Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories

Once "Abe" borrowed Weems' "Life of Washington" from Joseph
Crawford, a neighbor. "Abe" devoured it; read it and re-read it,
and when asleep put it by him between the logs of the wall. One
night a rain storm wet it through and ruined it.

"I've no money," said "Abe," when reporting the disaster to
Crawford, "but I'll work it out."

"All right," was Crawford's response; "you pull fodder for three
days, an' the book is your'n."

"Abe" pulled the fodder, but he never forgave Crawford for
putting so much work upon him. He never lost an opportunity to
crack a joke at his expense, and the name "Blue-nose Crawford"
"Abe" applied to him stuck to him throughout his life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"'But look at him, doesn't he look as if he would make a
magnificent President?'"

(Written By Abraham Lincoln.)

The following article on Niagara Falls, in Mr. Lincoln's
handwriting, was found among his papers after his death:

"Niagara Falls! By what mysterious power is it that millions and
millions are drawn from all parts of the world to gaze upon
Niagara Falls? There is no mystery about the thing itself. Every
effect is just as any intelligent man, knowing the causes, would
anticipate without seeing it. If the water moving onward in a
great river reaches a point where there is a perpendicular jog of
a hundred feet in descent in the bottom of the river, it is plain
the water will have a violent and continuous plunge at that
point. It is also plain, the water, thus plunging, will foam and
roar, and send up a mist continuously, in which last, during
sunshine, there will be perpetual rainbows. The mere physical of
Niagara Falls is only this. Yet this is really a very small part
of that world's wonder. Its power to excite reflection and
emotion is its great charm. The geologist will demonstrate that
the plunge, or fall, was once at Lake Ontario, and has worn its
way back to its present position; he will ascertain how fast it
is wearing now, and so get a basis for determining how long it
has been wearing back from Lake Ontario, and finally demonstrate
by it that this world is at least fourteen thousand years old. A
philosopher of a slightly different turn will say, 'Niagara Falls
is only the lip of the basin out of which pours all the surplus
water which rains down on two or three hundred thousand square
miles of the earth's surface.' He will estimate with approximate
accuracy that five hundred thousand tons of water fall with their
full weight a distance of a hundred feet each minute--thus
exerting a force equal to the lifting of the same weight, through
the same space, in the same time.

"But still there is more. It calls up the indefinite past. When
Columbus first sought this continent--when Christ suffered on the
cross--when Moses led Israel through the Red Sea--nay, even when
Adam first came from the hand of his Maker; then, as now, Niagara
was roaring here. The eyes of that species of extinct giants
whose bones fill the mounds of America have gazed on Niagara, as
ours do now. Contemporary with the first race of men, and older
than the first man, Niagara is strong and fresh to-day as ten
thousand years ago. The Mammoth and Mastodon, so long dead that
fragments of their monstrous bones alone testify that they ever
lived, have gazed on Niagara--in that long, long time never still
for a single moment (never dried), never froze, never slept,
never rested."

A lady relative, who lived for two years with the Lincolns, said
that Mr. Lincoln was in the habit of lying on the floor with the
back of a chair for a pillow when he read.

One evening, when in this position in the hall, a knock was heard
at the front door, and, although in his shirtsleeves, he answered
the call. Two ladies were at the door, whom he invited into the
parlor, notifying them in his open, familiar way, that he would
"trot the women folks out."

Mrs. Lincoln, from an adjoining room, witnessed the ladies'
entrance, and, overhearing her husband's jocose expression, her
indignation was so instantaneous she made the situation
exceedingly interesting for him, and he was glad to retreat from
the house. He did not return till very late at night, and then
slipped quietly in at a rear door.

During the rebellion the Austrian Minister to the United States
Government introduced to the President a count, a subject of the
Austrian government, who was desirous of obtaining a position in
the American army.

Being introduced by the accredited Minister of Austria he
required no further recommendation to secure the appointment;
but, fearing that his importance might not be fully appreciated
by the republican President, the count was particular in
impressing the fact upon him that he bore that title, and that
his family was ancient and highly respectable.

President Lincoln listened with attention, until this unnecessary
commendation was mentioned; then, with a merry twinkle in his
eye, he tapped the aristocratic sprig of hereditary nobility on
the shoulder in the most fatherly way, as if the gentleman had
made a confession of some unfortunate circumstance connected with
his lineage, for which he was in no way responsible, and said:

"Never mind,you shall be treated with just as much consideration
for all that. I will see to it that your bearing a title shan't
hurt you."

A young man living in Kentucky had been enticed into the rebel
army. After a few months he became disgusted, and managed to make
his way back home. Soon after his arrival, the Union officer in
command of the military stationed in the town had him arrested as
a rebel spy, and, after a military trial he was condemned to be

President Lincoln was seen by one of his friends from Kentucky,
who explained his errand and asked for mercy. "Oh, yes, I
understand; some one has been crying, and worked upon your
feelings, and you have come here to work on mine."

His friend then went more into detail, and assured him of his
belief in the truth of the story. After some deliberation, Mr.
Lincoln, evidently scarcely more than half convinced, but still
preferring to err on the side of mercy, replied:

"If a man had more than one life, I think a little hanging would
not hurt this one; but after he is once dead we cannot bring him
back, no matter how sorry we may be; so the boy shall be

And a reprieve was given on the spot.

While the celebrated artist, Hicks, was engaged in painting Mr.
Lincoln's portrait, just after the former's first nomination for
the Presidency, he asked the great statesman if he could point
out the precise spot where he was born.

Lincoln thought the matter over for a day or two, and then gave
the artist the following memorandum:

"Springfield, Ill., June 14, 1860

"I was born February 12, 1809, in then Hardin county, Kentucky,
at a point within the now county of Larue, a mile or a mile and a
half from where Rodgen's mill now is. My parents being dead, and
my own memory not serving, I know no means of identifying the
precise locality. It was on Nolen Creek.


In his message to Congress in December, 1864, just after his
re-election, President Lincoln, in his message of December 6th,
let himself out, in plain, unmistakable terms, to the effect that
the freedmen should never be placed in bondage again. "Frank
Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" of December 24th, 1864, printed
the cartoon we herewith reproduce, the text underneath running in
this way:

UNCLE ABE: "Sambo, you are not handsome, any more than myself,
but as to sending you back to your old master, I'm not the man to
do it--and, what's more, I won't." (Vice President's message.)

Congress, at the previous sitting, had neglected to pass the
resolution for the Constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery,
but, on the 31st of January, 1865, the resolution was finally
adopted, and the United States Constitution soon had the new
feature as one of its clauses, the necessary number of State
Legislatures approving it. President Lincoln regarded the passage
of this resolution by Congress as most important, as the
amendment, in his mind, covered whatever defects a rigid
construction of the Constitution might find in his Emancipation

After the latter was issued, negroes were allowed to enlist in
the Army, and they fought well and bravely. After the War, in the
reorganization of the Regular Army, four regiments of colored men
were provided for--the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry and the
Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry. In the cartoon, Sambo
has evidently been asking "Uncle Abe" as to the probability or
possibility of his being again enslaved.

Some Lincoln enthusiast in Kansas, with much more pretensions
than power, wrote him in March, 1860 proposing to furnish a
Lincoln delegation from that State to the Chicago Convention, and
suggesting that Lincoln should pay the legitimate expenses of
organizing, electing, and taking to the convention the promised
Lincoln delegates.

To this Lincoln replied that "in the main, the use of money is
wrong, but for certain objects in a political contest the use of
some is both right and indispensable." And he added: "If you
shall be appointed a delegate to Chicago, I will furnish $100 to
bear the expenses of the trip."

He heard nothing further from the Kansas man until he saw an
announcement in the newspapers that Kansas had elected delegates
and instructed them for Seward.

Lincoln's military service in the Back Hawk war had increased his
popularity at New Salem, and he was put up as a candidate for the

A. Y. Ellis describes his personal appearance at this time as
follows: "He wore a mixed jean coat, claw-hammer style, short in
the sleeves and bob-tailed; in fact, it was so short in the tail
that he could not sit on it; flax and tow linen pantaloons and a
straw hat. I think he wore a vest, but do not remember how it
looked; he wore pot-metal boots."

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

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

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

"Oh, Pa! he isn't ugly at all; he's just beautiful!"

To a curiosity-seeker who desired a permit to pass the lines to
visit the field of Bull Run, after the first battle, Lincoln made
the following reply:

"A man in Cortlandt county raised a porker of such unusual size
that strangers went out of their way to see it.

"One of them the other day met the old gentleman and inquired
about the animal.

"'Wall, yes,' the old fellow said, 'I've got such a critter,
mi'ty big un; but I guess I'll have to charge you about a
shillin' for lookin' at him.'

"The stranger looked at the old man for a minute or so, pulled
out the desired coin, handed it to him and started to go off.
'Hold on,' said the other. 'don't you want to see the hog?'

"'No,' said the stranger; 'I have seen as big a hog as I want to

"And you will find that fact the case with yourself, if you
should happen to see a few live rebels there as well as dead

When Lincoln's special train from Springfield to Washington
reached the Illinois State line, there was a stop for dinner.
There was such a crowd that Lincoln could scarcely reach the
dining-room. "Gentlemen," said he, as he surveyed the crowd, "if
you will make me a little path, so that I can get through and get
something to eat, I will make you a speech when I get back."

When complaints were made to President Lincoln by victims of
Secretary of War Stanton's harshness, rudeness, and refusal to be
obliging--particularly in cases where Secretary Stanton had
refused to honor Lincoln's passes through the lines--the
President would often remark to this effect "I cannot always be
sure that permits given by me ought to be granted. There is an
understanding between myself and Stanton that when I send a
request to him which cannot consistently be granted, he is to
refuse to honor it. This he sometimes does."

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