Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories

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

Mr. Lovejoy, heading a committee of Western men, discussed an
important scheme with the President, and the gentlemen were then
directed to explain it to Secretary of War Stanton.

Upon presenting themselves to the Secretary, and showing the
President's order, the Secretary said: "Did Lincoln give you an
order of that kind?"

"He did, sir."

"Then he is a d--d fool," said the angry Secretary.

"Do you mean to say that the President is a d--d fool?" asked
Lovejoy, in amazement.

"Yes, sir, if he gave you such an order as that."

The bewildered Illinoisan betook himself at once to the President
and related the result of the conference.

"Did Stanton say I was a d--d fool?" asked Lincoln at the close
of the recital.

"He did, sir, and repeated it."

After a moment's pause, and looking up, the President said: "If
Stanton said I was a d--d fool, then I must be one, for he is
nearly always right, and generally says what he means. I will
slip over and see him."

A good story is told of how Mrs. Lincoln made a little surprise
for her husband.

In the early days it was customary for lawyers to go from one
county to another on horseback, a journey which often required
several weeks. On returning from one of these trips, late one
night, Mr. Lincoln dismounted from his horse at the familiar
corner and then turned to go into the house, but stopped; a
perfectly unknown structure was before him. Surprised, and
thinking there must be some mistake, he went across the way and
knocked at a neighbor's door. The family had retired, and so
called out:

"Who's there?"

"Abe Lincoln," was the reply. "I am looking for my house. I
thought it was across the way, but when I went away a few weeks
ago there was only a one-story house there and now there is a
two-story house in its place. I think I must be lost."

The neighbors then explained that Mrs. Lincoln had added another
story during his absence. And Mr. Lincoln laughed and went to his
remodeled house.

The persistence of office-seekers nearly drove President Lincoln
wild. They slipped in through the half-opened doors of the
Executive Mansion; they dogged his steps if he walked; they edged
their way through the crowds and thrust their papers in his hands
when he rode; and, taking it all in all, they well-nigh worried
him to death.

He once said that if the Government passed through the Rebellion
without dismemberment there was the strongest danger of its
falling a prey to the rapacity of the office-seeking class.

"This human struggle and scramble for office, for a way to live
without work, will finally test the strength of our
institutions," were the words he used.

On April 20th a delegation from Baltimore appeared at the White
House and begged the President that troops for Washington be sent
around and not through Baltimore.

President Lincoln replied, laughingly: "If I grant this
concession, you will be back tomorrow asking that no troops be
marched 'around' it."

The President was right. That afternoon, and again on Sunday and
Monday, committees sought him, protesting that Maryland soil
should not be "polluted" by the feet of soldiers marching against
the South.

The President had but one reply: "We must have troops, and as
they can neither crawl under Maryland nor fly over it, they must
come across it."

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

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

After a pleasant interview, the Governor, alluding to the coming
Presidential election said, jokingly, but with a grain of
sarcasm: "I understand Mr. President, that everybody votes in
this country. If we remain until November, can we vote?"

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

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

"'I am forninst the Government, anyhow. Tell me, if your Honor
plase: which is the rebellion side, and I'll tell you haw I want
to vote. In ould Ireland, I was always on the rebellion side,
and, by Saint Patrick, I'll do that same in America.' Your
Excellency," said Mr. Lincoln, "would, I should think, not be at
all at a loss on which side to vote!"

One night, about eleven o'clock, Colonel A. K. McClure, whose
intimacy with President Lincoln was so great that he could obtain
admittance to the Executive Mansion at any and all hours, called
at the White House to urge Mr. Lincoln to remove General Grant
from command.

After listening patiently for a long time, the President,
gathering himself up in his chair, said, with the utmost

"I can't spare this man; he fights!"

In relating the particulars of this interview, Colonel McClure

"That was all he said, but I knew that it was enough, and that
Grant was safe in Lincoln's hands against his countless hosts of
enemies. The only man in all the nation who had the power to save
Grant was Lincoln, and he had decided to do it. He was not
influenced by any personal partiality for Grant, for they had
never met.

"It was not until after the battle of Shiloh, fought on the 6th
and 7th of April, 1862, that Lincoln was placed in a position to
exercise a controlling influence in shaping the destiny of Grant.
The first reports from the Shiloh battle-field created profound
alarm throughout the entire country, and the wildest
exaggerations were spread in a floodtide of vituperation against

"The few of to-day who can recall the inflamed condition of
public sentiment against Grant caused by the disastrous first
day's battle at Shiloh will remember that he was denounced as
incompetent for his command by the public journals of all parties
in the North, and with almost entire unanimity by Senators and
Congressmen, regardless of political affinities.

"I appealed to Lincoln for his own sake to remove Grant at once,
and in giving my reasons for it I simply voiced the admittedly
overwhelming protest from the loyal people of the land against
Grant's continuance in command.

"I did not forget that Lincoln was the one man who never allowed
himself to appear as wantonly defying public sentiment. It seemed
to me impossible for him to save Grant without taking a crushing
load of condemnation upon himself; but Lincoln was wiser than all
those around him, and he not only saved Grant, but he saved him
by such well-concerted effort that he soon won popular applause
from those who were most violent in demanding Grant's dismissal."

During the Lincoln-Douglas joint debates of 1858, the latter
accused Lincoln of having, when in Congress, voted against the
appropriation for supplies to be sent the United States soldiers
in Mexico. In reply, Lincoln said: "This is a perversion of the
facts. I was opposed to the policy of the administration in
declaring war against Mexico; but when war was declared I never
failed to vote for the support of any proposition looking to the
comfort of our poor fellows who were maintaining the dignity of
our flag in a war that I thought unnecessary and unjust."

He gradually became more and more excited; his voice thrilled and
his whole frame shook. Sitting on the stand was O. B. Ficklin,
who had served in Congress with Lincoln in 1847. Lincoln reached
back, took Ficklin by the coat-collar, back of his neck, and in
no gentle manner lifted him from his seat as if he had been a
kitten, and roared: "Fellow-citizens, here is Ficklin, who was at
that time in Congress with me, and he knows it is a lie."

He shook Ficklin until his teeth chattered. Fearing he would
shake Ficklin's head off, Ward Lamon grasped Lincoln's hand and
broke his grip.

After the speaking was over, Ficklin, who had warm personal
friendship with him, said: "Lincoln, you nearly shook all the
Democracy out of me to-day."

President Lincoln was censured for appointing one that had
zealously opposed his second term.

He replied: "Well, I suppose Judge E., having been disappointed
before, did behave pretty ugly, but that wouldn't make him any
less fit for the place; and I think I have Scriptural authority
for appointing him.

"You remember when the Lord was on Mount Sinai getting out a
commission for Aaron, that same Aaron was at the foot of the
mountain making a false god for the people to worship. Yet Aaron
got his commission, you know."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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