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In the July following Mr. Lincoln's inauguration, an extra session of Congress was called. In the message then sent in, speaking of secession, and the measures taken by the Southern leaders to bring it about, there occurs the following sentence: “With rebellion thus sugar-coated, they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years; until, at length, they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the government,” etc. Mr. Defrees, the government printer, told me that, when the message was being printed, he was a good deal disturbed by the use of the term “sugar-coated,” and finally went to the President about it. Their relations to each other being of the most intimate character, he told Mr. Lincoln frankly, that he ought to remember that a message to Congress was a different affair from a speech at a massmeeting in Illinois; that the messages became a part of history, and should be written accordingly.

“What is the matter now?” inquired the President. [127]

“Why,” said Mr. Defrees, “you have used an undignified expression in the message;” and then, reading the paragraph aloud, he added, “I would alter the structure of that, if I were you.”

Defrees,” replied Mr. Lincoln, “that word expresses precisely my idea, and I am not going to change it. The time will never come in this country when the people won't know exactly what sugar-coated means!”

On a subsequent occasion, Mr. Defrees told me, a certain sentence of another message was very awkwardly constructed. Calling the President's attention to it in the proof-copy, the latter acknowledged the force of the objection raised, and said, “Go home, Defrees, and see if you can better it.” The next day Mr. Defrees took in to him his amendment. Mr. Lincoln met him by saying: “Seward found the same fault that you did, and he has been rewriting the paragraph also.” Then, reading Mr. Defrees's version, he said, “I believe you have beaten Seward; but, ‘I jings,’ I think I can beat you both.” Then, taking up his pen, he wrote the sentence as it was finally printed.

My friend, George E. Baker, Mr. Seward's private secretary, informed me that he was much amused and interested in a phase of Mr. Lincoln's character which came under his own observation. It was Mr. Baker's province to take to the President all public documents from the State Department requiring his signature. During the first few [128] months, Mr. Lincoln would read each paper carefully through, always remarking, “I never sign a document I have not first read.” As his cares increased, he at length departed from his habit so far as to say to the messenger, “Won't you read these papers to me?” This went on for a few months, and he then modified this practice by requesting “a synopsis of the contents.” His time became more and more curtailed, and for the last year his only expression was, “Show me where you want my name?”

It is not generally known that the speech always made by the President, upon the presentation of a foreign minister, is carefully written for him by the Secretary of State. A clerk in the department, ignorant of this custom, was one day sent to the White House by Mr. Seward, with the speech to be delivered upon such an occasion. Mr. Lincoln was writing at his desk, as the clerk entered--a half-dozen senators and representatives occupying the sofa and chairs. Unable to disguise a feeling of delicacy, in the discharge of such an errand, the young man approached, and in a low voice said to the President: “The Secretary has sent the speech you are to make to-day to the Swiss minister.” Mr. Lincoln laid down his pen, and, taking the manuscript, said in a loud tone: “Oh, this is a speech Mr. Seward has written for me, is it? I guess I will try it before these gentlemen, and see how it goes.” Thereupon he proceeded to read it, [129] in a waggish manner, remarking, as he concluded, with sly humor: “There, I like that. It has the merit of originality.”

“Within a month after Mr. Lincoln's first accession to office,” says the Hon. Mr. Raymond,

when the South was threatening civil war, and armies of office-seekers were besieging him in the Executive Mansion, he said to a friend that he wished he could get time to attend to the Southern question; he thought he knew what was wanted, and believed he could do something towards quieting the rising discontent; but the office-seekers demanded all his time. “I am,” said he, “like a man so busy in letting rooms in one end of his house, that he can't stop to put out the fire that is burning the other.” Two or three years later, when the people had made him a candidate for reelection, the same friend spoke to him of a member of his Cabinet who was a candidate also. Mr. Lincoln said he did not concern himself much about that. It was important to the country that the department over which his rival presided should be administered with vigor and energy, and whatever would stimulate the Secretary to such action would do good. “R-,” said he, “you were brought up on a farm, were you not? Then you know what a chin fly is. My brother and I,” he added, “were once ploughing corn on a Kentucky farm, I driving the horse, and he holding the plough. The horse was lazy; but on one occasion [130] rushed across the field so that I, with my long legs, could scarcely keep pace with him. On reaching the end of the furrow, I found an enormous chin fly fastened upon him, and knocked him off. My brother asked me what I did that for. I told him I didn't, want the old horse bitten in that way. “Why,” said my brother, “that's all that made him go!” Now,” said Mr. Lincoln, “if Mr.--has a presidential chin fly biting him, I'm not going to knock him off, if it will only make his department go.”

On another occasion the President said he was in great distress; he had been to General McClellan's house, and the General did not ask to see him; and as he must talk to somebody, he had sent for General Franklin and myself, to obtain our opinion as to the possibility of soon commencing active operations with the Army of the Potomac. To use his own expression, if something was not soon done, the bottom would fall out of the whole affair; and if General McClellan did not want to use the army, he would like to borrow it, provided he could see how it could be made to do something.1

1 Raymond's Life of Lincoln.

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