Monday, December 30, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 111

'...and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 110

'I am a patient man - always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance; and also to give ample time for repentance. Still I must save this government if possible.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 109

'When southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery than we, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the institution exists and that it is very difficult to get rid of it in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 108

'I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 107

'I am a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 106

Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, had attacked the Lincoln administration for any number of reasons. But on Lincoln's death he wrote arguably the most prescient obituary of Abraham Lincoln ever penned, one that any of us might justifiably long for: 'He was not a born king of men but a child of the common people who made himself a great persuader, therefore a leader, by dint of firm resolve, patient effort, and dogged perseverance. He slowly won his way to eminence and fame by doing the work that lay next to him - doing it with all his growing might - doing it as well as he could, and learning by his failure, when failure was encountered, how to do it better. He was open to all impressions and influences and gladly profited by the teaching of events and circumstances, no matter how adverse or unwelcome. There was probably no year of his life when he was not a wiser, cooler, and better man than he had been the year proceeding.'

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 105

In January 1835 Lincoln’s business partner died 'on short notice' leaving him responsible for their joint obligations to a total of $1,100, an enormous sum for those days. Lincoln called it the National Debt, and rather than declare bankruptcy he took 10 years to clear that debt.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 104

'We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 103

When Lincoln ran for congress in 1846 his Democratic opponent was a fire-and-brimstone preacher named Peter Cartwright. The story goes that during the course of the campaign Lincoln went to one of Cartwright's services. At one point during the service Preacher Cartwright asked that all who desired to give their lives to God and go to heaven should stand. Of course everyone stood up. Except Lincoln. He then asked those who did not wish to go to hell to stand. At this point everyone stood up. Except Lincoln. Cartwright of course was sensitive to the fact that Lincoln was in the congregation. He then pointedly asked Lincoln if he didn't stand in answer to either question where exactly did he intend to go? Lincoln replied: ‘I came here as a respectful listener. I did not know that I was to be singled out by Brother Cartwright. I believe in treating religious matters with due solemnity. I admit that the questions propounded by Brother Cartwright are of great importance. I did not feel called upon to answer as the rest did. Brother Cartwright asks me directly where I am going. I desire to reply with equal directness. I am going to Congress.’

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 102

At the end of June, 1864 Salmon Chase offered Lincoln his resignation as Secretary of the Treasury for the fourth time. Lincoln had refused the first three times because the country needed Chase's dazzling financial wizardry, but - unknown to Chase - Lincoln had already settled on an adequate replacement and so accepted his resignation this time. Now Chase, who wanted very much to be president himself and who had worked to undermine Lincoln at every opportunity, was free from the constraints of being in Lincoln's official family and could campaign for the Republican nomination publicly - but he did not have enough time to work up the necessary head of steam to win the nomination for himself. Lincoln had, in effect, utilized to the maximum the man's boundless skills, then cut him loose too close to the Republican convention for his run for the presidency to pose a serious threat to Lincoln's own bid for re-nomination.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 101

'Honest old Abe, when the war first began,
Denied abolition was part of his plan;
Honest old Abe has since made a decree,
The war must go on till the slaves are all free.
As both can't be honest, will some one tell how
If honest Abe then, he is honest Abe now?'
- Civil War doggerel

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 100

'I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 99

A friend once reported finding Lincoln sitting in his chair so collapsed and weary that he did not look up or speak when he addressed him. Lincoln put out his hand mechanically as if to shake hands when the friend told him he had come at Lincoln’s bidding. It was several minutes before he was roused enough to say that he 'had had a hard day.’

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 98

'If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending we could then better judge what to do and how to do it.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 97

'I entered the room with a moderate estimate of my own consequence and yet there I was to talk with - and even to advise - the head man of a great nation. I was never more quickly or more completely put at ease in the presence of a great man than in that of Abraham Lincoln.'
- Frederick Douglass

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 96

Charles Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, once told the president that his young daughter wanted to be introduced to the President. Lincoln walked over, took up the girl, kissed her and talked to her. The scene seemed remarkable to Dana because important men of high office usually lack natural and easy grace in handling a child. With Lincoln Dana noticed the child felt easy. Without knowing it Lincoln had passed an acid test!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 95

'I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 94

At a spontaneous, celebratory White House serenade on the day Lee surrendered - and the Civil War was all but over - Lincoln said, 'I have always thought “Dixie” one of the best tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it but I insisted that we fairly captured it. I presented it to the Attorney General and he gave it as his legal opinion that it is our lawful prize. I now request the band to favor me with its performance.'

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 93

'I freely acknowledge myself the servant of the people according to the bond of service - the United States Constitution - and that as such I am responsible to them.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 92

'As our case is new so we must think anew and act anew.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 91

Draining the President’s attention and energy was a virtually endless stream of office seekers. ‘Too many pegs and not enough holes to put them in,’ he observed wryly. When Lincoln got back to Washington from the Gettysburg cemetery dedication he contracted a mild form of smallpox. Where were the office seekers, he quipped? Now he had something he could give everybody.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 90

'I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. So while we do not propose any war upon capital we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 89

'How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 87

According to Doris Kearns Goodwin, when Lincoln received the Republican nomination for president in 1860 he ‘seemed to have come from nowhere – a backwoods lawyer who had served one undistinguished term in the House of Representatives and had lost two consecutive contests for the U. S. Senate. Contemporaries and historians alike have attributed his surprising nomination to chance – the fact that he came from the battleground state of Illinois and stood in the center of his party. The comparative perspective suggests a different interpretation. When viewed against the failed efforts of his rivals, it is clear that Lincoln won the nomination because he was shrewdest and canniest of them all. More accustomed to relying upon himself to shape events, he took the greatest control of the process leading up to the nomination, displaying a fierce ambition, an exceptional political acumen, and a wide range of emotional strengths, forged in the crucible of personal hardship, that took his unsuspecting rivals by surprise.’
- Doris Kearns Goodwin

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 86

'Much is being said about peace, and no man desires peace more ardently than I. Still I am yet unprepared to give up the Union for a peace which so achieved could not be of much duration.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 85

Whatever the negative effects domestically, the Emancipation Proclamation was an unparalleled success abroad.

Henry Adams secretary to the US Ambassador in London couldn’t have put it more strongly: ‘The Emancipation Proclamation has done more for us here than all our former victories and all our diplomacy. It is creating an almost convulsive reaction in our favor all over this country.'

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 84

 ‘Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.’
- Abraham Lincoln

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 83

'If a man is honest in his mind you are pretty safe in trusting him.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 82

'Die when I may I want it said by those who knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 81

'I cannot bring myself to believe that any human being lives who would do me harm.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 80

“During his long years as an attorney Lincoln’s ‘stories and jokes and, more important, his skills as a lawyer helped him fit in. Most of all, perhaps, Lincoln met the professional standards of manliness, and this despite the fact that he did not drink, gamble, or otherwise perform according to wider cultural conventions of the day.

He was direct and unpretentious in his professional demeanor; he was both aggressive and courteous in his pursuit of courtroom victory.”
- Brian Dirck

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 79

In the high-stakes run-up to the Civil War, immediately after the inauguration Lincoln faced a constitutional crisis of the first order. It centered on Fort Sumter and came in the form of a letter from the commandant who said his garrison at Fort Sumter was faced with dwindling supplies.

The situation on the face of it looked like heads Jefferson Davis wins, tails Abraham Lincoln loses. Lincoln had two options, the one worse than the other.

First, he could simply pull the garrison out, but that was utterly repellant because the North would be seen to be acceding to superior might, surrendering what was a federal installation at the point of a gun. The other alternative was to send in reinforcements, presumably to shoot it out. But that military solution was equally impossible. For one thing, the U.S. Army in the spring of 1861 had no more than 16,000 troops, and most of them had been transferred to the northwest portion of the country to provide protection for settlers heading west [sent there by secretaries of war in the 1850’s who were southerners anticipating the possibility of just such a situation as this]. Furthermore, not only was the Charleston harbor mined but the fort itself was surrounded by artillery manned by South Carolinians just itching to open up.

After careful deliberation the new president arrived at a third option: he ordered a ship fitted out with food and medicine to sail as soon as possible for Charleston. He then notified the South Carolina governor that that was what he was doing.

That simple decision turned the tables completely. It was now, heads Abraham Lincoln wins, tails Jefferson Davis loses. Lincoln, given a choice between withdrawing or reinforcing the garrison, had, by some sorcerer’s incantation, arrived at a third alternative: send food and medicine to re-stock the garrison.

Now Jefferson Davis was presented with two choices, but for him there was to be no third option. The South could either allow the humanitarian ship entry to the fort and thus prolong indefinitely the unbearable sense of crisis, or accede to the bombardment because those South Carolinian hotheads hadn't the patience for any other course of action.

So when the South did fire on Fort Sumter, Lincoln lost a fort he couldn't maintain anyway, but gained an enormous psychological advantage in that thousands flocked to the colors with the following open-ended mindset: ‘they started it; we’re going to finish it.’

Lincoln may have been an inexperienced prairie lawyer, but proved to be a consummate strategist. He also appeared to be remarkably cool under pressure.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 78

'Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 76

The terms of surrender Grant presented to Lee at Appomattox were uncommonly lenient. Confederate officers, after relinquishing their arms and artillery were allowed ’to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authority’ on the condition they never again ‘take up arms’ against the Union. They were also allowed to take their private horses as well as their side arms [‘their horses to plow with and the guns to shoot crows with’]. As the brief meeting between the two commanders drew to a close Lee mentioned that ‘his army was in a very bad condition for want of food.’ Grant gave orders that 100,000 rations be provided for Lee’s scarecrow army of 25,000 men. This provision, Lee observed, ‘would have a happy effect upon my army.’

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 75

'I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 74

'My opinion is that no state can, in any way lawfully, get out of the Union, without the consent of the others; and that it is the duty of the President, and other government functionaries to run the machine as it is.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 73

 ‘Lincoln worshipped the Founding Fathers as apostles of liberty who’d begun an experiment in popular government on these shores, to show a doubting Europe that people could govern themselves without hereditary monarchs and aristocracies. And the foundation of the American experiment was the Declaration of Independence which in Lincoln’s view contained the highest political truths in human history: that all men are created equal and that all are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Which for Lincoln meant that men like him were not chained to the condition of their births, that they could better their station in life and harvest the fruits of their own talents and industry.’
- Stephen Oates

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 72

On the way to his inauguration from his home in Springfield in 1861 he said in Columbus, Ohio, 'There is nothing going wrong. We entertain different views upon political questions but nobody is suffering anything.' And at Cleveland, 'Have they not all their rights now as they ever had? Do they not have their fugitive slaves returned now as ever? Have they not the same Constitution that they have lived under for seventy odd years? What then is the matter with them? Why all this excitement? Why all these complaints?'

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 71

'If this is coffee please bring me some tea; but if this is tea please bring me some coffee.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 70

'I do not consider that I have ever accomplished anything without God; and if it is His will that I must die by the hand of an assassin I must be resigned. I must do my duty as I see it and leave the rest with God.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 69

'Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 68

 ‘I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.’
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 67

'I appeal to you again to constantly bear in mind that with you - not with politicians, not with Presidents, not with office-seekers but with you - is the question “Shall the Union and shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the latest generation?”’
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 66

Harriet Beecher Stowe one winter evening toward the end of the war asked if the president did not feel a great relief over the prospect of the war soon coming to a close. And Lincoln had answered, she said, in a sad way: 'No Mrs. Stowe. I shall never live to see peace. This war is killing me.'

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 65

At one point during the war Lincoln was forced by his cabinet to confront the realization that many people who were thought to be Unionists were actually spies providing key information to the Confederacy. After presenting the evidence, Secretary of War Stanton asked for direction.

Lincoln, who had been silent and visibly disturbed, expressed his feelings with a story about the dilemma of an old farmer who had a very large shade tree towering over his house. 'It was a majestic-looking tree and apparently perfect in every part – tall, straight and of immense size - the grand old sentinel of his forest home. One morning while at work in his garden he saw a squirrel run up the tree into a hole and thought the tree might be hollow. He proceeded to examine it carefully and - much to his surprise - he found that the stately tree that he had valued for its beauty and grandeur to be the pride and protection of his little farm was hollow from top to bottom. Only a rim of sound wood remained barely sufficient to support its weight. What was he to do? If he cut it down it would do immense damage with its great length and spreading branches. If he let it remain his family was in constant danger; in a storm it might fall or the wind might blow it down and his house and children be crushed by it. What should he do? As he turned away he said sadly, “I wish I had never seen that squirrel.”’
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 64

In the run-up to Lincoln's inauguration in 1861 the country was in a state of apoplexy. At one of his stops along his route to Washington from Illinois Lincoln said, 'why all this excitement - why all these complaints? As I said before, this crisis is all artificial. It has no foundation in facts. It was not argued up as the saying is and cannot therefore be argued down. Let it alone and it will go down of itself.'

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 63

‘You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.’
- Abraham Lincoln

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 62

'How miserably things seem to be arranged in the world! If we have no friends we have no pleasure; and if we have them we are sure to lose them, and be doubly pained by the loss.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 61

'Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can no long retain it.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 60

'The Emancipation Proclamation applies to Arkansas. I think it is valid in law, and will be so held by the courts. I think I shall not retract or repudiate it. Those who shall have tasted actual freedom I believe can never be slaves or quasi slaves again.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 59

'And having thus chosen our course without guile and with pure purpose let us renew our trust in God and go forward without fear and with manly hearts. '
- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 58

'If I had been allowed my way this war would have ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that God permits it for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 57

'I am naturally antislavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 56

'I am glad,’ said Lincoln, ‘I made the late race [he lost the senate race against Stephen Douglas in 1858]. It gave me a hearing on the great and durable questions of the age, which I could have had in no other way; and though I now sink out of view, and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some marks which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long after I am gone.'

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 55

'I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle [The Revolutionary War] was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 54

'He treated Negroes as they wanted to be treated - as human beings... Negro visitors to the White House were treated without false heartiness, but without any sign of disdain. Never condescending, Lincoln did not talk down to Negroes, nor did he spell out his thoughts in one-syllable language of the first reader.'
- Frederick Douglass

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 53

Lincoln ‘was a most teachable man, and asked questions with a childlike simplicity which would have been too much for the false pride of many a man far less well informed. His fund of knowledge was, as he himself declared, very largely made up of information obtained in conversation.' If Lincoln's knowledge was 'not so well arranged and digested as if it had been the accumulation of careful and exact research, it included a vast amount of information hardly to be found in books.'
- William O. Stoddard

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 52

According to Horace Greeley, the editor of the influential New York Tribune, who had excoriated Lincoln in the past for his ‘mistaken deference’ to slavery, the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was ‘one of those facts in human history which marks not only an era in the progress of the nation, but an epoch in the history of the world.’

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 51

In the late summer of 1864 a veteran on furlough was asked whether the soldiers wanted Lincoln re-elected.

'Why of course they do. We all re-enlisted to see this thing through and Old Abe must re-enlist too. He mustered us in and we'll be damned if he shan't stay where he is until he has mustered us out.'

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 50

'With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, and to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. '
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 49

'We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 60

'The Emancipation Proclamation applies to Arkansas. I think it is valid in law, and will be so held by the courts. I think I shall not retract or repudiate it. Those who shall have tasted actual freedom I believe can never be slaves or quasi slaves again.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 48

An old friend from Springfield after an evening in the White House asked Lincoln, 'How does it feel to be President of the Unites States?'

Lincoln replied, 'you have heard about the man tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail? A man in the crowd asked him how he liked it, and his reply was that if it wasn't for the honor of the thing, he would much rather walk.'

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 47

‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 46

One day Lincoln was visiting the sick and wounded. He entered a tent in which lay Confederate wounded. A correspondent quoted him as saying they were 'enemies through uncontrollable circumstances.'

After a silence, Confederates came forward and without words shook the hand of the President. Some were too sore and broken to walk or to sit up. The President went among these, took some by the hand, wished them good cheer, and said they should have the best of care.

The correspondent wrote, 'Beholders wept at the interview. Most of the Confederates, even, were moved to tears.'

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 45

 ‘I will prepare, and some day my chance will come.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 44

Early in the war when a delegation of women visiting the White House asked Lincoln for a word of encouragement, he replied bluntly, ’I have no word of encouragement to give. Our people and our generals have not yet made up their minds that we are involved in an awful war. Our officers seem to think the war can be won by plans and strategy. That is not true. Only hard and tough fighting will win.’

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 43

Early on, as a very young man, Lincoln took to writing letters for the illiterate among his family and friends. In this way he combined two urges that never left him: to help those who needed what he could do with consummate ease, and to express himself both clearly and concisely in writing.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 42

'First convince a man that you are his sincere friend. Therein is the drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what you will, is the great high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 41

 ‘Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 40

In 1832 Lincoln served as a captain in the Black Hawk War, an Indian skirmish which lasted but a few weeks and in which he did not once hear a shot fired in anger. In short, there seemed to be virtually nothing in this experience that might contribute to a burgeoning political career.

He had a way of dealing with those who, like himself, had virtually no combat experience to bolster their careers: he showed how they and he were pretty much on the same footing. In short, their pretense brought out his withering humor.

'By the way, do you know I am a military hero? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk War, I fought, bled, and came away. Speaking of General Cass's career reminds me of my own. I was not at Stallman's defeat, but I was about as near to it as Cass to Hull's surrender; and like him I saw the place very soon afterwards. It is quite certain I did not break my sword, for I had none to break, but I bent my musket pretty badly on one occasion... If General Cass went in advance of me picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charging upon the wild onion.  If he saw any live, fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes, and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say that I was often very hungry.'

And your comeback is…

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 39

According to Lincoln’s senior partner at the time, right after he passed the bar exam, Lincoln’s ‘knowledge of the law was very small … but he would get a case and try to know all there was connected to it; and in that way he got to be quite a formidable lawyer.’

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 38

In the six months following the start of the spring campaign of 1864, a titanic struggle ensued between Ulysses S. Grant commanding the Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee commanding the Army of Northern Virginia. During that time Grant suffered over 50,000 casualties – more than the size of Lee’s entire army. Such astronomical casualty figures virtually guaranteed that Lincoln would pay the ultimate price during that presidential election year.

On August 23, 1864 Lincoln wrote the following: 'This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the president-elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.'

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 37

‘At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step across the Ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure 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 the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reaches 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.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 36

'As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 35

'Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 34

Once Mary Todd's relatives learned of her engagement to Lincoln they pressured the couple to call the wedding off. The reason, clearly, was Lincoln’s lack of family respectability - he had an illiterate father and a mother of dubious origins. So he asked Mary to release him, which she did. She understood, but was obviously hurt. Although they eventually did marry later, at this time Lincoln was arguably more depressed than at any time in his life. 'I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.'

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 33

I never went to school more than six months in my life, but I remember how, when a mere child, I used to get irritated when anybody talked to me in a way I could not understand... 

'I can remember going to my little bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, trying to make out what was the exact meaning of their, to me, dark sayings. I could not sleep, although I tried to, when I got on such a hunt for an idea until I had caught it; and when I thought I had got it, I was not satisfied until I had put it in language plain enough, as I thought, for any boy I knew to comprehend.

'This was a kind of passion with me, and it has stuck by me; for I am never easy now, when I am handling a thought, till I have bounded it north and bounded it south, and bounded it east and bounded it west.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 32

For Lincoln ambition for a high station in life, as his law partner of nearly 20 years William Herndon put it, was 'a little engine that knew no rest.'

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 31

'Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 46

One day Lincoln was visiting the sick and wounded. He entered a tent in which lay Confederate wounded. A correspondent quoted him as saying they were 'enemies through uncontrollable circumstances.'

After a silence, Confederates came forward and without words shook the hand of the President. Some were too sore and broken to walk or to sit up. The President went among these, took some by the hand, wished them good cheer, and said they should have the best of care.

The correspondent wrote, 'Beholders wept at the interview. Most of the Confederates, even, were moved to tears.'

Monday, July 22, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 30

'...and then, there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 29

'I have stepped out upon this platform that I may see you and that you may see me, and in the arrangement I have the best of the bargain.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 28

Those around Lincoln strove from beginning to end to erect barriers to defend him against constant interruption, but the President himself was always the first to break them down. He disliked anything that kept people from him who wanted to see him. 'You will wear yourself out,' they pleaded with him. Lincoln of course agreed, but, he contended, they wanted so little - how could he refuse to see them?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 27

During his one and only term in the House of Representatives delegates remembered Lincoln’s answering a colleague's objection to federal improvement of the Illinois River because it ran through only one state, by asking through how many states the federally improved Hudson River ran.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 26

‘When the Pennsylvania miners broke out in open rebellion against the operation of the draft law – detested but necessary - in their section, worried Harrisburg officials inquired whether Lincoln would send troops to insure compliance with the law.

'Entrusting nothing to paper, Lincoln sent a confidential messenger to A. K. McClure, the aide of the Pennsylvania governor: “say to McClure that I am very desirous to have the laws fully executed, but it might be well, in an extreme emergency, to be content with the appearance of executing the laws; I think McClure will understand.”

'McClure did understand, and he made no more than a feeble effort to subdue the miners’ revolt, but let the agitation die out of its own accord. Thus, the Lincoln administration won the credit both for preserving the peace and for enforcing the draft.’
- David Donald

Friday, July 12, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 25

'...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 24

'I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, insofar as it in no wise interferes with any other man's rights.'
- Abraham Lincoln


Monday, July 8, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 23

'With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 22

One day the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Charles Sumner strolled in to find the President polishing his own boots. 'Why, Mr. President, do you polish your own boots?' The President replied, 'Whose boots do you think I polished?'

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 21

'Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 20

'No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.'
Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 19

At one Cabinet meeting Lincoln had all his counselors but one against him. He told them he was “reminded of a revival meeting in Illinois when a fellow with a few drinks too many in him had walked up the aisle to a front pew.

“All eyes were on him, but he didn't care; he joined in the singing, droned amen at the close of prayers, and as the meeting proceeded dozed off to sleep. Before the meeting ended the pastor asked the usual question: ‘Who are on the Lord's side?’ and the congregation arose en masse.

“When the pastor asked, ‘Who are on the side of the Devil’ the dozing sleeper came to, heard part of the question, saw the parson standing, and rose to his feet to say ‘I don't exactly understand the question but I'll stand by you, parson, to the last. But it seems to me that we're in a hopeless minority.’”

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 18

'Fellow-citizens we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.'
Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 17

'A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting, and when you are gone attend to those things you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please, but how they are carried out depends on him.

“He will assume control of your duties, states and nations. He is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities and corporations. The fate of humanity is in his hands.'
Abraham Lincoln

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 16

Lincoln was roundly criticized for an abysmal lack of leadership because he appeared to dither. The fact was he refused to move until he had gathered and evaluated all the relevant facts.

His critics, by contrast, always had all the relevant facts; they always knew what to do and how to do it, and never seemed burdened with that pesky need to gather and sift.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 15

'Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure.'
Congressman Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 14

'I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.'
Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 13

'The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I haven't read.'
Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 12

‘Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary if you falter and give up you will lose the power of keeping any resolution and will regret it all your life.'
Abraham Lincoln

Friday, June 14, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 11

During the run-up to the presidential election of 1864 the Republican Party appeared in complete disarray and the opposition rejoiced. One who was clearly disturbed about what appeared to be the impending defeat of the Republican ticket came to Lincoln about it.

The president seemed oddly unfazed by the whole thing. “It is not worth fretting about; it reminds me of an old acquaintance who having a son of a scientific turn bought him a microscope.

“The boy went around experimenting with his glass on everything that came his way. One day at the dinner table his father took up a piece of cheese. ‘Don't eat that, father,’ said the boy; ‘it is full of wrigglers.’ ‘My son,’ replied the old gentleman, taking at the same time a huge bite, ‘let 'em wriggle; I can stand it if they can.'”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 10

After losing the Senate race to Stephen Douglas, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, in 1858, Lincoln said he felt like the boy who stubbed his toe: 'it hurt too bad to laugh and he was too big to cry.'

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 9

'A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key or one of the keys to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish and facility for successfully pursuing the yet unsolved ones.'
Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 8

'Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.'
Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 7

Lincoln once told the story of the sick man in Illinois ‘who was told he probably hadn’t many days longer to live, and he ought to make his peace with any enemies he might have.

He said the man he hated worst of all was a fellow named Brown in the next village. So Brown was sent for, and when he came the sick man began to say, in a voice as meek as Moses’, that he wanted to die at peace with all his fellow creatures, and he hoped he and Brown could now shake hands and bury all their enmity.

The scene was becoming altogether too pathetic for Brown who had to get out his handkerchief and wipe the gathering tears from his eyes. After a parting that would have softened the heart of a grindstone, Brown had about reached the room door when the sick man rose up on his elbow and called out to him: “But see here, Brown, if I should happen to get well, mind, the old grudge stands.”’

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 6

'Fellow citizens: I have been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for the Legislature. My politics are short and sweet like the old woman's dance. I am in favor of the national bank; I am in favor of the internal improvement system and a high protective tariff.

'These are my sentiments and political principles. If elected I shall be thankful; if not it will all be just the same.'
- Abraham Lincoln [aged 23]

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 5

After relieving General George McClellan of command of the Army of the Potomac Lincoln was asked what he would reply to McClellan's earlier advice on how to carry on the affairs of the nation. And Lincoln answered: 'nothing - but it makes me think of the man whose horse kicked up and stuck his foot through the stirrup. The man said to the horse, 'if you're going to get on I'm going to get off.''’

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 4

Logical inconsistencies did not get past the razor-sharp mind of Abraham Lincoln. During the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 Lincoln dismissed one of Douglas’s arguments with devastating effect. ‘Any attempt to twist his views into a call for perfect social and political equality with Negroes was but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut horse.’
Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 3

'I do the very best I know how and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.'
Abraham Lincoln

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 2

'You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.'
Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lincoln's Wit/Wisdom, 1

A few days after they were married in 1842, Lincoln wrote a friend that nothing was new 'except my marrying, which to me is a matter of profound wonder.'
Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Humor and Politics, Part 1

The story goes that during his campaign for the House of Representatives in 1846 Lincoln's Democratic opponent was a fire-and-brimstone preacher named Peter Cartwright.

During the course of the campaign Lincoln went to one of Cartwright's services. When Cartwright said, "All who desire to give their lives to God and go to heaven will please stand." A sprinkling of men, women and children stood up, but not Lincoln. The preacher then exhorted, "All who do not wish to go to hell will please stand." Once again people stood up - except Lincoln.

Cartwright, as one might imagine, was sensitive that his political opponent was there, in that very congregation, so, in his gravest voice, he said, "I observe that all of you save one responded to the first invitation to give their lives to God and go to heaven. And I further observe that all of you save one indicated that you did not desire to go to hell. The sole exception in both instances was Mr. Lincoln, who did not respond to either invitation. May I inquire of you, Mr. Lincoln, where you are going?"

Lincoln slowly rose: "I came here as a respectful listener. I did not know that I was to be singled out by Brother Cartwright. I believe in treating religious matters with due solemnity. I admit that the questions propounded by Brother Cartwright are of great importance.

"I did not feel called upon to answer as the rest did. Brother Cartwright asks me directly where I am going. I desire to reply with equal directness. I am going to Congress."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lincoln's money woes

According to a House report of early 1863 the war was costing the government a staggering $2.5 million a day [Sundays included], and the government was taking in, from every source imaginable, $600,000 a day.

The future looked even more gloomy; the report went on to claim that in order to finance the war for the coming 18 months the Lincoln administration would have to pry loose from banks, investors and patriotic citizens [whose sons, by the way, were dying in record numbers] an estimated $1billion!

[For the record, the war lasted a full year beyond those 18 months.]

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Abe and the turkey-buzzard quill

Dennis Hanks reported the following story of Abe Lincoln, his first cousin, as either a teenager or a pre-teenager, with a turkey-buzzard quill in his hand, writing out the words “Abraham Lincoln.”

“’Denny,’” the boy said to his cousin. “‘Look at that, will you? “Abraham Lincoln!” That’s me. Don’t look a bit like me!’ And,” said Dennis, “then he’d stand and stare at it a spell. ‘Peared to mean a heap to Abe!”

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lincoln's "Authbiography"

In June of 1860 after he received the Republican nomination for President, Lincoln was asked to prepare a brief sketch of his life that was destined to become a campaign biography. The final version ran to about 3,000 words and he put it together for for a newspaper editor named John Scripps.

When Scripps asked Lincoln for details about his early life in Kentucky, Lincoln said, “Why, Scripps, it is a great piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of my early life. It can be all condensed into a simple sentence, and that sentence you will find in Gray’s Elegy: ‘The short and simple annals of the poor.’ That’s my life, and that’s all you or any one else can make out of it.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Playing to an extreme base: the counterbalance Part 4

One final thing this story of Lincoln’s reconciliation with Colonel Benbow shows: Lincoln’s supreme self-confidence, his belief in the sheer force of his personality. What else accounts for the change in a man who had fought for four long years - then [more or less in the twinkling of an eye] clasps his enemy’s hand with both of his own?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Playing to an extreme base: the counterbalance Part 3

Lincoln’s behavior in dealing with Colonel Henry L. Benbow is distinctive in a number of ways.

Besides being simple, one-on-one, and bent on reconciliation, it also shows great personal courage.

One could easily imagine that news of an impending presidential visit had made it through the gossip-mill, even to a tent filled with Rebels. One can also imagine someone like Colonel Benbow with, say, a straight-edge razor up his sleeve on the million-to-one chance that he might get a chance to strike a significant blow for the Confederacy [surely John Wilkes Booth wasn’t the only Southerner who thought of killing Lincoln].

Any man who gets close enough to shake another man’s hand risks the threat of just such an attack, or at the very least, being spat at in the eye.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Playing to an extreme base: the counterbalance Part 2

... And inside that tent, among the all those sick and wounded Rebs was one Henry L. Benbow, a colonel in the 23rd South Carolina Infantry.

Colonel Benbow takes up the story, 'I was lying on my cot with my hands folded across my breast when the president extended his hand toward me.'

“Sir,” I said, “do you realize who it is to whom you offer your hand?”

“No, I do not,” he answered.

“Well, you offer your hand to a Confederate colonel who has fought you as hard as he could for four long years!” 

“Well, I hope a Confederate colonel will not refuse me his hand.”

“No, sir, I will not,” and I clasped his hand in both of mine.”’

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Playing to an extreme base: the counterbalance Part 1

Lincoln’s frontal-assault reaction to the hatred that engulfed the entire nation is best summarized by the story of Henry L. Benbow, told by Carl Sandburg in his Putzler prize-winning Lincoln biography.

According to Sandburg, in February of 1865, a few weeks before the war’s end, Lincoln was visiting the front at City Point Virginia, and in the course of that visit toured the sick and wounded. During that tour he happened on a tent filled with Confederate sick and wounded. The ranking officer conducting the presidential tour stopped him, saying, ‘you can’t go in there, Mr. President; that tent’s full of Rebs.’

And if Abraham Lincoln were like 99% of the people of the North, whether field commander or private; small child or business man; wife, mother, daughter, sister, he invariably would have said, ‘thank you for the warning, I certainly don’t want to waste any of my time on that rabble; they’re the ones responsible for all this death and destruction.’ And, unless he were a woman or a small child, would certainly have added, ‘God damn them to hell!’

That’s not what he said. What he did say was, ‘that’s the very place I mean to go,’ and he stepped inside...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Playing to an extreme base Part 2 – sound familiar?

A few years after the assault on Senator Sumner came the infamous Dred Scott decision.

Dred Scott was a slave who sued in federal court for his freedom on the basis that he had spent time in the free states. The case finally reached the Supreme Court but was thrown out because, according to the majority opinion since Dred Scott was a slave he had no right to present a case of any kind to any court. Taney further said that no black man had any rights that any white man need honor.
[This opinion was written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Maryland slave-owner].

The result was that both sides were even more acutely polaized.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Playing to an extreme base Part 1– shound familiar?

The run-up to the Civil War was an age of the ever-increasingly strident, of people utterly sure that they were right. And of course they were right - as long as the perspective didn't change, as long as the situation wasn't looked at from the other guy's (equally?) valid perspective.

The age is profligate with examples. In 1856, five years before the war broke out, Charles Summer delivered a rousing anti-slavery speech in the US Senate that played well to the Abolitionists in his home state of Massachusetts but infuriated the South - and led to a relative of a Southerner whose honor was besmirched to enter an almost empty senate chamber and attack Summer as he sat at his desk, beating him with his walking stick with sufficient vehemence that Sumner took years of recuperating before he returned to his senatorial duties.

In the meantime Representative Brooks, the assailant, received any number of replacement walking sticks from well-wishing fellow Southerners. - to be used again in case any other Northern hypocrite stepped out of line!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lincoln on lawyering, Part 4

Letter to John M. Brockman on September 25, 1860

J. M. Brockman, Esq.

Dear Sir:

Yours of the 24th. asking "the best mode of obtaining a thorough knowledge of the law" is received. The mode is very simple, though laborious, and tedious. It is only to get the books, and read, and study them carefully.

Begin with Blackstone's Commentaries, and after reading it carefully through, say twice, take up Chitty's Pleadings, Greenleaf's Evidence, & Story's Equity &c. in succession.

Work, work, work, is the main thing.

Yours very truly

A. Lincoln

Getting bored? In case anyone is watching, Lincoln just may be giving us the secret of his – or anybody’s – success: work hard, hard, H-A-R-D.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Lincoln on lawyering, Part 3

Letter to James T. Thornton on December 2, 1858

Dear Sir

Yours of the 29th, written in behalf of Mr. John W. Widmer, is received. I am absent altogether too much to be a suitable instructor for a law student.

When a man has reached the age that Mr. Widner has, and has already been doing for himself, my judgment is, that he reads the books for himself without an instructor. That is precisely the way I came to the law.

Let Mr. Widner read Blackstone's Commentaries, Chitty's Pleadings's -- Greenleaf's Evidence, Story's Equity, and Story's Equity Pleading's, get a license, and go to the practice, and still keep reading.

That is my judgment of the cheapest, quickest, and best way for Mr. Widner to make a lawyer of himself.

Yours truly

A. Lincoln

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lincoln on lawyering, Part 2

Letter to William H. Grigsby on August 3, 1858

My dear Sir:

Yours of the 14th. of July, desiring a situation in my law office, was received several days ago. My partner, Mr. Herndon, controls our office in this respect, and I have known of his declining at least a dozen applications like yours within the last three months.

If you wish to be a lawyer, attach no consequence to the place you are in, or the person you are with; but get books, sit down anywhere, and go to reading for yourself.

That will make a lawyer of you quicker than any other way.

Yours Respectfully,

A. Lincoln

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lincoln on lawyering, Part 1

Letter to Isham Reavis on November 5, 1855

My dear Sir:

I have just reached home, and found your letter of the 23rd. ult. I am from home too much of my time, for a young man to read law with me advantageously.

If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already. It is but a small matter whether you read with any body or not. I did not read with any one. Get the books, and read and study them till you understand them in their principal features; and that is the main thing.

It is of no consequence to be in a large town while you are reading. I read at New-Salem, which never had three hundred people living in it. The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places.

Mr. Dummer is a very clever man and an excellent lawyer (much better than I, in law-learning); and I have no doubt he will cheerfully tell you what books to read, and also loan you the books.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.

Very truly Your friend

A. Lincoln

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lincoln as breath of fresh air.

In all my study of Abraham Lincoln I can think of no occasion when he appeared uncomfortable in his own skin.

British journalist William Howard Russell wrote after attending a White House state dinner in 1861 that he “was amused to observe the manner in which Mr. Lincoln used the anecdotes for which he is famous. Where men bred in courts, accustomed to the world, or versed in diplomacy would use some subterfuge, or would make a polite speech, or give a shrug of the shoulders as the means of getting out of an embarrassing position, Mr. Lincoln raises a laugh by some bold west-country anecdote, and moves off in the cloud of merriment produced by this joke.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A contemporary read on Lincoln mid-stream.

According to the New York Herald, “Lincoln was baffling. The more one gazed on him, the less easy it became to reckon what would be the end of his teachings. He was democracy beyond Cromwell or Napoleon, so completely modern that his like was not to be found in the past, a character so externally uncouth, so pathetically simple, so unfathomably penetrating, so irresolute and yet so irresistible, so bizarre, grotesque, droll, wise and perfectly beneficent…

“It will take a new school of historians to do justice to this eccentric addition to the world’s gallery of heroes.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Lincoln Assassination, Part 6

It did not excape the attention of this feverish but Christian country that Lincoln had been shot on Good Friday. Any number of preachers proclaimed on Easter Sunday, two days later, that “Jesus Christ had died for our sins; Abraham Lincoln had died for our country!”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Lincoln Assassination, Part 5

If truth be told, Edwin Stanton, Lincoln's irascible Secretary of War, was exactly the wrong person to take charge at the Lincoln death bed.

Among other things, he had an unreasoning, morbid fear of death. More than 20 years earlier Stanton was living in a boarding house, and when a servant girl died of cholera and was buried immediately, he dug up the girl's grave  - he couldn't believe she was actually dead since she had served him lunch that very same day.

A few years years later, when his daughter Lucy died, he had her body exhumed and kept the coffin in his room for two years.

And when his first wife Mary died he dressed and redressed her in her wedding clothes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Lincoln Assassination, Part 4

Lincoln died in the early morning hours of April 15, 1865 - 148 years ago today. With his death the country seemed simply to come unglued, as if all that was coherent and meaningful rested overmuch on the uncanny force of the person who had just been assassinated.  How much the country needed the magnanimity and sense of compassion that seemed incarnate in President Abraham Lincoln! And yet sadly all that seemed to move humankind was marked by small-mindedness, rancor and recrimination – and a bottomless quest for revenge.

For example, Stanton who was running the country on the fateful night that Lincoln lay dying concluded (rightly or wrongly, but certainly very quickly) that the assassin had been acting as an agent of the Confederate government, and offered the unheard-of sum of $100,000 (four times the President's annual salary) as a reward for the capture of Jefferson Davis.

Then there was Vice President Johnson who spent that fateful night pacing back and forth in his room repeating, "They shall suffer for this! They shall suffer for

At a more modest level, while Johnson was visiting Lincoln in the Petersen house across the street from Ford's Theater to which Lincoln was taken after he was shot, he was unceremoniously rushed out of the room when word reached Stanton that Mrs. Lincoln, who was in a room next to her dying husband, wished to visit her husband again - Mrs Lincoln detested "that miserable inebriate Johnson." [In a letter fully a year later she gave vent to her spleen: "he wrote me a line of condolence and behaved in the most brutal way... As sure as you and I live, Johnson had some hand in this."]

At one point on that fateful night Mary was frightened by her dying husband's rattling breathing, and she let loose a loud, piercing shriek and then fainted, which caused the irritable Stanton to order, "Take that woman out and do not let her back again!"

Were cooler heads to prevail in this dire emergency? In point of fact, it seemed clear that the one with the cool head was dead. Those that remained behind were full of inchoate rage and bottomless grief.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Lincoln Assassination, Part 3

The tragedy that unfolded at Ford's Theater on that fateful night of April 14, 1865 [Good Friday, many observed] was replete with irony: The cause of the South was finished six days earlier - when Lee's surrender the Army of Northern Virginia, the South's most fearsome weapon, had literally passed out of existence, so the thought of taking the President's life had ceased logically to have any practical value whatsoever.

But obviously logic wasn't foremost in the mind of John Wilkes Booth.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Lincoln Assassination, Part 2

When it came to dying a violent death in office, the President seemed to live a charmed life.

How many examples there were!

In the summer of 1864, while riding alone one humid summer night to the Soldiers Home - think Camp David - a hidden marksman had fired at him, the bullet whizzing through his top hat. He asked that no mention be made of it. "It was probably an accident and might worry my family."

There is some evidence that poison had been tried as well - at one point the castor oil that had been ordered from a pharmacy had arrived deadly with poison, but had had too odd a taste to be swallowed.

Another story had it that a trunk of old clothes taken from yellow fever victims in Cuba had been delivered to the Executive Mansion in the hope that Lincoln would come down with that deadly disease.

And only a few days before his fatal trip to Ford's Theater Lincoln had walked through the still-burning streets of Richmond - an inviting target indeed for anyone, say, in an upstairs window with a rifle. "I was not scared about myself one bit," he commented afterward.

And of course there was the very real threat in Baltimore toward the end of the President-elect's train ride from Springfield to Washington - Lincoln, in disguise and with Ward Hill Lamon at his side [and armed to the teeth] slipped into the nation's capital on a different train ahead of schedule.

Yes, God Himself seemed to have marked this man for the completion of some task…

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Lincoln Assassination, Part 1

In 1861 Lincoln’s new Secretary of State William Seward had declared confidently, "Assassination is not an American habit or practice,." Lincoln, naturally, agreed. "What do they want to kill me for? If they kill me they will run the risk of getting a worse man."

Lincoln tried to get that message across to his good friend and self-appointed bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon. "This boy is monomaniac on the subject of my safety."  If Lamon had his way, said the President, Lincoln “would spend all day sitting in Lamon's lap.” For the rest, he said, "If they kill me I shall never die another death." "I determined when I first came here I should not be dying all the while."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, Part 7 The Third Benefit.

Arguably the most telling benefit to accrue to the North from the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation was the effect on Confederate efforts to secure foreign recognition.

Such recognition was a prize dearly sought – once obtained hopefully favorable financial arrangements could be made by a cash-strapped Confederacy, maybe even a military alliance to break that increasingly pesky Yankee blockade keeping all that Southern cotton from those hungry European mills – according to some excited editorialists, within a matter of months there would have been established on the North American continent a viable thing called the Confederate States of America [to parallel that other North American thing called the United-in-a-kind-of-a-way States of America].

To be sure, England and France had been toying for the first 18 months of the war with abandoning their neutrality and formally recognizing what Lincoln had consistently treated as a complete fiction: the Confederate States of America. The dazzling successess of Lee and his cohorts particularly in those first 18 months of the war coupled with the pent-up demand for Southern cotton from all those hungry European mills almost did the trick.

But then came this Proclamation and it became clear that recognizing the Confederacy would put these major European powers clearly on the wrong side of history. [It didn’t help the South that cotton from Egypt had already begun to fill a need – others had access to what was no longer a Southern monopoly: King Cotton.]

As Henry Adams, private Secretary of the US Minister to the UK, said, “The Emancipation Proclamation has done more for us here than all our former victories and all our diplomacy. It is creating an almost convulsive reaction in our favor all over this country.”

Expensive though it was in so many ways to the Northern war effort in general -and the Republican Party in particular - this proclamation not only doomed the Confederacy but challenged the nation to live out the meaning of “all men are created equal.”

In the words of Horace Greeley, the editor of the influential New York Tribune, who had excoriated Lincoln in the past for his ‘mistaken deference’ to slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation was ‘one of those facts in human history which marks not only an era in the progress of the nation, but an epoch in the history of the world.’

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, Part 6 The Second Benefit.

More important, arguably, than gaining enthusiastic Black military support was the commensurate depriving of the South of that same support. From te beginning of the Civil War slaves were either employed in direct military-assistance tasks such as digging trenches, building breastworks and the like, or working on plantations – either way they represented a considerable contribution to the Southern war effort and economy. It was this contribution that Lincoln was determiined to undermine.

Slaves had, of course, voted with their feet from the outset of the War long before the issuance of any Emancipation Proclamation. If Union forces were anywhere near them they, with greater and greater frequency, made their way to the safe side of Union lines where they were used [exploited?] in performing roughtly the same military-assistance tasks.  They were, to use the parlance of the time, contraband.

What had been a steadily increasing stream became a torrent once news that Lincoln had freed the slaves spread like wild fire in the South.

The South, which suffered from a population disparity with the North of 5 to 2, could not afford the loss of over a million slaves. On the other hand, the Emancipation Proclamation in effect left the South helpless to do anything to stop this particular population hemmorhage.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, Part 5 The First Benefit

So, why did Lincoln do it?

Three reasons:

First, Lincoln balanced out the loss of white military support by picking up Black military support. And Blacks flocked to enlist. From their perspective they were fighting literally for their freedom. Indeed, they far preferred to die honorably fighting the evil of slavery than to die without honor in the heremetically-sealed grip of slavery.

This was true even though they were paid half the salary of their White counterparts, even though they were given the most menial of tasks, even though, when given a strictly military obective it was one doomed to failure – despite all that an estimated 186,000 Blacks joined the Union military. In other words that represented far more excited Blacks joining than disgusted Whites abandoning.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, Part 4 The Cost

Needless to say, in issuing an Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln was playing for high stakes indeed.

One of the ways this decision cost Lincoln was militarily. Northern soldiers were ok with fighting to preserve the Union, but freeing the slaves was too much for them.  Particularly in the middle states – states like Illinois, Indiana, Ohio that touched the South – thousands of whilte soldiers walked away from the war.  One of the most dramatic examples of this took place in April of 1863, four months after the Proclamation went into effect: the entire 109th Illinois Infantry Regiment was arrested for mutiny!

In addition, the fragile bi-partisan support for the war in Congress evaporated like snow in spring. As one irate opponent put it,  it was a blasphamy to make equal those whom God Himself had created unequal.

And finally, of course, despite assurances from Republican newspapers that blacks would not flood the North and take away jobs, the Republicans paid a heavy price during the mid-term elections of 1862, which took place just a few weeks following the issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, Part 3 What was at Stake

The initial cabinet discussion of the Emancipation Proclamation took place in July of 1862, and when Lincoln was advised to wait its publication until the North had won a victory so that it would not appear the desperate gesture of a loser he agreed.

That victory came when the North repulsed Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North at the battle of Antietam in Maryland. So, on September 22, 1862, a few days after that fateful battle, the North issued what came to be called the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

It represented a stark choice: if the errant sisters of the South laid down their arms and returned to the Union by January 1, 1863 they would be rewarded with a plan for gradual compensated emancipation of their slaves.

Failure to do so would result in a far more upsetting expropriation: the freedom of their slaves without any compensation whatever.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

When Lincoln announced his intention to issue an Emancipation Proclamation his utterly astonished cabinet greeted this decision with stunned silence. After all, this was the most far-reaching decision of any presidential administration in American history, before or since for it challenged the nation to live out the obvious implications of “all men are created equal.”

Someone eventually broke the silence with the suggestion that we wait the issuance until the Union had achieved a military victory in the field for victories were proving hard to come by in mid-1862.

This of course reminded the President of a story. A farmer was returning home after a trip of a few days and was greeted by one of his workers after the following fashion: “Master, the little pigs is all dead. Oh,” he drawled eventually, “and the old sow is dead too, but I didn’t want to tell you all at once.”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, Part 1

Lincoln agonized for months over the explosive issue of slavery. It was, 150 years ago, what we today would call “The Third Rail,” but this third rail concerned slavery, the mother of all ethical connumdrums in American history. Specifically, should he issue something like an emancipation proclamation?

The whole idea was repugnant to him since it would, in effect, represent the siezure of private property, and as a lawyer that ran counter to every constitutional bone in his body. And yet, as he often said, he was not going to leave any card unplayed in reestablishing the Union, and slavery was THE card yet unplayed.

So he decided the issue. On his own.

We, of course, might find that difficult to fathom, but having thought through all sides of the issue, having consulted with this one and that one, having heard all the arguments for and against, having been tugged this way and that way by competing forces, the decision was, seemingly, a relatively painless one to make.

In fact, on the day the emancipation proclamation first saw the light of day he told his cabinet, his utterly astounded cabinet, that he himself had already the issue itself but that he wanted their input on the incidentals surrounding the decision.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lincoln on both sides of the creek...

Missouri was, in Lincoln’s eyes, evenly balanced between Union and Rebel supporters. Indeed, Missouri had its own version of the Civil War that seemed to have a life of its own [in fact, the one in Missouri lasted well beyond the end of formal hostilities].

So when two groups of men came to Lincoln to argue as to whether or not a St. Louis church should be closed as a result of statements of disloyalty from its minister Lincoln’s reaction wasn’t surprising at all.

When the men finished their presentation Lincoln said that the situation reminded him of the story of a man he knew back in Sangamon County who had a melon patch that kept getting ruined by a wild hog.

Eventually the man and his sons decided to take their guns and track the animal down. They followed the tracks to the neighboring creek, where they disappeared. They discovered them on the opposite bank, and waded through. They kept on the trail a couple of hundred yards, when the tracks again went into the creek, and promptly turned up on the other side.

Out of breath and patience, the farmer said, "John, you cross over and go up on that side of the creek, and I’ll keep up on this side, because I believe that hog is on both sides of the creek!"

"Gentlemen," concluded Lincoln, "that is just where I stand in regard to your controversies in St. Louis. I am on both sides. I can't allow my Generals to run the churches, and I can’t allow your ministers to preach rebellion."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lincoln: the perfect woman

Lincoln told of the preacher that said, during his sermon, that although the Lord was the only perfect man, the Bible never mentioned a perfect woman.

A woman in the rear of the congregation called out "I know a perfect woman, and I’ve heard of her every day for the last six years."

When the astonished minister asked, "Who was she?"  back came the reply: "My husband’s first wife.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lincoln and the Pompous

As you can imagine, Lincoln’s tendency to resort to humor for self-therapy grew more intense as the responsibilities of the presidency became more unendurable. He wanted to lessen the tensions in himself and those around him, and he frequently pointed fun at pompous generals when doing this.

He said that he once saw a short, fat general that reminded him of a man he knew in Springfield whose name was Enoch. He said Enoch’s legs were so short that when he walked through the snow the seat of his trousers wiped out his footprints.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lincoln as Presidential Jokster

At every point in Lincoln’s varied career he used humor often with devastating effect. As president Lincoln had a way of easing a visitor out the door when he wanted the meeting to end.

He would frequently tell a joke to get rid of some unwanted visitor that had over-stayed his visiting time. In these situations he would use a funny story to illustrate a point he was trying to make, and then—while the listeners was still laughing—would ease them out the door.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"The Child is the Father of the Man"

Sigmund Freud once said, "The child is the father of the man" - truer words were never spoken.

They say that after a church service Lincoln, as a child, would mount a stump and delight the other children with his rendition of the sermon he had just heard. It showcased Lincoln's ability at mimicry, his remarkable memory as well as his bubbly, ever-present sense of humor.

As a side note, of course, it was important that no adult be present!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Please: More Light, Less Nose!"

Lincoln, on a regular basis, received a consistent stream of uninhibited criticism during the Civil War
from any number of sources.

At one point the criticism was particularly virulent and produced the following story:

"A frontiersman lost his way in an uninhabited region on a dark and tempestuous night. The rain fell in torrents, accompanied by terrible thunder and more terrific lightning. To increase his trouble his horse halted, being exhausted with fatigue and fright.

“Presently a bolt of lightning struck a neighboring tree, and the crash brought the man to his knees. He was not what would be called a prayerful man, so his appeal was short and to the point:

"'Oh, Lord, if it is all the same to you, please give me a little more light, and a little less noise!’"

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"That reminds me of a story..."

One of Lincoln’s favorite expressions was, “That reminds me of a story.” Then he would tell a story, or a joke, that was always pointed to the issue at hand.

On one occasion he was confronted with a person who overreacted – a 20-foot reaction to a 2-inch stimulus – and told the following story:

“A man on foot, with his clothes in a bundle, came to a running stream which he knew he must ford. So he made elaborate preparations by stripping off his garments, adding them to his bundle, then tying the bundle to the top of a stick.

“That enabled him to raise the bundle high above his head to keep them dry during the crossing. When all preparations were complete he fearlessly waded in and carefully made his way across the rippling stream, and found it in no place up to his ankles."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lincoln and the exploded dog

Lincoln needed humor as a kind of counter-balance to the depression he seemed to carry as a matter of course. And given the death and devastation that surrounded him at every turn, such debilitating depression was inescapable – except through humor.

As good an example of his resorting to humor is his reaction to the destruction of the once-formidable rebel army commanded by John Hood. That army had been annihilated in the battle of Nashville, Tennessee in late 1864.

Lincoln said "I think Hood’s army is about in the fix of Bill Sykes’s dog, down in Sangamon county.

“Bill Sykes had a long, yaller dog, that was forever getting into the neighbors’ meat houses and chicken coops. They had tried to kill it a hundred times, but the dog was always too smart for them. Finally, one of them got a bladder of a coon, and filled it up with gun powder, tying the neck around a piece of punk, a kind of fuse. When he saw the dog coming he lit the punk, split open a hot biscuit and put the bladder in, then buttered it all nicely and threw it out. The dog swallowed it at a gulp.

“Pretty soon there was an explosion. The head of the dog lit on the porch, the fore-legs caught astraddle the fence, the hind-legs fell in the ditch, and the rest of the dog lay around loose.

“Pretty soon Bill Sykes came along, and the neighbor said; ‘Bill I guess there ain’t much of that dog of your’n left.’ ‘Well, no,’ said Bill; ‘I see plenty of pieces, but I guess that dog, as a dog, ain’t of much more account.’”

Lincoln concluded that although there were still pieces of Hood’s army left, the army, as an army, wasn’t of much more account.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lincoln on Public Opinion Baths

On a regular basis Lincoln would meet members of the general public who made it their business merely to show up in the White House and wait their turn to tell their troubles to the President of the United States. How many world leaders have the sense of values made evident in the following?

"I feel--though the tax on my time is heavy--that no hours of my day are better employed than those which thus bring me again within the direct contact and atmosphere of the average of our whole people.  Men moving only in an official circle are apt to become merely official--not to say arbitrary--in their ideas, and are apter and apter with each passing day to forget that they only hold power in a representative capacity.

“Now this is all wrong.  I go into these promiscuous receptions of all who claim to have business with me twice each week, and every applicant for audience has to take his turn, as if waiting to be shaved in the barber's shop.  Many of the matters brought to my notice are utterly frivolous, but others are of more or less importance, and all serve to renew in me a clearer and more vivid image of that great popular assemblage out of which I sprung, and to which at the end of two years I must return.

“I tell you that I call these receptions my 'public opinion baths;' for I have but little time to read the papers, and gather public opinion that way; and though they may not be pleasant in all their particulars, the effect as a whole, is renovating and invigorating to my perceptions of responsibility and duty."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lincoln and Girls

Lincoln, particularly the young Lincoln, was always clumsy around girls. When in their presence he either sat on his hands or acted the clown. The truth was, he simply didn’t understand them, was convinced they thought him ugly, felt awkward and stupid in their presence.

And he realized that about himself. As he once said, “Others have been made fools of by the girls, but this can never be with truth said of me. I most emphatically, in this instance, make a fool of myself.”

And his wife seemed to agree. She once described meeting her future husband at a dance where he came up to her and said, “Miss Todd, I want to dance with you in the worse way!”

“And,” she said, “We did.”

“And it was.”

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lincoln’s First Campaign: Bad News, Good News and GOOD NEWS

Lincoln first ran for political office at the age of 23.

•    The Bad News: he came in eighth in a field of thirteen candidates;

•    The Good News: of the 300 voters from his little village of New Salem ho polled 277; and

•    And finally the GOOD NEWS: he was just getting started!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Expensive Waiting

During the late spring of 1863 when things were looking particularly gloomy for the North, Lincoln was informed that Grant was, essentially, going to disappear. “You may not hear from me for several days,” the crypticd ispatch read when he left Port Gibson.

For a full two weeks nobody in Washington heard a word from, or about, Grant. Then on May 25 came glorious news: Grant had won five straight battles in Mississippi, captured the state capital of Jackson, split the rebel forces, and driven to the very trenches of the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, Vicksburg itself.

I think it is safe to imagine that Lincoln spent those agonizing two weeks of bottomless silence digesting his stomach lining.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Understandably Gun-Shy of Lincoln's Stories

As a politician, Lincoln made excellent use of his humorous stories.

His long time political opponent Stephen A. Douglas complained that Lincoln’s jokes were "like a slap across my back. Nothing else—not any of his arguments or any of his replies to my questions—disturbs me. But when he begins to tell a story, I feel that I am to be overmatched."

More than once Douglas and other political opponents of Lincoln’s saw their eloquently presented arguments forgotten by the audience after Lincoln followed up their speeches with a homely story or anecdote.

At Alton, Illinois, during the last of the “great debates” with Douglas, Lincoln told a story that illustrated how he felt about a political feud that was currently raging between Democratic senator Douglas and the head of the Democratic Party. He said he felt like the old woman that, not knowing who was going to win a brawl between her husband and a bear, decided to cheer for both of them: "Go it husband, go it bear!"

Friday, February 22, 2013

The high price of vindication

As a lawyer, Lincoln often discouraged people from bringing unnecessary lawsuits.

Once, a man wanted him to bring a suit for $2.50 against a penniless man, and Lincoln could not talk him out of it. So Lincoln took the case, charged the client a retainer of $10.00, won the case, kept $5.00 for himself and gave the other $5.00 to the penniless defendant who promptly paid the $2.50 he owed and kept the rest for himself.

Thus everyone involved won including the angry client who, though he paid dearly for it, felt his revenge vindicated.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bigger than a hog!

Lincoln once told the story of an enterprising farmer who had a hog of tremendous size. In fact, the hog was of such tremendous size that people came from miles around to see it.

One of the people saw the hog’s owner and inquired about the animal. "W’all, yes," the old fellow said: "I’ve got such a critter, mighty big un, but I guess I’ll have to charge you a dollar for lookin’ at him."

The stranger glared at the old man, handed him the desired money, and started to walk away. "Hold on," said the old man, "don’t you want to see the hog?"

"No," said the stranger. "Lookin at you, I’ve seen as big a hog as I ever want to see!"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Like water downhill

According to the poet Walt Whitman, "As is well known, story-telling was often with President Lincoln a weapon which he employed with great skill.

“Very often he would not give a point-blank reply or comment, and these indirections, (sometimes funny, but not always so,) were probably the best responses possible.”

They certainly flowed from him on a regular basis, like water down hill.