Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories

It was the President's overweening desire to accommodate all
persons who came to him soliciting favors, but the opportunity
was never offered until an untimely and unthinking disease, which
possessed many of the characteristics of one of the most dreaded
maladies, confined him to his bed at the White House.

The rumor spread that the President was afflicted with this
disease, while the truth was that it was merely a very mild
attack of varioloid. The office-seekers didn't know the facts,
and for once the Executive Mansion was clear of them.

One day, a man from the West, who didn't read the papers, but
wanted the postoffice in his town, called at the White House. The
President, being then practically a well man, saw him. The caller
was engaged in a voluble endeavor to put his capabilities in the
most favorable light, when the President interrupted him with the
remark that he would be compelled to make the interview short, as
his doctor was due.

"Why, Mr. President, are you sick?" queried the visitor.

"Oh, nothing much," replied Mr. Lincoln, "but the physician says
he fears the worst."

"What worst, may I ask?"

"Smallpox," was the answer; "but you needn't be scared. I'm only
in the first stages now."

The visitor grabbed his hat, sprang from his chair, and without a
word bolted for the door.

"Don't be in a hurry," said the President placidly; "sit down and
talk awhile."

"Thank you, sir; I'll call again," shouted the Westerner, as he
disappeared through the opening in the wall.

"Now, that's the way with people," the President said, when
relating the story afterward. "When I can't give them what they
want, they're dissatisfied, and say harsh things about me; but
when I've something to give to everybody they scamper off."

An applicant for a sutlership in the army relates this story: "In
the winter of 1864, after serving three years in the Union Army,
and being honorably discharged, I made application for the post
sutlership at Point Lookout. My father being interested, we made
application to Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War. We obtained an
audience, and were ushered into the presence of the most pompous
man I ever met. As I entered he waved his hand for me to stop at
a given distance from him, and then put these questions, viz.:

"'Did you serve three years in the army?'

"'I did, sir.'

"'Were you honorably discharged?'

"'I was, sir.'

"'Let me see your discharge.'

"I gave it to him. He looked it over, then said:

'Were you ever wounded?' I told him yes, at the battle of
Williamsburg, May 5, 1861.

"He then said: 'I think we can give this position to a soldier
who has lost an arm or leg, he being more deserving; and he then
said I looked hearty and healthy enough to serve three years
more. He would not give me a chance to argue my case.

The audience was at an end. He waved his hand to me. I was then
dismissed from the august presence of the Honorable Secretary of
War. "My father was waiting for me in the hallway, who saw by my
countenance that I was not successful. I said to my father:

"'Let us go over to Mr. Lincoln; he may give us more

"He said it would do me no good, but we went over. Mr. Lincoln's
reception room was full of ladies and gentlemen when we entered.

"My turn soon came. Lincoln turned to my father and said

"'Now, gentlemen, be pleased to be as quick as possible with
your business, as it is growing late.'

"My father then stepped up to Lincoln and introduced me to him.
Lincoln then said:

"'Take a seat, gentlemen, and state your business as quickly as

"There was but one chair by Lincoln, so he motioned my father to
sit, while I stood. My father stated the business to him as
stated above. He then said:

"'Have you seen Mr. Stanton?'

"We told him yes, that he had refused. He (Mr. Lincoln) then

"'Gentlemen, this is Mr. Stanton's business; I cannot interfere
with him; he attends to all these matters and I am sorry I cannot
help you.'

"He saw that we were disappointed, and did his best to revive our
spirits. He succeeded well with my father, who was a Lincoln man,
and who was a staunch Republican.

"Mr. Lincoln then said:

"'Now, gentlemen, I will tell you, what it is; I have thousands
of applications like this every day, but we cannot satisfy all
for this reason, that these positions are like office
seekers--there are too many pigs for the teats.'

"The ladies who were listening to the conversation placed their
handkerchiefs to their faces and turned away. But the joke of
'Old Abe' put us all in a good humor. We then left the presence
of the greatest and most just man who ever lived to fill the
Presidential chair.'"

No sooner was Abraham Lincoln made the candidate for the
Presidency of the Republican Party, in 1860, than the opposition
began to lampoon and caricature him. In the cartoon here
reproduced, which is given the title of:

"The Republican Party Going to the Right House," Lincoln is
represented as entering the Lunatic Asylum, riding on a rail,
carried by Horace Greeley, the great Abolitionist; Lincoln,
followed by his "fellow-cranks," is assuring the latter that the
millennium is "going to begin," and that all requests will be

Lincoln's followers are depicted as those men and women composing
the "free love" element; those who want religion abolished;
negroes, who want it understood that the white man has no rights
his black brother is bound to respect; women suffragists, who
demand that men be made subject to female authority; tramps, who
insist upon free lodging-houses; criminals, who demand the right
to steal from all they meet; and toughs, who want the police
forces abolished, so that "the b'hoys" can "run wid de masheen,"
and have "a muss" whenever they feel like it, without
interference by the authorities.

Speaking of his last meeting with Judge Douglas, Mr. Lincoln
said: "One day Douglas came rushing in and said he had just got a
telegraph dispatch from some friends in Illinois urging him to
come out and help set things right in Egypt, and that he would
go, or stay in Washington, just where I thought he could do the
most good.

"I told him to do as he chose, but that probably he could do best
in Illinois. Upon that he shook hands with me, and hurried away
to catch the next train. I never saw him again."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reuben and Charles Grigsby were married in Spencer county,
Indiana, on the same day to Elizabeth Ray and Matilda Hawkins,
respectively. They met the next day at the home of Reuben
Grigsby, Sr., and held a double infare, to which most of the
county was invited, with the exception of the Lincolns. This
Abraham duly resented, and it resulted in his first attempt at
satirical writing, which he called "The Chronicles of Reuben."

The manuscript was lost, and not recovered until 1865, when a
house belonging to one of the Grigsbys was torn down. In the loft
a boy found a roll of musty old papers, and was intently reading
them, when he was asked what he was doing.

"Reading a portion of the Scriptures that haven't been revealed
yet," was the response. This was Lincoln's "Chronicles," which is
herewith given


"Now, there was a man whose name was Reuben, and the same was
very great in substance, in horses and cattle and swine, and a
very great household.

"It came to pass when the sons of Reuben grew up that they were
desirous of taking to themselves wives, and, being too well known
as to honor in their own country, they took a journey into a far
country and there procured for themselves wives.

"It came to pass also that when they were about to make the
return home they sent a messenger before them to bear the tidings
to their parents.

"These, inquiring of the messenger what time their sons and wives
would come, made a great feast and called all their kinsmen and
neighbors in, and made great preparation.

"When the time drew nigh, they sent out two men to meet the
grooms and their brides, with a trumpet to welcome them, and to
accompany them.

"When they came near unto the house of Reuben, the father, the
messenger came before them and gave a shout, and the whole
multitude ran out with shouts of joy and music, playing on all
kinds of instruments.

"Some were playing on harps, some on viols, and some blowing on
rams' horns.

"Some also were casting dust and ashes toward Heaven, and chief
among them all was Josiah, blowing his bugle and making sounds so
great the neighboring hills and valleys echoed with the
resounding acclamation.

"When they had played and their harps had sounded till the grooms
and brides approached the gates, Reuben, the father, met them and
welcomed them to his house.

"The wedding feast being now ready, they were all invited to sit
down and eat, placing the bridegrooms and their brides at each
end of the table.

"Waiters were then appointed to serve and wait on the guests.
When all had eaten and were full and merry, they went out again
and played and sung till night.

"And when they had made an end of feasting and rejoicing the
multitude dispersed, each going to his own home.

"The family then took seats with their waiters to converse while
preparations were being made in two upper chambers for the brides
and grooms.

"This being done, the waiters took the two brides upstairs,
placing one in a room at the right hand of the stairs and the
other on the left.

"The waiters came down, and Nancy, the mother, then gave
directions to the waiters of the bridegrooms, and they took them
upstairs, but placed them in the wrong rooms.

"The waiters then all came downstairs.

"But the mother, being fearful of a mistake, made inquiry of the
waiters, and learning the true facts, took the light and sprang

"It came to pass she ran to one of the rooms and exclaimed, 'O
Lord, Reuben, you are with the wrong wife.'

"The young men, both alarmed at this, ran out with such violence
against each other, they came near knocking each other down.

"The tumult gave evidence to those below that the mistake was

"At last they all came down and had a long conversation about who
made the mistake, but it could not be decided.

"So ended the chapter."

The original manuscript of "The Chronicles of Reuben" was last in
the possession of Redmond Grigsby, of Rockport, Indiana. A
newspaper which had obtained a copy of the "Chronicles," sent a
reporter to interview Elizabeth Grigsby, or Aunt Betsy, as she
was called, and asked her about the famous manuscript and the
mistake made at the double wedding.

"Yes, they did have a joke on us," said Aunt Betsy. "They said my
man got into the wrong room and Charles got into my room. But it
wasn't so. Lincoln just wrote that for mischief. Abe and my man
often laughed about that.

An officer, having had some trouble with General Sherman, being
very angry, presented himself before Mr. Lincoln, who was
visiting the camp, and said, "Mr. President, I have a cause of
grievance. This morning I went to General Sherman and he
threatened to shoot me."

"Threatened to shoot you?" asked Mr. Lincoln. "Well, (in a stage
whisper) if I were you I would keep away from him; if he
threatens to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would
do it."

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

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

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

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

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

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