmer, ‘The dog was a just a little bit ahead.’"
"Now, gentlemen," said the President to his visitors, "that's exactly where you'll find most of these bragging generals when they get into a fight with the enemy."Pretense
Lincoln found himself in a stifling courtroom one hot summer day, pleading his client’s case. The opposing lawyer, in a concession to the oppressive heat, took off his coat and vest as the debate went on. The man’s shirt had its buttons in the back, a style which was unusual even then. Lincoln looked at his opponent and sized up the man’s apparel. Knowing that the rural jury disliked pretension of any kind, or any attempt to show superior social rank, 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." The jury burst into laughter, and Lincoln won the case.If I Lose, I’ll Lose Doing the Right Thing
In August, 1864, the nation’s morale was low. The war was dragging on and the President had just issued a call for an additional five hundred thousand troops. The Presidential election was just around the corner and many of Lincoln’s supporters feared that the call for more men at such a crucial time would injure, if not destroy, Lincoln's chances for re-election. Lincoln’s response? "As far as my re-election," he said, "it matters not. We must have the men. If I go down, I intend to go, like the Cumberland, with my colors flying!"The Doctor Learns a Lesson
The speaker is Dr. Jerome Walker, of Brooklyn, who was showing President Lincoln through the hospital at City Point.
"Finally, after visiting the wards occupied by our invalid and convalescing soldiers," said Dr. Walker, "we came to three wards occupied by sick and wounded Southern prisoners. With a feeling of patriotic duty, I said: 'Mr. President, you won't want to go in there; they are only rebels.' "I will never forget how he stopped and gently laid his large hand upon my shoulder and quietly answered, 'You mean Confederates!' And I have meant Confederates ever since.
"There was nothing left for me to do after the President's remark but to go through these three wards and I could not see but that he was just as kind, his hand-shakings just as hearty, his interest just as real for the welfare of the men, as when he was among our own soldiers.'Humility
General George McClellan showed little respect for Lincoln. As time went on, his contempt for the President became more and more blatant, and he often kept Lincoln waiting while he transacted business with others. This discourtesy was so apparent that even McClellan’s staff seemed embarrassed by it, and it often drew comments from newspaper reporters. The President was finally asked about it. Humbly, Lincoln stated that McClellan’s disrespect was not a problem with him, if the slow-moving general would just initiate a battle. "I’ll even hold McClellan’s horse," the President said, "If he will only bring us some success."Now, That’s Ugly!
This is one of those stories which may or may not be true. Either way, it is the type of humor Lincoln loved and is something he easily could have said, if indeed, he didn’t.
The story goes that Lincoln was stopped one day by a man who stuck a revolver almost into his face. Under the circumstances Lincoln quickly realized that any resistance was unwise. Trying to remain calm, he inquired, "What seems to be the matter?"
"Well," replied the man, "A long time ago I swore that if I ever came across an uglier man than myself I'd shoot him on the spot."
"Well," supposedly said Lincoln. "Go ahead and shoot me then, because if I am an uglier man than you I don't want to live."All the Candidates are Sick!
All presidents are constantly besieged with requests for favors, and at no time are the requests more frequent than when an appointment is to be made. Lincoln was to appoint a Commissioner to the Hawaiian Islands, and eight applicants had filed their papers. A delegation made a personal appearance at the White House on behalf of a ninth candidate. The delegation was quick to point out that their man was quite capable, but more importantly, was also in poor health.
Sending him to Hawaii, they reasoned, would be of great benefit to his health. Obviously, the President had heard this story before, probably more than once. He did not wish to hear the same story again, and he drew the interview to a close with this remark: "Gentlemen, I am sorry to tell that there are eight other applicants for this position, and I understand that everyone of them is sicker than your man."What the Wounded Soldiers Thought
Lincoln often visited wounded soldiers in Washington area hospitals. In addition to inquiring about their health he often entertained the patients with his stories. He had just left one such facility when a visitor to the same hospital heard wounded soldiers laughing and talking about the President. The soldiers seemed in such good spirits that the visitor was curious, and he approached the bedside of one of the patients.
"You must be very slightly wounded," he said to open the conversation.
"Yes," the soldier replied, "Very slightly. I have only lost one leg, and I'd be glad to lose the other, if I could hear some more of 'Old Abe's' stories."