made his first political speech in 1832, at the age of twenty-three, when he was a candidate for the Illinois Legislature.
His opponent had wearied the audience by a long speech, leaving him but a short time in which to present his views.
He condensed all he had to say into a few words, as follows:--
“Gentlemen, Fellow-citizens: I presume you know who I am. I am humble Abraham Lincoln
I have been solicited by many friends to become a
candidate for the legislature.
My politics can be briefly stated.
I am in favor of a national bank.
I am in favor of the internal improvement system, and a high protective tariff.
These are my sentiments and political principles.
If elected, I shall be thankful.
If not, it will be all the same.”
The contrast between Mr. Lincoln
and Senator Douglas
is well brought out in the following extract from a speech by Hon. I. N. Arnold
, in 1863.
Speaking of their great contest for the senatorship, Mr. Arnold
went through this campaign like a conquering hero.
He had his special train of cars, his band of music, his body-guard of devoted friends, a cannon carried on the train, the firing from which announced his approach to the place of meeting.
Such a canvass involved, necessarily, very large expenditures; and it has been said that Douglas
did not expend less than $50,000 in this canvass.
Some idea of the plain, simple, frugal habits of Mr. Lincoln
may be gathered, when I tell you that at its close, having occupied several months, Mr. Lincoln
said, with the idea, apparently, that he had been somewhat extravagant: ‘I do not believe I have spent a cent less than five hundred dollars in this canvass.’
Soon after Mr. Lincoln
entered upon the practice of his profession 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 the — 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 was 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
His friend then said: “Lincoln
, I would not 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 the best, for all the good woman's devotion and fidelity to me, and there is not going to be any half-way business about it;” and so saying, he gathered up his money, and proceeded forthwith to carry his long-cherished purpose into execution.
Among the numerous delegations which thronged Washington
in the early part of the war was one from New York, which urged very strenuously the sending of a fleet to the southern cities,Charles-ton, Mobile
, and Savannah
,--with the object of drawing off the rebel army from Washington
said the project reminded him of the case of a girl in New Salem, who was greatly troubled with a “singing” in her head.
Various remedies were suggested by the neighbors, but nothing tried afforded any relief.
At last a man came along,--“a common-sense sort of man,” said he, inclining his head towards the gentleman complimentarily,--“who was asked to prescribe for the difficulty.
After due inquiry and examination, he said the cure was very simple.
‘What is it?’
was the anxious question.
‘Make a plaster of psalm-tunes
, and apply to her feet, and draw the “singing” down
,’ was the rejoinder.”
On another occasion, an antislavery delegation, also from New York, were pressing the adoption of the emancipation policy.
During the interview the “chairman,” the Rev. Dr.
C--, made a characteristic and powerful appeal, largely made up of quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures
received the “bombardment” in silence.
As the speaker concluded, he continued for a moment in thought, and then, drawing a long breath, responded: “Well, gentlemen, it is not often one is favored with a delegation direct
from the Almighty!”
One of Mr. Lincoln
's Springfield neighbors, a clergyman, visiting Washington
early in the administration, asked the President
what was to be his policy on the slavery question.
“Well,” said he, “I will answer by telling you a story.
You know Father B., the old Methodist preacher?
and you know Fox River
and its freshets?
Well, once in the presence of Father B., a young Methodist was worrying about Fox River
, and expressing fears that he should be prevented from fulfilling some of his appointments by a freshet in the river.
Father B. checked him in his gravest manner.
Said he: ‘Young man, I have always made it a rule in my life not to cross Fox River
till I get to it!’
And,” added Mr. Lincoln
, “I am not going to worry myself over the slavery question till I get to it.”
, of Ohio
, received from the President
an account of the capture of Norfolk
, similar to that recorded on a previous page, with the following preface:--
“By the way, Garfield
,” said Mr. Lincoln
, “you never heard, did you, that Chase
, and I, had a campaign of our own?
We went down to Fortress Monroe
's revenue cutter, and consulted with Admiral Goldsborough
as to the feasibility of taking Norfolk
by landing on the north shore and making a march of eight miles. The Admiral
said, very positively, there was no landing on that shore, and we should have to double the
cape and approach the place from the south side, which would be a long and difficult journey.
I thereupon asked him if he had ever tried to find a landing, and he replied that he had not. ‘Now,’ said I, ‘Admiral
, that reminds me of a chap out West who had studied law, but had never tried a case.
Being sued, and not having confidence in his ability to manage his own case, he employed a fellow-lawyer to manage it for him. He had only a confused idea of the meaning of law terms, but was anxious to make a display of learning, and on the trial constantly made suggestions to his lawyer, who paid no attention to him. At last, fearing that his lawyer was not handling the opposing counsel very well, he lost all patience, and springing to his feet cried out, “Why don't you go at him with a capias
, or a surre-butter
, or something, and not stand there like a confounded old nudum-pactum
?” ’ ”
An officer of the Government
called one day at the White House
, and introduced a clerical friend.
,” said he, “allow me to present to you my friend, the Rev. Mr.
F., of--. Mr.
F. has expressed a desire to see you and have some conversation with you, and I am happy to be the means of introducing him.”
The President shook hands with Mr.
F., and desiring him to be seated took a seat himself.
Then, his countenance having assumed an air of patient waiting, he said: “I am now ready to hear what you have to say.”
“Oh, bless you, sir,” said Mr.
F., “I have nothing
special to say; I merely called to pay my respects to you, and, as one of the million, to assure you of my hearty sympathy and support.”
“My dear sir,” said the President
, rising promptly, his face showing instant relief, and with both hands grasping that of his visitor, “I am very glad to see you, indeed.
I thought you had come to preach to me
On the way to the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg
, Mr. Lincoln
said to his friend, McVeagh
, of Pennsylvania
, speaking of Governor Gamble
and the administration troubles in Missouri
:--“I do not understand the spirit of those men who, in such a time as this, because they cannot have a whole loaf will take no bread.
For my part, I am willing to receive any man, or class of men, who will help us even a little
On the same occasion, when the Presidential party reached Hanover Junction
they found a large concourse of people assembled to greet them.
and Secretary Seward
, an hour previous, had gone into the sleeping-car attached to the train, for some rest.
In response to the clamor of the crowd, a friend intruded upon them, saying to the President
that he was “expected to make a speech.”
he rejoined, very emphatically; “I had enough of that sort of thing all the way from Springfield
,” said he, turning over in his berth, “you go out and repeat some of your ‘poetry
’ to the people!”
Upon the betrothal of the Prince
to the Princess Alexandra, Queen Victoria sent a letter to each of the European
sovereigns, and also to President Lincoln
, announcing the fact.
Lord Lyons, her ambassador at Washington
,--a “bachelor,” by the way,--requested an audience of Mr. Lincoln
, that he might present this important document in person.
At the time appointed he was received at the White House
, in company with Mr. Seward
“May it please your Excellency
,” said Lord Lyons, “I hold in my hand an autograph letter from my royal mistress, Queen Victoria, which I have been commanded to present to your Excellency
In it she informs your Excellency
that her son, his Royal Highness the Prince
, is about to contract a matrimonial alliance with her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra of Denmark
After continuing in this strain for a few minutes, Lord Lyons tendered the letter to the President
and awaited his reply.
It was short, simple, and expressive, and consisted simply of the words:--
“Lord Lyons, go thou and do likewise.”
It is doubtful if an English ambassador was ever addressed in this manner before, and it would be interesting to learn what success he met with in putting the reply in diplomatic language when he reported it to her Majesty.
The antagonism between the northern and southern
sections of the Democratic party, which culminated in the nomination of two separate tickets in 1860, was a subject to draw out one of Mr. Lincoln
's hardest hits.
“I once knew,” said he, “a sound churchman by the name of Brown
, who was a member of a very sober and pious committee having in charge the erection of a bridge over a dangerous and rapid river.
Several architects failed, and at last Brown
said he had a friend named Jones
, who had built several bridges and undoubtedly could build that one.
So Mr. Jones
was called in. ‘Can you build this bridge?’
inquired the committee.
‘Yes,’ replied Jones
, ‘or any other.
I could build a bridge to the infernal regions, if necessary!’
The committee were shocked, and Brown
felt called upon to defend his friend.
‘I know Jones
so well,’ said he, ‘and he is so honest a man and so good an architect, that if he states soberly and positively that he can build a bridge to — to--, why, I believe it; but I feel bound to say that I have my doubts about the abutment on the infernal side.’
So,” said Mr. Lincoln
, “when politicians told me that the northern and southern wings of the Democracy could be harmonized, why, I believed them, of course; but I always had my doubts about the ‘abutment’ on the other side.”
About the time Mr. Lincoln
began to be known as a successful lawyer, he was waited upon by a
lady, who held a real-estate
claim which she desired to have him prosecute,--putting into his hands, with the necessary papers, a check for two hundred and fifty dollars, as a retaining fee. Mr. Lincoln
said he would look the case over, and asked her to call again the next day. Upon presenting herself, Mr. Lincoln
told her that he had gone through the papers very carefully, and he must tell her frankly that there was not a “peg” to hang her claim upon, and he could not conscientiously advise her to bring an action.
The lady was satisfied, and, thanking him, rose to go. “Wait,” said Mr. Lincoln
, fumbling in his vest pocket; “here is the check you left with me.”
“But, Mr. Lincoln
,” returned the lady, “I think you have earned that
“No, no,” he responded, handing it back to her; “that would not be right.
I can't take pay
for doing my duty.”
liked to feel himself the attorney of the people, not their ruler.
Speaking once of the probability of his renomination, he said: “If the people think I have managed their ‘case’ for them well enough to trust me to carry it up to the next term, I am sure I shall be glad to take it.”
, being in Washington
, called one day on General Halleck
, and, presuming upon a familiar acquaintance in California
a few years before, solicited a pass outside of our lines to see a brother in Virginia
, not thinking that he would meet with a refusal, as both his brother and himself were good Union men. ‘We
have been deceived too often,’ said General Halleek
, ‘and I regret I can't grant it.’
B. then went to Stanton
, and was very briefly disposed of, with the same result.
Finally, he obtained an interview with Mr. Lincoln
, and stated his case.
‘Have you applied to General Halleck
inquired the President
‘Yes, and met with a flat refusal,’ said Judge
B. ‘Then you must see Stanton
,’ continued the President
‘I have, and with the same result,’ was the reply.
‘Well, then,’ said Mr. Lincoln
, with a smile, ‘I can do nothing; for you must know that I have very little influence with this Administration
told me of a gentleman's going to the President
, one day, with a bitter denunciation of Secretary Stanton
and his management of the War Department. “Go home, my friend,” interrupted Mr. Lincoln
, “and read attentively the tenth verse of the thirtieth chapter of Proverbs!”
A lieutenant, whom debts compelled to leave his father-land and service, succeeded in being admitted to President Lincoln
, and, by reason of his commendable and winning deportment and intelligent appearance, was promised a lieutenant's commission in a cavalry regiment.
He was so enraptured with his success, that he deemed it a duty to inform the President
that he belonged to one of the oldest noble houses in Germany
“Oh, never mind that,”
said Mr. Lincoln
; “you will not find that to be an obstacle to your advancement.”
Just previous to the fall of Vicksburg
, a selfconstituted committee, solicitous for the morale
of our armies, took it upon themselves to visit the President
and urge the removal of General Grant
In some surprise Mr. Lincoln
inquired, “For what reason?”
“Why,” replied the spokesman, “he drinks too much whiskey.”
rejoined Mr. Lincoln
, dropping his lower lip. “By the way, gentlemen, can either of you tell me where General Grant
procures his whiskey?
because, if I can find out, I will send every general in the field a barrel of it!”
When the telegram from Cumberland Gap
reached Mr. Lincoln
that “firing was heard in the direction of Knoxville
,” he remarked that he was “glad of it.”
Some person present, who had the perils of Burnside
's position uppermost in his mind, could not see why Mr. Lincoln
should be glad
of it, and so expressed himself.
“Why, you see,” responded the President
, “it reminds me of Mistress Sallie Ward
, a neighbor of mine, who had a very large family.
Occasionally one of her numerous progeny would be heard crying in some out-of-the-way place, upon which Mrs. Ward
would exclaim, ‘There's one of my children that isn't dead yet.’
A gentleman once complimented the President
on having no vices, neither drinking nor smoking.
“That is a doubtful compliment,” answered the President
; “I recollect once being outside a stagecoach, in Illinois
, and a man sitting by me offered me a cigar.
I told him I had no vices.
He said nothing, but smoked for some time, and then growled out: ‘It's my experience that folks who have no vices have generally very few virtues.’
's aversion to calls for a speech that must be merely “off-hand,” was decided; yet, unwilling altogether to disappoint the crowds, who perhaps too often made such demands of him, he seldom excused himself altogether from speaking.
One evening a friend was conversing with him in his room, when his quick ear caught the sound of approaching music, and his countenance suddenly changed, as he inquired its meaning, though readily divining it. A serenade was presently announced by an usher, and Mr. Lincoln
, as he arose to go forward to the front window, lingered a moment, and said:--
“These ‘serenade’ speeches bother me a good deal, they are so hard to make.
I feel very much like the steam doctor, who said he could get along very well in his practice with almost every case, but he was always a little puzzled when it came to mending a broken leg.”
It has been repeatedly said that Mr. Lincoln
lacked imagination and poetic sensibility.
Surely, the soul which could conceive the last inaugural, or indite the closing sentence of the first, was not wanting in these elements:--
“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union
, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Neither was the mind deficient in enthusiasm, which could prophesy:--
“There are already those among us, who, if the Union
be preserved, will live to see it contain two hundred and fifty millions.
The struggle of
to-day is not altogether for
to-day; it is for a vast future also.”
“The President,” said a leading member of the Cabinet
, on one occasion, “is his own WarMinis-ter.
He directs personally the movements of the armies, and is fond of strategy; but pays much less attention to official details than is generally supposed.”
's wit was never malicious nor rudely personal.
Once when Mr. Douglas
had attempted to parry an argument by impeaching the veracity of a senator whom Mr. Lincoln
had quoted, he answered that the question was not one of veracity, but simply one of argument.
“By a course of reasoning, Euclid proves that all the angles in a triangle are equal to two right angles.
Now, if you undertake to disprove that proposition, would you prove it to be false by calling Euclid a liar?”
A couple of well-known New York gentlemen called upon the President
one day to solicit a pardon for a man who, while acting as mate of a sailing vessel, had struck one of his men a blow which resulted in his death.
Convicted and sentenced for manslaughter, a powerful appeal was made in his behalf, as he had previously borne an excellent character.
Giving the facts a hearing, Mr. Lincoln
“Well, gentlemen, leave your papers, and I will have the Attorney-General
, Judge Bates
, look them over, and we will see what can be done.
Being both of us ‘pigeon-hearted’
fellows, the chances are that, if there is any ground whatever for interference, the scoundrel will get off!”
was once remonstrating with the President
against the appointment to a judicial position of considerable importance of a western man, who, though once on the “bench,” was of indifferent reputation as a lawyer.
“Well now, Judge
,” returned Mr. Lincoln
, “I think you are rather too hard on--. Besides that, I must tell you, he did me a good turn long ago. When I took to the law, I was going to court one morning, with some ten or twelve miles of bad road before me, when — overtook me in his wagon.
said he; ‘going to the court-house?
come in and I will give you a seat.’
Well, I got in, and — went on reading his papers.
Presently the wagon struck a stump on one side of
the road; then it hopped off tothe other.
I looked out and saw the driver was jerking from side to side in his seat: so said I, ‘Judge
, I think your coachman has been taking a drop too much this morning.’
‘Well, I declare, Lincoln
,’ said he, ‘I should not much wonder if you are right, for he has nearly upset me half-a-dozen times since starting.’
So, putting his head out of the window, he shouted, ‘Why, you infernal scoundrel, you are drunk?’
Upon which, pulling up his horses and turning round with great gravity, the coachman said: ‘Bedad!
but that's the first rightful decision your honor has given for the last twelve months.’
Some gentlemen fresh from a western tour, during a call at the White House
, referred in the course of conversation to a body of water in Nebraska
which bore an Indian name signifying “weeping water.”
instantly responded: “As ‘laughing water,’ according to Longfellow
, is ‘Minnehaha,’ this evidently should be ‘Minneboohoo.’
A farmer from one of the border counties went to the President
on a certain occasion with the complaint that the Union
soldiers in passing his farm had helped themselves not only to hay but to his horse; and he hoped the proper officer would be required to consider his claim immediately.
“Why, my good sir,” replied Mr. Lincoln
, “If I should attempt to consider every such individual case, I should find work enough for twenty Presidents
In my early days, I knew one Jack Chase
, who was a lumberman on the Illinois
, and, when steady and sober, the best raftsman on the river.
It was quite a trick twenty-five years ago to take the logs over the rapids, but he was skilful with a raft, and always kept her straight in the channel.
Finally a steamer was put on, and Jack
— he's dead now, poor fellow!--was made captain of her. He always used to take the wheel going through the rapids.
One day, when the boat was plunging and wallowing along the boiling current, and Jack
's utmost vigilance was being exercised to keep her in the narrow channel, a boy pulled his coat-tail and hailed him with: ‘Say, Mister Captain
I wish you would just stop your boat a minute — I've lost my apple overboard!’
At a time of financial difficulty, a committee of New York bankers waited upon the Secretary of the Treasury
and volunteered a loan to the government, which was gratefully accepted.
subsequently accompanied the gentlemen to the White House
and introduced them to the President
, saying they had called to have a talk with him about money.
“Money,” replied Mr. Lincoln
; “I don't know anything about ‘money
I never had enough of my own to fret me, and I have no opinion about it any way.”
“It is considered rather necessary to the carrying on of a war, however,” returned the Secretary
“Well, I don't know about that,” rejoined Mr.
, turning crosswise in his chair, swinging both legs backward and forward.
“We don't read that ‘Hannibal
’ had any ‘money
’ to prosecute his wars with.”
The President was one day speaking of a visit he had just received from another delegation of bankers, from New York and Boston
, who had been urging the removal of General Cameron
from the Cabinet
“They talked very glibly,” said he, “especially a man named G-from Boston
; and I finally told them as much — adding, nevertheless, that I was not convinced.
‘Now,’ said I, ‘gentlemen, if you want General Cameron
removed, you have only to bring me one proved
case of dishonesty, and I promise you his “head”; but I assure you I am not going to act on what seems to me the most unfounded gossip.’
The Hon. Mr. Hubbard
once called upon the President
in reference to a newly invented gun, concerning which a committee had been appointed to make a report.
The “report” was sent for, and when it came in was found to be of the most voluminous description.
glanced at it, and said: “I should want a new lease of life to read this through!”
Throwing it down upon the table, he added:
Why can't a committee of this kind occasionally exhibit a grain of common sense?
If I send a man to buy a horse for me, I expect him to tell me
his “points”--not how many hairs there are in his tail.
Late one evening, the President
brought in to see my picture his friend and biographer, the Hon. J. H. Barrett
, and a Mr. M-, of Cincinnati
An allusion to a question of law in the course of conversation suggesting the subject, Mr. Lincoln
said: “The strongest example of ‘rigid government’ and ‘close construction’ I ever knew, was that of Judge
--. It was once said of him that he would hang
a man for blowing his nose in the street, but that he would quash
the indictment if it failed to specify which hand
he blew it with!”
A new levy of troops required, on a certain occasion, the appointment of a large additional number of brigadier and major-generals.
Among the immense number of applications, Mr. Lincoln
came upon one wherein the claims of a certain worthy (not in the service at all) for a generalship were glowingly set forth.
But the applicant didn't specify whether he wanted to be brigadier or majorgeneral.
The President observed this difficulty, and solved it by a lucid indorsement.
The clerk, on receiving the paper again, found written across its back: “Major-General
, I reckon.
A juvenile “Brigadier” from New York, with a small detachment of cavalry, having imprudently gone within the Rebel
lines near Fairfax Court House, was captured by “guerillas.”
Upon the fact being reported to Mr. Lincoln
, he said that he was very sorry to lose the horses!
“What do you mean?”
inquired his informant.
“Why,” rejoined the President
, “I can make a better ‘brigadier’ any day; but those horses cost the government a hundred and twenty-five dollars a head!”
sometimes had a very effective way of dealing with men who troubled him with questions.
A visitor once asked him how many men the Rebels
had ih the field.
The President replied, very seriously, “Twelve hundred thousand, according to the best authority.”
The interrogator blanched in the face, and ejaculated, “Good Heavens!”
“Yes sir, twelve hundred thousand--no doubt of it. You see, all of our generals, when they get whipped, say the enemy outnumbers them from three or five to one, and I must believe them.
We have four hundred thousand men in the field, and three times four make twelve.
Don't you see it?”
Some gentlemen were discussing in Mr. Lincoln
's presence on a certain occasion General McClellan
's military capacity.
“It is doubtless true that he is a good ‘engineer,’ said the President
; but he seems to have a special talent for developing a ‘stationary’
When Mr. Lincoln
handed to his friend Gilbert
his appointment as assessor in the Wall Street
district, New York, he said: “Gilbert
, from what I can learn, I judge that you are going upon good ‘missionary’ ground.
Preach God and Liberty to the ‘bulls’ and ‘bears,’ and get all the money you can for the government!”
A gentleman calling at the White House
one evening carried a cane, which, in the course of conversation, attracted the President
Taking it in his hand, he said: “I always used a cane when I was a boy. It was a freak of mine.
My favorite one was a knotted beech stick, and I carved the head myself.
There's a mighty amount of character in sticks.
Don't you think so?
You have seen these fishing-poles that fit into a cane?
Well that was an old idea of mine.
Dogwood clubs were favorite ones with the boys.
I suppose they use them yet. Hickory is too heavy, unless you get it from a young sapling.
Have you ever noticed how a stick in one's hand will change his appearance?
Old women and witches wouldn't look so without sticks.
Meg Merrilies understands that.”
One of Mr. Lincoln
's “illustrations” in my hearing, on one occasion, was of a man who, in driving the hoops of a hogshead to “head” it up, was much annoyed by the constant falling in of the top. At length the bright idea struck him of putting his little boy inside to “hold it up.”
This he did; it never occurring to him till the job was done, how he was to get his child out. “This,” said he, “is a fair sample of the way some people always do business.”
In a time of despondency, some visitors were telling the President
of the “breakers” so often seen ahead “this time surely coming.”
“That,” said he, “suggests the story of the school-boy,
who never could pronounce the names ‘Shadrach’ ‘Meshach,’ and ‘Abednego.’
He had been repeatedly whipped for it without effect.
Sometime afterwards he saw the names in the regular lesson for the day. Putting his finger upon the place, he turned to his next, neighbor, an older boy, and whispered, ‘Here come those “tormented Hebrews” again.’
Referring to the divisions upon the Missouri Compromise
, Mr. Lincoln
once said: “It used to amuse me to hear the slave-holders talk about wanting more territory, because they had not room
enough for their slaves; and yet they complained of not having the slave-trade, because they wanted more slaves for their room.”
Speaking on a certain occasion, of a prominent man who had the year before been violent in his manifestations of hostility to the Administration, but was then ostensibly favoring the same policy previously denounced, Mr. Lincoln
expressed his entire readiness to treat the past as if it had not been, saying, “I choose always to make my ‘statute of Limitations’ a short one.”
At the White House
one day some gentlemen were present from the West
, excited and troubled about the commissions or omissions of the Administration.
The President heard them patiently, and then replied: “Gentlemen, suppose all the property you were worth was in gold, and you had put it in the hands of Blondin
to carry across the
on a rope, would you shake the cable, or keep shouting out to him, ‘Blondin
, stand up a little straighter — Blondin
, stoop a little more — go a little faster — lean a little more to the north — lean a little more to the south.’
No, you would hold your breath as well as your tongue, and keep your hands off until he was safe over.
The Government are carrying an immense weight.
Untold treasures are in their hands.
They are doing the very best they can. Don't badger them.
Keep silence, and we'll get you safe across.”
The President was once speaking of an attack made on him by the Committee
on the Conduct of the War
, for a certain alleged blunder, or something worse, in the Southwest
--the matter involved being one which had fallen directly under the observation of the officer to whom he was talking, who possessed official evidence completely upsetting all the conclusions of the Committee
“Might it not be well for me,” queried the officer, “to set this matter right in a letter to some paper, stating the facts as they actually transpired?”
“Oh, no,” replied the President
, “at least, not now. If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business.
I do the very best I know how — the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me
won't amount to anything.
If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”
“I shall ever cherish among the brightest memories of my life,” says the Rev. J. P. Thompson
, of New York, “the recollection of an hour in Mr. Lincoln
's working-room in September, ‘64, which was one broad sheet of sunshine ... I spoke of the rapid rise of Union feeling since the promulgation of the Chicago Platform
, and the victory at Atlanta
; and the question was started, which had contributed the most to the reviving of Union sentiment — the victory or the platform.
‘I guess,’ said the President
, ‘it was the victory; at any rate, I'd rather have that repeated.’
Being informed of the death of John Morgan
, he said: “Well, I wouldn't crow over anybody's death; but I can take this as resignedly as any dispensation of Providence
The celebrated case of Franklin W. Smith
and brother, was one of those which most largely helped to bring military tribunals into public contempt.
Those two gentlemen were arrested and kept in confinement, their papers seized, their business destroyed, their reputation damaged, and a naval court-martial, “organized to convict,” pursued them unrelentingly till a wiser and juster hand arrested the malice of their persecutors.
It is known that President Lincoln
, after full investigation of the case, annulled the whole proceedings,
but it is remarkable that the actual record of his decision could never be obtained from the Navy Department.
An exact copy being withheld, the following was presented to the Boston
Board of Trade as being very nearly the words of the late President
, Franklin W. Smith
had transactions with the Navy Department to the amount of one million and a quarter of a million of dollars; and whereas
, he had the chance to steal a quarter of a million, and was only charged with stealing twenty-two hundred dollarsand the question now is about his stealing a hundred--I don't believe he stole anything at all. Therefore, the record and findings are disapproved — declared null and void, and the defendants are fully discharged.”
“It would be difficult,” says the New York Tribune, “to sum up the rights and wrongs of the business more briefly than that, or to find a paragraph more characteristically and unmistakably Mr. Lincoln
A gentleman was pressing very strenuously the promotion of an officer to a “Brigadiership.”
“But we have already more generals than we know what to do with,” replied the President
“But,” persisted the visitor, “my friend is very strongly recommended.”
“Now, look here,” said Mr. Lincoln
, throwing one leg over the arm of his chair, “you are a farmer, I believe; if not, you will understand me. Suppose you had a large cattleyard full of all sorts of cattle,--cows, oxen, bulls,
-and you kept killing and selling and disposing of your cows and oxen, in one way and another,taking good care of your bulls.
By-and-by you would find that you had nothing but a yard full of old bulls, good for nothing under heaven.
Now, it will be just so with the army, if I don't stop making brigadier-generals.”
, the commander, at one period, of the President
's body-guard, told me that on their way to town one sultry morning, from the “Soldiers' home,” they came upon a regiment marching into the city.
A “straggler,” very heavily loaded with camp equipage, was accosted by the President
with the question: “My lad, what is that?”
referring to the designation of his regiment.
“It's a regiment,” said the soldier, curtly, plodding on, his gaze bent steadily upon the ground.
“Yes, I see that,” rejoined the President
, “but I want to know what
“Pennsyl-vania,” replied the man in the same tone, looking neither to the right nor the left.
As the carriage passed on, Mr. Lincoln
turned to Captain Mix
and said, with a merry laugh, “It is very evident that chap smells no blood of ‘royalty’ in this establishment.”
was frequently invited to breakfast with the family at the “Home” residence.
“Many times,” said he, “have I listened to our most eloquent preachers, but never
with the same feeling of awe and reverence, as when our Christian President
his arm around his son, with his deep, earnest tone, each morning read a chapter from the Bible
Some one was discussing, in the presence of Mr. Lincoln
, the character of a time-serving Washington
Said Mr. Lincoln
to his visitor:--
“I think you are rather hard upon Mr.
--. He reminds me of a man in Illinois
, who was tried for passing a counterfeit bill.
It was in evidence that before passing it he had taken it to the cashier of a bank and asked his opinion of the bill, and he received a very prompt reply that it was a counterfeit.
His lawyer, who had heard of the evidence to be brought against his client, asked him, just before going into court, ‘Did you take the bill to the cashier of the bank and ask him if it was good?’
‘I did,’ was the reply.
‘Well, what was the reply of the cashier?’
The rascal was in a corner, but he got out of it in this fashion: ‘He said it was a pretty tolerable, respectable sort of a bill.’
thought the clergyman was “a pretty tolerable, respectable sort of a clergyman.”
A visitor, congratulating Mr. Lincoln
on the prospects of his reelection, was answered with an anecdote of an Illinois farmer who undertook to blast his own rocks.
His first effort at producing an explosion proved a failure.
He explained the cause by exclaiming, “Pshaw, this powder has been shot before!”
An amusing, yet touching instance of the President
preoccupation of mind, occurred at one of his levees, when he was shaking hands with a host of visitors passing him in a continuous stream.
An intimate acquaintance received the usual conventional hand-shake and salutation, but perceiving that he was not recognized, kept his ground instead of moving on, and spoke again; when the President
, roused to a dim consciousness that something unusual had happened, perceived who stood before him, and seizing his friend's hand, shook it again heartily, saying, “How do you do?
How do you do?
Excuse me for not noticing you. I was thinking of a man down South
He afterward privately acknowledged that the “man down South
” was Sherman
, then on his march to the sea.
may not have expected death from the hand of an assassin, but he had an impression, amounting to a “presentiment,” that his life would end with the war. This was expressed not only to Mr. Lovejoy
, as stated on a previous page, but to Mrs. Stowe
“He told me, in July, 1864,” says a correspondent of the Boston Journal, ...
that he was certain he should not outlast the rebellion.
It was a time of dissension among the Republican
Many of his best friends had deserted him, and were talking of an opposition convention to nominate another candidate; and universal gloom was among the people.
was tired of the war, and supposed
an honorable peace attainable.
knew it was not,--that any peace at that time would be only disunion.
Speaking of it, he said: “I have faith in the people.
They will not consent to disunion.
The danger is, in their being misled.
Let them know the truth, and the country is safe.”
He looked haggard and careworn; and further on in the interview I remarked on his appearance, “You are wearing yourself out with work.”
“I can't work less,” he answered; “but it isn't that,work never troubled me. Things look badly, and I can't avoid anxiety.
Personally, I care nothing about a reelection; but if our divisions defeat us, I fear for the country.”
When I suggested that right must eventually triumph, that I had never despaired of the result, he said:
“Neither have I, but I may never live to see it. I feel a presentiment that I shall not outlast the Rebellion
When it is over, my work will be done.”
“The freedmen,” once said the President
to the Secretary of War
, “are the ‘wards’ of the nation.”
“Yes,” replied Stanton
, “wards in chancery.”
A few days before the President
's death, Secretary Stanton
tendered his resignation of the War Department.
He accompanied the act with a heartfelt tribute to Mr. Lincoln
's constant friendship and faithful devotion to the country; saying, also, that he as Secretary
had accepted the position to
hold it only until the war should end, and that now he felt his work was done, and his duty was to resign.
was greatly moved by the Secretary
's words, and tearing in pieces the paper containing the resignation, and throwing his arms about the Secretary
, he said: “Stanton
, you have been a good friend and a faithful public servant, and it is not for you to say when you will no longer be needed here.”
Several friends of both parties were present on the occasion, and there was not a dry eye that witnessed the scene.
On the night of the 3rd of March, the Secretary of War, with others of the Cabinet, were in the company of the President, at the Capitol, awaiting the passage of the final bills of Congress.
In the intervals of reading and signing these documents, the military situation was considered,--the lively conversation tinged by the confident and glowing account of General Grant, of his mastery of the position, and of his belief that a few days more would see Richmond in our possession, and the army of Lee either dispersed utterly or captured bodily,--when the telegram from Grant was received, saying that Lee had asked an interview with reference to peace.
Mr. Lincoln was elated, and the kindness of his heart was manifest in intimations of favorable terms to be granted to the conquered Rebels.
Stanton listened in silence, restraining his emotion,
but at length the tide burst forth.
“Mr. President,” said he, “to-morrow is inauguration day. If you are not to be the President of an obedient and united people, you had better not be inaugurated.
Your work is already done, if any other authority than yours is for one moment to be recognized, or any terms made that do not signify you are the supreme head of the nation.
If generals in the field are to negotiate peace, or any other chief magistrate is to be acknowledged on this continent, then you are not needed, and you had better not take the oath of office.”
“Stanton, you are right!”
said the President, his whole tone changing.
“Let me have a pen.”
Mr. Lincoln sat down at the table, and wrote as follows:--
“The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of Lee's army, or on some minor or purely military matter.
He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question.
Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions.
In the mean time you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.”
The President read over what he had written, and then said:--
“Now Stanton, date and sign this paper, and send it to Grant.
We'll see about this peace business.”
The duty was discharged only too gladly by the energetic and far-sighted Secretary; with what effect and renown the country knows full well.4
, of Illinois
, in a speech at Springfield
, quoted one of Mr. Lincoln
's early friends — W. T. Greene
— as having said that the first time he ever saw Mr. Lincoln
, he was in the Sangamon River
with his trousers rolled up five feet, more or less, trying to pilot a flat-boat over a mill-dam.
The boat was so full of water that it was hard to manage.
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
in the quick invention of moral expedients.
“Some two years ago,” said Colonel Forney
, in a speech at Weldon
, Pennsylvania, before the “Soldiers' aid Society,” in 1865,
a deputation of colored people came from Louisiana, for the purpose of laying before the President a petition asking certain rights, not including the right of universal suffrage.
The interview took place in the presence of a number of distinguished gentlemen.
After reading their memorial, he turned to them and said: “I regret, gentlemen, that you are not able to secure all your rights, and that circumstances will not permit the government to confer them upon you. I wish you would amend your petition, so as to
include several suggestions which I think will give more effect to your prayer, and after having done so please hand it to me.”
The leading colored man said: “If you will permit me, I will do so here.”
“Are you, then, the author of this eloquent production?”
asked Mr. Lincoln. “Whether eloquent or not,” was the reply, “it is my work;” and the Louisiana negro sat down at the President's side and rapidly and intelligently carried out the suggestions that had been made to him. The Southern gentlemen who were present at this scene did not hesitate to admit that their prejudices had just received another shock.
To show the magnanimity of Mr. Lincoln, I may mention that on one occasion, when an editorial article appeared in my newspaper, the Washington “Chronicle,” speaking well of the bravery and the mistaken sincerity of Stonewall Jackson, the news of whose death had been just received, the President wrote me a letter thanking me warmly for speaking kindly of a fallen foe. These were his words:--
I honor you for your generosity to one who, though contending against us in a guilty cause, was nevertheless a gallant man. Let us forget his sins over his fresh-made, grave.
Again, I happened to be in the Executive Chamber when a number of Kentuckians insisted that troops should not be sent through that State for the purpose of putting down the rebel spirit in
The President was hesitating what to do, and they were pressing immediate action.
“I am,” he said, “a good deal like the farmer who, returning to his home one winter night, found his two sweet little boys asleep with a hideous serpent crawling over their bodies.
He could not strike the serpent without wounding or killing the children, so he calmly waited until it had moved away.
Now I do not want to act in a hurry about this matter; I don't want to hurt anybody in Kentucky; but I will get the serpent out of Tennessee.”
And he did march through Kentucky, to the aid of Andrew Johnson's mountaineers.
The roll containing the Emancipation Proclamation was taken to Mr. Lincoln at noon on the first day of January, 1863, by Secretary Seward and his son Frederick.
As it lay unrolled before him, Mr. Lincoln took a pen, dipped it in ink, moved his hand to the place for the signature, held it a moment, and then removed his hand and dropped the pen. After a little hesitation he again took up the pen and went through the same movement as before.
Mr. Lincoln then turned to Mr. Seward, and said:--
I have been shaking hands since nine o'clock this morning, and my right arm is almost paralyzed.
If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, “He hesitated.”
He then turned to the table, took up the pen again, and slowly, firmly wrote that “Abraham Lincoln” with which the whole world is now familiar.
He looked up, smiled, and said: “That will do,” 5
What Mr. Lincoln
's policy on the subject of “reconstruction” would have been, had he lived, is clearly foreshadowed in the following extract from a letter to General Wadsworth
, who was killed in one of the battles of the Wilderness
Few sentences from Mr. Lincoln
's lips or pen are more worthy the profound consideration and remembrance of his countrymen.
You desire to know, in the event of our complete success in the field, the same being followed by a loyal and cheerful submission on the part of the South, if universal amnesty should not be accompanied with universal suffrage.
Now, since you know my private inclinations as to what terms should be granted to the South in the contingency mentioned, I will here add, that if our success should thus be realized, followed by such desired results, I cannot see, if universal amnesty is granted, how, under the circumstances, I can avoid exacting in return universal suffrage, or at least suffrage on the basis of intelligence and military service.
How to better the condition of the colored race has long been a study which has attracted my serious and careful attention; hence I think I am clear
and decided as to what course I shall pursue in the premises, regarding it a religious duty, as the nation's guardian of these people who have so heroically vindicated their manhood on the battle-field, where, in assisting to save the life of the Republic, they have demonstrated in blood their right to the ballot, which is but the humane protection of the flag they have so fearlessly defended.
When Mr. Lincoln
was in Congress, General Cass
was nominated by the Democratic party for President
In a speech on the floor of the House
shortly afterward, Mr. Lincoln
subjected the political course of the candidate to scathing criticism.
Quoting extracts from the speeches of General Cass
, to show his vacillation in reference to the Wilmot Proviso
, he added: “These extracts show that in 1846 General Cass
was for the Proviso at once; that in March, 1847, he was still for it, but not just then; and that in December, he was against it altogether.
This is a true index of the whole man. When the question was raised in 1846, he was in a blustering hurry to take ground for it,... but soon he began to see glimpses of the great Democratic ox-gad waving in his face, and to hear indistinctly a voice saying: ‘Back!
back a little!’
He shakes his head, and bats his eyes, and blunders back to his position of March, 1847; but still the ‘gad’ waves, and the voice grows more distinct and sharper still: ‘Back, sir!
back, I say!
and back he goes to the position of
December, 1847, at which the ‘gad’ is still, and the voice soothingly says: ‘So!
stand still at that!’
A party of gentlemen, among whom was a doctor of divinity of much dignity of manner, calling at the White House
one day, was informed by the porter that the President
was at dinner, but that he would present their cards.
The doctor demurred to this, saying that he would call again.
“Edward” assured them that he thought it would make no difference, and went in with the cards.
In a few minutes the President
walked into the room, with a kindly salutation, and a request that the friends would take seats.
The doctor expressed his regret that their visit was so ill-timed, and that his Excellency
was disturbed while at dinner.
“Oh! No consequence at all,” said Mr. Lincoln
is absent at present, and when she is away, I generally ‘browse’
“Upon entering the President
's office one afternoon,” says a Washington correspondent, “I found Mr. Lincoln
busily counting greenbacks.
‘This, sir,’ said he, ‘is something out of my usual line; but a President of the United States
has a multiplicity of duties not specified in the Constitution
or acts of Congress.
This is one of them.
This money belongs to a poor negro who is a porter in the Treasury Department, at present very bad with the small-pox.
He is now in hospital, and could not
draw his pay because he could not sign his name.
I have been at considerable trouble to overcome the difficulty and get it for him, and have at length succeeded in cutting red tape, as you newspaper men say. I am now dividing the money and putting by a portion labelled, in an envelope, with my own hands, according to his wish;’ and he proceeded to indorse the package very carefully.”
No one witnessing the transaction could fail to appreciate the goodness of heart which prompted the President
of the United States
to turn aside for a time from his weighty cares to succor one of the humblest of his fellow-creatures in sickness and sorrow.
When General Phelps
took possession of Ship Island
, near New Orleans, early in the war, it will be remembered that he issued a proclamation, somewhat bombastic in tone, freeing the slaves.
To the surprise of many people, on both sides, the President
took no official notice of this movement.
Some time had elapsed, when one day a friend took him to task for his seeming indifference on so important a matter.
“Well,” said Mr. Lincoln
, “I feel about that a good deal as a man whom I will call ‘Jones
,’ whom I once knew, did about his wife.
He was one of your meek men, and had the reputation of being badly henpecked.
At last, one day his wife was seen switching him out of the house.
A day or two afterward a friend met him in the street, and said: ‘Jones
, I have always stood up for you, as you
know; but I am not going to do it any longer.
Any man who will stand quietly and take a switching from his wife, deserves to be horsewhipped.’
’ looked up with a wink, patting his friend on the back.
,’ said he: ‘why, it didn't hurt
me any; and you've no idea what a power
of good it did Sarah Ann
The Rev. Dr. Bellows
, of New York, as President
of the Sanitary Commission, backed by powerful influences, had pressed with great strenuousness upon the President
the appointment of Dr. Hammond
For some unexplained reason, there was an unaccountable delay in making the appointment.
One stormy evening — the rain falling in torrents--Dr. Bellows
, thinking few visitors likely to trouble the President
in such a storm, determined to make a final appeal, and stepping into a carriage, he was driven to the White House
Upon entering the Executive Chamber
, he found Mr. Lincoln
alone, seated at the long table, busily engaged in signing a heap of congressional documents, which lay before him. He barely nodded to Dr. Bellows
as he entered, having learned what to expect, and kept straight on with his work.
Standing opposite to him, Dr.
B. employed his most powerful arguments, for ten or fifteen minutes, to accomplish the end sought, the President
keeping steadily on signing the documents before him. Pausing, at length, to take breath, the clergyman was greeted in the most unconcerned manner, the pen still at
work, with,--“Shouldn't wonder if Hammond
was at this moment ‘Surgeon-General
,’ and had been for some time.”
“You don't mean to say, Mr. President
,” asked Dr. B. in surprise, “that the appointment has been made?”
“I may say to you,” returned Mr. Lincoln
, for the first time looking up, “that it has; only you needn't tell of it just yet.”
In August, 1864, the prospects of the Union party, in reference to the Presidential election, became very gloomy.
A friend, the private secretary
of one of the cabinet ministers, who spent a few days in New York at this juncture, returned to Washington
with so discouraging an account of the political situation, that after hearing it, the Secretary
told him to go over to the White House
and repeat it to the President
My friend said that he found Mr. Lincoln
alone, looking more than usually careworn and sad. Upon hearing the statement, he walked two or three times across the floor in silence.
Returning, he said with grim earnestness of tone and manner: “Well, I cannot run the political machine; I have enough on my hands without that.
It is the people's
business,--the election is in their hands.
If they turn their backs to the fire, and get scorched
in the rear, they'll find they have got to ‘sit’ on the ‘blister’ !”
came to have an almost morbid dread of office-seekers, from whose importunity the
executive of a republican government can necessarily never be free.
Harassed with applications of every description, he once said that it sometimes seemed as if every visitor “darted at him, and with thumb and finger carried off a portion of his vitality.”
As the day of his reinauguration approached, he said to Senator Clark
, of New Hampshire
, “Can't you and others start a public sentiment in favor of making no changes in offices except for good and sufficient cause?
It seems as though the bare thought of going through again what I did the first year here, would crush
To another he said, “I have made up my mind to make very few changes in the offices in my gift for my second term.
I think now that I will not remove a single man, except for delinquency.
To remove a man is very easy, but when I go to fill his place, there are twenty
applicants, and of these I must make nineteen
“Under these circumstances,” says one of his friends, “Mr. Lincoln
's natural charity for all was often turned into an unwonted suspicion of the motives of men whose selfishness cost him so much wear of mind.
Once he said, ‘Sitting here, where all the avenues to public patronage seem to come together in a knot, it does seem to me that our people are fast approaching the point where it can be said that seven eighths of them are trying to find how to live at the expense of the other eighth.’
A year or more before Mr. Lincoln
's death, a delegation of clergymen waited upon him in reference to the appointment of the army chaplains.
The delegation consisted of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, and an Episcopal clergyman.
They stated that the character of many of the chaplains was notoriously bad, and they had come to urge upon the President
the necessity of more discretion in these appointments.
“But, gentlemen,” said the President
, “that is a matter which the Government
has nothing to do with; the chaplains are chosen by the regiments.”
Not satisfied with this, the clergymen pressed, in turn, a change in the system.
heard them through without remark, and then said, “Without any disrespect, gentlemen, I will tell you a ‘little story.’
Once, in Springfield
, I was going off on a short journey, and reached the depot a little ahead of time.
Leaning against the fence just outside the depot was a little darkey boy, whom I knew, named ‘Dick
,’ busily digging with his toe in a mud-puddle.
As I came up, I said, ‘ “Dick,” what are you about?’
‘Making a “church
,” ’ said he. ‘A church?’
said I; ‘what do you mean?’
‘Why, yes,’ said ‘Dick
,’ pointing with his toe, ‘don't you see?
there is the shape of it; there's the “steps” and “front-door”here the “pews,” where the folks set and there's the “pulpit.”’ ‘Yes, I see,’ said I, ‘but why don't you make a “minister?” ’ ‘Laws,’ answered ‘Dick
,’ with a grin, ‘I hain't got mud
had a dread of people who could not appreciate humor.
He once instanced a member of his own cabinet, of whom he quoted the saying of Sydney Smith
, that “it required a surgical operation to get a joke into his head.”
The light trifles of conversation diverted his mind, or, as he said of his theatre-going, gave him “a refuge from himself and his weariness.”
One of the last stories I heard from Mr. Lincoln
was concerning John Tyler
, for whom it was to be expected, as an old Henry Clay Whig, he would entertain no great respect.
“A year or two after Tyler
's accession to the Presidency,” said he, “contemplating an excursion in some direction, his son went to order a special train of cars.
It so happened that the railroad superintendent was a very strong Whig.
On ‘Bob's’ making known his errand, that official bluntly informed him that his road did not run any special trains for the President
said ‘Bob,’ ‘did you not furnish a special train for the funeral of General Harrison
‘Yes,’ said the superintendent, stroking his whiskers; ‘and if you will only bring your father here in that
shape, you shall have the best train on the road!’
Once — on what was called a “public day,” when Mr. Lincoln received all applicants in their turnthe writer6 was struck by observing, as he passed through the corridor, the heterogeneous crowd of
men and women, representing all ranks and classes, who were gathered in the large waiting-room outside the Presidential suite of offices.
Being ushered into the President's chamber by Major Hay, the first thing he saw was Mr. Lincoln bowing an elderly lady out of the door,--the President's remarks to her being, as she still lingered and appeared reluctant to go: “I am really very sorry, madam; very sorry.
But your own good sense must tell you that I am not here to collect small debts.
You must appeal to the courts in regular order.”
When she was gone, Mr. Lincoln sat down, crossed his legs, locked his hands over his knees, and commenced to laugh,--this being his favorite attitude when much amused.
“What odd kinds of people come to see me,” he said; “and what odd ideas they must have about my office!
Would you believe it, Major, that old lady who has just left, came in here to get from me an order for stopping the pay of a treasury clerk, who owes her a board-bill of about seventy dollars?”
And the President rocked himself backward and forward, and appeared intensely amused.
“She may have come in here a loyal woman,” continued Mr. Lincoln; “but I'll be bound she has gone away believing that the worst pictures of me in the Richmond press only lack truth in not being half black and bad enough.”
This led to a somewhat general conversation, in which I expressed surprise that he did not adopt the plan in force at all military Headquarters, under which every applicant to see the general commanding had to be filtered through a sieve of officers,--assistant adjutant-generals, and so forth, -who allowed none in to take up the general's time save such as they were satisfied had business of sufficient importance, and which could be transacted in no other manner than by a personal interview.
“Of every hundred people who come to see the general-in-chief daily,” I explained, “not ten have any sufficient business with him, nor are they admitted.
On being asked to explain for what purpose they desire to see him, and stating it, it is found, in nine cases out of ten, that the business properly belongs to some one or other of the subordinate bureaus.
They are then referred, as the case may be, to the quartermaster, commissary, medical, adjutant-general, or other departments, with an assurance that even if they saw the general-in-chief he could do nothing more for them than give the same direction.
With these points courteously explained,” I added, “they go away quite content, although refused admittance.”
said Mr. Lincoln, gravely,--and his words on this matter are important as illustrating a rule of his action, and to some extent, perhaps, the essentially representative character of
his mind and of his administration,--“ah, yes, such things do very well for you military people, with your arbitrary rule, and in your camps.
But the office of President is essentially a civil one, and the affair is very different.
For myself, I feelthough the tax on my time is heavy — that no hours of my day are better employed than those which thus bring me again within the direct contact and atmosphere of the average of our whole people.
Men moving only in an official circle are apt to become merely official — not to say arbitrary — in their ideas, and are apter and apter, with each passing day, to forget that they only hold power in a representative capacity.
Now this is all wrong.
I go into these promiscuous receptions of all who claim to have business with me twice each week, and every applicant for audience has to take his turn, as if waiting to be shaved in a barber's shop.
Many of the matters brought to my notice are utterly frivolous, but others are of more or less importance, and all serve to renew in me a clearer and more vivid image of that great popular assemblage out of which I sprung, and to which at the end of two years I must return.
I tell you, Major,” he said,--appearing at this point to recollect I was in the room, for the former part of these remarks had been made with half-shut eyes, as if in soliloquy,--“I tell you that I call these receptions my public-opinion baths; for I have but little time to read the papers and gather public
opinion that way; and though they may not be pleasant in all their particulars, the effect, as a whole, is renovating and invigorating to my perceptions of responsibility and duty.”
No nobler reply ever fell from the lips of ruler, than that uttered by President Lincoln
in response to the clergyman who ventured to say, in his presence, that he hoped
was on our side.”
“I am not at all concerned about that,” replied Mr. Lincoln
, “for I know that the Lord
on the side of the right
. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I
and this nation
should be on the Lord
In the midst of the despondency produced by the raid on Washington
, in, the summer of 1864, and the successful return of the Rebel
force to Richmond
, the President
's Proclamation of July 18th appeared, calling for five hundred thousand more men.
In view of the impending presidential canvass, Mr. Lincoln
's strongest friends looked upon this step, at this time, as calculated to utterly defeat his chances of reelection.
ventured to say as much upon the President
's announcement to him of his contemplated purpose.
“It matters not what becomes of me,” replied Mr. Lincoln
; “we must have the men!
If I go down, I intend to go like the Cumberland
, with my colors flying!”
Upon Mr. Lincoln
's return to Washington
the capture of Richmond
, a member of the Cabinet
asked him if it would be proper to permit Jacob Thompson
to slip through Maine
in disguise, and embark from Portland
The President, as usual, was disposed to be merciful, and to permit the arch-rebel to pass unmolested, but the Secretary
urged that he should be arrested as a traitor.
“By permitting him to escape the penalties of treason,” persistently remarked the Secretary
, “you sanction it.”
“Well,” replied Mr. Lincoln
, “let me tell you a story.
There was an Irish soldier here last, summer, who wanted something to drink stronger than water, and stopped at a drug-shop, where he espied a soda-fountain.
,’ said he, ‘give me, plase, a glass of soda-wather, an‘ if yees can put in a few drops of whiskey unbeknown to any one, I'll be obleeged.’
Now,” continued Mr. Lincoln
, “if Jake Thompson
is permitted to go through Maine
unbeknown to any one, what's the harm?
So don't have him arrested.”
I asked the President
, during the progress of the battles of the Wilderness
, how General Grant
personally impressed him as compared with other officers of the army, and especially those who had been in command.
“The great thing about Grant
,” said he, “I take it, is his perfect coolness and persistency of purpose.
I judge he is not easily excited,--which is a great element in an officer,--and he has the grit
of a bull-dog!
Once let him get his ‘teeth’ in
, and nothing can shake him off.”
One of the latest of Mr. Lincoln
's stories was told to a party of gentlemen, who, amid the tumbling ruins of the “Confederacy,” anxiously asked “what he would do with ‘Jeff. Davis
“There was a boy in Springfield
,” rejoined Mr. Lincoln
, “who saved up his money and bought a ‘coon,’ which, after the novelty wore off, became a great nuisance.
He was one day leading him through the streets, and had his hands full to keep clear of the little vixen, who had torn his clothes half off of him. At length he sat down on the curb-stone, completely fagged out. A man passing was stopped by the lad's disconsolate appearance, and asked the matter.
‘Oh,’ was the reply, ‘this coon is such a trouble
‘Why don't you get rid of him, then?’
said the gentleman.
said the boy; ‘don't you see he is gnawing his rope off?
I am going to let him do it, and then I will go home and tell the folks that he got away from me