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  • 1900
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COLUMBIA: “Where are my 15,000 sons–murdered at Fredericksburg?”

LINCOLN: “This reminds me of a little joke–“

COLUMBIA: “Go tell your joke at Springfield!!”

The battle of Fredericksburg was fought on December 13th, 1862, between General Burnside, commanding the Army of the Potomac, and General Lee’s force. The Union troops, time and again, assaulted the heights where the Confederates had taken position, but were driven back with frightful losses. The enemy, being behind breastworks, suffered comparatively little. At the beginning of the fight the Confederate line was broken, but the result of the engagement was disastrous to the Union cause. Burnside had one thousand one hundred and fifty-two killed, nine thousand one hundred and one wounded, and three thousand two hundred and thirty-four missing, a total of thirteen thousand seven hundred and seventy-one. General Lee’s losses, all told, were not much more than five thousand men.

Burnside had succeeded McClellan in command of the Army of the Potomac, mainly, it was said, through the influence of Secretary of War Stanton. Three months before, McClellan had defeated Lee at Antietam, the bloodiest battle of the War, Lee’s losses footing up more than thirteen thousand men. At Fredericksburg, Burnside had about one hundred and twenty thousand men; at Antietam, McClellan had about eighty thousand. It has been maintained that Burnside should not have fought this battle, the chances of success being so few.


“Abe’s” school teacher, Crawford, endeavored to teach his pupils some of the manners of the “polite society” of Indiana–1823 or so. This was a part of his system:

One of the pupils would retire, and then come in as a stranger, and another pupil would have to introduce him to all the members of the school n what was considered “good manners.”

As “Abe” wore a linsey-woolsey shirt, buckskin breeches which were too short and very tight, and low shoes, and was tall and awkward, he no doubt created considerable merriment when his turn came. He was growing at a fearful rate; he was fifteen years of age, and two years later attained his full height of six feet four inches.


Early in 1831, “Abe” was one of the guests of honor at a boat-launching, he and two others having built the craft. The affair was a notable one, people being present from the territory surrounding. A large party came from Springfield with an ample supply of whisky, to give the boat and its builders a send-off. It was a sort of bipartisan mass-meeting, but there was one prevailing spirit, that born of rye and corn. Speeches were made in the best of feeling, some in favor of Andrew Jackson and some in favor of Henry Clay. Abraham Lincoln, the cook, told a number of funny stories, and it is recorded that they were not of too refined a character to suit the taste of his audience. A sleight-of-hand performer was present, and among other tricks performed, he fried some eggs in Lincoln’s hat. Judge Herndon says, as explanatory to the delay in passing up the hat for the experiment, Lincoln drolly observed: “It was out of respect for the eggs, not care for my hat.”


William G. Greene, an old-time friend of Lincoln, was a student at Illinois College, and one summer brought home with him, on a vacation, Richard Yates (afterwards Governor of Illinois) and some other boys, and, in order to entertain them, took them up to see Lincoln.

He found him in his usual position and at his usual occupation– flat on his back, on a cellar door, reading a newspaper. This was the manner in which a President of the United States and a Governor of Illinois became acquainted with each other.

Greene says Lincoln repeated the whole of Burns, and a large quantity of Shakespeare for the entertainment of the college boys, and, in return, was invited to dine with them on bread and milk. How he managed to upset his bowl of milk is not a matter of history, but the fact is that he did so, as is the further fact that Greene’s mother, who loved Lincoln, tried to smooth over the accident and relieve the young man’s embarrassment.


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 work.”


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 stopping.

“‘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 hanged.

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 pardoned.”

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 Proclamation.

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 Legislature.

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 House.

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 see!’

“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 ones.”


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.”


“There won’t be a tar barrel left in Illinois to-night,” said Senator Stephen A. Douglas, in Washington, to his Senatorial friends, who asked him, when the news of the nomination of Lincoln reached them, “Who is this man Lincoln, anyhow?”

Douglas was right. Not only the tar barrels, but half the fences of the State of Illinois went up in the fire of rejoicing.

THE “GREAT SNOW” OF 1830-31.

In explanation of Lincoln’s great popularity, D. W. Bartlett, in his “Life and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln,” published in 1860 makes this statement of “Abe’s” efficient service to his neighbors in the “Great Snow” of 1830-31:

“The deep snow which occurred in 1830-31 was one of the chief troubles endured by the early settlers of central and southern Illinois. Its consequences lasted through several years. The people were ill-prepared to meet it, as the weather had been mild and pleasant–unprecedentedly so up to Christmas–when a snow-storm set in which lasted two days, something never before known even among the traditions of the Indians, and never approached in the weather of any winter since.

“The pioneers who came into the State (then a territory) in 1800 say the average depth of snow was never, previous to 1830, more than knee-deep to an ordinary man, while it was breast-high all that winter.

It became crusted over, so as, in some cases, to bear teams. Cattle and horses perished, the winter wheat was killed, the meager stock of provisions ran out, and during the three months’ continuance of the snow, ice and continuous cold weather the most wealthy settlers came near starving, while some of the poor ones actually did. It was in the midst of such scenes that Abraham Lincoln attained his majority, and commenced his career of bold and manly independence . . . . .

“Communication between house and house was often entirely obstructed for teams, so that the young and strong men had to do all the traveling on foot; carrying from one neighbor what of his store he could spare to another, and bringing back in return something of his store sorely needed. Men living five, ten, twenty and thirty miles apart were called ‘neighbors’ then. Young Lincoln was always ready to perform these acts of humanity, and was foremost in the counsels of the settlers when their troubles seemed gathering like a thick cloud about them.”


A certain rich man in Springfield, Illinois, sued a poor attorney for $2.50, and Lincoln was asked to prosecute the case. Lincoln urged the creditor to let the matter drop, adding, “You can make nothing out of him, and it will cost you a good deal more than the debt to bring suit.” The creditor was still determined to have his way, and threatened to seek some other attorney. Lincoln then said, “Well, if you are determined that suit should be brought, I will bring it; but my charge will be $10.”

The money was paid him, and peremptory orders were given that the suit be brought that day. After the client’s departure Lincoln went out of the office, returning in about an hour with an amused look on his face.

Asked what pleased him, he replied, “I brought suit against –, and then hunted him up, told him what I had done, handed him half of the $10, and we went over to the squire’s office. He confessed judgment and paid the bill.”

Lincoln added that he didn’t see any other way to make things satisfactory for his client as well as the other.


Judge Thomas B. Bryan, of Chicago, a member of the Union Defense Committee during the War, related the following concerning the original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation:

“I asked Mr. Lincoln for the original draft of the Proclamation,” said Judge Bryan, “for the benefit of our Sanitary Fair, in 1865. He sent it and accompanied it with a note in which he said:

“‘I had intended to keep this paper, but if it will help the soldiers, I give it to you.’

“The paper was put up at auction and brought $3,000. The buyer afterward sold it again to friends of Mr. Lincoln at a greatly advanced price, and it was placed in the rooms of the Chicago Historical Society, where it was burned in the great fire of 1871.”


An elegantly dressed young Virginian assured Lincoln that he had done a great deal of hard manual labor in his time. Much amused at this solemn declaration, Lincoln said:

“Oh, yes; you Virginians shed barrels of perspiration while standing off at a distance and superintending the work your slaves do for you. It is different with us. Here it is every fellow for himself, or he doesn’t get there.”


When young Lincoln had fully demonstrated that he was the champion wrestler in the country surrounding New Salem, the men of “de gang” at Clary’s Grove, whose leader “Abe” had downed, were his sworn political friends and allies.

Their work at the polls was remarkably effective. When the “Butcherknife boys,” the “huge-pawed boys,” and the “half-horse-half-alligator men” declared for a candidate the latter was never defeated.


Soon after the opening of Congress in 1861, Mr. Shannon, from California, made the customary call at the White House. In the conversation that ensued, Mr Shannon said: “Mr. President, I met an old friend of yours in California last summer, a Mr. Campbell, who had a good deal to say of your Springfield life.”

“Ah!” returned Mr. Lincoln, “I am glad to hear of him. Campbell used to be a dry fellow in those days,” he continued. “For a time he was Secretary of State. One day during the legislative vacation, a meek, cadaverous-looking man, with a white neckcloth, introduced himself to him at his office, and, stating that he had been informed that Mr. C. had the letting of the hall of representatives, he wished to secure it, if possible, for a course of lectures he desired to deliver in Springfield.

“‘May I ask,’ said the Secretary, ‘what is to be the subject of your lectures?’

“‘Certainly,’ was the reply, with a very solemn expression of countenance. ‘The course I wish to deliver is on the Second Coming of our Lord.’

“‘It is of no use,’ said C.; ‘if you will take my advice, you will not waste your time in this city. It is my private opinion that, if the Lord has been in Springfield once, He will never come the second time!'”


J. S. Moulton, of Chicago, a master in chancery and influential in public affairs, looked upon the candidacy of Mr. Lincoln for President as something in the nature of a joke. He did not rate the Illinois man in the same class with the giants of the East. In fact he had expressed himself as by no means friendly to the Lincoln cause.

Still he had been a good friend to Lincoln and had often met him when the Springfield lawyer came to Chicago. Mr. Lincoln heard of Moulton’s attitude, but did not see Moulton until after the election, when the President-elect came to Chicago and was tendered a reception at one of the big hotels.

Moulton went up in the line to pay his respects to the newly-elected chief magistrate, purely as a formality, he explained to his companions. As Moulton came along the line Mr. Lincoln grasped Moulton’s hand with his right, and with his left took the master of chancery by the shoulder and pulled him out of the line.

“You don’t belong in that line, Moulton,” said Mr. Lincoln. “You belong here by me.”

Everyone at the reception was a witness to the honoring of Moulton. From that hour every faculty that Moulton possessed was at the service of the President. A little act of kindness, skillfully bestowed, had won him; and he stayed on to the end.


If a client did not pay, Lincoln did not believe in suing for the fee. When a fee was paid him his custom was to divide the money into two equal parts, put one part into his pocket, and the other into an envelope labeled “Herndon’s share.”


It is recorded that when “Abe” was born, the household goods of his father consisted of a few cooking utensils, a little bedding, some carpenter tools, and four hundred gallons of the fierce product of the mountain still.


One of the cartoon-posters issued by the Democratic National Campaign Committee in the fall of 1864 is given here. It had the legend, “Running the Machine,” printed beneath; the “machine” was Secretary Chase’s “Greenback Mill,” and the mill was turning out paper money by the million to satisfy the demands of greedy contractors. “Uncle Abe” is pictured as about to tell one of his funny stories, of which the scene “reminds” him; Secretary of War Stanton is receiving a message from the front, describing a great victory, in which one prisoner and one gun were taken; Secretary of State Seward is handing an order to a messenger for the arrest of a man who had called him a “humbug,” the habeas corpus being suspended throughout the Union at that period; Secretary of the Navy Welles–the long-haired, long-bearded man at the head of the table–is figuring out a naval problem; at the side of the table, opposite “Uncle Abe,” are seated two Government contractors, shouting for “more greenbacks,” and at the extreme left is Secretary of the Treasury Fessenden (who succeeded Chase when the latter was made Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court), who complains that he cannot satisfy the greed of the contractors for “more greenbacks,” although he is grinding away at the mill day and night.


Lincoln was the actual head of the administration, and whenever he chose to do so he controlled Secretary of War Stanton as well as the other Cabinet ministers.

Secretary Stanton on one occasion said: “Now, Mr. President, those are the facts and you must see that your order cannot be executed.”

Lincoln replied in a somewhat positive tone: “Mr. Secretary, I reckon you’ll have to execute the order.”

Stanton replied with vigor: “Mr. President, I cannot do it. This order is an improper one, and I cannot execute it.”

Lincoln fixed his eyes upon Stanton, and, in a firm voice and accent that clearly showed his determination, said: “Mr. Secretary, it will have to be done.”

It was done.


Ward Lamon, once Lincoln’s law partner, relates a story which places Lincoln’s high sense of honor in a prominent light. In a certain case, Lincoln and Lamon being retained by a gentleman named Scott, Lamon put the fee at $250, and Scott agreed to pay it. Says Lamon:

“Scott expected a contest, but, to his surprise, the case was tried inside of twenty minutes; our success was complete. Scott was satisfied, and cheerfully paid over the money to me inside the bar, Lincoln looking on. Scott then went out, and Lincoln asked, ‘What did you charge that man?’

“I told him $250. Said he: ‘Lamon, that is all wrong. The service was not worth that sum. Give him back at least half of it.’

“I protested that the fee was fixed in advance; that Scott was perfectly satisfied, and had so expressed himself. ‘That may be,’ retorted Lincoln, with a look of distress and of undisguised displeasure, ‘but I am not satisfied. This is positively wrong. Go, call him back and return half the money at least, or I will not receive one cent of it for my share.’

“I did go, and Scott was astonished when I handed back half the fee.

“This conversation had attracted the attention of the lawyers and the court. Judge David Davis, then on our circuit bench (afterwards Associate Justice on the United States Supreme bench), called Lincoln to him. The Judge never could whisper, but in this instance he probably did his best. At all events, in attempting to whisper to Lincoln he trumpeted his rebuke in about these words, and in rasping tones that could be heard all over the court-room: ‘Lincoln, I have been watching you and Lamon. You are impoverishing this bar by your picayune charges of fees, and the lawyers have reason to complain of you. You are now almost as poor as Lazarus, and if you don’t make people pay you more for your services you will die as poor as Job’s turkey!’

“Judge O. L. Davis, the leading lawyer in that part of the State, promptly applauded this malediction from the bench; but Lincoln was immovable.

“‘That money,’ said he, ‘comes out of the pocket of a poor, demented girl, and I would rather starve than swindle her in this manner.'”


“Billy, don’t shoot too high–aim lower, and the common people will understand you,” Lincoln once said to a brother lawyer.

“They are the ones you want to reach–at least, they are the ones you ought to reach.

“The educated and refined people will understand you, anyway. If you aim too high, your idea will go over the heads of the masses, and only hit those who need no hitting.”


One who afterward became one of Lincoln’s most devoted friends and adherents tells this story regarding the manner in which Lincoln received him when they met for the first time:

“After a comical survey of my fashionable toggery,–my swallow-tail coat, white neck-cloth, and ruffled shirt (an astonishing outfit for a young limb of the law in that settlement), Lincoln said:

“‘Going to try your hand at the law, are you? I should know at a glance that you were a Virginian; but I don’t think you would succeed at splitting rails. That was my occupation at your age, and I don’t think I have taken as much pleasure in anything else from that day to this.'”


July 27th, 1863, Lincoln wrote the Postmaster-General:

“Yesterday little indorsements of mine went to you in two cases of postmasterships, sought for widows whose husbands have fallen in the battles of this war.

“These cases, occurring on the same day, brought me to reflect more attentively than what I had before done as to what is fairly due from us here in dispensing of patronage toward the men who, by fighting our battles, bear the chief burden of saving our country.

“My conclusion is that, other claims and qualifications being equal, they have the right, and this is especially applicable to the disabled soldier and the deceased soldier’s family.”


When told how uneasy all had been at his going to Richmond, Lincoln replied:

“Why, if any one else had been President and had gone to Richmond, I would have been alarmed; but I was not scared about myself a bit.”


On the 20th of July, 1864, Horace Greeley crossed into Canada to confer with refugee rebels at Niagara. He bore with him this paper from the President:

“To Whom It May Concern: Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war with the United States, will be received and considered by the executive government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms and other substantial and collateral points, and the bearer or bearers thereof shall have safe conduct both ways.”

To this Jefferson Davis replied: “We are not fighting for slavery; we are fighting for independence.”


Lincoln was compelled to contend with the results of the ill-judged zeal of politicians, who forced ahead his flatboat and rail-splitting record, with the homely surroundings of his earlier days, and thus, obscured for the time, the other fact that, always having the heart, he had long since acquired the manners of a true gentleman.

So, too, did he suffer from Eastern censors, who did not take those surroundings into account, and allowed nothing for his originality of character. One of these critics heard at Washington that Mr. Lincoln, in speaking at different times of some move or thing, said “it had petered out;” that some other one’s plan “wouldn’t gibe;” and being asked if the War and the cause of the Union were not a great care to him, replied:

“Yes, it is a heavy hog to hold.”

The first two phrases are so familiar here in the West that they need no explanation. Of the last and more pioneer one it may be said that it had a special force, and was peculiarly Lincoln-like in the way applied by him.

In the early times in Illinois, those having hogs, did their own killing, assisted by their neighbors. Stripped of its hair, one held the carcass nearly perpendicular in the air, head down, while others put one point of the gambrel-bar through a slit in its hock, then over the string-pole, and the other point through the other hock, and so swung the animal clear of the ground. While all this was being done, it took a good man to “hold the hog,” greasy, warmly moist, and weighing some two hundred pounds. And often those with the gambrel prolonged the strain, being provokingly slow, in hopes to make the holder drop his burden.

This latter thought is again expressed where President Lincoln, writing of the peace which he hoped would “come soon, to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time,” added that while there would “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,” he feared there would “be some white ones unable to forget that, with malignant heart and deceitful tongue, they had striven to hinder it.”

He had two seemingly opposite elements little understood by strangers, and which those in more intimate relations with him find difficult to explain; an open, boyish tongue when in a happy mood, and with this a reserve of power, a force of thought that impressed itself without words on observers in his presence. With the cares of the nation on his mind, he became more meditative, and lost much of his lively ways remembered “back in Illinois.”


One of the most beautiful traits of Mr. Lincoln’s character was his considerate regard for the poor and obscure relatives he had left, plodding along in their humble ways of life. Wherever upon his circuit he found them, he always went to their dwellings, ate with them, and, when convenient, made their houses his home. He never assumed in their presence the slightest superiority to them. He gave them money when they needed it and he had it. Countless times he was known to leave his companions at the village hotel, after a hard day’s work in the court-room, and spend the evening with these old friends and companions of his humbler days. On one occasion, when urged not to go, he replied, “Why, Aunt’s heart would be broken if I should leave town without calling upon her;” yet, he was obliged to walk several miles to make the call.


This was the reply made by Lincoln to an application for the pardon of a soldier who had shown himself brave in war, had been severely wounded, but afterward deserted:

“Did you say he was once badly wounded?

“Then, as the Scriptures say that in the shedding of blood is the remission of sins, I guess we’ll have to let him off this time.”


President Lincoln and Postmaster-General Blair were talking of the war.

“Blair,” said the President, “did you ever know that fright has sometimes proven a cure for boils?” “No, Mr. President, how is that?” “I’ll tell you. Not long ago when a colonel, with his cavalry, was at the front, and the Rebs were making things rather lively for us, the colonel was ordered out to a reconnoissance. He was troubled at the time with a big boil where it made horseback riding decidedly uncomfortable. He finally dismounted and ordered the troops forward without him. Soon he was startled by the rapid reports of pistols and the helter-skelter approach of his troops in full retreat before a yelling rebel force. He forgot everything but the yells, sprang into his saddle, and made capital time over the fences and ditches till safe within the lines. The pain from his boil was gone, and the boil, too, and the colonel swore that there was no cure for boils so sure as fright from rebel yells.”


When President Lincoln issued a military order, it was usually expressive, as the following shows:

“War Department, Washington, July 22, ’62.

“First: Ordered that military commanders within the States of Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, in an orderly manner, seize and use any property, real or personal, which may be necessary or convenient for their several commands, for supplies, or for other military purposes; and that while property may be all stored for proper military objects, none shall be destroyed in wantonness or malice.

“Second: That military and naval commanders shall employ as laborers within and from said States, so many persons of African descent as can be advantageously used for military or naval purposes, giving them reasonable wages for their labor.

“Third: That as to both property and persons of African descent, accounts shall be kept sufficiently accurate and in detail to show quantities and amounts, and from whom both property and such persons shall have come, as a basis upon which compensation can be made in proper cases; and the several departments of this Government shall attend to and perform their appropriate parts towards the execution of these orders.

“By order of the President.”


Judge David Davis, Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and United States Senator from Illinois, was one of Lincoln’s most intimate friends. He told this story on “Abe”:

“Lincoln was very bashful when in the presence of ladies. I remember once we were invited to take tea at a friend’s house, and while in the parlor I was called to the front gate to see someone.

“When I returned, Lincoln, who had undertaken to entertain the ladies, was twisting and squirming in his chair, and as bashful as a schoolboy.”


There was much that was irritating and uncomfortable in the circuit-riding of the Illinois court, but there was more which was amusing to a temperament like Lincoln’s. The freedom, the long days in the open air, the unexpected if trivial adventures, the meeting with wayfarers and settlers–all was an entertainment to him. He found humor and human interest on the route where his companions saw nothing but commonplaces.

“He saw the ludicrous in an assemblage of fowls,” says H. C. Whitney, one of his fellow-itinerants, “in a man spading his garden, in a clothes-line full of clothes, in a group of boys, in a lot of pigs rooting at a mill door, in a mother duck teaching her brood to swim–in everything and anything.”


It was in the latter part of 1863 that Russia offered its friendship to the United States, and sent a strong fleet of warships, together with munitions of war, to this country to be used in any way the President might see fit. Russia was not friendly to England and France, these nations having defeated her in the Crimea a few years before. As Great Britain and the Emperor of the French were continually bothering him, President Lincoln used Russia’s kindly feeling and action as a means of keeping the other two powers named in a neutral state of mind. Underneath the cartoon we here reproduce, which was labeled “Drawing Things to a Head,” and appeared in the issue of “Harper’s Weekly,” of November 28, 1863, was this DR. LINCOLN (to smart boy of the shop): “Mild applications of Russian Salve for our friends over the way, and heavy doses–and plenty of it for our Southern patient!!”

Secretary of State Seward was the “smart boy” of the shop, and “our friend over the way” were England and France. The latter bothered President Lincoln no more, but it is a fact that the Confederate privateer Alabama was manned almost entirely by British seamen; also, that when the Alabama was sunk by the Kearsarge, in the summer of 1864, the Confederate seamen were picked up by an English vessel, taken to Southhampton, and set at liberty!


Lincoln was candor itself when conducting his side of a case in court. General Mason Brayman tells this story as an illustration:

“It is well understood by the profession that lawyers do not read authores favoring the opposite side. I once heard Mr. Lincoln, in the Supreme Court of Illinois, reading from a reported case some strong points in favor of his argument. Reading a little too far, and before becoming aware of it, plunged into an authority against himself.

“Pausing a moment, he drew up his shoulders in a comical way, and half laughing, went on, ‘There, there, may it please the court, I reckon I’ve scratched up a snake. But, as I’m in for it, I guess I’ll read it through.’

“Then, in his most ingenious and matchless manner, he went on with his argument, and won his case, convincing the court that it was not much of a snake after all.”


Lincoln was fond of going all by himself to any little show or concert. He would often slip away from his fellow-lawyers and spend the entire evening at a little magic lantern show intended for children.

A traveling concert company was always sure of drawing Lincoln. A Mrs. Hillis, a member of the “Newhall Family,” and a good singer, was the only woman who ever seemed to exhibit any liking for him–so Lincoln said. He attended a negro-minstrel show in Chicago, once, where he heard Dixie sung. It was entirely new, and pleased him greatly.


An Eastern newspaper writer told how Lincoln, after his first nomination, received callers, the majority of them at his law office:

“While talking to two or three gentlemen and standing up, a very hard looking customer rolled in and tumbled into the only vacant chair and the one lately occupied by Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln’s keen eye took in the fact, but gave no evidence of the notice.

“Turning around at last he spoke to the odd specimen, holding out his hand at such a distance that our friend had to vacate the chair if he accepted the proffered shake. Mr. Lincoln quietly resumed his chair.

“It was a small matter, yet one giving proof more positively than a larger event of that peculiar way the man has of mingling with a mixed crowd.”


Among the lawyers who traveled the circuit with Lincoln was Usher F. Linder, whose daughter, Rose Linder Wilkinson, has left many Lincoln reminiscences.

“One case in which Mr. Lincoln was interested concerned a member of my own family,” said Mrs. Wilkinson. “My brother, Dan, in the heat of a quarrel, shot a young man named Ben Boyle and was arrested. My father was seriously ill with inflammatory rheumatism at the time, and could scarcely move hand or foot. He certainly could not defend Dan. I was his secretary, and I remember it was but a day or so after the shooting till letters of sympathy began to pour in. In the first bundle which I picked up there was a big letter, the handwriting on which I recognized as that of Mr. Lincoln. The letter was very sympathetic.

“‘I know how you feel, Linder,’ it said. ‘I can understand your anger as a father, added to all the other sentiments. But may we not be in a measure to blame? We have talked about the defense of criminals before our children; about our success in defending them; have left the impression that the greater the crime, the greater the triumph of securing an acquittal. Dan knows your success as a criminal lawyer, and he depends on you, little knowing that of all cases you would be of least value in this.’

“He concluded by offering his services, an offer which touched my father to tears.

“Mr. Lincoln tried to have Dan released on bail, but Ben Boyle’s family and friends declared the wounded man would die, and feeling had grown so bitter that the judge would not grant any bail. So the case was changed to Marshall county, but as Ben finally recovered it was dismissed.”


Lincoln at one time thought seriously of learning the blacksmith’s trade. He was without means, and felt the immediate necessity of undertaking some business that would give him bread. While entertaining this project an event occurred which, in his undetermined state of mind, seemed to open a way to success in another quarter.

Reuben Radford, keeper of a small store in the village of New Salem, had incurred the displeasure of the “Clary Grove Boys,” who exercised their “regulating” prerogatives by irregularly breaking his windows. William G. Greene, a friend of young Lincoln, riding by Radford’s store soon afterward, was hailed by him, and told that he intended to sell out. Mr. Greene went into the store, and offered him at random $400 for his stock, which offer was immediately accepted.

Lincoln “happened in” the next day, and being familiar with the value of the goods, Mr. Greene proposed to him to take an inventory of the stock, to see what sort of a bargain he had made. This he did, and it was found that the goods were worth $600.

Lincoln then made an offer of $125 for his bargain, with the proposition that he and a man named Berry, as his partner, take over Greene’s notes given to Radford. Mr. Greene agreed to the arrangement, but Radford declined it, except on condition that Greene would be their security. Greene at last assented.

Lincoln was not afraid of the “Clary Grove Boys”; on the contrary, they had been his most ardent friends since the time he thrashed “Jack” Armstrong, champion bully of “The Grove”–but their custom was not heavy.

The business soon became a wreck; Greene had to not only assist in closing it up, but pay Radford’s notes as well. Lincoln afterwards spoke of these notes, which he finally made good to Greene, as “the National Debt.”


When Lincoln’s sympathies were enlisted in any cause, he worked like a giant to win. At one time (about 1855) he was in attendance upon court at the little town of Clinton, Ill., and one of the cases on the docket was where fifteen women from a neighboring village were defendants, they having been indicted for trespass. Their offense, as duly set forth in the indictment, was that of swooping down upon one Tanner, the keeper of a saloon in the village, and knocking in the heads of his barrels. Lincoln was not employed in the case, but sat watching the trial as it proceeded.

In defending the ladies, their attorney seemed to evince a little want of tact, and this prompted one of the former to invite Mr. Lincoln to add a few words to the jury, if he thought he could aid their cause. He was too gallant to refuse, and their attorney having consented, he made use of the following argument:

“In this case I would change the order of indictment and have it read The State vs. Mr. Whiskey, instead of The State vs. The Ladies; and touching these there are three laws: the law of self-protection; the law of the land, or statute law; and the moral law, or law of God.

“First the law of self-protection is a law of necessity, as evinced by our forefathers in casting the tea overboard and asserting their right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness: In this case it is the only defense the Ladies have, for Tanner neither feared God nor regarded man.

“Second, the law of the land, or statute law, and Tanner is recreant to both.

“Third, the moral law, or law of God, and this is probably a law for the violation of which the jury can fix no punishment.”

Lincoln gave some of his own observations on the ruinous effects of whiskey in society, and demanded its early suppression.

After he had concluded, the Court, without awaiting the return of the jury, dismissed the ladies, saying:

“Ladies, go home. I will require no bond of you, and if any fine is ever wanted of you, we will let you know.”


Frank W. Tracy, President of the First National Bank of Springfield, tells a story illustrative of two traits in Mr. Lincoln’s character. Shortly after the National banking law went into effect the First National of Springield was chartered, and Mr. Tracy wrote to Mr. Lincoln, with whom he was well acquainted in a business way, and tendered him an opportunity to subscribe for some of the stock.

In reply to the kindly offer Mr. Lincoln wrote, thanking Mr. Tracy, but at the same time declining to subscribe. He said he recognized that stock in a good National bank would be a good thing to hold, but he did not feel that he ought, as President, profit from a law which had been passed under his administration.

“He seemed to wish to avoid even the appearance of evil,” said Mr. Tracy, in telling of the incident. “And so the act proved both his unvarying probity and his unfailing policy.”


Lincoln wrote a letter on October 2d, 1862, in which he observed

“I sincerely wish war was a pleasanter and easier business than it is, but it does not admit of holidays.”


Old John Bull got himself into a precious fine scrape when he went so far as to “play double” with the North, as well as the South, during the great American Civil War. In its issue of November 14th, 1863, London “Punch” printed a rather clever cartoon illustrating the predicament Bull had created for himself. John is being lectured by Mrs. North and Mrs. South– both good talkers and eminently able to hold their own in either social conversation, parliamentary debate or political argument– but he bears it with the best grace possible. This is the way the text underneath the picture runs:

MRS. NORTH. “How about the Alabama, you wicked old man?” MRS. SOUTH: “Where’s my rams? Take back your precious consols– there!!” “Punch” had a good deal of fun with old John before it was through with him, but, as the Confederate privateer Alabama was sent beneath the waves of the ocean at Cherbourg by the Kearsarge, and Mrs. South had no need for any more rams, John got out of the difficulty without personal injury. It was a tight squeeze, though, for Mrs. North was in a fighting humor, and prepared to scratch or pull hair. The fact that the privateer Alabama, built at an English shipyard and manned almost entirely by English sailors, had managed to do about $10,000,000 worth of damage to United States commerce, was enough to make any one angry.


After the war was well on, a patriot woman of the West urged President Lincoln to make hospitals at the North where the sick from the Army of the Mississippi could revive in a more bracing air. Among other reasons, she said, feelingly: “If you grant my petition, you will be glad as long as you live.”

With a look of sadness impossible to describe, the President said:

“I shall never be glad any more.”


Lincoln always regarded himself as the friend and protector of unfortunate clients, and such he would never press for pay for his services. A client named Cogdal was unfortunate in business, and gave a note in settlenent of legal fees. Soon afterward he met with an accident by which he lost a hand. Meeting Lincoln some time after on the steps of the State-House, the kind lawyer asked him how he was getting along.

“Badly enough,” replied Cogdal; “I am both broken up in business and crippled.” Then he added, “I have been thinking about that note of yours.”

Lincoln, who had probably known all about Cogdal’s troubles, and had prepared himself for the meeting, took out his pocket-book, and saying, with a laugh, “Well, you needn’t think any more about it,” handed him the note.

Cogdal protesting, Lincoln said, “Even if you had the money, I would not take it,” and hurried away.


(Dispatch to General Grant, August 17th, 1864.)

“I have seen your dispatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing.

“Hold on with a bulldog grip.”


As a student (if such a term could be applied to Lincoln), one who did not know him might have called him indolent. He would pick up a book and run rapidly over the pages, pausing here and there.

At the end of an hour–never more than two or three hours–he would close the book, stretch himself out on the office lounge, and then, with hands under his head and eyes shut, would digest the mental food he had just taken.


War Governor Richard Yates (he was elected Governor of Illinois in 1860, when Lincoln was first elected President) told a good story at Springfield (Ill.) about Lincoln.

One day the latter was in the Sangamon River with his trousers rolled up five feet–more or less–trying to pilot a flatboat over a mill-dam. The boat was so full of water that it was hard to manage. Lincoln got the prow over, and then, instead of waiting to bail the water out, bored a hole through the projecting part and let it run out, affording a forcible illustration of the ready ingenuity of the future President.


The Martyr President thus spoke of Washington in the course of an address:

“Washington is the mightiest name on earth–long since the mightiest in the cause of civil liberty, still mightiest in moral reformation.

“On that name a eulogy is expected. It cannot be.

“To add brightness to the sun or glory to the name of Washington is alike impossible.

“Let none attempt it.

“In solemn awe pronounce the name, and, in its naked, deathless splendor, leave it shining on.”


Lincoln’s influence upon his audiences was wonderful. He could sway people at will, and nothing better illustrates his extraordinary power than he manner in which he stirred up the newspaper reporters by his Bloomingon speech.

Joseph Medill, editor of the Chicago Tribune, told the story:

“It was my journalistic duty, though a delegate to the convention, to make a ‘longhand’ report of the speeches delivered for the Tribune. I did make a few paragraphs of what Lincoln said in the first eight or ten minutes, but I became so absorbed in his magnetic oratory that I forgot myself and ceased to take notes, and joined with the convention in cheering and stamping and clapping to the end of his speech.

“I well remember that after Lincoln sat down and calm had succeeded the tempest, I waked out of a sort of hypnotic trance, and then thought of my report for the paper. There was nothing written but an abbreviated introduction.

“It was some sort of satisfaction to find that I had not been ‘scooped,’ as all the newspaper men present had been equally carried away by the excitement caused by the wonderful oration and had made no report or sketch of the speech.”


When “Abe” was fourteen years of age, John Hanks journeyed from Kentucky to Indiana and lived with the Lincolns. He described “Abe’s” habits thus:

“When Lincoln and I returned to the house from work, he would go to the cupboard, snatch a piece of corn-bread, take down a book, sit down on a chair, cock his legs up as high as his head, and read.

“He and I worked barefooted, grubbed it, plowed, mowed, cradled together; plowed corn, gathered it, and shucked corn. ‘Abe’ read constantly when he had an opportunity.”


During the Harrison Presidential campaign of 1840, Lincoln said, in a speech at Springfield, Illinois:

“Many free countries have lost their liberty, and ours may lose hers; but if she shall, be it my proudest plume, not that I was last to desert, but that I never deserted her.

“I know that the great volcano at Washington, aroused and directed by the evil spirit that reigns there, is belching forth the lava of political corruption in a current broad and deep, which is sweeping with frightful velocity over the whole length and breadth of the land, bidding fair to leave unscathed no green spot or living thing.

“I cannot deny that all may be swept away. Broken by it, I, too, may be; bow to it I never will.

“The possibility that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause which we believe to be just. It shall never deter me.

“If ever I feel the soul within me elevate and expand to those dimensions not wholly unworthy of its Almighty Architect, it is when I contemplate the cause of my country, deserted by all the world beside, and I standing up boldly alone, and hurling defiance at her victorious oppressors.

“Here, without contemplating consequences, before heaven, and in the face of the world, I swear eternal fidelity to the just cause, as I deem it, of the land of my life, my liberty, and my love; and who that thinks with me will not fearlessly adopt the oath that I take?

“Let none falter who thinks he is right, and we may succeed.

“But if, after all, we shall fail, be it so; we have the proud consolation of saying to our consciences, and to the departed shade of our country’s freedom, that the cause approved of our judgment, and, adorned of our hearts in disaster, in chains, in death, we never faltered in defending.”


Lincoln could not rest for as instant under the consciousness that, even unwittingly, he had defrauded anybody. On one occasion, while clerking in Offutt’s store, at New Salem, he sold a woman a little bale of goods, amounting, by the reckoning, to $2.20. He received the money, and the woman went away.

On adding the items of the bill again to make himself sure of correctness, he found that he had taken six and a quarter cents too much.

It was night, and, closing and locking the store, he started out on foot, a distance of two or three miles, for the house of his defrauded customer, and, delivering to her the sum whose possession had so much troubled him, went home satisfied.

On another occasion, just as he was closing the store for the night, a wooman entered and asked for half a pound of tea. The tea was weighed out and paid for, and the store was left for the night.

The next morning Lincoln, when about to begin the duties of the day, discovered a four-ounce weight on the scales. He saw at once that he had made a mistake, and, shutting the store, he took a long walk before breakfast to deliver the remainder of the tea.

These are very humble incidents, but they illustrate the man’s perfect conscientiousness–his sensitive honesty–better, perhaps, than they would if they were of greater moment.


Leonard Swett, of Chicago, whose counsels were doubtless among the most welcome to Lincoln, in summing up Lincoln’s character, said:

“From the commencement of his life to its close I have sometimes doubted whether he ever asked anybody’s advice about anything. He would listen to everybody; he would hear everybody; but he rarely, if ever, asked for opinions.

“As a politician and as President he arrived at all his conclusions from his own reflections, and when his conclusions were once formed he never doubted but what they were right.

“One great public mistake of his (Lincoln’s) character, as generally received and acquiesced in, is that he is considered by the people of this country as a frank, guileless, and unsophisticated man. There never was a greater mistake.

“Beneath a smooth surface of candor and apparent declaration of all his thoughts and feelings he exercised the most exalted tact and wisest discrimination. He handled and moved men remotely as we do pieces upon a chess-board.

“He retained through life all the friends he ever had, and he made the wrath of his enemies to praise him. This was not by cunning or intrigue in the low acceptation of the term, but by far-seeing reason and discernment. He always told only enough of his plans and purposes to induce the belief that he had communicated all; yet he reserved enough to have communicated nothing.”


When the United States found that a war with Black Hawk could not be dodged, Governor Reynolds, of Illinois, issued a call for volunteers, and among the companies that immediately responded was one from Menard county, Illinois. Many of these volunteers were from New Salem and Clary’s Grove, and Lincoln, being out of business, was the first to enlist.

The company being full, the men held a meeting at Richland for the election of officers. Lincoln had won many hearts, and they told him that he must be their captain. It was an office to which he did not aspire, and for which he felt he had no special fitness; but he finally consented to be a candidate.

There was but one other candidate, a Mr. Kirkpatrick, who was one of the most influential men of the region. Previously, Kirkpatrick had been an employer of Lincoln, and was so overbearing in his treatment of the young man that the latter left him.

The simple mode of electing a captain adopted by the company was by placing the candidates apart, and telling the men to go and stand with the one they preferred. Lincoln and his competitor took their positions, and then the word was given. At least three out of every four went to Lincoln at once.

When it was seen by those who had arranged themselves with the other candidate that Lincoln was the choice of the majority of the company, they left their places, one by one, and came over to the successful side, until Lincoln’s opponent in the friendly strife was left standing almost alone.

“I felt badly to see him cut so,” says a witness of the scene.

Here was an opportunity for revenge. The humble laborer was his employer’s captain, but the opportunity was never improved. Mr. Lincoln frequently confessed that no subsequent success of his life had given him half the satisfaction that this election did.


In one of his many stories of Lincoln, his law partner, W. H. Herndon, told this as illustrating Lincoln’s shrewdness as a lawyer:

“I was with Lincoln once and listened to an oral argument by him in which he rehearsed an extended history of the law. It was a carefully prepared and masterly discourse, but, as I thought, entirely useless. After he was through and we were walking home, I asked him why he went so far back in the history of the law. I presumed the court knew enough history.

“‘That’s where you’re mistaken,’ was his instant rejoinder. ‘I dared not just the case on the presumption that the court knows everything–in fact I argued it on the presumption that the court didn’t know anything,’ a statement, which, when one reviews the decision of our appellate courts, is not so extravagant as one would at first suppose.”


One day Thaddeus Stevens called at the White House with an elderly woman, whose son had been in the army, but for some offense had been court-martialed and sentenced to death. There were some extenuating circumstances, and after a full hearing the President turned to Stevens and said: “Mr. Stevens, do you think this is a case which will warrant my interference?”

“With my knowledge of the facts and the parties,” was the reply, “I should have no hesitation in granting a pardon.”

“Then,” returned Mr. Lincoln, “I will pardon him,” and proceeded forthwith to execute the paper.

The gratitude of the mother was too deep for expression, save by her tears, and not a word was said between her and Stevens until they were half way down the stairs on their passage out, when she suddenly broke forth in an excited manner with the words:

“I knew it was a copperhead lie!”

“What do you refer to, madam?” asked Stevens.

“Why, they told me he was an ugly-looking man,” she replied, with vehemence. “He is the handsomest man I ever saw in my life.”


“Lincoln’s Last Warning” was the title of a cartoon which appeared in “Harper’s Weekly,” on October 11, 1862. Under the picture was the text:

“Now if you don’t come down I’ll cut the tree from under you.”

This illustration was peculiarly apt, as, on the 1st of January, 1863, President Lincoln issued his great Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves in the United States forever free. “Old Abe” was a handy man with the axe, he having split many thousands of rails with its keen edge. As the “Slavery Coon” wouldn’t heed the warning, Lincoln did cut the tree from under him, and so he came down to the ground with a heavy thump.

This Act of Emancipation put an end to the notion of the Southern slave holders that involuntary servitude was one of the “sacred institutions” on the Continent of North America. It also demonstrated that Lincoln was thoroughly in earnest when he declared that he would not only save the Union, but that he meant what he said in the speech wherein he asserted, “This Nation cannot exist half slave and half free.”


At fifteen years of age “Abe” wrote “pieces,” or compositions, and even some doggerel rhyme, which he recited, to the great amusement of his playmates.

One of his first compositions was against cruelty to animals. He was very much annoyed and pained at the conduct of the boys, who were in the habit of catching terrapins and putting coals of fire on their backs, which thoroughly disgusted Abraham.

“He would chide us,” said “Nat” Grigsby, “tell us it was wrong, and would write against it.”

When eighteen years old, “Abe” wrote a “piece” on “National Politics,” and it so pleased a lawyer friend, named Pritchard, that the latter had it printed in an obscure paper, thereby adding much to the author’s pride. “Abe” did not conceal his satisfaction. In this “piece” he wrote, among other things:

“The American government is the best form of government for an intelligent people. It ought to be kept sound, and preserved forever, that general education should be fostered and carried all over the country; that the Constitution should be saved, the Union perpetuated and the laws revered, respected and enforced.”


John A. Logan and a friend of Illinois called upon Lincoln at Willard’s Hotel, Washington, February 23d, the morning of his arrival, and urged a vigorous, firm policy.

Patiently listening, Lincoln replied seriously but cheerfully:

“As the country has placed me at the helm of the ship, I’ll try to steer her through.”


Lincoln was a marked and peculiar young man. People talked about him. His studious habits, his greed for information, his thorough mastery of the difficulties of every new position in which he was placed, his intelligence on all matters of public concern, his unwearying good-nature, his skill in telling a story, his great athletic power, his quaint, odd ways, his uncouth appearance–all tended to bring him in sharp contrast with the dull mediocrity by which he was surrounded.

Denton Offutt, his old employer, said, after having had a conversation with Lincoln, that the young man “had talent enough in him to make a President.”


When Lincoln was on his way to the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, an old gentleman told him that his only son fell on Little Round Top at Gettysburg, and he was going to look at the spot. Mr. Lincoln replied: “You have been called on to make a terrible sacrifice for the Union, and a visit to that spot, I fear, will open your wounds afresh.

“But, oh, my dear sir, if we had reached the end of such sacrifices, and had nothing left for us to do but to place garlands on the graves of those who have already fallen, we could give thanks even amidst our tears; but when I think of the sacrifices of life yet to be offered, and the hearts and homes yet to be made desolate before this dreadful war is over, my heart is like lead within me, and I feel at times like hiding in deep darkness.” At one of the stopping places of the train, a very beautiful child, having a bunch of rosebuds in her hand, was lifted up to an open window of the President’s car. “Floweth for the President.” The President stepped to the window, took the rosebuds, bent down and kissed the child, saying, “You are a sweet little rosebud yourself. I hope your life will open into perpetual beauty and goodness.”


There was a rough gallantry among the young people; and Lincoln’s old comrades and friends in Indiana have left many tales of how he “went to see the girls,” of how he brought in the biggest back-log and made the brightest fire; of how the young people, sitting around it, watching the way the sparks flew, told their fortunes.

He helped pare apples, shell corn and crack nuts. He took the girls to meeting and to spelling school, though he was not often allowed to take part in the spelling-match, for the one who “chose first” always chose “Abe” Lincoln, and that was equivalent to winning, as the others knew that “he would stand up the longest.”


A lady reader or elocutionist came to Springfield in 1857. A large crowd greeted her. Among other things she recited “Nothing to Wear,” a piece in which is described the perplexities that beset “Miss Flora McFlimsy” in her efforts to appear fashionable.

In the midst of one stanza in which no effort is made to say anything particularly amusing, and during the reading of which the audience manifested the most respectful silence and attention, some one in the rear seats burst out with a loud, coarse laugh, a sudden and explosive guffaw.

It startled the speaker and audience, and kindled a storm of unsuppressed laughter and applause. Everybody looked back to ascertain the cause of the demonstration, and were greatly surprised to find that it was Mr. Lincoln.

He blushed and squirmed with the awkward diffidence of a schoolboy. What caused him to laugh, no one was able to explain. He was doubtless wrapped up in a brown study, and recalling some amusing episode, indulged in laughter without realizing his surroundings. The experience mortified him greatly.


Soon after Mr. Lincoln began to practice law at Springfield, he was engaged in a criminal case in which it was thought there was little chance of success. Throwing all his powers into it, he came off victorious, and promptly received for his services five hundred dollars. A legal friend, calling upon him the next morning, found him sitting before a table, upon which his money was spread out, counting it over and over.

“Look here, Judge,” said he. “See what a heap of money I’ve got from this case. Did you ever see anything like it? Why, I never had so much money in my life before, put it all together.” Then, crossing his arms upon the table, his manner sobering down, he added: “I have got just five hundred dollars; if it were only seven hundred and fifty, I would go directly and purchase a quarter section of land, and settle it upon my old step-mother.”

His friend said that if the deficiency was all he needed, he would loan him the amount, taking his note, to which Mr. Lincoln instantly acceded.

His friend then said:

“Lincoln, I would do just what you have indicated. Your step-mother is getting old, and will not probably live many years. I would settle the property upon her for her use during her lifetime, to revert to you upon her death.”

With much feeling, Mr. Lincoln replied:

“I shall do no such thing. It is a poor return at best for all the good woman’s devotion and fidelity to me, and there is not going to be any halfway business about it.” And so saying, he gathered up his money and proceeded forthwith to carry his long-cherished purpose into execution.


Lincoln believed in preventing unnecessary litigation, and carried out this in his practice. “Who was your guardian?” he asked a young man who came to him to complain that a part of the property left him had been withheld. “Enoch Kingsbury,” replied the young man.

“I know Mr. Kingsbury,” said Lincoln, “and he is not the man to have cheated you out of a cent, and I can’t take the case, and advise you to drop the subject.”

And it was dropped.


Edwin M. Stanton was one of the attorneys in the great “reaper patent” case heard in Cincinnati in 1855, Lincoln also having been retained. The latter was rather anxious to deliver the argument on the general propositions of law applicable to the case, but it being decided to have Mr. Stanton do this, the Westerner made no complaint.

Speaking of Stanton’s argument and the view Lincoln took of it, Ralph Emerson, a young lawyer who was present at the trial, said:

“The final summing up on our side was by Mr. Stanton, and though he took but about three hours in its delivery, he had devoted as many, if not more, weeks to its preparation. It was very able, and Mr. Lincoln was throughout the whole of it a rapt listener. Mr. Stanton closed his speech in a flight of impassioned eloquence.

“Then the court adjourned for the day, and Mr. Lincoln invited me to take a long walk with him. For block after block he walked rapidly forward, not saying a word, evidently deeply dejected.

“At last he turned suddenly to me, exclaiming, ‘Emerson, I am going home.’ A pause. ‘I am going home to study law.’

“‘Why,’ I exclaimed, ‘Mr. Lincoln, you stand at the head of the bar in llinois now! What are you talking about?’

“‘Ah, yes,’ he said, ‘I do occupy a good position there, and I think that I can get along with the way things are done there now. But these college-trained men, who have devoted their whole lives to study, are coming West, don’t you see? And they study their cases as we never do. They have got as far as Cincinnati now. They will soon be in Illinois.’

“Another long pause; then stopping and turning toward me, his countenance suddenly assuming that look of strong determination which those who knew him best sometimes saw upon his face, he exclaimed, ‘I am going home to study law! I am as good as any, of them, and when they get out to Illinois, I will be ready for them.'”


The cartoon given here in facsimile was one of the posters which decorated the picturesque Presidential campaign of 1864, and assisted in making the period previous to the vote-casting a lively and memorable one. This poster was a lithograph, and, as the title, “The Rail-Splitter at Work Repairing the Union,” would indicate, the President is using the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Republican National ticket (Andrew Johnson) as an aid in the work. Johnson was, in early life, a tailor, and he is pictured as busily engaged in sewing up the rents made in the map of the Union by the secessionists.

Both men are thoroughly in earnest, and, as history relates, the torn places in the Union map were stitched together so nicely that no one could have told, by mere observation, that a tear had ever been made. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln upon the assassination of the latter, was a remarkable man. Born in North Carolina, he removed to Tennessee when young, was Congressman, Governor, and United States Senator, being made military Governor of his State in 1862. A strong, stanch Union man, he was nominated for the Vice-Presidency on the Lincoln ticket to conciliate the War Democrats. After serving out his term as President, he was again elected United States Senator from Tennessee, but died shortly after taking his seat. But he was just the sort of a man to assist “Uncle Abe” in sewing up the torn places in the Union map, and as military Governor of Tennessee was a powerful factor in winning friends in the South to the Union cause.


“Several of us lawyers,” remarked one of his colleagues, “in the eastern end of the circuit, annoyed Lincoln once while he was holding court for Davis by attempting to defend against a note to which there were many makers. We had no legal, but a good moral defense, but what we wanted most of all was to stave it off till the next term of court by one expedient or another.

“We bothered ‘the court’ about it till late on Saturday, the day of adjournment. He adjourned for supper with nothing left but this case to dispose of. After supper he heard our twaddle for nearly an hour, and then made this odd entry.

“‘L. D. Chaddon vs. J. D. Beasley et al. April Term, 1856. Champaign county Court. Plea in abatement by B. Z. Green, a defendant not served, filed Saturday at 11 o’clock a. m., April 24, 1856, stricken from the files by order of court. Demurrer to declaration, if there ever was one, overruled. Defendants who are served now, at 8 o’clock p. m., of the last day of the term, ask to plead to the merits, which is denied by the court on the ground that the offer comes too late, and therefore, as by nil dicet, judgment is rendered for Pl’ff. Clerk assess damages. A. Lincoln, Judge pro tem.’

“The lawyer who reads this singular entry will appreciate its oddity if no one else does. After making it, one of the lawyers, on recovering from his astonishment, ventured to enquire: ‘Well, Lincoln, how can we get this case up again?’

“Lincoln eyed him quizzically for a moment, and then answered, ‘You have all been so mighty smart about this case, you can find out how to take it up again yourselves.”‘


Mr. Lincoln, one day, was talking with the Rev. Dr. Sunderland about the Emancipation Proclamation and the future of the negro. Suddenly a ripple of amusement broke the solemn tone of his voice. “As for the negroes, Doctor, and what is going to become of them: I told Ben Wade the other day, that it made me think of a story I read in one of my first books, ‘Aesop’s Fables.’ It was an old edition, and had curious rough wood cuts, one of which showed three white men scrubbing a negro in a potash kettle filled with cold water. The text explained that the men thought that by scrubbing the negro they might make him white. Just about the time they thought they were succeeding, he took cold and died. Now, I am afraid that by the time we get through this War the negro will catch cold and die.”


Personal encounters were of frequent occurrence in Gentryville in early days, and the prestige of having thrashed an opponent gave the victor marked social distinction. Green B. Taylor, with whom “Abe” worked the greater part of one winter on a farm, furnished an account of the noted fight between John Johnston, “Abe’s” stepbrother, and William Grigsby, in which stirring drama “Abe” himself played an important role before the curtain was rung down.

Taylor’s father was the second for Johnston, and William Whitten officiated in a similar capacity for Grigsby. “They had a terrible fight,” related Taylor, “and it soon became apparent that Grigsby was too much for Lincoln’s man, Johnston. After they had fought a long time without interference, it having been agreed not to break the ring, ‘Abe’ burst through, caught Grigsby, threw him off and some feet away. There Grigsby stood, proud as Lucifer, and, swinging a bottle of liquor over his head, swore he was ‘the big buck of the lick.’

“‘If any one doubts it,’ he shouted, ‘he has only to come on and whet his horns.'”

A general engagement followed this challenge, but at the end of hostilities the field was cleared and the wounded retired amid the exultant shouts of their victors.


Lincoln delivered a speech at a Republican banquet at Chicago, December l0th, 1856, just after the Presidential campaign of that year, in which he said:

“Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion can change the government practically just so much.

“Public opinion, on any subject, always has a ‘central idea,’ from which all its minor thoughts radiate.

“That ‘central idea’ in our political public opinion at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, ‘the equality of man.’

“And although it has always submitted patiently to whatever of inequality there seemed to be as a matter of actual necessity, its constant working has been a steady progress toward the practical equality of all men.

“Let everyone who really believes, and is resolved, that free society is not and shall not be a failure, and who can conscientiously declare that in the past contest he has done only what he thought best–let every such one have charity to believe that every other one can say as much.

“Thus, let bygones be bygones; let party differences as nothing be, and with steady eye on the real issue, let us reinaugurate the good old ‘central ideas’ of the Republic.